Introduction to Titus

While the book of Acts lays out the journey of the Apostles, especially Paul, as they move from Jerusalem outward, proclaiming the Gospel and planting churches, no mention of Titus is found.  Because of this, little is known outside of the references Paul makes to him in his other letters.  From what we can glean, though, Titus was a very close friend and worker with Paul.

In fact, when Paul went to Jerusalem to discuss the spreading of grace to the gentiles, who were uncircumcised, as recorded in Acts 15, Titus went with him (Galatians 2:1-3) as an example of a Gentile that God had gifted (and who was uncircumcised).

The book of Titus was written sometime between Paul’s first letter to Timothy and his second.  It would have been written after he was released from his first imprisonment in Rome when Paul was traveling on his 4th missionary journey.  Titus had been traveling with Paul but was left in Crete to manage the churches there.

After Paul had gone on to a number of other places, he wrote Titus to instruct him on how to correct matters that had arisen in the Cretian church.  Like the letters to Timothy, Paul also warns Titus against false teachings which were creeping into the churches in Crete.  Paul also gives Titus his personal authorization to deal with dissenters and those opposed to the Gospel or Titus’ leadership.

As is always true for Paul, his words are a practical application of the grace that God has shown to all and has given to those who believe.  This rings true for those in leadership as well, all of whom should be working to apply this grace in their daily lives and be teaching it to all those they come in contact with.

Grace, Faith, and “good deeds,” are all major themes in this short letter.  The “good deeds,” however, are not to be the product of human ingenuity, legalistic religion, or tradition, but rather the work of God’s grace through faith in the power of God as manifested in Christ, the Savior.



Exodus 12-15 "Barrier or Baptism?"

  1. Israel’s route out of Egypt and to the Promised Land was not direct. How do you think they felt heading in the “wrong direction?”  Have you ever felt this way in your life?  What do you think about that journey now?
  1. Israel’s first response when they saw Pharaoh coming after them was to complain and panic. What does this say about Israel’s ability to trust?
  1. The “Egypts” of our lives erode our ability to trust others and to trust God. How have you seen that in your own life?  Has this happened in the life of this church?  How can we regain this ability to trust, both individually and corporately?
  1. Part of the great escape involves God’s presence moving through the people to defend them from behind. Have you experienced a particularly difficult time in your life where you felt God’s presence very close to you?  How did that change your perspective of the situation?
  1. God provides Israel a way out that is both amazing and probably a little scary, walking through the middle of the sea. Have you ever had a “Red Sea” experience?  Do you think the Israelites considered not going through?  Did you?  What did you end up doing?
  1. The other side of the Red Sea is not the Promised Land, it’s the wilderness. In Scripture, the wilderness brings a time of transformation; what was God trying to change in the Israelites?  How have you experienced the wilderness of transformation in your own life?  How has HCRC experienced this recently?  What was/is God working on?


2 Timothy 4 – Inconvenient Truth

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Once again Paul makes a number of remarks that have come to pass in a number of concrete ways once again in the present time.  In a culture which celebrates truth as being “relative” to each individual, people are becoming less and less open to hearing the teachings of Scripture, the message of the Gospel, and the call of God to live a transformed life.  People are happy enough to simply be “good” people, even “spiritual” people, but all without the commitment of faith and religion.

And why not?  Christianity, as well as all of the other major religions, has its dark marks throughout history.  We are imperfect people, seeking to follow the will of God, and messing it up far too often.

Through it all, however, the message of the Gospel has not changed, and the call of God to live in response to grace has also not changed.  Scripture tells that we are to flee from sin in all its various forms.  It also outlines what sin is.  Unfortunately, as we “progress” in society, those boundaries seem to mean less and less.

Paul says that a time will come when people will no longer listen to sound doctrine, but instead will seek to hear only what they want to hear.  We have seen this happen in the church far too much in recent history.  In one sense, this is the reason that we have so many denominations of Christianity in the Church today.  It is also the reason why we continue to fight and argue about peripheral things rather than focusing on the unity that Scripture calls us to as the Body of Christ and the message that we are called to proclaim together.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Good News for everyone, but good news doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t challenge or ways of life.  Grace abounds through all things, but God calls us to not conform to this world but be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s work in renewing us each day.



2 Timothy 3 – Mark My Words

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I’ve talked to a number of people over the years who are completely surprised and baffled by the moral decline in society in the present age.  More and more is seems as though people are given to doing whatever they like and the line between good and bad is becoming quite grey, if it exists at all in people’s minds.

For a while, there as a widely held belief that Scripture pointed to a society that was always progressing towards a more idyllic state, which would be the manifestation of the beginning of the 1,000-year reign of Christ described in revelation.  This belief emerged after the middle ages when many aspects of the human experience were developing rapidly and the quality of human life had risen dramatically.

All of this was pretty much destroyed by 1945, after two devastating world wars.  It became all too obvious that society was indeed headed down a different path.  This, however, shouldn’t have been surprising for us.  Scripture is actually quite clear that:

  1. Sin has infected every part of our lives, we are not capable of saving ourselves
  2. The closer we come to the end, the more corrupt and godless society will become
  3. It is Jesus Christ alone who will set up His Kingdom here on earth

Paul’s encouragement, in light of this reality, is once again to hold fast to the teachings of Scripture.  In the face of increasing godlessness, of moral decline, and of persecution, Paul reminds Timothy that it is God’s Word that will provide the foundation for perseverance in faith.

Things have not changed today.  Moral decline is an everyday reality; Christian faith is being challenged and the “relative truth” teachings of western culture allow for any type of sin and lifestyle.  These things are creeping their way into the church as well.  While we are not called to be judges and haters of others because of their choices, but rather to love them with the love of Christ, we too much be careful, holding fast to the Word of God so that we persevere in the faith and do not fall victim to the temptations of the world .



2 Timothy 2 – A Trustworthy Saying

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Paul offers a number of “trustworthy sayings” to Timothy and other recipients throughout his career.  In each of these situations, Paul is encouraging the reader to remember the truth of the Gospel, simplifying it into something that was easy to remember.  In our chapter today, he does this for what would likely be his last time.

The truth of this statement is telling, though, because of how it both addresses the situation that both Paul and Timothy are in, and it also acts as a reminder for both of them given the trials that are to come for them.  Because of the work of Jesus Christ, we have hope in every situation, a hope that extends beyond any physical trials or tribulations that we could ever endure.

We are called to perseverance through the difficulties of life as well.  Scripture often refers to this as part of our “sanctification.”  God doesn’t cause our trials, but He is always at work in us and through them to build us up and shape us into the image of His Son.

A lot of emphasis, in the midst of the persecution of the church in this time, was placed on staying true to what you claim to believe.  Though Scripture’s theology throughout the New Testament is that, once you receive salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it, there is something to be said for the importance of not disowning Christ publically.  Doing so brings into question everything we claim to believe.  The prospect of disowning Jesus should be a gut check for us as to whether we are fully committed, or whether we are just trying to get our “get out of hell free” card.

No matter where we fall on this spectrum, though, Paul points out in the last phrase that Jesus is always faithful to us.  The promise of salvation is extended to all and there is nothing that we can do to preclude ourselves from it.  Thanks be to God that His Love and Faithfulness know no bounds!



2 Timothy 1 – Thankful

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Given the context of where Paul is writing from, no one would blame him for complaining or even, at the very least, expressing some desire to either be free or be done with it all.  Chained in a dungeon, facing his execution, and deserted by all of his friends and companions, it would seem a good time to just give up.  Rather than complaining, though. we see Paul open this second letter to Timothy with thanksgiving.  How many of us, put in the same situation, could say we would do the same?  I know I wouldn’t.

Paul, though, keeps everything in focus.  Yes, it is likely that his life will end soon.  He has also come to realize that his work for God is also nearing its end.  Yet that doesn’t keep him from continuing to encourage Timothy or to care for the Church.  He knew of the persecution that was going on throughout the Roman Empire and his first concern was for those persecuted, that they would not let go of the Gospel Message.

To make sure of this, Paul builds into Timothy, one of the major leaders of the Church at this  time.  He implores him to hold on to what he was taught and to “fan the flame” of God’s gift to Him.  Though the path may be dangerous, Paul doesn’t see this as a time to maintain the status quo.  Instead, he reminds Timothy of the empowerment that we have received through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We are not called to shrink back, to hide until our own safety is assured, but rather we are called to live into the hope that we have by being willing to risk everything for the sake of the Gospel.

There is nothing that the enemy can do to take away our hope, to separate us from God’s love once we have accepted Christ into our hearts.  However, there is plenty the enemy can do to prevent us from getting to that point.  One of the ways is to make us fearful so that we don’t spread the Gospel message.  Paul doesn’t want the church to fall into this trap.  The message must go out no matter what the cost!



Introduction to 2 Timothy

Paul’s second letter to Timothy came approximately five years after the first.  When his first imprisonment in Rome ended, Paul went on his fourth and final missionary journey, eventually ending up back in prison in Rome.  All of this took place under Emperor Nero who was known for his brutal torture and persecution against Christians.  This became especially true after the great fire in Rome in A.D. 64.  Nero blamed the fire on the Jews but lumped the Christians in with them as part of a “new branch” of Judaism.  Nero’s persecution led to the Martyrdom of both Paul and Peter.

Unlike Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, where he stayed in a rented house and was visited by many people, this second time imprisoned saw Paul in a cold dungeon, chained like a common criminal.  Whereas his first letter to Timothy focused more on Timothy, his charge, and leadership of the church in Ephesus, this second letter contains a much more personal touch, speaking to Paul’s desires for himself as well as the anguish that he is going through.

In many ways, this was Paul’s farewell letter.  Chronologically, 2 Timothy is the last letter that Paul wrote.  Personally, Paul mentions that his work is done and that he will likely be taken from this life very soon.  It is also clear that Paul is very lonely.  Some sources say that Paul was guarded and imprisoned in a place that few could find.  Many had deserted him and others were barred from seeing him.  Only Luke (which we assume is the writer of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts) was with him.

Yet even in this state, Paul shows a deep concern for the churches knowing that they too are enduring harsh persecution.  He once again encourages Timothy to hold on to what he has learned and to not stop preaching the Gospel, even if it means suffering for the message of Christ.



1 Timothy 6 – Pursue Righteousness

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Paul warns Timothy once again with regards to those who would cause him to veer off course through false teachings.  There is a sense here that Paul is making a distinction between what looks good and what is actually good.  The truth of the Gospel message brought and taught by Jesus Christ is the true good that must be held to in the church.  Against all other teachings, thoughts, or possibilities, this truth is what brings freedom, life, and true gain.

This world has an infinite number of things that pretend to offer comfort, power, and even hope; a way to make ourselves secure.  Yet all of them are empty and hollow, offering nothing but bondage endless worry.  It is true, what they say, the more money you have, the more worry you have as well.

Things like money are not inherently bad.  As a matter of fact, money is a way that God uses to provide for and bless us in our life here on earth.  We can work and acquire it, being thankful to God for his provision in our lives and remembering that all the blessings that we have come from Him alone.

In doing this, we maintain the proper orientation of our lives, keeping God first in all things, living thankful lives in response to His grace, and therefore giving a “good confession” of our faith to all those who are around us.  This life, however, is not something we can do on our own.  Paul continually encourages Timothy to hold on to the truth he has learned, which is our charge as well.

Not only that, we need to be listening for the direction of the Holy Spirit in our lives, seeking His direction in all things.  When we do this, we will find ourselves faithful followers of Christ, content with that which God has blessed us, and truly rich in all that is of eternal consequence.



Exodus 6-12 "Exit Strategy"

1. What are some of the “Egypts” you are facing in your life? They could be big things like addiction or more common things like anxiety. What about systemic things like economic status or person biases?
a. Think about this church. What are some of the “Egypts” we are facing?

2. Everyone faces obstacles and barriers to freedom in their lives, they are the Pharaohs of our “Egypts,”. Some are external to us while others are inside of us. What are some “Pharaohs” that you are facing?
a. Think about this church. What are some “Pharaohs” that we are facing?

3. Think of a time when God showed up in a powerful way in your life. How often do you think about that moment? Are there ways in which you honor God with the freedom you experienced since then?

4. Blood is a major theme of the Exodus and throughout the Bible as well; why do you think the way out of Egypt is so bloody? How does your life demonstrate how difficult, even bloody, leaving Egypt can be?

5. Why is the Passover necessary? What tangible difference does it make for you to admit your own powerlessness and trust the Rescuer?

6. Why is the way of trust both so difficult and so appealing? How is this way different from the way you’ve lived your life?

*Some questions taken from Leaving Egypt by, Chuck DeGroat



1 Timothy 5 – Treating Others

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Chapter 5 seems to be full of rules and regulations about how to treat different groups of people within the church.  At first glance all we really see is “do this” and “don’t do that,” “take care of this group” but “that group can take care of themselves.”  Honestly, given the teachings of Jesus and the freedom that Paul touts so often, this seems like a bit of a reversal to all that.

However, Paul’s continuing desire to equip and empower the believers to live into their faith sometimes requires some boundaries and rules regarding how that all works out.  These things, like some of the boundaries that we have in our own churches, are necessary things to have in place so that the church can continue to function, so that people understand practical examples of what “loving your neighbor” and “freedom” mean, and so that the church isn’t caught in a position of enabling people to be lazy or advantage of her generosity and thus sinning in some way, shape, or form.

We often talk about Law vs. Freedom as if there can only be one or the other.  People tend to see rules and policies as part of the law, something that enslaves us or keeps our hands tied.  While there can be truth in that, boundaries that govern the limits of our freedom are often a good thing.  In the case of Timothy and the church in Ephesus, allowing younger widows to be “on the list” could encourage idle behavior… or worse yet encourage sins like gossip and slander.  Churches must tread carefully in these circumstances, balancing the joy of generosity with the danger of enabling.

The same can be true with regards to the treatment of leaders.  All leaders should be held accountable to the higher calling that they have in the time of leadership.  However, we must also be careful to not allow the discontented voice of 1 or 2 to sway the perceptions of all.  Once again, we must balance these things, taking appropriate action when necessary and also trusting in God’s call on their lives.



1 Timothy 4 – Teach These Things

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The persistence of false teachers and false teachings within the church is not limited to the church in Ephesus.  Therefore Paul’s warnings are also not limited to just the church in Ephesus.  Throughout the history of God’s people, there have always been those that have fallen away, led astray by the lies of the enemy.

Satan has never stopped trying to infiltrate the flock, offering promise after promise that turns out to be deception.  A fruit that will make you like god, “deeper knowledge” that differs from Scripture but is somehow more insightful, a “true” way to salvation that you have to work for, the allure of power, wealth, influence… there are so many ways that the devil lies his way into our hearts.

Paul warns Timothy to be on his guard for these things in the same way he warns the Ephesian church to guard against the attacks of the enemy by putting on the full armor of God.  Knowing the true enemy is half of the battle… and for Timothy and the church in Ephesus, the enemy is not the false teachers but rather the deceiver and the deceit.

How is Timothy to counter these things?  Paul implores him to “hold on” to what he has learned and to continue to teach Biblical truths.  Don’t get side-tracked with meaningless rabbit holes or empty small talk.  Hold fast to the truth of the Gospel for it is the only truth that can truly set you free.

Many are the ways that the enemy will try to stop us.  Paul recognizes that Timothy is young, but youth does not negate God’s work in and through his life.  He has been given this change, as have we all, and we must not allow the poison of the enemy get in our way.  We must give ourselves wholly to the God, persevering through all trial, and continuing to preach the Gospel that all may hear and be saved.



1 Timothy 3 – Qualified Leadership

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In pretty much every job description on earth there is a section that talks about what makes a particular person qualified for the job that they are seeking.  For most of those jobs, that will include education as well as a number of skills and experience that will be needed to get the job done.  The qualifications for leaders within the church, however, have much less to do with skills or education and much more to do with the living out of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Looking at the list that Paul writes here, most of this seems fairly obvious and self-evident.  As the leaders go, so will go the followers and as such, it is important that the leaders of the Christian community be those who are living out their faith well.

It is important to point out, I think, that in no way do these things have any bearing on the salvation of an individual.  Paul never meant this to be some sort of “works righteousness” message.  No leaders are earning any special place in heaven by being good leaders.  In fact, Scripture says that leaders will be judged more harshly because of their position.

Instead, we think about this in terms of modeling what means to live a life of faith in response to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.  As leaders, we want to be examples to those around us, but not so that people can model us, rather so that they can model Christ.

Unlike our politicians, who tout themselves as the “best of the best,” church leaders should understand that they are not.  Their calling doesn’t depend on what they have done but rather what God has done for them in Jesus Christ.  As such, leadership in the church does not look like a number of people standing on a hill so others will look to them, but rather a group of people standing within the community pointing to Christ.



1 Timothy 2 – Worship Instructions

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I do not typically do a lot of research when it comes to these blog posts.  My goal and hope for these posts when I started them was that they would be more personal reflections out of some of my education and life experiences.  Today, however, I’ve done my homework.

First of all, Paul is addressing the worship of the church, particularly in Ephesus.  Some of this we have talked about elsewhere, especially in the book of Ephesians.  It is interesting to note, I think, that when addressing matters of worship, Paul never once addresses the issue of music.  Music is a stylistic preference that the church has far too often equated with whether worship is “good” or “bad.”

Paul’s concern in worship, as always, is where the heart of the people is as they gather together to worship God.  Here this motivation is found expressly through Paul’s encouragement toward unified prayer, not just for themselves, but for the world around them as well.

In doing so, Paul also encourages Timothy and the church in Ephesus to avoid distractions and put off and selfish ambition.  This is the driving force behind both the plea for unity, “lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing,” as well as Paul’s comments on modesty and appropriate dress.  Those who dressed in fancy clothes, jewelry, and hairstyles did so to show off their elaborate wealth, not as a way of honoring God.

All of this falls in line with what Paul has already written to the church in Ephesus, as does his comments about women being in leadership.  Remember that, in Ephesians 5, Paul talks about the roles of men and women under the distinct phrase: “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.”  That is still true here.

The specific context here, 2000 years ago, is somewhat of a mystery.  Where the women of this community particularly dominating in nature, causing trouble with the men?  We do know that, because of the cultic worship of pagan gods that went on in the city, Paul desired that the Christians be set apart.  This pagan worship involved showy signs of spiritual indwelling as well as temple prostitution, most of which happened by women, and which Paul obviously wanted to avoid.  We find this to also be true in the context of the church in Corinth as well.

Whatever the specific issues that led to Paul’s words here, we also cannot read them in a vacuum without looking to the rest of Scripture for God’s will in this subject.  One of the fundamental themes of God’s work in Jesus Christ is breaking down barriers in relationships both with each other and with him.  Through the reconciliation that Jesus Christ ushered in, divisions were also broken down.  Paul himself writes that there is no longer “Jews nor Greek, Slave nor Free, Male nor Female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  In addition, the prophets attest to a time when God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh (not just on men).  Women have been clearly gifted by God for the tasks of leadership and service in the Chuch and in the world and we must honor that gifting and God’s call on their lives by equipping and empowering all women and men to their fullest God-given potential.



1 Timothy 1 – Distractions

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As Paul opens his letter, he implores Timothy to keep his focus on the main thing.  Apparently, there had been issues with people getting distracted from the main message of the Gospel through by the teaching of false doctrines.  Paul is also concerned about long discussions about “myths” and “endless genealogies.”

The reason that he focuses so much on those things is because they were part of the false teaching of Gnosticism that had cropped up in the early church.  These genealogies were a part of tracing things back to the very beginning of the world, or to attempted to discern or know some secret knowledge or spiritual being that others don’t know.  What these ended up being, for one reason or another, is just a mess of endless conversations about nothing that went nowhere.

Isn’t that fairly typical of the enemy?  Rather than a direct assault on the ministry of the church or a challenge to the power of the Gospel, he takes a round-about approach, distracting believers in endless discussions and arguments about things that are neither true nor matter at all, and Paul calls them out for it.

Paul’s letter, however, is not necessarily directed toward the church in Ephesus, where Timothy was leading, but rather to Timothy himself.  Paul left Timothy in charge at the church in Ephesus, and as such, is responsible for leading the people in this time.

People’s ability to talk around subjects is particularly amazing to me.  Far too often we spend time talking about issues and subjects that are not the true issue or problem in our lives.  Sometimes, we argue about subjects that don’t even matter simply to avoid the real issues that are taking place in our lives or in the life of our faith community.  Paul charges Timothy, as the leader of the church there, to see through this, cut through this, and get back on track to the Gospel message of God’s love for all people and the love he calls us to as His people in Christ.



Introduction to 1 Timothy

Paul’s first letter to Timothy is the first of three books known as the “pastoral epistles.”  These letters get their name due to a large amount of administrative work that Paul does in them.

After leaving Ephesus on his fourth missionary journey, Paul likely realized that he would not be back to the Ephesian community for some time (if ever).  He then writes this letter to Timothy, to work out his charge to Timothy as well as to refute some heresy that had cropped up in the church in Ephesus.

Timothy was one of Paul’s beloved traveling companions who lived in Lystra.  He joined Paul on his second missionary journey and helped Paul to found the churches in at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.

Though his father was Greek, his mother and grandmother were devout Jews and brought up Timothy.  As such, he was very familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures, which Paul uses to teach Timothy about Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

In his first letter, Paul gives some specific directions to Timothy regarding church leadership, laying out some of the details and qualifications for Elders and Deacons.  These words have given the church a blueprint for the role of these offices of ministry throughout the last 2,000 years.

Also in this letter, Paul addresses issues that have to do with the public worship of the church as well as dealing with false teachers and false teachings as well.  There were a number of different groups that were seeking to infiltrate the church and poison its teachings.  Paul also deals with the treatment of a variety of people groups within the church as well as a number of miscellaneous subjects that churches deal with, all while encouraging them to give honor and glory to God and live as a testimony to the Gospel message.