Category: Devotionals

Read Titus 2

Key Verse: Titus 2:13 “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ…”

The key verse appears in the context of a paragraph which says, “For 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” (vv.11-14 NIV)

There are several key words in the paragraph: words like “grace…salvation…hope…redeem…purify…good.” The word “grace” tells us that God has done something for man which is completely unwarranted — He has offered us “salvation” in Christ. This offer first “appeared to all men” when an angelic announcement was sung over the shepherd’s fields outside of Bethlehem. It “appeared” again on a wooden cross at Golgotha, and again in a rich man’s empty tomb and again on the Mount of olives as the risen Christ ascended before many witnesses to the Father. The whole purpose of this “appearing” was to “redeem” man from sin. Christ came to “buy back” mankind from the “wages of sin” — certain death gave way to certain life for all who put their trust in Him.

Redemption meant the “purifying” of “a people” for Christ’s “very own”, a people “eager to do what is good”.

The “hope”, which Paul calls “blessed and glorious” is that there will be one more “appearance”: the return of Christ to receive His own and to establish His throne forever. This return is the great hope of the Church, the “Parousia” that has always been the bottom-line motivation for historic Christianity.

Read Titus 1

Key Verse: 1 Titus 1:16 “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”

As pointed out in the introduction, the Pastoral Epistles were concerned about establishing and defending a sound Christian orthodoxy in the developing churches of Asia Minor. Even as Christianity spread, heresies (or false teachings) were spreading, just like weeds encroaching on freshly ploughed and planted garden. In this chapter, Paul encourages Titus to “silence” the false teachers (v.11).

A significant factor in the false teaching encroaching upon the Cretan church was the division of creation into spirit and matter — with spirit seen as pure, and matter seen as evil. To these teachers, anything material was evil. Thus they had a low view of creation, everything material being corrupt — that’s why Paul refers to them as “those who [themselves] are corrupted” and to whom “nothing is pure” (v.15b). But Paul sets the record straight: “to the pure, all things are pure”(v.15a); that is, purity is a function of mind and conscience. Material things are morally neutral. In other words, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a match — it’s what you do with it. You can start a fire in your fireplace and enjoy its soothing heat, or you can torch an apartment building and destroy human lives. Darkness is the domain of the soul.

This is why Paul says that verbal Christianity is essentially hollow. It’s what you do that tells the story of faith or unfaith (v.16). God doesn’t need our “vote” (He can, after all, make the t Rees and rocks cry out His praise). What He does honour is our obedient action as we submit to the law of Christ’s love.

Read 1 Timothy 4

Key Verse: 1 Timothy 4:16 “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

As stated in the introduction, these letters were written by Paul to Timothy when Timothy was less than twenty-five years old and pastoring the church in Ephesus. Being young in the ministry, then as now, could be a problem. There were lots of older “saints” in the congregation who thought they knew more than “the kid in the pulpit”. This is why Pauls says, “Don’t let anyone look down on your because you are young” (v.12 – NIV). Then he goes on to give this young pastor some good fatherly advice.

It’s a pretty tall order. Paul tells Timothy to “set an example” in what he says – in lifestyle, in seeking the best for others, in faith, and in morality (v.12b). Self-discipline, consistency and faithfulness are to characterize this youthful religious leader. He’s to be someone no one can fault and everyone can emulate. The question is, how?

Perhaps the answer is singleness of purpose. Timothy is instructed to focus on his gift (v.14) and expend his energies on “public reading of Scripture”, and “preaching and teaching” (v.13). He is to give himself “wholly to them” (v.15) in a visible and accountable way. That way he’ll stay on track.

Singleness of purpose, follow-through, and accountability – these are the key ingredients, for both young and old, to make one’s life count for God. It’s the old story of practising what you preach.

Read 1 Timothy 3

Key Verse: 1 Timothy 3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.”

What Paul is about to say is “without controversy” or “beyond all question” (NIV). He is about to quote part of what the majority of Bible commentators see as an early Christian hymn or liturgical creed. We don’t know the full text of the hymn, so we cannot speculate at context. What we do know is that these six statements, precisely and poetically written as they are, present solid, orthodox theology.

(1) “God was manifested in the flesh”. Foundational to Christian theology is the incarnation: God in the flesh, in human nature ,  in human form. Jesus Christ was born in the flesh and resurrected in the flesh, fully God and fully man.

(2) “justified [‘vindicated’, NIV] in the Spirit” — Jesus was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tested, and He triumphed over Satan “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk.4:1-4). Then, in Paul’s words, Jesus, “through the Spirit of holiness was declared with Power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead…” (Rom.1:4 NIV). The  Holy Spirit fully established Jesus’ credentials as Son of God and Son of Man.

(3) “seen by angels”. Not only did angels witness Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, but they also witnessed His exaltation (Phil.2:9-10). Even the evil powers of darkness bore witness to this (Col.2:15). He ascended into Heaven and there was revealed in Him full splendour, superior to the angelic host, “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.1-5:10).

(4) “preached among the Gentiles”. Jesus was Jewish; so were the apostles. He fulfilled Jewish Law and the apostles wrote a Gospel founded on “the Law and the Prophets”. Paul was the first full-time missionary to the Gentiles, and so effective was his, and subsequent, missionary efforts that Jesus became,

(5) “believed on in the world” — so much so that Gentile believers far outweigh Jewish believers numerically. In every sense of the word, the central message of Judaism — “Messiah” — has become a “light” to the nations.

(6) “received up in glory”. It’s only speculation to presume to know why reference to Christ’s ascension is made at this point, apparently out of chronological order. However, my instinct is this: one of the most glorious themes of Christianity, both then and now, is that of the Lamb of God triumphantly and majestically taking His place at the right hand of God the Father. Ultimately, our theology bows its knee to the heavenly mystery–the ultimate reality: Christ the king, forever, world without end.