Conversion, Service, Going out

Text Titus 1:1 Time 03/03/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
I would like us to begin to look this evening at the Letter of Paul to Titus. The letter is a fairly brief one written by Paul to his fellow worker and true son in their common faith Titus. Titus is not mentioned in Acts but Paul refers to him in his letters and here we have a whole letter to him. He appears to have been a Gentile convert and one for whom Paul had the highest regard. He often acted as Paul's deputy.
The reason for the letter was that Paul had sent Titus to the island of Crete to complete the work of evangelism that he himself had started there. The book is a very practical one, dealing with the appointment of elders, dealing with false teachers and handling various types in the congregation.
The letter was probably written around 64 or 65 AD between Paul's first and final imprisonments in Rome.
Typically the letter begins with the name of the writer Paul. He describes himself as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. This is a typical way for Paul to write
Romans 1:1 is very similar Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle. He begins most of his letters with a reference to being an apostle. In Philippians, he simply calls himself a servant.
Peter is similar to Paul here in his second letter
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ
It is worth thinking, perhaps, of how you might introduce yourself in the situation. How would you begin? A servant of Christ Jesus? In whose name do you carry out your life and work? Someone once told me that people who work for IBM, that's the first thing they tell you, not “I'm British” or “I'm from London” but “I work for IBM”. What's the first thing you want to get across?
A name itself can have a powerful affect by itself when it is well known. Adolf Hitler, Elvis Presley, Napoleon, Tony Blair, Charlie Chaplin, etc. What do people think when they hear your name? Certainly Paul's was a name to be reckoned with. Here he gives his name, his character and his calling. Let's think of these for a short while.
1. Consider the name Paul had and the importance of conversion
Paul is a Greek name meaning small. It doesn't mean that Paul was small any more than for us a Mr Little has to be small. I would guess, however, that it began as a family joke. Paul was Jewish and from the tribe of Benjamin and so Saul was an obvious name when he was born there in Tarsus. Being a Roman citizen too, he needed a Roman name and as Paul sounds a bit like Saul and he was quite small, Paul it was.
As you know, Paul was born in Tarsus. Like his father he was a Pharisee and when quite young he was sent to Jerusalem to study under a leading Pharisee, Rabbi Gamaliel. Not only was he a Pharisee but he saw it as his life's work to oppose Christianity. That is, until he himself was converted. It all built up quite gradually no doubt (the witness of Stephen had a powerful effect) but he was dramatically converted in the end on the road to Damascus where he had intended to persecute Christians.
There are certain unique features to Paul's conversion but at the heart of it is that great change from opposition to Christ to devotion to him – a great change that so many have known. It is important that we keep conversion to the fore in our thinking. We ourselves must be converted but it is something we ought to be praying for in others too. Before anyone can be a servant of God, as Paul was, he must first be converted.

2. Consider the character Paul had and the need for a spirit of service to God
After his name, the first thing Paul says about himself is that he is a servant of God. The word he actually uses means slave but that translation could give the wrong idea. Although in Romans 6 he does speak of Christians as slaves in Galatians 4:7 he says of the Christian you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Perhaps servant is the best word then.
By nature we are all slaves to sin. Jesus himself says (John 8:34) I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Once a person is converted, however, he is set free - not free to do as he wishes but to be a slave or servant to God, as Paul was. As Bob Dylan once put it, "whoever you are - you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody."
Paul once served the Devil but now he was a servant of God. Every Christian is in the same position. He is saved, as it has been put, to serve. Paul reminds the Corinthians at one point (1 Corinthians 6:20) you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body. The classic passage on this is Romans 6 which we were looking at on Sunday. Romans 12:1 makes the same point Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.
What an example to us Paul is in this respect. From the moment he was converted it would seem his motto was For me to live is Christ. His one great concern was to serve God in all he did. This ought to be our concern too.
As in all things our greatest example is Jesus Christ himself.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Philippians 2:6-8 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself ....
The servant must be like his Master. If we follow Christ we must be servants to God in all we do.

3. Consider the calling that Paul had and the need to go out in Christ's name
The other thing that Paul says about himself is that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. The word apostle is from a Greek word meaning to send. I remember how in the days when people used snail mail I would sometimes get a letter from Cyprus, from the Burgesses, and they would write in Greek on the back Aposteleas (Sender). We can think of four more specialised uses of the word Apostle. Think of

1. The archetypal Apostle, Jesus Christ
Christ is not only the supreme example of what it means to be a servant of God but also of what it means to be an apostle. In Hebrews 3:1 we read
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
Christ is the one sent from the Father into this world. In John 8:42 he says of himself I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Between John 4:34 and 9:4 Jesus refers to his Father as the one who sent him no less than 10 times.
And why was he sent? To preach the good news about salvation and to redeem his people. Praise God it is so.
2. The general way the word is used in the New Testament for someone sent on a mission
Sometimes the word apostle is used in a more general way in the New Testament. Titus himself was an apostle of that sort - 2 Corinthians 8:23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives (apostles) of the churches and an honour to Christ. In Philippians 2:25 Paul refers to Epaphroditus as my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger (apostle), whom you sent to take care of my needs.
3. The technical and specialised way the word is sometimes used in the New Testament
The Apostles. This is clearly the way Paul uses it when he uses it of himself. In 1 Corinthians 15:9 he says I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. See 1 Thessalonians 2:6 As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you. This is the way the New Testament uses the word in places such as
1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles
Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Ephesians 3:5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets.
Jude 17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold
There are Christians who dispute this technical use but it is quite clear that the apostles were the founders of the church and no longer exist nor are such people needed.
We would have to say that anyone claiming to be an apostle in this fullest sense today is a false apostle. Even then, of course, there were false apostles.
2 Corinthians 11:12-15 I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Revelation 2:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
It was possible to tell who was an apostle and who was not and that is so today. Some years ago the late Victor Budgen pointed out that Apostles of this sort were marked by five qualifications
1 Authority - 1 Corinthians 14:37, 38 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
2 Corinthians 13:10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority - the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
1 Thessalonians 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.
This authority was not absolute, however. 1 Corinthians 16:12 Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.
2 Ability to speak infallibly and infallibly interpret God's Word - Much of what Paul wrote (his various letters) is now part of Scripture. Not everything he said or wrote was infallible or inerrant but what we now have in Scripture is. The remark in 2 Peter 3:16 is fascinating. Peter says of Paul His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. In Paul's letter we find him interpreting Scriptures too. Such interpretations are infallible too.
3 Witness to the resurrection - This comes out in Acts 1:22, of course, when they are looking for a replacement for Judas. In Paul's case his sight of the risen Lord was as to one abnormally born (1 Corinthians 15:58). Earlier in 1 Corinthians (9:1) his statement Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? suggests that the founding of the church in Corinth was not enough to make him an apostle in the fullest sense but seeing the risen Lord was. The last of all in 1 Corinthians 9 warns us against looking for apostles today.
4 Directly called and commissioned by God - Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle - sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead -
1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God .... That by the will of God is found at the beginning of 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Timothy too. 1 Timothy 1:1 has Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope.
5 Able to do signs and wonders - It is clear that very few in New Testament times were able to perform signs and wonders. Although not exclusive to the Apostles, it was one of their characteristic abilities and should surely be expected from any latter day apostle. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says The things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles--were done among you with great perseverance. In Acts 9:38 we read that Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, Please come at once! with the hope that he could heal Dorcas. There was no thought of healing her themselves. In Acts 5:12 we read that The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. In verse 15 we read that people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Similarly, later on, in Acts 19:12 we read of Paul that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Such things have been claimed since but there is no hard evidence for such things.
In 2 Timothy 4:20 Paul says I left Trophimus sick in Miletus so the apostles clearly could not heal at will. However, the impression we get is that when they tried to heal or perform wonders, they were successful. Paul and Peter also had revelatory visions and were able to give people the Holy Spirit by laying hands on them.
We do not want to give the impression that this is a simple question. There is room for debate. Acts 14:14 refers to the apostles Barnabas and Paul. Was Barnabas an apostle in the fullest sense? Budgen says yes, Hendriksen says no. (The subject was hotly debated in the Middle Ages). Similarly the reference in Galatians 1:19 (I saw none of the other apostles - only James, the Lord's brother) could suggest that James the Lord's brother was an apostle too. As for apostles today, however, it is impossible. It is not necessary, either. Once the foundation has been laid for a building there is no need to lay it again.
What Paul writes to Titus here then is not just good advice then but the Word of God. It must be taken as that.
4. The more general apostleship that is the calling of all true believers
There is a sense in which all true disciples should also be apostles. When the risen Christ said to his disciples (John 20:21) Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you his words applied to all believers. The same thing must be said of the Great Commission All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. None of us are apostles like the Twelve or like Paul. We have never seen the risen Christ. However, Christ sends us by his Spirit into all the world.
It was part of Paul's consuming passion. Is it part of yours? Perhaps every time he used his name Paul it reminded him that he was the Apostle to the Gentiles. His aim was by all means to save some. He never forgot his calling. We must seek to be the same.