Thursday, July 03, 2014

For the faith - Titus 1:1-4

"Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior, To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." (Titus 1:1-4)
Paul's description of himself seems to be the concatenation of two great extremes: a bond-servant and an apostle. One spoke of his position in the Kingdom of God and the other of his function. So often, we have difficulty distinguishing between the two. If one has a great work then he must also be a great person, yet if one is lowly, such as a slave, then their function must similarly be lowly. This reminds me of the time I returned from college on vacation to spend time with my family. My parents had taken up a morning paper route to bring in extra income. One morning I joined them on the route. Halfway through, at around 5 AM, we stopped at the local dinner for coffee and breakfast. We were all dirty and covered in news print. My dad told me that when people there asked him what he did for a living he told them he worked at the college. Looking at my parents, all dirty and disheveled, they assumed, to his amusement, that he must be a grounds keeper or worked in the janitorial staff. In truth he was a college professor with a Ph. D. and would later become the department chair of the Education Department. Paul understood that, though he was called to a great function, and apostle, he was still equal to everyone else in the Body of Christ, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. We must never let ourselves thing more highly, or lowly, of ourselves based on the specific calling upon our lives. Our function is what we do, our position as bond-slaves is who we are.

Paul also understood that he was appointed for the faith of the elect. This meant that his role was to build up the faith of others through preaching, exhortation, and instruction. I have know some who seem to think that they are appointed for the tearing down of the faith of others. They are always preaching and teaching what not to believe. It seems they are always chipping away at peoples faith, trying to prove to them of some area where they are believing wrong, and constantly trying to conform the faith of others to their own unbelief. Even when they teach, they do it from trying to convince others that what they previously thought a scripture meant is not what it means at all, and they are all too willing to try and convince you of what they think it means. Paul understood that not everyone's faith was at the same place and he had patience and respect for the faith of others. For example, when it came to eating meat offered to Idols, Paul said, "However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled... But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died" ( 1 Corinthians 8:7-11) Paul's solution was not to confront their weakened faith by proving them wrong, but to build up their faith in truth so that that which is true would over time expel that which was weak. You don't need to tear down someone's faith to correct them, just give them the truth and the truth will set them free.

Finally, what motivated Paul was not his desire for his own aggrandizement, but the hope of eternal life. Some people seem to be motivated by a desire to be seen, to be respected, and to be acknowledged as learned and right. Their service to God is self centered and motivated by what they get out of it. Paul was motivated by something greater, something that did not originate with him, and something that was beyond his ability to give. Paul had come to the living hope of eternal life. This hope motivated him, not that his works would secure this hope for himself, but that others might share in his hope for themselves. Paul had received the free gift of eternal life and his motivation was that others might receive this free gift as well. Paul said that, "Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8) When our lives and our service are motivated by this kind of love and hope for others, then we will in no way fail.

David Robison

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