by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” (Titus 1:1)
In New Testament times it was common to begin one’s letter to a friend with a salutation such as this, which usually identified the writer and the reader and then gave personal greetings.
Contrary to his normal practice, Paul spends the first three verses of this four-verse greeting speaking about himself, but he places the emphasis not on his own authority, but on the nature of the message which he has been given.
First, in designating his position as writer, Paul refers to himself as a “servant” (literally, “slave”) of God. His will had been voluntarily surrendered to do his Master’s will. Next, he identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” commissioned by Him to represent Him and His revelation. He then defines his apostleship as being in agreement with the message to which the elect have responded, and the “acknowledging [literally, ‘advanced knowledge’] of the truth which is after godliness.”
Next, Paul claims that his message is not a new doctrine, but has its past, present, and future aspects. It was “promised before the world began” (v. 2) by God, who has in the present been proclaiming “his word through preaching” (v. 3). Furthermore, his apostolic calling is “in [literally, ‘resting on’] hope of eternal life” (v. 2).
Paul then claims the message as his own, “committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior” (v. 3).
In a very real sense, this same message is now committed to us. Our knowledge of the truth and need for faith are at least as great; our call to submission and godliness equally serious. May God grant us the same level of commitment to the gospel and its propagation as that of Paul. JDM