Meditations in Titus: 26: People, Plans, Provisions & Productivity
Titus 3:12 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.
As we draw near to the end of this letter we find, as is so often the case, we are presented with an insight into some of the people in the early church. Four people are named in these next two verses. Artemas’ name doesn’t occur anywhere else so we know nothing of him but he is someone presumably trusted by Paul as a leader. Tychicus, on the other hand is mentioned in Acts 20:4 (“from the province of Asia”); Eph 6:21-22 (“dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord”); Col 4:7 (“dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord”) and 2 Tim 4:12 (sent to Ephesus).
Zenas the lawyer isn’t given a mention anywhere else but appears to be a Gentile convert. Apollos on the other hand is mentioned in Acts 18:24-28 (“a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures”); 19:1 (“in Corinth”); 1 Cor 1:12, 3:4-6,22 (“as having a following) and 16:12 (“our brother”)
So in these verses we find two men who are clearly part of Paul’s ongoing activity and two men unknown but clearly approved by him. In the closing verse there is a much more corporate sense of the wider church: “Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.” (v.15) In the background are the believers on Crete there with Titus while there are obviously a number of believers with Paul.
We also get a glimpse here of the plans or activity of Paul as he 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.” (v.12) It is believed that Nicopolis was on the western shore of Greece and Paul’s words indicate a) he was not there yet and b) was still at a time in his ministry when he was free to move around and decide where he would go, and c) was directing the apostolic endeavour, able to send two trusted leaders to carry on at Crete so that Titus could leave and go and join Paul at Nicopolis. Paul held sufficient sway in the apostolic community that men would come and go at his bidding.
We don’t know why Zenas and Apollos were on Crete (presumably helping Paul in the past and now Titus) or why they were leaving. Perhaps they were the ones who had brought this letter from Paul and now needed to return, but Titus is urged to help them before his turn comes to leave: “Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.” (v.13) Presumably that meant ensure they have whatever provisions they need to get back to me (this was not a day of credit cards and easy provisions!)
Now before we finish we must note once again Paul’s call for their people to be devoted to doing good and good in this case is presumably working to ensure they provide for their families the necessities of life, food, clothing, housing etc. Remember we have already noted the number of times Paul insists on the people of God doing good and in this way they stand out and recommend the Gospel. But more that that here, doing good has a practical outworking, not being a drain on others when it comes to providing for life. When he speaks about not living unproductive lives that must first mean in respect of providing for the family but it has a wider application for the call in the scriptures is for Christians to live productive or fruitful lives.
The apostle Peter taught, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 1:5-8) Notice that goodness was the first add-on after faith.
Jesus taught, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful,” (Jn 15:1,2) and went on to say, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” (Jn 15:16)
The apostle Paul also wrote, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.” (Col 1:10) The good works were seen as the fruit of their lives. Elsewhere he wrote, “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” (Rom 7:4)
Even the apostle James taught this: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (Jas 3:17,18).
It is little wonder that Paul finishes with this last admonition because he sees it as absolutely foundational to the Christian life. One might almost say it is the key, crucial issue that comes through in this letter. Goodness is to be a key characteristic revealed in and through us as the Holy Spirit works through us and makes us stand out in a dark world, a world where true selfless goodness is rare. With that challenge we conclude this wonderful little letter of Paul to Titus on the island of Crete, as he instructs him how to develop and build the church that they have established there.