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Summary: Why should we believe the New Testament? Paul’s introduction in his letter to Titus gives important teaching about the source of his authority as a teacher of God’s message and helps us to understand the New Testament as God’s inspired Word.

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Introduction

The media love crises. Situations where something is going wrong; someone has mucked up; or someone has to be sent into a situation to fix it up make really good copy.

Well, if you’re the sort of person who buys the newspaper or watches ‘A Current Affair’ to learn about the latest “crisis” then you should enjoy studying the little New Testament book of Titus. This short letter, tucked away near the back of the NT almost out of sight and out of mind, is in fact a fascinating expose of how the great apostle Paul handled a situation on the island of Crete that the media of the time would have called a “crisis” in the church.

And as it happens, after an intensive archaeological expedition, I have obtained for you exclusive copies of how the Mediterranean press covered this story back in 64 AD.

{At this point in delivering this talk I handed out copies of “The New Testament Times”, a mock up newspaper cover page including an ancient painting of Titus and some summary articles about issues covered in this sermon.}

Over the next few weeks we are going to learn a few things about how to live as a Christian in tough situations, surrounded by difficult people. Maybe we’ll learn how to handle the odd crisis in our own church or fellowship group, or in our own walk with the Lord.

Who was Titus?

The writer of the letter was the apostle Paul, about whom I assume most of you know at least a little bit. I’ll talk more about him later. But who was Titus?

As well as being able to glean some information from this letter, there are a couple of other references to him in Galatians and 2 Corinthians which give us some interesting background on him.

For one thing they tell us that Titus was Greek – well you could tell that from his picture in the paper couldn’t you?!! That is more important than it might seem because it means that Titus was one of the first people to be a Christian without going through the Old Testament Jewish rituals. This was one of the breakthrough themes of Paul’s preaching.

We also know that Titus was a member of the closest circle of Paul’s companions and had been for several years before his time on Crete. It seems that he was the Treasurer of the group, someone that Paul trusted implicitly. He seems to have been given some of the tougher church jobs that came up – like dealing with the Corinthians, who had so many problems that Paul had to write to them more than once to try to guide them through.

In which case it is no surprise that he left Titus on Crete to “straighten out what was left unfinished” as he puts it in 1:5. As we shall see, dealing with the people there was not an easy matter!

Why write this letter?

On the surface, it seems clear that Paul wrote to Titus to explain to him the things he wanted him to do on Crete – appoint elders and teach certain things. Maybe Titus did need some guidance or encouragement on these matters, but I think that someone who had been around Paul as long as he had would already know most of what is in this letter.

Therefore, I don’t think the letter was written to instruct Titus, but to provide him with support for his work. Its purpose is to inform the people on Crete that Titus has the authority to do the things he is trying to do and to teach the things he is teaching. It’s pretty clear from chapter 1 that there was opposition to Titus. People were challenging him, claiming that they knew God and his ways and that Titus should butt out of their affairs. However, Paul says that their claim to know God is denied by their actions; he gives Titus the go-ahead to rebuke them and to appoint in each town qualified Christian leaders rather than the rebellious deceivers who were standing against him.

OK, but what gives Paul the right to say those things? From where does HE get the authority to tell the churches to pay attention to Titus. The answer to that question is also critical for us as it takes us right to the heart of our understanding of the New Testament as the revealed word of God.

The writer of the letter – the apostle Paul

The way Paul introduces himself in the opening verses of the letter is one of the reasons why I believe that the letter is really written to the church, not to Titus. If anyone already knew the things that Paul says in the first few verses it would be his close companion Titus. He didn’t need to hear them, but the Christians on Crete did.

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