In this post, we will dive in and begin to chew on the last words in verse 1. Titus 1:1 reads as, "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect, and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness." Now, the last part of this series revolved around expounding the familiarity of a Pauline greeting, while, in this post, we will center our attention around expounding the unusual. The unusual piece of this Pauline epistle, though, begins with for the sake of God's elect. This statement, for all intents and purposes, actually answers the question of why Paul became an apostle. Paul became an apostle for the purpose of encouraging and building up the faith of God's elect in the midst of guiding them in the way of truth, which in the end accords with godliness. That is the basis of the last part of verse 1. But, as you read on past verse 1, you realize that the sentence continues on. For now though, I am going to make the end of verse 1 the cut off point. However, as I move onto my next post, I may have to refer back to verse 1, so I am forewarning you.
Now, the word "elect" is mentioned at least eight times in Scripture and the words "chosen by God" is definitely mentioned far more times. With these two facts, I really need to ask the question: what is God's elect? Well, Warren Wiersbe has a view. Wiersbe says this, "'God's elect' are those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:1-5)." (1) Makes sense. If you have trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, then yes, you are one of His elect. How about Calvin? John Calvin says this in regards to salvation, "By 'the elect' he means not only those who were at that time alive, but all that had been from the beginning of the world." (2) Right on! I agree with both. In looking back at the purpose of Paul's apostleship, the elect of God are those that God has chosen, at one point in time, to be built up in the faith by Paul's encouraging words. Paul, chosen by God, became an apostle in order to strengthen the faith of those whom God has chosen ever since the beginning of time.
Then, how do we reconcile Paul's words to the elect, who were long dead before Paul was even born like Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, etc.? The answer is found in Psalm 119:89. It says, "Forever, O Lord, your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens." The Word of God has been firmly fixed in the heavens, the Word of God is firmly fixed in the heavens, and the Word of God will be firmly fixed in the heavens from now until eternity. All of God's elect definitely know how to be strengthened continually with God's words that were written by Paul. No matter if you are talking about Abraham or the old lady, who is a firm believer, across the street. Each has the opportunity to be built up with Paul's words (Abraham in heaven and the old lady on earth). So, the faith of God's elect has a lot to do with the familiarity of Paul as an apostle.
Now, what makes this greeting written by Paul more unusual than it already is is the fact that their is a possibility within this verse of the merging display of two doctrines? Let me explain. If any of you know me, you understand that I am a big proponent of the doctrine of predestination. Well, I once was, because of this verse. Predestination is one of those doctrines where God's sovereignty supersedes (trumps) human free will. You were once dead. What does a dead person do? It cannot move, because it is lifeless. Nothing is capable of bringing the dead person alive unless something supernatural happens. This is where God comes in. Thus, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit creates an awakening within the once dead person to life. He can move, walk, breath, stand, shout for God's glory, and is not chained (enslaved) to the old way of life. Got it. Well, those are the underlying seeds that make up the doctrine of predestination.
However, Titus 1:1 makes a counter argument along with predestination. The "elect of God" marks the initiation of predestination. God has chosen us out of death to life. We were once dead, and He is the only one who could have possibly made us free. We definitely do not deserve a choice in the matter. But, here is where the counter argument begins to fashion into a definitive place. It lies in the words, "and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness." Do you remember when we looked at the introduction to Titus and I said the main theme was good works? This portion of Paul's greeting not only introduces us to the main theme of the book of Titus, but it creatively merges predestination and free will as an unknown mystery that only God can fathom. How does it merge? We looked at the predestination side of things. Now, let's ascertain the free will portion. Is God going to force you to love Him? No, he created man to make viable choices. Is one of those choices salvation? Let's see.
As I mentioned before, Paul iterates why he is an apostle. He is an apostle for the purpose of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness. So, Paul wants them to understand the truth. Paul is engaging us by yearning for us to understand the vitality of being filled with an overflowing measure of truth. He wants God's elect to increase in their understanding of truth. But, this truth accords with godliness. Now, this is where the meshing takes place. Right here. Do you know if you want to be a Christian right off the bat? Some do. Well, I have a friend, at the moment, who is talking to an unsaved person. This unsaved person has been asking my friend for information about God and Christianity for about a month or so. He still has not made a decision to follow Christ. Why is that? The Christian life from the outside looking in is scary. We know what it is like because we have tasted and seen the beauty of what the Christian life gives to us. It is a difficult pursuit, but very rewarding nonetheless.
When deciding whether or not they should follow Christ, three potential disciples at the end of Luke 9 were eager to follow Christ (the full story is Luke 9:57-62). But, when you read the passage, it literally seems like Jesus was dissuading them from following him. Why is that? Because the Christian life is filled with magnificent difficulties. Also, in Luke 14:28, Jesus explains to potential disciples that they should first count the costs of persevering in faith as disciples of Christ rather than simply making a hasty, insecure decision to follow Him. You should first count the costs, and then make a decision. Will you or will you not follow Him? So, you need to make somewhat of a potential choice. This is not because God is not sovereign. It is because Paul wants the elect of God to see that their election stems from their acceptance of the knowledge of truth, which is held together by the chords of godliness. Will you make that step once you see that you are able to persevere in godliness?
Because, if you do persevere in godliness, the truth, that was at stake, becomes yours, because of the blood of the Lamb that was slain. And, you become one of the elect that holds fast to the truth, stands for truth, and devises ways to make that truth known to all the world. You yearn to know, to associate yourself with the truth in order that others might see the godliness portraying out of you. It is truly amazing. So, with that said, I can say for certainty that free will and predestination, though conceivably mysterious, somehow mesh together to form a beautiful array of God's sovereignty and human freedom that bursts onto the scene. However, God's sovereignty will always have the upper hand because he initiates the regeneration, which makes me wonder all the more of how human freedom plays a role in this God created doctrine.
Sola Deo Gloria!!!!