Paul's son Titus and God 's grace and peace

Text Titus 1:4 Time 24/03/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We have begun to look at Paul's letter to Titus. We have considered 1:1-3 where Paul introduces himself. I want us to look this week at the way he goes on (verse 4) to say who he is writing to and to wish God's blessings on him.
1. The man to whom this letter is addressed
To Titus, my true son in our common faith
1. Titus – who was he and what can we learn from his story?
One of the oddest things about Titus is that like Luke he is never mentioned in the Book of Acts. There has been some conjecture as to why that is. It has been suggested that it is because he was Luke’s brother but there is no reason to suppose that is the case. All that we know of Titus then is found in Paul's letters – here and in 2 Corinthians and Galatians. We only have a few glimpses of Titus but enough to get some idea of the man.
Where was he from? There is no definitive answer to this question but the most likely answer is that he was a Greek from Antioch who was converted under the ministry of Paul in that city. We come to that conclusion in the light of Galatians 2:1 where Paul tells how 14 years later after his first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian he went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. He says I took Titus along also. As Paul came to Jerusalem from Antioch it is likely that Titus was from there. He was certainly a Greek because Paul says so in Galatians 2:3. In Antioch you remember many Greeks with no Jewish background had become Christians. This was rather a shock to the Jewish Christians as up until then those who had been converted were either Jews or proselytes. Now absolute pagans were coming to faith. From time to time the churches go through periods when they fail to see that the gospel is open to all.
Paul and Barnabas went down to Jerusalem to discuss this problem and no doubt they took Titus as a live example to show that grace was as sufficient for Gentiles as it was for Jews, circumcised or uncircumcised. The question of circumcision arose because there were hypocrites among the brothers who insisted, like the false teachers in Galatia, that all Christians men must be circumcised and follow certain other Jewish laws. However, as Paul says in Galatians 1:3-5 he refused to have Titus circumcised, Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. Some have read into not … compelled ‘but he was circumcised’. He voluntarily underwent circumcision as in the case of Timothy, who having a Jewish mother and Greek father Paul thought better to circumcise. This cannot be maintained, however. Paul is trying to impress on the Galatians that, despite the false teachers, there is no advantage in circumcision. If Titus was circumcised he would have been wiser not to mention him. Surely his point is that Titus was not circumcised. The only reason the matter arose is because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. But, he says, We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
No doubt Paul’s choice of Titus to accompany him to Jerusalem was not accidental. In this young man he had found a godly companion and fellow worker who he could rely on. We do not know exactly when the visit to Jerusalem that Paul talks about in Galatians was and we can't be sure when Titus began to travel with Paul on his missionary journeys but we know that he was involved in the planting of the church in Corinth and in subsequent dealings with that church. No doubt being from a pagan background himself he was not surprised by the sexual immorality, idolatry, thievery and drunkenness that we know was typical there. What a joy it must have been to see such people turning to the Lord as he had done himself.
As you know, Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians was a difficult one and he had to send them a painful letter (1 Corinthians) written out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve them but to let them know the depth of his love for them. The letter was either taken to Corinth by Titus or he was sent hard on its heels to gather information as to how it was received. Paul was very anxious for news, waiting for Titus. So anxious was he that he went from Ephesus to Troas, hoping to meet Titus there. Although he preached he really could not give himself to that work because of his eagerness to meet Titus and know what the situation was. See 2 Corinthians 2:12, 13 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-bye to them and went on to Macedonia. No doubt Paul had hoped Titus would be able to come by sea. When it was clear that he would not, Paul went on by road to meet him in the mountains. As soon as he met with Titus he wrote again to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians) to say how glad he was to know that things were alright. 2 Corinthians 7:5-7 For when we came into Macedonia, he says this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn - conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. Paul’s letter had brought the right response – repentance; and that made all the difference. He goes on (13, 14) By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well.
In the light of this restoration of good relations Paul decided to come back to the matter of giving – there was great financial need in Jerusalem. The Corinthians had shown eagerness at the beginning but had waned in enthusiasm. Now while things were good he (2 Corinthians 8:6) had urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. As they excelled in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in … love for us – he wanted them now to excel in this grace of giving. Paul’s plan was that Titus should come to them again with two other unnamed brothers - the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel who had been chosen by the churches and our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. He says Titus (16, 17) has the same concern I have for you. He not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. Paul calls him (23) my partner and fellow-worker among you.
Paul makes another reference to Titus at the end of 2 Corinthians, in 12:18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?
There is a passing reference to him in 2 Timothy 4:10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia ie the coast of the former Yugoslavia. Presumably Paul is writing from Rome. The next thing we know is that Titus is on the island of Crete, where many traditions about him have been preserved. It is while he was in Crete that Titus received this letter from Paul. In 3:12 Paul says As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. He obviously appreciated Titus’s fellowship. Whether he ever arrived there we do not know.
There are some obvious lessons here then.
1. Despite his unbelieving background Titus became a true believer.
Again and again this has happened in church history. Think of George Whitefield - born in a pub, John Newton – a slave trader. Isn't it true too of people in the Bible like the dying thief or the Philippian jailer or Abraham for that matter. We should be encouraged by the fact that God often chooses to save complete outsiders.
2. He was a man who became competent at straightening things out in church life and taking a work forward. Titus 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. He was not only good at sorting out problems but dealing with young churches too. One gets the impression that although not necessarily a great evangelist Titus was a great pastor. How we need great pastors – not just regular pastors but those who can pastor others in the church as set out in Titus 2:4.
3. He was a man who despite opposition continued to serve the Lord. Are you of the same spirit?
Titus 2:7,8 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
2. How did Paul describe him - my true son in our common faith
Paul claims Titus as his true son – not an illegitimate one. He uses the same description at the beginning of his two letters to Timothy. Paul uses a similar expression in at least two other places
1 Corinthians 4:15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
Galatians 4:19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,
This way of looking at conversion is full of insight. We are told by Jesus to call no man father but the person through whom you hear the gospel is in some ways a father figure to you – someone a little like your own father. This is at least so when it is through one particular person, especially an older man. That's certainly how I always felt about the man through whom I was converted.
This is a reminder of the way the church is to be structured a little like the family. We are the family of believers. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. In some senses we are also fathers and mothers and children – in respect of age and authority.
There is also some instruction here perhaps about conversion. The picture is of begetting and bearing children. This is something very delicate, very intimate. When you speak to someone unconverted about the gospel there is a sense in which you are saying “be my child” “let me be your father”. It can't be entered into lightly then.
That phrase common faith is telling too. Paul was a Jew and Titus a Gentile but ti was a common faith they shared. Faith is for sharing then – with all sorts of people. To see someone converted is something that surpasses the joy even of having children.

2. Paul's Greeting Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour
1. What Paul wishes for Titus
Grace and peace In Paul's day,as you know, letters usually began with a greeting. Paul speaks here, as usual, of
Grace – which originally meant a kindness done to a friend, a favour but came to refer to a spontaneous and generous gesture. It was taken up by the New Testament writers to refer to God's favour – not to friends but to those who by nature are his enemies. Undeserved love. It was grace that had converted Titus – it is the only way to be converted. He stands in continued need of God's grace in order to reach heaven. All believers continue to stand in need of God's grace.
Peace – Whereas grace was the natural greeting for a Greek speaker, Jews, of course, greet one another with the word peace. The word Paul uses seems to have its roots in the idea of binding together what was separated. It is justification that leads to peace with God, reconciliation with him. It is God's grace that leads to perfect peace and we should expect to know more and more of it.
This is one good way to pray for one another – for grace and for peace.
2. Where he expects it to come from from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour
There are some things you can buy from various shops but some things can only be got at one particular shop. When it comes to grace and peace, they cannot be got just anywhere but we need to look to God for such things. He alone has them to give.
Paul served God (the Father) and was an apostle of Jesus Christ. He knew that the source of all grace and peace is in them. Their origin is in God the Father and they come to sinners only through Jesus Christ. By his death he purchased grace and peace for all his people.
He calls Jesus our Saviour. Paul uses the word saviour no less than six times in this short letter. He also uses it in his letter to Timothy written around the same time. It was obviously a favourite word at this time. The Greek would use the word for their gods and heroes. It was also used for the Emperor for example. Paul seems to have taken it up an used it as an appropriate title for the Lord Jesus Christ – what a Saviour he is for all who come under his protection. This is who we preach – Jesus the Saviour of the world, the one who saved Paul, the one who saved Titus, the one who can save all who call on him.

Faith and Knowledge in the Elect: Rest, Roots, Revelation

Text Titus 1:1-3 Time 17/03/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We have begun to look at the Letter of Paul to Titus and we have begun by concentrating on what Paul says to introduce himself in verses 1 and 2. He is by name Paul, a converted man working among the Gentiles and both a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. His purpose, we saw last week in serving God and going in the name of Jesus Christ is described as being for the faith of God's elect or to put it another way and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. Paul rounds off his self-description in verses 2 and 3 by saying that this faith and knowledge rest on the hope of eternal life. This hope he speaks of as something that, on the one hand, God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and, on the other, that at his appointed season he brought ... to light through the preaching entrusted to Paul by the command of God our Saviour.
I was reading something this week where the writer (Don Carson) spoke of some verses in Scripture being quite loose and easy to understand and others being rather tight and needing to be unpacked. This idea of unpacking has become a bit of a jargon phrase, I guess, but it is a good way of describing some of Paul's sentences especially where without doing some unpacking, some loosening up if you like, then we don't really grasp quite what is being said.
We've done a bit of this work already but let's look now at the whole section from for the faith of God's elect through to through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour. We'll be more brief on the parts we've looked at already and go into more detail with what follows. Altogether I think the section can be divided into five parts and we can use one word in each case to remind us of what that part contains. So I say

1. Recipients: Look in - who are we focusing on?
We saw last week that Paul was a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect. God's elect were his great concern. He cared about all people but it was especially God's chosen people that he was concerned to find and to help. These are the ones who know and believe. The gift of faith and knowledge is not given to everyone but only to the chosen few, those God chose before the beginning of the world. God's elect are more special to him than any others – more than any earthly or heavenly creature, more than all the reprobate. It is on them that he showers his gifts, and especially the gifts of faith and knowledge. The presence of faith and saving knowledge suggest a person who is elect.
@ How much do we think about God's elect? Perhaps for various reasons we shy away from thinking about the subject. Let's rather seek to find the elect by telling the good news to all and let's seek to support those who are elect in every way that we can, as Paul did.

2. Results: Look ahead - what does their faith and knowledge lead to?
As we saw last time Paul speaks of this faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth as something that leads to godliness. This is the result of real faith and real spiritual knowledge. It is not that godliness leads to faith and knowledge but the other way round. The way to a godly life is through faith in Christ and the knowledge of his name. In 2:11-14 Paul says that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. We stand in desperate need as a nation of moral revival but that revival is only going to happen if people in large numbers turn to Christ in faith and come to know him.
@ Let's see then that God's elect are marked not only by faith and knowledge but also by godliness. Indeed, this is where faith and knowledge are to lead. It should be so in our own lives and in the lives of others. Let's do all we can to make it so.

3. Rest: Look beneath – on what do their faith and knowledge rest?
This faith and knowledge says Paul are resting on the hope of eternal life. Christian hope is not like mere worldly hope – I hope so, but I doubt it. No, it is something positive and definite. It is an earnest yearning, a confident expectation and a patient waiting. The hope is – eternal life. For the believer, there is a sense in which eternal life has already begun but he still longs for the continuation of that life in heaven forever. That is what Paul is talking about here – not just entrance into heaven but the abundant life of glory.
People in this world put their hope in all sorts of things but the one great hope is the hope of eternal life. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Paul says to Timothy Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. Are we holding on to the right thing? There is not a hope that compares with this hope. It is because of this hope that the elect believe and know the truth.
@ What a wonderful thing it is to have hope! In Ephesians 2:12 Paul describes unbelievers as separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. That is their hopeless situation. What a horror. On the other hand as the Psalmist puts it (Psalm 25:3) No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, ... To have the hope of eternal life is to be blessed indeed.

4. Roots: Look back – what are the roots of these teachings?
Paul goes on to speak of this faith and knowledge as something with a past and a present or future. First, a past. It is something which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. So note that the roots are
1. In God who cannot lie
Literally Paul speaks of the unlying God. Part of God's unchanging nature is that he does not and cannot lie. Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. 1 Samuel 15:29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind. Sometimes a negative statement can be stronger than a positive one. God is a God who makes promises. In these promises it is impossible for him to lie.
2. In promises made before the beginning of time
We often revere things because of their antiquity. Well, as far as the gospel is concerned, it has a very ancient history indeed. It goes back, says Paul, to a time before time itself. Because God's purpose is so ancient we can say that his promise really goes back to a time before time. He speaks similarly in Romans 16:25 of the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past and Colossians 1:26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, and 2 Timothy 1:9 This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, ... . In Matthew 25:34 the king in the parable says to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Here it is, what was promised before the beginning of time.
@ These truths are rooted in God himself, God who cannot lie and in the unbreakable promises he made before the beginning of time. This further encourages us to believe these truths and to live in the light of them.

5. Revelation: Look here – How have these teachings now been revealed?
The final thing that Paul says is in verse 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour. This is like the verses that follow the ones we just quoted in Romans, Colossians and 2 Timothy.
Romans 16:25, 26 the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him. Colossians 1.26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations but is now disclosed to the saints. 2 Timothy 1:9 This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
If we concentrate just on what Paul says here in Titus we can get at the material by asking those three great questions – what, when and how.
1. What?
Paul says that God brought his word to light. He who made promises before the beginning of time kept it hidden in darkness for some time but then brought his word to light. The coming of the gospel was like the shining of a light in a dark place. All the wonderful promises of God were at last clearly revealed.
2. When?
Paul says that what God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time he brought to light at his appointed season. He is clearly referring here to the New Testament era which began with the coming of Jesus Christ and was in full swing at the time that Paul was writing. This is the time that God had appointed from all eternity for his light to shine.
3. How?
How did the light shine at that time? It was, says Paul, through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour. Paul wasn't the only preacher, of course, but he was one of the main ones and this is how the truth was revealed then – by preaching.
@ How thankful we should be that these wonderful promises have been revealed in the New Testament. We, too, have a duty to let everyone know.

The Faith of the Elect: Truth and Godliness

Text Titus 1:1b Time 10/03/10 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We have begun to look at the Letter of Paul to Titus. We began last week with the opening words Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ and we talked about Paul and his wonderful conversion and about being a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul was such in a very special way but there is a sense in which all believers are to be not only servants of God but also apostles of Jesus Christ – those sent out in his name.
Now this week I want us to look at more of what Paul has to say about himself, as it is found in these opening verses. He is not simply Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ but he is those things (1, 2) for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
Paul is not a servant of God or an apostle of Jesus Christ just in some general sense. He has a sense of being those things with a definite purpose in view. This appears to be the power of that little word for. Little words like that can sometimes be quite important, especially in Paul's writings. There is an end in view in his servanthood and apostleship, a purpose. Everything Paul is and does has a purpose – a goal, an aim. He wasn't interested in being an apostle simply for the kudos. As he explains elsewhere it was hardly a glamorous or desirable role. No, everything is geared to this one end - for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
As believers we are in danger often of being unfocused. We can be so taken up with the fact that God has saved us and the benefits that brings that we forget that there is work still to be done. We too need to learn to be focused like Paul was. We need to be clear on our aims and goals and get rid of fuzzy and vague thinking that simply says "I serve God and want to go out in his name somehow". We must do this rather with a specific purpose.
So let's consider Paul's two aims and learn from him
1. Learn to focus on the faith of God's elect and be a promoter of faith
Paul is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ firstly for the faith of God's elect. The elect are the chosen ones, God's people, of course. Some people object to this idea even though the Bible teaches it very plainly. I think that part of the problem is the way people think about it.
For many it seems like that scene in the first Toy Story movie. Woody and Buzz, the protagonists, end up in one of those fairground claw or grab machines. All the prizes are identical green alien dolls with large eyes. Buzz asks “Who's in charge here?” The aliens look up and point and say “the Claw!”. “The Claw is our master” says one. “The Claw chooses who will go and who will stay” says another. Sid, the nasty boy, then comes to the machine and puts in money. Inside one of the aliens says “The claw. It moves.” Sid works the lever and the claw comes down choosing one of the alien dolls. He says “I have been chosen! Farewell, my friends. I go on to a better place” and up he is pulled.
Now election is nothing like that! There is nothing random or mechanical about it. Rather, before the world began God chose a people for himself in Jesus Christ. It was in love that he predestined certain ones to belong to him, to belong to his own special people. This fact is revealed to us in order to magnify the love of God. Isn't it an amazing thing to think that God had me in mind before the beginning of time, that he loved me before the world ever began? What a privilege it is to be one of his chosen ones.
Augustus Toplady wrote of being “Chosen of Thee ere time began” so that “I choose Thee in return!”
Josiah Conder wrote “'Tis not that I did choose Thee for, Lord, that could not be. This heart would still refuse Thee hadst Thou not chosen me.”
John Kent's hymn is well known

Sovereign grace o’er sin abounding! Ransomed souls, the tidings swell
’Tis a deep that knows no sounding; Who its breadth or length can tell?
On its glories, Let my soul for ever dwell.

What from Christ that soul can sever, Bound by everlasting bands?
Once in Him, in Him for ever; Thus the eternal covenant stands.
None shall take Thee From the Strength of Israel’s hands.

Heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus, Long ere time its race begun;
To His name eternal praises; O what wonders love has done!
One with Jesus, By eternal union one.

On such love, my soul, still ponder, Love so great, so rich, so free;
Say, while lost in holy wonder, Why, O Lord, such love to me?
Hallelujah! Grace shall reign eternally.

Paul talks about election here to emphasise the sovereignty of God. It is like Acts 13:48 where it says When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

That brings us to the matter of how we know who are the elect? Clearly the elect are those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. This seems to be the way Paul is using the word faith here – not “the faith”, the things to believe, but the act of faith, "trusting". Putting your faith in Christ is evidence that you are chosen. Those who continue to refuse to trust in Christ show that they never were elect. It is by being joined to Christ in faith that we find forgiveness.
Now Paul's whole life was given over to bringing the elect to faith and encouraging those who believed to make their election sure. He had no more idea of exactly who was elect before hand than we do. There was that time in Corinth when God assured him that he had many people in the city but Paul was only able to find out who they were by preaching the gospel and seeing the response they made. Once they professed faith he did all he could to help them to go on from faith to faith. This was how he served God then. This is what he went out to do – to preach Jesus Christ and faith in him and to help believers sustain their faith in Christ.
Not of all of us are called to give ourselves to such work full time or specifically as preachers but we are all to do what we can to encourage faith in him. At home mothers and fathers are to teach their children the truth. In our dealings with the wider family and with friends and neighbours we seek to bear witness to Christ and urge faith in him. We don't know who are the elect but we seek them out by pointing people to Christ. Those who respond in faith we have good reason to believe are elect. Those who do not are not necessarily not elect but if they persist in unbelief then we will have to assume that is their position. Those who profess faith we endeavour to encourage in that faith as best we can.
What are we doing to promote the faith of God's elect? We need to examine our lives and see what there is.

2. Learn to focus on the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness and promote that knowledge
Paul adds and the (full) knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. He is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
This phrase a knowledge of the truth comes up in each of the three pastoral letters.
1 Timothy 2:4 refers to God as one who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 2:25 says that the man of God must gently instruct those who oppose him in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
Here in Titus it is for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
This second statement is in some ways just another way of saying what he has already said. for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness are really parallel phrases. However, the two bring out quite different things. What is it for one of God's elect to come to faith? It is for that person to come to a knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. To be a Christian, to have faith is to know the truth.
Philosophers often distinguish between beliefs and knowledge. Usually the distinction is that you can believe something whether it is true or not. On the other hand, to actually know something it categorically cannot be false. A person believes that a particular bridge is safe enough to support them, and attempts to cross; unfortunately, the bridge collapses under their weight. It could be said that they believed that the bridge was safe, but that this belief was mistaken. It would not be accurate to say that they knew that the bridge was safe, because plainly it was not. By contrast, if the bridge actually supported their weight then they might be justified in subsequently holding that he both believed and knew the bridge had been safe enough for his passage at that time.
The Aristotelian definition of truth states: To say of something which is that it is not, or to say of something which is not that it is, is false. However, to say of something which is that it is, or of something which is not that it is not, is true.
Many today have a different idea of truth. There is your truth and my truth, they say, but no objective truth. That very statement makes no sense, of course, if everything really is relative. The fact is that there is such a thing as objective truth and to be a Christian is to know the truth and that truth leads to godliness.
It was Paul's great desire to bring people out of the ignorance that they are in by nature and that he had once been in himself and for them to know the truth, a truth that would lead them to godliness. Unbelievers are in ignorance and do not know how to be godly. Believers know the truth and the door to godliness is open to them.
It is important to get the order right. Paul does not say that he was a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the godliness that leads to the truth. Some have suggested that the way to the truth is by this route. The fact is that without knowing the truth godliness cannot be found. The two go together. If you really have the truth it will lead you to godliness. If there is no godliness then it cannot be the truth. G K Chesterton's Father Brown says in one place that heresy always does lead to immorality – if it is heretical enough! There is truth in that – believe the wrong thing and in the end you will be ungodly, believe the truth and it will lead to godliness.
The word for godliness or piety is one found only in the pastoral letters (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus). It is in contrast to the ungodliness all around that Paul emphasises it.
True faith then is not ignorant or superstitious. It is a knowing faith. True knowledge is not a mere head knowledge. It is a knowledge that brings about a change in our behaviour so that we walk in the way of godliness.
Being a Christian begins with election and leads to faith and knowledge of the truth. Such faith and knowledge produce godliness in the individual. It is like a golden chain. Without election there can be no faith or knowledge of the truth. Without faith and knowledge there can be no godliness. One leads to another. For the most part we deal with that middle part – faith and knowledge of the truth. We cannot peer into the secret of election and the only way for there to be godliness is by beginning with faith. We must do all we can to promote these.
This is what we should be seeking to promote then faith in God's elect and a knowledge of the truth that will promote piety or godliness. We need to examine our lives and see what there is.