It’s June, so this will be an out of season question, but what’s your favorite Christmas movie?
One of my favorites is Charlie Brown’s Christmas movie, you know, the one where Charlie Brown chooses that pitiful needleless Christmas tree? It’s nothing to be admired or treasured, but he loves the little tree and chooses it for the Christmas program. Everyone rejects the tree, thinks it’s worthless, demeans it . . . but later they “adorn” it with decorations and lights, it becomes a beautiful Christmas display.
I love that picture because it’s such an example of us. We are pitiful, needy, nothing to be desired, and then the Savior chooses us for His treasured possession! And He “adorns” us with the beauty of the gospel, that others would be attracted to Him!
Last month, I shared with you that I’ll be leading a group at our church through Titus chapter 2, using Nancy Wolgemuth’s book: Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. Some of you asked if I could post what I’m teaching online. I would much rather you be in the room with our group, but I’m glad to share with the rest of you what we’re doing, so you can join in, too!
This study will focus on, not a “book of the Bible” but a small portion of Scripture from the book of Titus. It’s an important portion of Scripture, though, and one that will take us 6 weeks to really pull apart . . . but a lifetime to learn! So, if you have the book, you can join us through the blog as we dive in to learn how to live out the beauty of the gospel—together!
For starters, today, let’s get some background!
Intro/Background for the book of Titus:
Book Type: The book of Titus is an “epistle” which is a letter from an apostle. There are 21 of these letters in the New Testament (14 are written by Paul if you include Hebrews). There are three New Testament letters that are written to pastors, I, II Timothy and Titus.
These letters were written in order to communicate Christian truths—how to live as a Christian, specifically to believers that were scattered over a wide area of the 1st Century world, but just as all of Scripture, these letters are inspired and applicable to Christians in every century.
Author: Paul (my hero), we first meet him as “Saul” in Acts 7 at the stoning of an early Christian martyr (Stephen). Saul was zealous about killing Christians. He believed he was on a mission from God to exterminate a false religion . . . until God showed up in his life to reveal to him who Jesus really is. I love that the New Testament shows us a powerful example of the transformation that the gospel can bring by letting us see that happen through the life of Paul.
Date of writing: 63-66 AD (Paul was converted in 33 AD, and executed in 67AD). Paul is about 30 years into his life as a believer at this point. He is bold, mature, and deeply committed. He knows that his time is drawing to a close and he is very concerned about the new churches that he will soon leave behind. Only 3 or 4 years after writing this letter, Paul would also become a Christian martyr, when beheaded by Nero.
Purpose of writing: To instruct Titus and those under his leadership. The pastors and leaders in these new church starts needed to be prepared for handling false teaching, but also they needed to understand how to train the new believers to live out what they were being taught.
Recipients: Pastors and churches in Crete
Titus was a Gentile that was converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry. He had traveled with Paul on at least two, possibly three, of his missionary journeys. When they reached the island of Crete, Paul left Titus there to carry on the ministry. (See Titus 1:1–5)
Paul is sending this letter to Titus to aid him in ministering to the churches on this island. The churches are newly established, they are small and disorganized. The believers are immature and are in danger of being influenced by false teachers. (See Titus 1:6–9)
The new churches are in need of faithful, competent teachers that would be able to ground them in biblical truth. Titus has the responsibility to appoint elders (pastors) in Crete and Paul is instructing him to choose men that are biblically qualified. These men/pastors are to exhort or give instruction in “sound doctrine”—we see these two words cropping up all throughout this little letter. I’ll talk more about that next week.
Theme of the Letter: Connecting the dots of belief to behavior. Paul is challenging us to live out what we claim to believe, to actively put into practice the Word of God in our lives! If we do that, we will beautifully “Adorn” the Gospel of Christ!
This is one reason I’m so passionate about this study, because it challenges and trains us to live what we “know.” The Church has a bad reputation today because so many so called “Christians” are not living out who they claim to be. A Christ-follower needs to be trained in how to “adorn” the gospel, how to connect the dots of Scripture, so that unbelievers will see an authentic representation of Truth. Paul contrasts how false teachers and true believers live in the very first portion of this letter (Titus 1:10–2:1).
I love the fact that this letter contains a specific message of encouragement and instruction for women. Women were NOT considered 2nd class citizens by Paul (or more importantly by the Holy Spirit who inspired this letter), but Paul recognized the strategic role women play in ADORNING the gospel of Christ. And before we jump into the passage that this study will cover in more detail, today I want us to spend our time focusing on this one thought:
What does it mean to “adorn” the doctrine of God? (See Titus 2:2–10)
(When you see the word “doctrine” just think “teachings”—we’ll talk more about that next week.)
These verses sum up the point/purpose of this entire study: Titus 2:11–14
I challenged the women in our study to circle or underline a few words in this passage that they thought would be helpful to think about as we begin this study.
[box]For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14).[/box]
These are a few of the words that stood out to me:
Grace: This is a difficult concept for us to understand, because it is so beyond our natural understanding. It is an undeserved gift, a blessing that is beyond what we can comprehend!
Grace is the free, unmerited favor of God and influence of the Spirit (Romans 11:5–6; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 13:9). Grace is that beautiful action/gift from God that conveys to us His favor, His forgiveness, His strength to obey. God pours out grace on us because of His lovingkindness, not because of anything we’ve done to deserve that grace!
Has Appeared: This grace “has appeared” in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1–8, 14; Luke 1:76–79). This was His first appearance as the God/Man, but there will be another . . . and that is our blessed HOPE that this passage mentions. So within these four verses, we see the first “Advent” or “appearing of Christ” and His second Advent (or the return of Christ that we now await).
This passage highlights a couple of things that grace does: Grace brings salvation and trains us.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation . . .
Bringing Salvation: Taking our needy, broken, sinful self, and restoring us, through a relationship with God! “For all people . . .” does not mean that “all people” will be saved . . . but all kinds of people will receive the offer of salvation, and God is at work bringing people of every nation, people group, tribe and tongue, to salvation. It is God’s rescue mission for our souls! He brings salvation to the drug addict, to the liar, the adulterer, the prideful, the self-righteous bigot, to the woman who believes she’s worthless, and the one who has given up all hope—He brings salvation to the broken and needy who will receive His work of grace!
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us . . .
Training us: This is what I love about grace . . . it not only provides the means for salvation, but the means for training us to live out that salvation. We must be trained in new living, just as a baby must be trained to walk, we must be trained . . . to love our husbands and children, to live self-controlled lives, to live with integrity and graciousness . . . we must be trained through and by the grace of God!
Jesus Christ Gave Himself for us: Never get over the wonder of this! Remind yourself of what He’s done. He gave HIMSELF for us.
To redeem and purify a people for His own possession.
As He purifies us, we will become a people that are “zealous of good works.” Not “working for our salvation” but living passionately to display the wonder and beauty of our Savior!
We will adorn the beauty of the gospel . . .
Me and you . . . we’re just like that pitiful, scraggly, needy little tree that Charlie Brown chose for himself . . . our Savior picked us out, He chose those who He desired to rescue and transform, to redeem and purify us for Himself . . . never get over the wonder of that. He pours out His steadfast love on us . . . and we deserve none of it. He provides us with the opportunity to “adorn” His beautiful gospel. And, as we’ll see in our study, He does that in community; together we encourage, instruct, learn, and grow in our understanding of how to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior!”
Assignment: I’ve included a portion of Scripture for you to read each day that I think will be helpful for you as you read through the “Adorned” book. Before starting to read through the Scriptures, I encourage you to pray and ask God to speak to you and lead you in your study of His Word.
Monday: Read Titus Chapter 1, start reading Adorned
Tuesday: Read Titus Chapter 2, continue reading Adorned
Wednesday: Read Titus Chapter 3, continue reading Adorned
Thursday: Review what you’ve read in Titus and list verses that describe how believers should NOT live. Record those descriptions.
Friday: Review what you’ve read in Titus this week and list verses that describe how believers, because of the grace of God, can live in contrast to those who don’t know Christ.
Through the week: Read Adorned (pages 10–48).
Memorize Titus 2:11–14 (it’s actually only one long sentence) by writing it on a note card and putting it in a handy place, or putting it on a note on your phone that you can refer to throughout the day. This is rich truth to pour into our hearts!
Want to join us?