“When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who loves us in the faith. Grace be with you all.” + Titus 3v12-15
It could be very easy in our Bible reading to gloss over Paul’s closing in his letter to Titus. But it is not just the message of the letter that is God’s Word; but every word, every jot and tittle of the letter is God’s Word. Paul’s final instructions and greetings are equally inspired by the Holy Spirit. We must treat it as such. There is much for us to learn here.
Let us remember that Paul left Titus in Crete, to “put what remained in order” and to appoint elders. This involved grounding them in the truth, warning against false teachers, growing them in the gospel which grows them into a people of good works.
One of the main themes of Paul’s letter to Titus is that the Gospel produces good works in us. What we believe has a direct impact on how we live our lives. Paul exemplifies this in verse 12 where he tells Titus that he send him help. Paul doesn’t hoard all the faithful brothers to himself, but he sends some to Titus – he gives help out of the abundance of help that God had given him in ministry. After Paul gives theological motivation and instruction to do good, Paul gives a practical application to immediately do good by doing it himself and by giving Titus and the other brothers the opportunity to help him.
Paul says that he will send either Artemas or Tychicus to help Titus in ministry. Paul then requests that Titus do his best to come and join him at Nicopolis. Paul does not intend that Titus remain in Crete forever, but rather be devoted there for a time as he works to order the church. Paul requests that Titus send Zenas the Lawyer and Apollos to him as well. In all of this coming to and fro, and swapping out of men, Paul models for us the life of a missionary and church planter. Paul, Titus, and the other brothers are men that have given their lives to gospel ministry, and thus they have given their lives to be moved wherever gospel work takes them. This of course is not the call for every believer. Some believers are called not to go, but to stay. Just as the church needs missionaries and church planters, and is often advanced through these men, the church also consists of local congregations, living, committed, and stationed in one place as gospel outposts. This is the goal of missions and church planting – to build up local congregations. The call for every Christian, whether you are called to stay or go, is to be given to gospel ministry. When I say ministry, I do not simply mean formal eldership or preaching. Every Christian is called to give themselves to the gospel ministry of disciple making and evangelism. This is the mother who gives her live to disciple her children to love Jesus and live godly lives. This is the husband who gives himself to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. This is the children who submit to Christ by obeying their parents. This is the Christian who is the only gospel light in his vocation. This is the Christian who gives his life to evangelize his neighborhood. Whatever station it is that God has placed you, that is the place that you are called to give yourself to gospel ministry.
Paul’s example shows us that just as individual Christians are not to be lone ranger Christians – but are to be a part of a local church – that pastors and missionaries are also not to be lone ranger pastors and missionaries. Christians, elders, and missionaries need each other in ministry and in life. Paul shows us the connectedness that these brothers had with each in gospel ministry.
Quite simply, we do not carry the burden alone. We do not carry the task of gospel ministry alone. We carry it together. Though Titus was the leader for ordering the church in Crete, he was not leading alone. Paul made sure that Titus had others there to help him. Not only does Paul say he is going to send another, but when Paul requests that Titus send him Zenas and Appollos that implies that those two guys were already in Crete helping Titus. Apollos was actually well known in that time for his preaching of the gospel (some people believe that Appollos actually wrote the book of Hebrews). Titus had solid, faithful brothers sharing in the responsibilities of gospel ministry. Not to mention that Titus had Paul himself to lean on as a mentor. As we’ve seen, Paul himself was never solo either. He always surrounded himself with faithful brothers to share the load.
Let us take our cues from this. This is part of my reasoning for believing that a plurality of elders is ideal for a local church.
In the Fellowship of the Rings, a council gathers together in Rivendale to discuss what must be done with the One Ring. They decide the ring must be taken to Mordor to be destroyed. Understanding the gravity of the situation, a fellowship is formed to carry out this task. They understood that for such a great and daunting task, one man would not be able to carry the burden alone. They knew they needed each other. Even when the fellowship gets broken up, Frodo is never left to carry the burden alone. Sam is there to remain with him to the end. If Frodo were to go alone, he would never make it. He needed Sam. As the Church of Jesus Christ who has been entrusted with the gospel, we have a far greater and more daunting task than that of destroying the One Ring. We have the task of carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth. There is no way we can do it alone. Paul understood this as much as anyone.
The work of the gospel is not riding on the back of any one man; but on an army of believers who are held in the hands of almighty God our Savior Jesus Christ.
A Gospel-Centered Church is Marked by Faithful Believers
Other than Apollos, the men that Paul names are probably very obscure figures to us. Some of you may not even be familiar with Apollos. Tychicus is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture very briefly. We know that he was an Asian man who accompanied Paul on some of his journeys as mentioned in Acts. He’s also referred to as a “beloved brother and faithful minister” in Ephesians and Colossians. Other than that, he is not known to us. Artemas, whom Paul mentions first, is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. Also, Zenas the Lawyer is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture.
What does this tell us? As great as the Apostle Paul was, he didn’t do this alone. This tells us that there were many unknown heroes who helped Paul spread the gospel. Gospel work is not a one man show – even for the great Apostle Paul. Gospel work requires the faithful labor of many. The Church is not carried out on the backs of Christian celebrities. We often think, “Man, if we just had more outspoken Christian athletes, or actors, or musicians, then we could really see the gospel advance.” While it would be great to see more solid Christian celebrities – they are not what we need. We need more unknown Christians. We can look back throughout church history and see renowned men doing great Gospel work like Augustine, Tyndale, Calvin, Spurgeon, and men today like John Piper and Matt Chandler. While those men have been, and are, a phenomenal benefit to the Church, the life of the Church is not riding on their backs. God has chosen to preserve and advance his Church through millions and millions of little tiny obscure people laboring faithfully in gospel ministry in obscure places who will never make it into the history books. Some of the greatest gospel preachers, are probably preachers we have never heard of!
Let us not belittle our mission because we may be but a small blip on the radar. Let us labor faithfully knowing that the church is made up of millions of people around the world, just like us. Only heaven knows the amount of fruit that came from the work of Artemas, Tychicus, and Zenas. Let them be an encouragement to us. It is safe to say that there were many other brothers who greatly helped the work with Paul that never got a mention in Scripture. Though we may be obscure in the world, we are not obscure to Christ. The church is carried on by God through obscure faithful believers in obscure places.
A Gospel-Centered Church is Marked by Good Works
“Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”
While not all are called to formal ministry, all Christians are called to be a part of a church, and churches are called to take care of those in ministry. This is what Paul is telling Titus. Paul wants Titus to take care of these preachers by making sure that they have everything they need for the journey.
Missionaries cannot survive and missions cannot advance without the church. After all it is the church who carries out missions. In verse 13, Paul writes, “…see that they lack nothing.” This is how we live our lives as a church that is given to gospel ministry: we provide for one another’s needs. Paul isn’t telling only Titus to take care of these brothers. It is the church in Crete as a whole that is to see that they lack nothing. The local church is to take care of each other and it is to take care of those whom they send places to do gospel ministry.
“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works…” Paul emphasizes again to Titus the importance and necessity of the church being devoted to good works. Again, good works shouldn’t be sparse within the church. The church should be devoted, committed, dedicated, persistent in, and faithful to doing good to others. Paul says to “let our people learn” this. Devotion to good works is not something that just happens overnight. Giving of ourselves and doing constant good to one another can be a hard thing to do. Our tendency is to be very inward focused. But the gospel flips us inside out. The gospel turns our focus outward.
How do we learn devotion to good works? This will blow your mind: we learn to be devoted to good works by doing them.
Devotion to good works is like the game of golf. You can take someone who has never touched a golf club in his life and give him the best golf teachers in the world. They can spend hours teaching him the proper mechanics of a golf swing and showing him endless videos on how to swing a golf club rightly. That person can memorize every detail and regurgitate all the information. But until that person gets out on the golf course or the driving range, and begins to practice and work on the swing himself, he will never be able to do it the right way. Learning the proper mechanics of a golf swing requires hours of actual practice in doing it. It is impossible to memorize all of that information and then walk out on the golf course and instantly be transformed into Phil Mikelson. It doesn’t work that way. It takes practice. How do we learn to be devoted to good works? By repetition. By doing one good work at a time. Practice.
Secondly, and even more importantly, how else do we learn to be devoted to good works? We learn to be devoted to good works by learning the gospel. The more we grow in the knowledge of and in affections for Christ, the more we will be devoted to good works. Why? Because in the gospel, Jesus Christ has done the greatest work for us. Despite the fact that we rebelled against God, and chose our sin over God – God has done good to us. Despite the fact that we wanted nothing to do with God, God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ to save us. Despite the fact that we do nothing good for God, and in fact have done the opposite by taking his good gifts of creation and running from him; He chose to do good to us regardless. He gave up Himself in the person of Christ. In His life He did every good work for us; and then He gave His life for us to be our righteousness. He gave up His life to pay for our sin and rebellion on the cross for us. For those in Christ, we receive every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus in the Heavenly places and are made heirs of God. Not to mention that God does good to us every second by giving us life, breath, a heartbeat, food, clothes, shelter, friends, family, and much, much, more. Everything good that could ever be done to another, God has done for us in Christ. The more we understand the good that Christ has done for us, the more good we will do for others.
The second half of verse 14 gives us a couple of reasons why we are to be devoted to good works. First it says, “…so as to help in cases of urgent need…” We are given a practical reason as to why we are to be devoted to good works – so that we can be a help in times of need. Anytime that there is a need that comes up in the Church, it shouldn’t be a need for long. Learning to be devoted to good works helps to provide for each other’s needs in the work of gospel ministry. This is how God provides for us: through the Church. Through one another. This is why God created the church to be devoted to good works – so that God could provide for us through one another. The church is to be a living breathing example to the world of the provision and care of God.
When we are specifically devoted to providing for pastors, church plants, and missionaries – as is the example given in our text today – we provide not just for that person, but for gospel ministry. For those who are not called to hold an office of formal gospel ministry, this is one way in which you are called to participate in it – by doing your part to provide for needs. This is why Paul wants the Church at Crete to be devoted to good works: so gospel ministry can flourish. In such a case, our good works assist in advancing the gospel in the world.
Secondly, at the end of verse 14, Paul tells us that we are not to be unfruitful. This means that our good works are gospel fruit. The more we understand how much Christ loves his bride, the church, the more good we will do to her. The more we understand of how much God loves the world, the more good we will do to it. Good works are good fruit.
How does a tree produce fruit on it’s branches? By being connected to and rooted deep in the life source. How do believers produce the fruit of good works in our lives? By being connected to and rooted deep in the life source that is Christ.
A Gospel-Centered Church is Marked by Love for One Another
In verses 12-14 you can tell that there must be a real love for one another by the way Paul sends and requests men and calls for their provision and care. But then as we are given this example and illustration of love for one another, verse 15 tells us, “All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.” There is an apparent love for one another that the gospel creates or produces within us. This of course is another reason why we should be willing and devoted to doing good to one another. I love what Paul says, “All who are with me send greetings to you.” When I read that I picture all these believers gathered around Paul as he sits down to write this letter to Titus. These are believers who had been with Titus before and labored alongside him in gospel work. They have experienced the bond of the gospel with Titus. As Paul nears the close of his letter, I picture these people saying to Paul, “Be sure and tell Titus we say hello! Be sure and let him know we love him and miss him!” And so Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, notes that all who are with them send greetings to Titus.
Imagine reading this if you are Titus. You’ve spent lots of time with Paul and the other believers with him, and then he leaves you in Crete to put the church there in order. Paul and all of those people were dear, dear friends of Titus in the faith. There were no cell phones with texting or twitter or facebook to keep up with one another. Titus hasn’t seen or talked to them since they left him there. What a joy it must have been to Titus to hear that his friends missed him and were thinking of him. Even with all of our connectedness today, think of how great it is when you get to see or talk to a dear friend whom you never get to see. It is such a joyful occasion when we get to experience that. Our common friends in the faith are to be a great joy to us.
Paul also tells Titus to “greet those who love us in the faith.” This implies that there are others there in Crete who had spent much time with Paul when he was there and had grown close to him and loved him. I’m sure there were many there who had been converted under the preaching and teaching of Paul, or those with him. When you are converted under the specific ministry of someone, you will always have a special affection for that person that God used to save you, or to grow you in a big way.
Seeing the love that these believers have for one another does make me a bit saddened when I think about many churches in America today. How many churches do we know or have heard of that are a terror to their pastor? There are so many churches who do not love their pastors. There are far too many churches that have deacons that seek to control the pastor and threaten their pastor. There are far too many churches who are just downright mean and antagonistic to their pastor. This type of attitude that is prevalent in so many churches is not a gospel attitude. It is not a biblical posture. It is a work of the devil. The gospel produces love for one another. It produces love from church member to pastor, and pastor to church member. From deacon to pastor and pastor to deacon. A gospel-centered church is marked by love for one another.
A Gospel-Centered Church is Marked by Grace
This is perhaps the most important mark of a church. For without grace, there exists no church. The church is here – we are here, precisely and only because of grace. The end of verse 15, Paul’s final words, “Grace be with you all.”
Church, grace will indeed be with us. This is not just wishful thinking for Paul. This is not just a sentimental cliché that Paul had on his coffee cup. This is a theological reality for The Church. In Titus chapter 2 we saw that Paul refers to Jesus Christ as the grace of God. Grace will be with us all because Jesus is with us all. As Titus and those at Crete go about the work of gospel ministry, it will be difficult – they are going to miss the good times when Paul was with them. There will be times when they wish for Paul to be back with them. When Titus leaves they are going to wish for Titus to be back with them. But Paul is reminding them, “You have something, or someone, rather, with you, who is better than me or Titus. You have grace with you. You have our great God and Savior Jesus Christ with you.” Just as the promise was made to Joshua in the Old Testament, Christ promises us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear…for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” As Jesus gave the great commission to his disciples before he departed from them by ascending to heaven, he left them, and He leaves us, with this promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus, who loved us, and gave himself for us, will not abandon us. He will not forsake us. He will not leave us out to dry. He is with us. He is in us. He will not let us go. He holds us tighter than we could ever hold him back. It is all of grace.
“Grace be with you all” Paul says. A common closing to Paul’s letters. Paul wants to leave the taste of grace in our mouths and on our tongues. He knows that we will need grace for the journey through life. We will stumble, we will fall, we will fail, there will be times when we do not take the opportunity to do good to one another, there will be times when we do not rightly love each other, there will be times when we fall into sin – BUT – for those who are in Christ Jesus, who are a part of the true church, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be with us, for He Himself will be with us.
The grace of our Lord, who shed his blood for our transgressions, will not leave us. He will preserve us, protect us, be with us, keep us – for He is our Shepherd. It was with his precious blood, through His suffering that He purchased to keep us. He who bought us with the price of his very own life will not abandon us because we sin – he will not leave us because we lack faith – he will be with us.
No matter where life takes us. No matter how many trials, heartaches, struggles, temptations, losses, failures, or sins that we go through, our Lord goes with us through them all. He is with us in life, He is with us in death, He will be with us forever. Grace be with you all.