Getting to Know God Meditations: 16. God of Eternity
Titus 1:1-3 to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light
Continuation: In the last two studies we have considered something of the variety that we find in the Bible, but variety is not the only wonder that the seeker of truth finds in the Bible, it is the depth or intensity or almost unbelievable wonder that so often comes out of simple reflection of what is before us. We noted in the previous study that part of the New Testament is made up of letters from various leading apostles of the day. Perhaps we have taken a lot for granted here. An apostle was ‘a called and sent one’, a man called by Jesus, called by God, to take the message of the gospel and establish and build what was to become, ‘the Church’.
Meet Paul: Paul, or Saul as he was originally known, was a Jew but a Roman citizen of some standing, a leading Pharisee, part of the conservative group of upholders of the Law of Moses, and in the midst of his self-appointed calling to hunt out and imprison these Christian heretics who were upsetting Judaism after Jesus had died, he had been apprehended by Jesus from heaven and had his life completely turned around. From then on he became the greatest advocate of the Christian cause, the greatest proclaimer of the gospel message and became probably the primary leader for taking the gospel into other nearby lands.
To Titus: See our header verse today. What would happen was that while he was travelling or maybe at a particular location, Paul would write either to colleagues (Timothy & Titus) or to churches he has already established to further encourage them. Titus was clearly another apostle who traveled with Paul but Paul has left him on Crete (see 1:5) when they had been there, in order to continue the work of building the Christian groups established there. Now Paul wants to write to Titus to encourage him in his teaching (see 2:1-) and to get ready to come and join Paul, helping others along the way (see 3:12,13). These letters always come in an historical context and we do well to remind ourselves of these with each letter to enhance understanding.
The Bigger Dynamic: Yet apart from the purposes of the various letters, what we find again and again are what seem like little glimmers of light, of revelation, that seems so simple at first sight, but which bursts forth into our consciousness to provide the most staggering challenges of revelation. So here we have this letter about teaching and encouragement, but the dynamic bursts upon us even in the greeting at the beginning of it.
Paul starts off the letter, as he so often did, declaring his own credentials, if you like: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” (v.1a) That is who he is, how he sees himself, a servant of God, called by Jesus to be an apostle. Whether he says it for his own benefit, or Titus’s or ours, doesn’t matter. The point is that what we have before us is because in time-space history this man had an encounter with God that transformed him (see Acts 9:1-19). It is clear that it is not just the initial encounter that convinced Paul, but the ongoing events when he reached Damascus and then the amazing things God did through him in the years that followed. He knew the power of God working in his life that took his testimony way beyond the intellectual level. This was a very bright man, but his testimony and his ministry could not be explained in any other way than he had encountered the living God and knew His ongoing life-changing power in his ministry (see, for example Acts 19:11,12).
The Explosive Panorama: But see the words that follow that initial description, that we have as our header verses: to further the faith of God’s elect – i.e. to strengthen and build up the faith of the Christians on Crete – and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – i.e. but not only their faith but also their understanding of the truth in Christ that leads to godly living — in the hope of eternal life, – i.e. that is accompanied by the hope of eternal life, life with God after life on this planet – which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, – wow! Where did that come from??? All of this has been promised by God from before this material world and existence came into being! God has planned this before he bought the world into existence!
Before Time? This salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was planned from before time began??? Well in Paul’s writings I usually quote seven references that are specific to Christ that say that everything about his human life and ministry were planned before Creation, before anything material was made. Again and again this same concept comes through Paul’s writings, for example, “we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began,” (1 Cor 2:7) and, “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight,” (Eph 1:4) and, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,” (2 Tim 1:9).
Believable Paul? Ah, says the skeptic, but this is just one man. Well, no. Jesus himself referred to his life with the Father before time began (Jn 17:5,24), the apostle Peter declared the same thing (1 Pet 1:20), and the apostle John saw it in Revelation (Rev 13:8). In the midst of the writings of Paul we get hints about the time Paul had with God and the revelation he received from Him (Many think his words about such revelation at the beginning of 2 Cor 12 referred to himself indirectly). Revelation, wisdom, insight, understanding, call it what you will, this comes to the believer who experiences the presence of God, who waits on Him and knows a flow from heaven.
We referred in the previous study to the apostle John who, in his old age, reflected back on all he had seen and heard in those three incredible years earlier in his life when he had walked with Christ, ending with being able to give the testimony, “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1q Jn 1:1-4 Msg version paraphrase)
Paul hadn’t been there, although we don’t know if he had watched from afar so to speak, but after he encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus and was transformed, he entered a life of revelation, a life with a heart open to listen to God. What was amazing was that Paul immediately started preaching about Jesus and the gospel, without having been taught it by any man and was thus able to testify, “ I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:11,12) and one can only say that it matched that which was being preached by the other apostles. Moreover, the Lord clearly supported and inspired his ministry for he was the cause of many turning to the Lord and many churches being established. More than most, we can say the proof of his beliefs can be seen in the fruitfulness of his life. To conclude our starter verses, they go on, “God…. has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour.” i.e. my preaching and its effect prove the truth of this.
And So? So we have seen a further expression of the variety of this Bible but in it we have seen the extended revelation about God and His purposes. We said in an earlier study that it is impossible with our finite minds to really comprehend ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ but here in this study we have been told that God’s plans originated outside of time as the Godhead saw the consequences of giving us free will and what needed to be done to save us from those consequences. More of that in the following studies.