From the NIV:
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,
4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
(Titus 1:1-4 NIV)
From the NLT:
1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him.
4 I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share.
May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.
(Titus 1:1-4 NLT)
In order to better understand today’s passage, I have included both the NIV and NLT texts to make it a little more approachable and less confusing.
As we begin our journey through the letter from Paul to Titus, we start with Paul’s greeting to Titus. Normally this would not be a big deal – the author identifies themselves, their intended recipient, and a short salutation.
In Paul’s letter, however, Paul uses this introduction for much more. So why would Paul go on and on with such an extended introduction? Was Titus failing in his duties? Was Paul chastising Titus or trying to teach him something? Or was Paul just being long-winded? (After all, Paul was both a lawyer and a preacher!).
I think the answer lies outside our initial negative conclusions that something was wrong. While this letter is pastoral in nature, from one pastor to another (Paul to Titus), we should not necessarily conclude that it was a private letter. As was the custom in Paul’s day, Titus would have likely read aloud this letter from Paul to the church congregations.
Paul did not explicitly tell Titus to read the letter to the churches that he served on the island of Crete, but that would have been the customary thing to do. So Paul was writing with the larger audience in mind – the churches across the island would hear Paul’s words as well.
Paul begins by saying that he is a servant of God by his choice and an apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s choice. Paul goes on to say that his purpose is to proclaim the news of faith in Christ to those whom God has chosen and to teach them God’s truth.
Paul reminds them of the hope they have in Christ of eternal life. This hope is not “pie-in-the-sky”, wishful-thinking hope, but a calm confidence “that God will do what He promised” kind of hope. Paul goes on to say that this is God who is making this promise, and in fact, He made this promise long ago.
Paul makes a special point of saying that God, who does not lie and cannot lie, is the one who made this promise. This was a big deal, as the Cretans were known to be liars and proclaimers of empty promises (verse 12).
Paul then reminds Titus and the churches that God fulfilled this promise – God kept His word by sending the Word, that is none other than Jesus Christ, the one Paul preaches. Paul (and likewise Titus) is now entrusted with proclaiming the truth of Christ (an honor) and is commanded to proclaim the truth of Christ by God (a responsibility Paul gladly bears).
As Paul identifies Titus as the recipient of the letter (verse 4), he calls Titus a “true son in the faith”. Paul most likely led Titus to Christ, so the title of a spiritual son is fitting. Paul finishes the salutation by offering grace and peace from the Lord to Titus.
As followers of Christ Jesus, may we take Paul’s introductory remarks as a reminder of God’s calling of us, of His purpose for us, and of our hope, our promise, and our reality in and through Jesus.