Today, we begin our study of the epistle to Titus. This is a letter which Paul the apostle wrote to a pastor named Titus. We will learn about Titus in the upcoming study of verse four, but I believe it is time for us to review some of the background of this man who wrote about half of the 27 books of the New Testament.
He begins this letter by saying,
Titus 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ
Paul is a man with a very interesting history.
A man named Saul, who was a very gifted student of Judaism, became a Pharisee, and ultimately a participant in the Council's activities.
One day, a mob dragged in a man before the Council. They said his name was Stephen, that he was a deacon of the Christian church, and had been speaking blasphemous things against Moses and God. They produced many witnesses to testify against him.
When the high priest asked Stephen if these things were true, Saul heard Stephen give a very accurate and concise history lesson about God's dealings with the Jews - very impressive. But then Stephen accused them of persecuting the prophets, of receiving the Word of God but not obeying it. Saul, the high priest, and the rest of the Council became so enraged at Stephen, they grabbed him and dragged him out of Jerusalem.
They were going to stone him. In preparation for this physical effort, they laid their robes at Saul's feet before picking up large rocks to throw. Stephen was killed in this manner, while...
Acts 8:1-3 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
Saul was quite zealous, and wanted to rid the world of these Christians. He threatened them and promised that they would be murdered. He approached the high priest and asked for and received letters giving him authority to arrest any Christians and bring them to trial in Jerusalem.
As he was approaching the city of Damascus, a light flashed in the sky.
Acts 9:4-8 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do." The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.
For three days, Saul sat in someone's house, unable to see. He fasted and prayed, and God gave him a vision that a man named Ananias would come in, lay hands on him, and his sight would be restored.
This man did arrive, and...
Acts 9:17-22 ...after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
Saul had become what he'd formerly persecuted: a Christian, a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ.
As was typical for many Jews in the Roman Empire, Saul's name was Hebrew, but was also called by a non-Jewish, Gentile name. Thus,
Acts 13:9 ...Saul... was also known as Paul...
And so we see in the majority of references to this man, he is referred to as Paul.
Here in Titus, Paul calls himself "the bond-servant of God." In Christianity, we talk a lot about the necessity of serving God, but what is a bond-servant?
In the Hebrew culture, you could end up in slavery as a result of poverty, debt, or crime. However, God eased the burden of those Hebrew slaves by forbidding life-long slavery with which are familiar in history. He said in His Law,
Ex. 21:2 "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.
A six-year limit on slavery, not a lifetime. But there were times when the slave would consider his upcoming freedom and think, "You know, I really enjoy this life. Three square meals a day, a roof over my head, a master who loves me and treats me well... Why would I want to be set free into a world where I have no job, no family, and no assurance of a life that would be near this good?" And so God made provision for this circumstance as well.
Ex. 21:5-6 "But if the slave plainly says, I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,' then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.
When the servant had the option to go free, yet chose to stay for life, he became a bond-servant. Paul said that he was a bond-servant of God - having given up his life and placed his freedom under God's control.
Paul also identified himself as an apostle. What is an apostle? The word "ap-OS-tol-os" in Greek means, "one who is sent out, a delegate, a messenger."
Paul became an apostle when Jesus sent him out as His messenger. When Ananias laid his hands on Paul and Paul's sight returned, Ananias said,
Acts 22:15 ...you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.
But even with Paul's Jewish education and connections, he was not being sent to the Jews. While Paul was in Jerusalem, he reports Jesus...
Acts 22:18-21 ...saying to me, Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.' And I said, Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.' And He said to me, Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"
Our plans are rarely God's plans. Here is a man whose whole life changed direction, and became something he never dreamed he'd be - an apost of Jesus Christ.
Next week, we will begin to see God's purpose for Paul's apostleship.