Saturday, December 13, 2008

Titus 1:14-15 (2)

That’s what we must look like. Now in verse 15 we learn who we must listen to. For the majority of the letter, Paul has been talking to Titus about his church in Crete, but now he wants a word with the leader himself, but it’s a word that he wants the rest of the church to overhear. Verse 15 says: ‘these things speak, and rebuke, and exhort with all authority. Let no man despise thee’. Here is one of the clearest verses on the authority of the preacher in the New Testament.

Paul tells Titus to speak about, to exhort and rebuke his church with everything that he’s just written to him. The preacher’s job then, is the constantly remind the church of the truth of the Gospel and what our response should be to it. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to ‘exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today.’ The preacher is to exhort with the Gospel and rebuke with the Gospel. Exhort simply means to encourage, to plead, to stir up affections. To ever place before the eyes of the church the beauty of Jesus, to stir them to live changed lives for Him. The word used here means to use more than words. Paul wants Titus to use everything at his disposal to have his church live and speak for Jesus.

The preacher is also to rebuke those who are not interested in the Gospel, those inside the church, who don’t care whether or not their lives are changed. Paul tells Titus to watch out for and rebuke these people in his church. To catch the foxes in the vineyard.

Paul tells Titus that he has all authority to do those things. All authority. Not just a bit, not just when people in his church like his message. All authority, all the time. The preacher has this authority, not because of himself, but because of his call, not because his words are valuable, but because he speaks the words of the Bible. And the Bible is the word of God.

The preachers’ authority only remains as long as his message is the same as the message of this book. The English theologian J.I Packer puts it like this: ‘preaching that does not display divine authority, both in its content and its manner, is not the substance but only the shadow of the real thing. Yet the Bible is the real preacher, and the role of the man in the pulpit or the counseling conversation is simply to let the passages say their piece through Him.’ The preacher’s authority does not come from his church, nor from a board of deacons nor his education but from God, though His word. The preacher is not a lifestyle guru, he is not just what happens between the offering and Sunday lunch, he is a man chosen by God to herald the most important message in the world. And as long as he is faithful to the Gospel, he has the privilege of ministering with God given authority.

Paul finishes this verse of advice to Titus with the words ‘let no man despise thee’. Why does Paul end his advice here, why doesn’t he finish on the point of authority, why doesn’t he end on a charge to preach the Gospel as he does elsewhere? Paul knew that because of Titus’s work and message he ran the risk of being despised by people in his church. Maybe because he came from the wrong part of the island, maybe because his family wasn’t important enough, maybe he was young like Timothy, but more than likely just because people didn’t want to hear what he’s got to say. Titus ran the risk of being despised and Paul wanted him to be clear that no man is to despise him because there is no one in the church who is to be free from Gospel centered pastoral authority. Paul wants Titus to know this, he wanted Titus’ church to know it and he wants us to know it.

We’ve seen time and time again in our study in Titus that we are to live lives that look different to the world, and in verse 14 we see clearer than ever that this ability comes from our crucified Lord. Here we see in verse 15 that we are to listen well to our preacher, a man whose authority comes from our crucified Lord.

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