Blessing One Another in Christ (Titus 3:12-15)

May 26, 2024

Book: Titus

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As we stand to read God’s word this morning, we turn to Titus chapter 3, and we begin there at verse 12 through 15.

Here’s the word of the Lord.

When I send Artemis to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me in Nicopolis, for I’ve decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas, the lawyer, and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. And that our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.

Let us pray.

Gracious Heavenly Father, as you give us these words in this day by your providence, we pray to you that you will use them once more to encourage us in the faith that we have received from above. And that we might be grounded in the truth of your gospel grace, both this day and forevermore, and in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Please be seated.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I have quite enjoyed my time in the book of Titus. Titus, of course, is not a long book, so it only took us a couple of months to get through it. But Titus is one of those books that is compact. You know, there’s a lot going on in the book of Titus. Paul has much to say to encourage this young man, but also to encourage the saints at Crete. And if we could summarize this book in two words, I think we could probably do a good job if we just said that the book of Titus is about mutual encouragement. That’s what this book is about.

It’s about Paul encouraging Titus. It’s about Titus encouraging the elders, the deacons at Crete. It’s about the elders and the deacons encouraging the members at Crete. And it’s about the members at Crete encouraging one another. Because if there’s anything that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ should be known for, it is encouraging one another. Now that encouragement, of course, can take different forms at different times. And sometimes that encouragement means to be the two by four of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it means coming alongside somebody and rebuking them in all haste. And sometimes we need to be told the cold hard truth and we need to be told it quickly. We need to be told it forcefully and we need to be reminded of how serious the Christian life is.

Now most of the time that’s not how we need to do it. If all you’ve got is a hammer, then every problem turns into a nail. But how else do we mutually encourage one another? One of the ways we mutually encourage one another that Paul has encouraged the young Titus is that to encourage one another by leading by example. When we read at the beginning of the book of the requirements of elders, one of the things that we heard of the qualification of elders in verse 6 of chapter 1, is if a man is blameless, a husband or wife having faithful children, not accused of dissipation or insubordination, for a bishop must be blameless as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable.

That is the very foundation of what a godly elder should be.

First of all, they are to be hospitable. Now is it mean to be hospitable? Someone who is hospitable is somebody who cares. And a hospitable person is also one who expresses themselves in servanthood. When we think of hospitality, right, you think of examples in your own life, or examples in what you’ve experienced in life, if you call somebody hospitable, it means they’re always willing to set aside what they are doing in order to help someone else. And that’s really the basis of the Christian life if it’s based on anything at all. And if we were to describe Jesus as hospitable, that would be a right and a godly thing to do, because what has Jesus done for us? As Philippians chapter 2 lays it out quite clearly for us. What was Jesus doing before Matthew chapter 1? We know Jesus is the second person of the Holy Trinity. We know Jesus is God Almighty, that he is very God of very God, that there was no time where he was not,
that he is eternal, that he is infinite, and that he is in every way God.
And so as he was in heaven before he was born of the virgin Mary, what had been decided? Well, again, remember, Jesus is not God’s plan B. We know that God from before the foundation world declared that Jesus would die on the cross at Calvary, that he would be on the wood at Golgotha. And so what has Jesus done in Philippians chapter 2 verses 4-11?

Let this mind be in you, which also is in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

That’s the Jesus that we read about in the Bible. He is hospitable. He is humble. He is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of his covenant people. And the same, of course, is meant to be said of elders, of deacons, and of ministers of Christ’s church.

They are to be hospitable people. They are to be people who sacrifice themselves for the sheep. So that is a requirement, again, of a godly elder, a deacon and a minister. And if you’re an elder and a deacon, does that describe you? And is that the kind of mutual benevolence that you show to the members of Bethany? That’s one of the things that Paul is very concerned about here in the book of Titus, that the godly men in the church not only be godly, but witness godliness in their position, whether that be as a husband or whether that be as a father, whether that just be as being a man. There are certain things that men are called to in their life that they are to witness. And, of course, we heard that in the second chapter of the book of Titus.

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine,
that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience.

Those testimonies that the men in the church are to express is how you get godly deacons, elders and ministers. It’s not as if you are given an extra kind of dose of grace when you are ordained. Remember when Jesus came to this earth and as he called men to be his, what did he do? He went and he called these men to be his. And what do we see from the apostles? They may not have been in perfect work in the day in which they were called, but we need to be careful because nobody here is an apostle.
Nobody here is in the situation that Jesus was when he called the first apostles. We’re in the book of Acts as we have gone over in Sabbath school over the past several months. And one of the things that we see in the book of Acts is that everywhere Paul went, everywhere that Peter went, everywhere the apostles went, as they established the churches of Jesus Christ, what did they do? They looked amongst the men of that group and they marked out the men who were already expressing the gifts of hospitality, of love, of humility, of Bible loving, of considering the things of the Lord and they were called unto those offices.

And so again, as we hear this testimony that what are men to be, they are to be those who are sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith and love in patience. That’s how you come up with godly elders, deacons and ministers. Acts chapter 6, witness to this. Who was chosen to be a deacon in Acts chapter 6? It was those who were sound in doctrine, those who were temperate, and those who had witnessed through the leading by example that they loved the Lord Jesus Christ, not just in word, but in deed. So again, this mutual benevolence, this mutual benefit, this calling that we see in the book of Titus to be those who are encouraging one another. Again, it’s not just through the hammer of the office that we encourage one another, but it’s through the way that we express and show our love for Jesus Christ in the way that we live, which is a benefit to see others walking by faith and not by sight. Again, people are going to learn a lot more about what you believe by how you live out that faith than what you express either out of your mouth or on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok or whatever. Because people know the truth.

One of the cottage industries that’s going on right now on the internet that I’m sure all you young kids are aware of is that there’s all kinds of these videos floating around where people will video themselves crying
while they’re lamenting their situation in life. And the goal of course is to get likes, it’s to get views and all that kind of stuff. And one of the things the internet has allowed us to do, it’s allowed us to find out the truth. And we find out that this person who has shown themselves to be this one way on Instagram turns out that there’s nothing actually happening like that. Their life is a mess, their life is destroyed, their life is all kinds of in disarray. But for that brief moment on Instagram, everything looks wonderful. And so the point of that illustration result here what we see in Titus is that people know the truth. You can put on a face, you can put on a show on the Lord’s Day morning, but people know by the way you walk, by what you value, how you organize your life, by what you see is important as to whether or not you are meeting these qualifications. And again it’s important to note that as Paul is writing this to Titus, again Titus is to be a teaching, not just the elders and the deacons, but he is to be teaching the whole congregation, by the way again he himself witnesses to these truths.
One of the things that we do as Presbyterians when we have a young man who feels called in the ministry is he has to undergo what we call a personal godliness exam at the Presbytery level. He has to meet with the members of the Candidate’s and Credentials Committee of Catawba Presbytery in our case and one of the things they do is ask some questions. Simple questions about stuff like do you read the Bible? Do you regularly make use of prayer? Do you lead your family in family worship? Do you witness the things of God to your co-workers? Do you a good reputation in the community? And one of the ways we know whether that’s true or not is that just like with any other application for employment we make you give us references. And one of the references that we ask for as a committee when I’ve served on it in the past is we want to talk to your boss. I want to talk to your earthly boss. We want to talk to your coworkers. Is this a man who shows up when he’s supposed to? Is this a man who does his job as he says he does? Is this a man who comes to work and acts a fool? Because if you can’t serve your earthly boss well, what hope do you have to serve your heavenly boss?

And there’s no greater danger for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ
than promoting men to offices in the church who aren’t ready for it, who aren’t prepared for it, who aren’t spiritually grounded in that work. And it’s especially true, of course, of the ministry. That’s why sometimes we have to tell men that while you may feel an inward call, it’s evident from your life that you do not have an outward call to the ministry. And that’s why Paul uses that strong language in the book of Titus because the success, if you want to use that word, of the church at Crete has a lot to do with the leaders in that church. And so we are called to mutually bless one another in those labors. And one of the ways we do that, of course, in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is we’re called to pray for those in authority over us. You’re called to pray for your minister, you’re called to pray for your elder, you’re called to pray for your deacon. And why is that? Again, because they have been given a responsibility, a calling by the Lord to serve in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and they need your prayers that they might do those callings well, that they might serve well, that they might serve you well.

That’s one of the reasons why at the end of all of Paul’s letters and the passage we have before us makes clear is that Paul has some words about these men who are going to be coming and these men who have been called to the ministry and to work in the church.

In verse 12 of our passage today it says,

When I send Artemis to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis. For I have decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and a Paulist on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing and that our people also learn to maintain good works to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.

Again, all of the witnesses in these three verses are born out of something we’ve already mentioned, which is this attitude of hospitality.
This calling that we are to be hospitable to our brothers and our sisters in Christ. Again, notice the language Paul used there. There’s a word like diligent. There’s the word haste. There’s the word maintain. There’s the word urgent. This language is serious. This language is solemn. This language is meant to stir them up to the works that they always should be doing. Again, this is not anything new if you have lived on this earth for any amount of time. How often have you heard your earthly bosses encourage you in such ways to be diligent, to recognize the urgency of the situation, to maintain the good works that you have been called to do in whatever labor God has given to you? Again, these principles are not just to be used within the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are expressed in everything that we do. Are we diligent in our work as husbands and fathers? Are we diligent in our work as wives and mothers, as aunts, as uncles, as those who love our brothers and our sisters in Christ? Again, do we make haste in these things? Or, again, are we kind of apathetic to how we treat one another? How do we see the needs of our brothers and our sisters in Christ?

You know, it’s one of the things, again, we do. Whenever we have these events at Bethany where we are encouraging one another, whether it be in the graduate service that we had last Sunday evening, or whether it be the sending out of our mission teams, whether we’re talking about Appalachia or whatever, are we encouraging them? Are we praying for them? Are we praying for the work that they do? Or is it just something somebody else does at Bethany? Is it something that somebody else is in charge of, or somebody else is doing? And, well, since I’m not involved in it, it doesn’t really matter to me. And is that the kind of attitude we should have through our brothers and our sisters in Christ that God has given to us that we might mutually encourage one another to maintain good works? Again, Paul deals with this in 1 Corinthians 12.
In 1 Corinthians 12, verse 25, it says that:

There should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with them. Or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Again, this is the key to a godly, to a well-maintained, to an urgent church. Is this how Bethany is? Do we mutually encourage one another?
Or do we pick at each other? Or do we mutually encourage each other in the work that we are called to do? Or do we maintain our little cliques and say, “well, you know, my this or my that or my whatever is not engaged in this so I need not support this.” That’s not how we have learned Christ. That’s not how we have learned and seen the example of the church in the Scriptures. Again, notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:25, “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”
We are to have the same love for our neighbor down the street as we do for our neighbor who lives in another part of the county. Because what’s the reasoning there? Again, the reasoning is bound up in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, because what are we? We are not individual members of the church, but we are united together in Jesus Christ. There is no I or me in the church of God. And the language the Scriptures use in the Old Testament, in the New Testament is us and we. Again, the nature of what we see, for instance, in the calling that God laid out to God’s covenant people and the wilderness, it bears this out. When the tribe of Issachar, for example, does not help the tribe of Naphtali, is the whole nation ready to face the dangers before them?

One of the things we talked about not this week, but last week on Wednesday evening in the Book of Numbers, is you had the tribe of Manasseh. And the tribe of Manasseh wanted to stay on the eastern side of the Jordan. And there was a couple other tribes too that liked that side of the Jordan because they were cattle farmers. And they knew that the area on the eastern side of the Jordan was better suited for raising cattle than some of the places on the western side. So they came to Moses and they asked a question. They came to Moses and asked, ”Hey, would it be okay for us to stay on this side? It would be beneficial to us.” And Moses responds to them saying, “Hey, remember, this isn’t about you. It’s not about what you need and about what you require. God has formed us into a nation, into a people. We are to support one another.” And the leaders say, yes, we agree. In fact, what we’ll do is we’re going to leave our women and children here on this side of the Jordan and all of the godly, all of the men who are ready and prepared are going to go with Israel into the land. And they’re going to serve in the land shoulder to shoulder with our brothers until the work is finished and then we’ll return back to this land. And Moses tells them, okay, as long as you understand that this is about mutual benefit. This is about supporting one another. This is about encouraging one another in Christ, encouraging one another in the common goal that we have been given as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to strengthen one another in faith.

Because the success of Benjamin, the success of Gad, the success of Asher depends on whether or not Judah and Ephraim and Manasseh are along with them on the ride. That’s, again, the nature of what we see in Paul’s closing of this letter. When I send Artemis to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at the Nicopolis, for I’ve decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste that they may lack nothing. Again, the concern is for the other. Does my brother have what he needs to complete the mission that God has given to him? Does my sister have the requirements in order to raise their children well in the Lord? And why do we do particular things in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? Again, we have to have a bigger vision of things than our own personal wants, desires, and needs.
In Acts 4.32, we see this witness in the very early days of the church. We’ve had thousands converted at Pentecost. We’ve had thousands come to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what do we see in the early days of the church?
In Acts 4.32, it says:

Now the multitude of those who believe were of one heart and one soul.
Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own.
But they had all things in common
.”

Again, this verse isn’t defending socialism or anything of the nature. But it’s understanding, again, something about what makes the church different from the world. And we share all things in common. Why do we have an offering on the Lord’s Day? We have an offering on the Lord’s Day because we recognize, first of all, everything that we have received is by the hand of the living God. That he has blessed us and that we are to then, return unto him, a portion of that blessing.

In the New Testament, we don’t follow the Old Testament requirement at 10%. That was a ceremonial law. Now, 10% is a good kind of baseline if you want to think of it that way. The principle there is true. Of course, the scriptures tell us that the widow’s mite is just as important as the largesse of the richest man in the room. Because we are to give out of what? We are to give out of the free will of our heart. We are to give out of love for our brother and our sister in Christ. To see that our brothers and sisters’ needs are met, that the ministries of the church are provided for. That’s what Acts 4:32 is testifying to. Because what do we understand? Again, we are one heart. We are one soul. We are not a bunch of individuals who happen to meet at the same time off of 161.

We are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3.23 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily. As to the Lord, not to man.” Again, that’s part of the reason, right? Because what we do in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is for the Lord. He’s our primary mover. He’s the primary reason why we do anything in the church. It’s for the Lord.

Hebrews 10.23 through 25 confesses the same:

”Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. For he who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” Again, listen to what Paul says there in Hebrews 10.24. And let us first of all do what? Consider one another. Why? In order to stir up love and good works. Sounds like the exact same thing he just told the people at Crete through Titus. And that our people also learn to maintain good works to meet urgent needs that they may not be unfruitful. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as a matter of some, but exhorting one another. So much more as you see the day approaching. You see, one of the things that’s so important about the Lord’s Day, about the Sabbath, about this fourth commandment blessing that we receive on the first day of the week is that we are promoting one another in worship. Why do we sing on the Lord’s Day morning? We might mutually bless our neighbor. We focus way too much on the quality. God doesn’t care whether you can sing or not. Your neighbor shouldn’t care whether you can sing or not. What matters? What matters is as you’re lifting up your neighbor in love and grace, stirring them up to love and good works by your praising of the name of God. Because what are we doing when we’re singing? We are confessing the hope that we have within us. We are testifying to Satan himself that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in his power. We believe in his works. We believe in what he has done, what he will do, and what he will do forever and ever in the heavenly places.

That’s why we sing the Psalms. Because what were the Psalms given to the people of God? But to mutually build one another up in faith. To grow one another in Jesus Christ. To grow their love for God. And David witnessed to this over and over in his life as he expresses these things.
But is that what we do when we say that I am a Paul or I am of Apollos, or I am a Cephas, or I am a Christ? No. We are called again to mutually bless one another in Jesus. And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs. That they may not be unfruitful.
All who are with me greet you, greet those who love us in the faith
.

If there is any summary of what Bethany should be, it should be that. Should it not? All who are with me greet you, greet those who love us in the faith. Why aren’t you loving, the person sitting next to you, the person that is across the room from you at this moment, the person that you are thinking about right now? Why should you love them? Because you share a common faith. You share a common Lord. You share a common salvation. And what has been done for you in Jesus Christ has been done for your neighbor. Like the sins that you hate in your neighbor, the sins that you think about all the time about your neighbor, like the sins that are weighing on you right now about your neighbor, Jesus Christ has paid it all. Jesus Christ has laid down his life for the sin of your neighbor. So who are you to hold it against them if Christ himself has forgiven them?

Again, that is the message here that Paul closes with in this letter. All who are with me greet you, greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all, amen. Again, that grace that has been given to us, that free gift of salvation, that free gift of love, that free gift of the gospel that Christ has provided for sinners. If we believe that about ourselves, if we trust in the power of the gospel in our own hearts, we should trust in the power of the gospel in our brothers and our sisters, and we should mutually encourage them to walk in godliness, to walk in the things of the Lord. I can’t remember who it was last week or the week before, but we said 3 John 5-8 as our benediction. I think it was two weeks ago. And in 3 John 5-8, what does the apostle encourage those who he’s writing? He said:

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward in their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well. Because they went forth for his name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles, we therefore ought to receive such that we may become fellow workers for the truth.”

That is why Bethany ARP exists. That’s why it should exist. We don’t exist for stone and for wood and for grass. We exist for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We exist that everyone around this building might know Jesus Christ, might know the faith that has been delivered unto us by the good news of the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the power vested in us by the Lord our God.

Do not love the world with the things in the world, for if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away and the lust of it. But he who does the will of God abides forever.

 This is the heartbeat of the faithful church of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the calling we have received. Let us greet one another in faith. Let us love one another in Jesus Christ. Let us love one another in the gospel. Let us express that love in our hospitality to one another. Let us love one another. Let us support one another. Let us pray for one another. Hold no anger in your heart. Hold only the forgiveness of sins. For greater love has no one than this than to lay one down his life for his friends. And we usually just apply that to Jesus because that’s who Jesus is talking about. But it’s also important in our daily support of one another. We are to serve one another as Christ has served us. Let us show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us encourage them in faith. Let’s encourage them by being present for them. Let us show that love, both this day and forevermore, especially as we gather together in the next week or so for VBS, where God gives us opportunity to show Christ to our neighbor. Let us love him, both this day and forevermore.

In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.