Truth does not seem to be in good standing in our culture. Facebook recently reported that they deleted over 3 billion fake accounts. This means there are a lot of people who want to influence others around the world with untruth. Fake news! Our previous sermon series was all about false ideas that Christians believe, and throughout that series we found many untruths. As we continue looking at Titus 1:1-4, Paul is going to talk about truth. It seems truth (or the lack thereof) was a major issue on the Island of Crete, where Titus was serving.
After describing himself as a servant/slave of God and apostle of Jesus, Paul says he holds these roles, “For the faith of the elect.” Who are God’s elect? This is the idea of God choosing people to be part of his family. There are two main beliefs about God choosing people: corporate election and individual election. In my denomination we do not believe that God chooses individual people to be a part of his family and that he condemns others. Instead we believe that God does choose all corporately in Christ, and yet we individuals need to choose him back. God chose the entire nation of Israel, in the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, to be his special chosen nation, and yet that didn’t guarantee that each individual Israelite was saved; they still had to choose him. Many didn’t. In the same way, in the New Covenant, the New Testament, we believe that God chose all in Christ, but that doesn’t guarantee that each person will be saved, they still have to choose God.
That is why Paul uses the word “faith” in Titus 1:1 He wants more and more people to place their faith in God. Therefore he mentions the next phrase about why he is a servant and apostle. He wants all people to have “the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.”
What is the truth that Paul wants people to know?
Paul knows he needs to talk with Titus and the other Christians in Crete about truth. Why? Look at verses 10 through 12. We’re going to dig into that much more fully in the coming weeks, but I want you to at least see it here. In verse 10 he talks about some Cretans as “mere talkers, deceivers,” in verse 11 he refers to their “dishonest gain,” and in verse 12 he quotes one of their own poets, Epimenedes, who said, “Cretan are always liars.” Just as it is in our day, in Titus’ day, in Crete in particular, it seems that lying and deception were rampant. You can see why Paul really wants them to know the truth.
So what is the truth that leads to godliness? In verse 2 Paul says, “God does not lie.” Truth, Paul says, is found in God and as we keep looking at the passage, we’ll see how Paul describes it.
Looking at the phrase, “truth that leads godliness,” what Paul is talking about is straightforward. The word he uses for “truth” is defined as “what actually happened.” And the word he uses for “godliness” is defined as “appropriate beliefs and devout practice of obligations relating to supernatural persons and powers—‘religion, piety.” (Louw & Nida)
So Paul sees himself as a servant of God, an apostle of Jesus, with the mission of helping all people come to know the truth that will lead to right beliefs, right practice and thus, right relationship with God. I appreciate that so much. It goes back to the two main purposes of this letter: sound doctrine, and good works. Paul wants everyone everywhere to know the truth (sound doctrine), which is the truth about Jesus, so they will live rightly (do good works).