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The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming the Gospel (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky, on the 15th day of October 2017:

“23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Gathered Together for Remembrance

Jesus died. Could you think of a more stunning and sobering truth? That truth is a feature which is exclusive to the Christian faith – it sets us apart from all other religions which exist. Enough good works and you might please God or gods, according to all religions. But in the Christian faith, God takes on human flesh and dies, to enable you to please Him forever! This stunning and sobering truth that Jesus died is precisely why we have gathered together to observe what is known as the Lord’s Supper. We who know the Lord are gathered together here this morning for what is truly a special and solemn occasion, and that is to observe the Lord’s Supper. For that reason, I will not preach for very long this morning, because the Lord’s Supper itself is an unwritten sermon—what it means and what it represents is just as much a proclamation of the truth, as is my speaking of it to you.

The Lord’s Supper is certainly a wondrous thing—it is an ordinance which Jesus Himself instituted to remind us of Him. And how many of us know we could be more reminded of Jesus every day, amen? It is a physical representation which reminds us of the gospel—that Jesus died for sinners so that we who believe can be saved and have supper with Him again one day in glory. We need to be reminded of this truth constantly—we are forgetful people by nature, we forget things all the time. I bet none of us can recall what we saw on the news Friday night, or what we read on Facebook yesterday, or even what we read in our Bibles on Tuesday. Our minds fill up with knowledge, and our minds deteriorate—and both are reasons we forget.

But let me tell you this morning—I’m glad the Lord Jesus Christ knows we forget. The Lord knows we forget, and the Lord saw fit to remind us of the truth of the gospel through the Lord’s Supper. We need the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the greatest truth in all the world, that Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. This morning, we will look at what God’s word says about the Lord’s Supper—that would be the best place to begin. And we will spend our time this morning understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, before we partake of it. And that is the most important part of the Lord’s Supper—understanding what it means and what it represents. We must understand the meaning of the memorial. We need to know what the Lord’s Supper means, and understand it’s significance. If we don’t know what we’re doing when we’re doing it, then there’s no point.

We can discover the meaning of the Lord’s Supper by looking at 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul explains exactly what it is. This is yet another thing the Corinthians got wrong. They were abusing the Lord’s Supper, misapplying and misunderstanding its meaning. In fact, they had it so messed up that Paul said that when they came together for worship, they might as well have stayed home. He says in v. 17, “But in the following instruction I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse” (11:17). And so, in the latter half of chapter 11, Paul is correcting them and giving instructions pertaining to the Lord’s Supper. We will see this morning that apparently, they completely misapplied and misunderstood the significant meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and that’s what lead to all of their problems surrounding it. The reason they were mistreating people, the reason why they were gluttonous, the reason why they were casual in their approach to this supper, even the reason why they were divided—it was all due to their malpractice and misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper.

The Corinthians needed to understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, that it is both a remembrance and proclamation of the gospel. And we need to understand this today. We as believers today need to understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, that it is both a remembrance and proclamation of the gospel. It is not some liturgical ritual, or even a casual element tacked on at the end of a church service. It is a sermon, a memorial, a reminder, and a remembrance and proclamation of the gospel!

We will see in the passage we read this morning that:

I. The Lord’s Supper is the Tradition of Christ (v. 23a)
II. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Body of Christ (vv. 23b-24)
III. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Blood of Christ (v. 25)
IV. The Lord’s Supper is Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (v. 26)

Let us now begin in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the 11th chapter.

I. The Lord’s Supper is the Tradition of Christ (v. 23a)

The first thing that will help us understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper is understanding where it came from. It isn’t a concoction produced by the Roman Catholic Church, and it isn’t the product of any Protestant denomination—in fact, no denomination, no religion, and no person but Jesus Christ Himself is responsible for instituting the Lord’s Supper. If any man came up with it, it wouldn’t hold any real value and it wouldn’t be worthy of practicing in the church today.

The name of this ordinance is very fitting—the Lord’s Supper, because it is just that—it is the supper which the Lord Himself instituted. And that’s the first thing we see in the passage regarding the Lord’s Supper—it is the tradition of Christ. That is precisely why we remember the Lord’s Supper—it has been instituted and commanded by our Lord Himself. And obeying His command to observe it is just as important as obeying any of the other commands which He has given us.

So in the first verse, Paul is reminding the Corinthians that the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ—it is something Paul first received from the Lord to teach to the Corinthians. It is not Paul’s Supper, the Corinthians’ Supper—but the Lord’s Supper.

First, this is a tradition which Paul received from the Lord. Before reminding them of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, he first establishes its authenticity and therefore his authority in instructing them on how to do it. Paul is explaining the origin of the Lord’s Supper. That’s where Paul goes first, because if the Corinthians know where the Lord’s Supper comes from, it will greatly affect how they see it, and it bears an even greater responsibility for understanding and applying it correctly. If they mess it up, they sin against the Lord, since it is His supper. If it is a tradition of Christ – if it comes ultimately from God, then it is serious.

Paul says that this tradition is something which he received from the Lord in the first part of v. 23, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” This tradition should be observed because it comes from the Lord, and Paul’s instructions should be heeded because they too come from the Lord. This is a tradition which Paul first received from the Lord. But it wasn’t something he kept to himself, he also shared it with the Corinthians.

That’s what Paul says next. Notice secondly that he delivered this tradition to the Corinthians. “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” Notice the tense of the word delivered—it’s in the past tense, meaning that sometime previously Paul had instructed the Corinthians concerning the Lord’s Supper. They already knew about it—they had been instructed about it before when Paul delivered it to them. It was first delivered to Paul by the Lord and then Paul delivered it to the Corinthians. This is a tradition they knew about and regularly practiced, because Paul taught them all about it before. They weren’t ignorant about it, they practiced it every time they “came together” (v. 20).

But even though the Corinthians were once taught about the Lord’s Supper, authoritatively from the apostle Paul—they continued to abuse and misunderstand it. That just shows you that a church can have a great pastor, and still be a bad church! And I hope you comprehend this morning that the only thing separating us today from the Corinthians is time and distance. We too can just as easily be taught authoritative instructions about the Lord’s Supper from Scripture, and continue to misunderstand it, undervalue it, abuse it, or approach it flippantly like it’s yesterday’s coffee. No Christian is immune from misunderstanding the Lord’s Supper, or this passage of Scripture under consideration would not need to be written! Just because you’ve been taught correctly about the Lord’s Supper for years does not guarantee you will truly understand and appreciate its gospel-meaning.

And frequency of observance doesn’t ensure understanding and appreciating its meaning either. You can observe the Lord’s Supper for 65 years and be as far from its meaning as the east is from the west. Traveling to the place where you can understand its meaning begins here with understanding that it is the tradition of Christ—it is something which Jesus Himself commanded and instituted.

And if the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ, then that means several things. First, we dare not neglect it. If it’s something Jesus started, we should continue it. Second, we dare not approach it flippantly, because it bears His authority. It deserves the utmost respect when we observe it, if it is the tradition of the Lord. And thirdly, we should long to understand its meaning, if it is so meaningful. If it bears the authority of Christ, as tradition which He has instituted, then we should want to know what its all about!

We need to understand that the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ.

II. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Body of Christ (vv. 23b-24)

Not only do we need to understand that it is Christ’s tradition, but secondly, we also need to understand this morning that the Lord’s Supper is remembering the body of Christ. It is a time for us to remember that Jesus gave His body for us on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is remembering the body of Christ, and it is uniquely represented by the breaking and consumption of bread. There’s a reason why bread is chosen to represent that, and we will take that up later. But in giving instruction and correction on the Lord’s Supper, Paul goes straight to the teaching of Jesus on this matter, and he refers to Jesus’ last earthly supper with His disciples where the Lord Himself instituted such an ordinance. If it is the tradition of Christ, it makes since for Paul to refer to this exact tradition, as he does here.

Paul recalls exactly when the institution of the Lord’s Supper took place. Paul says, “the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed [instituted this supper].” The institution of the Lord’s Supper took place during Jesus’ last meal on earth with His disciples before He was crucified and killed. This institution took place the night that Judas betrayed Him. Before He was betrayed, He has this memorable supper with His disciples, and Jesus institutes a new ordinance for His disciples to observe from then on. Luke tells us that “when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him” (Luke 22:14).

Paul says that on this night he “took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it.” The first part of the Lord’s Supper concerns bread, that’s what we see Jesus doing here. He took bread, gave thanks for it, and likely tore it in pieces as He handed to His disciples to eat. Now, why bread? Was it because it was convenient and easy to produce? The reason for the bread was because of why they were gathered together. They were gathered together and sharing a meal because it was Passover. And the consumption of bread was commanded in partaking of the Passover. Passover, if you didn’t know, is a festival which Jews observed as a memorial of when God delivered the Israelites out of the hands of the Egyptians. In Exodus 12, we read what brought this about: God was striking the Egyptians with plagues in an effort to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites be free from slavery. He didn’t budge, so God threatened them with one final plague—the death of the firstborn son. And the Israelites were commanded to take the blood of a spotless lamb and place it on their lintels and doorposts so that God would “pass over” their house, so their firstborns would live. Hence the name, Passover. God said, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (12:13). They were also commanded to have a meal during Passover as well, and God says to them that they “shall eat the flesh (of the lamb) that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it” (v. 8). And so Jesus is observing this Passover with His disciples, sharing bread with them.

But what is most striking about this scene where Jesus is sharing Passover with His disciples is how He reinterprets the Passover bread to be representative of His own body. Jesus makes no reference to the Israelites or their freedom from bondage in Egypt, but instead says concerning the bread, “This is my body, which is for you.” Jesus says that the bread is His body. Now, some like the Roman Catholic Church have taken this to mean that the bread is literally the body of Jesus, and that when you eat the bread you are literally receiving His body, and are thus saved by it. This doctrine they call transubstantiation. And while I love those who are Catholic, and have friends who are Catholic—that idea is absolute blasphemy and heresy if I’ve ever seen it. If Jesus means that the bread literally is His body, and not merely a representative of such, then we’d better take everything Jesus says metaphorically about Himself. By that logic, Jesus literally is a door (John 10:7); He literally is a vine (John 15:1), and He literally is a loaf of bread (John 6:35)!

Jesus is saying here that the bread represents His body—it represents what happened to the body. Jesus was using bread as an object lesson here, and as a fuller interpretation of the Passover supper. The bread represents His body, He says, “which was given [for us].” The bread serves as a reminder that Jesus has given Himself for us. Titus 2:14 says, “[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness.” The bread that He gave His disciples to eat is representative of His body He was about to give for His disciples on the cross.

But that is not all Jesus says. Jesus tells the disciples that they are to “Do this in remembrance of me.” Here’s where the Lord’s Supper is enacted—Jesus issues it to us as a command. Jesus says to do this—to do what He did with the disciples at the Passover. It is Jesus saying, “This bread which I am passing on to you as representative of My body given for you on the cross— so do this same thing to remember Me.” Therein is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper—to remember Jesus on the cross. The Lord’s Supper doesn’t save you, but it does sanctify you. You do not have to observe it in order to be saved, but you certainly have to observe it if you are saved. It doesn’t justify you in the sight of God, but the justified should observe it to remember justification. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember Jesus Christ and His death on the cross—His body which was pierced on the cross. It is to remember the work of Christ on the cross, such as that which is described by Isaiah:

“Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth” (53:4-7).

Are you remembering that this morning? This is a time dedicated entirely to remembering His body given on the cross. Whatever is on your mind this morning—put it to a halt and remember the given body of Jesus on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is remembering the body of Christ on the cross, as we partake of the bread together.

III. The Lord’s Supper is Remembering the Blood of Christ (v. 25)

We need to understand that the Lord’s Supper is the tradition of Christ, and that is remembering the body of Christ. But the Lord’s Supper is also remembering the blood of Christ—the new covenant ratified by Christ’s blood, and this is represented by the cup. Part of remembering what he did on the cross is remembering His spilled blood which has been spilled on our behalf, and “drank in” by faith.

Paul says, “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper.” The cup, filled with wine (or juice for most of us), is the second element in the Lord’s Supper. And Jesus says that this cup represents the new covenant in His blood, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (v. 25a). Often times, when speaking of the Lord’s Supper we say, “The bread represents His body, the wine represents His blood.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if we do not also understand that Jesus said it represents the new covenant in His blood, we lose sight of what its complete meaning is. It is not merely His physical blood, but what His blood accomplished. The blood of Jesus ensured, secured, and enabled the new covenant to be ushered in. The new covenant is what God’s people in the Old Testament looked forward to for a long time. In the days of the exodus, the Israelites entered into a covenant with God in the Old Testament. They promised to obey the Lord, and to do all He commanded – about how well do you think that worked out? Here’s the full context of what happened:

“Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Exodus 24:3-8).

Considering you know the Old Testament, it is easily observable that the people could not keep their end of the covenant. They constantly broke God’s laws and broke their covenant all the time. They were not obedient, and the sacrifices they were making were not enough to cover their sins completely. So the people yearned for a new covenant, where God might enable and ensure their obedience, and where He would cover their sin completely so that they would no longer need a sacrifice. The beautiful thing is that God said He would make this new covenant with them. Perhaps the greatest expression of what this new covenant will be is found in Jeremiah 31. Notice the language of salvation in this passage – the references to enabling obedience, transforming hearts, and forgiving sins:

“Behold, the days are coming [it will be in the future for God’s people], declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers [it will not be like the old covenant, and how it will be different is later explained in this passage] on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke [the precise problem with the old covenant], though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD [here’s how it will be different]: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts [obedience will come from their hearts]. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people [God will be in relation with them]. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more [their sins will be forgiven]” (vv. 31-34).

God would transform them so that they could obey Him—He would change their hearts—that’s what happens in the new covenant. And Jesus is saying in this passage that the cup represents His work on the cross of ratifying this new covenant. It represents His blood which is the means of bringing His people into a new covenant. All those promises of Jeremiah 31 are made real through the death of Jesus Christ.

Once again, Jesus says, as He does before, to “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Like the bread, we drink the cup in obedience to Christ’s command here to remember Him. Do you notice the difference in this verse compared to the one earlier about bread? There is mention of how often you should do it. Of course, for many years, Christians have debated about how often they should observe the Lord’s Supper. Some say every time the church meets together, others say just periodically. There is great evidence for both main views, I have to confess. But the frequency of observance is not an issue which Scripture plainly and explicitly addresses – Paul and Christ just say, “as often as you do.” What matters is understanding the meaning! Those who split hairs over this need to memorize Paul’s instructions about quarrels: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). The point is not how often, the point is understanding its meaning! I would rather partake of the Lord’s Supper one time a year understanding its meaning, than 52 times a year misunderstanding it!

We need to understand that the Lord’s Supper is remembering the spilled blood of Christ on our behalf.

IV. The Lord’s Supper is Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (v. 26)

The Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ tradition. It’s remembering the body and blood of Christ, which has ratified the new covenant – these things we remember when we partake. But we also proclaim something during the Lord’s Supper. In observing it, it is proclaiming the gospel of Christ. Finally in this passage, we proclaim the gospel through the Lord’s Supper. Of course, what we have looked at already is the gospel in the giving of Jesus on the cross and of our receiving of Him by faith. But lest we entertain the thought that the Lord’s Supper is merely a ritual or a simple tradition, Paul says that it is a proclamation of the gospel as we wait on Jesus to come again. The gospel is presented through the Lord’s Supper as the elements are explained. In the Lord’s Supper, the gospel is preached as it is both seen through the eyes and heard through the ears. And that proclamation of the gospel is the very purpose of observing the Lord’s Supper. Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

We testify to two truths when we partake of the Lord’s Supper—first, that He has died and been risen for us. Second, that He is coming again. Both truths are of equal importance. He died and one day He will return; He will return one day because He once died. And so we proclaim the wonderful news of the death of death in the death of Christ, but we also proclaim that He is coming again—that one day He will return to set things right, and that we will one day be with Him to feast at His table forever (Rev. 19:6-9). 

Conclusion: A Reminder of the Most Important Thing

You might know of the legendary sports broadcaster Jon Miller—he provided the play-by-plays for the Baltimore Orioles for many years, and he was actually considered one of the best sports announcers in the nation. He was just the right guy for the job—he could keep you gripped in the game. Some people are just made for their occupations, and so was true of Jon Miller. Whenever he would broadcast a game, Miller never forgot the most important thing—to remind everyone of the score. And to do this, he always kept an egg-timer to remind him to give the score every three minutes. You might even say that he needed a reminder to point him to the most important thing.

And through the Lord’s Supper, we have the reminder that we need to point us to the most important thing. It keeps us focused on what’s really important. We need the Lord’s Supper to remind us constantly of what’s most important—the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, let me say in closing that not just anyone can partake of the Lord’s Supper. To partake of the Lord’s Supper, you need to be one of the Lord’s people. We who believe are, through its observance, being reminded of our receiving of the body and blood of the Lord by His grace. If you are not a believer, you need to get saved before you partake. Friend, let me tell you that you are better off leaving the church building than partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. There are instructions from Paul about how you should approach the Lord’s Supper (vv. 27-32). Paul notes that one should not partake in an unworthy, unrepentant, or casual manner (v. 27). One should examine themselves before partaking and repent (v. 28). To ignore those things is to “drink judgment” upon oneself (v. 29). God can take your life or allow you to succumb to sickness if you partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily (v. 30). Of course we are all unworthy, but if we know Christ, He makes us worthy. What Paul means is that we must not be insensitive to His presence, unrepentant, casual, unloving to our fellow church members, or God forbid regretful for His great sacrifice on our behalf.

Let us remember the meaning of this remembrance. It is the tradition of Christ – a time to remember the body and blood of Jesus Christ, for the purpose of proclaiming the the gospel.

By God’s grace, let us praise God for giving us this reminder today—this remembrance of Jesus, and proclamation of His gospel.  

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The Work of the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The following message was delivered at Olivet Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky on the 19th day of July, 2015:¹

Introduction

The Bible isn’t like any other book in the whole world, is it? I was reading a story about two college students who shared a dorm together. One was a Christian and the other was a Muslim, and as they became friends, their conversation quickly turned to religion, as you’d expect. The Christian asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible before. He said, “No, but have you ever read the Koran?” The Christian responded, “No, I haven’t but I’m sure it would be interesting. Why don’t we both read together, once a week, alternating books?” The young men agreed to the challenge, and their friendship deepened, and only during the second term the Muslim became a believer in Jesus. One evening, late in the term, he burst into the dorm room and shouted at the Christian, “You deceived me!” “What are you talking about?” the Christian asked. This new believing Muslim opened his Bible and said, “I’ve been reading it through, like you told me, and just read where it says the Word is living and active!” He grinned and said, “You knew all along that the Bible contained God’s power and that the Koran is just a book like any other. I never had a chance!” “Now you’ll hate me for life?” asked the Christian? “No,” he said, “but it was an unfair contest from the start.” The truth is, the Bible is not like any other book. It is not a textbook, it is not like the Koran, the Buddhist scriptures, the book of Mormon, or even Christian literature.

The word of God is breathed out by God, it is useful for the Christian, and it equips us for Christian service. That’s what we’re going to learn tonight. It is also important to know what we believe about the Bible, for all of our beliefs about Christ, God, the church, salvation and last things, come straight from God’s holy word. What we believe about the Bible is without exception our most important belief. For from it flow everything else we believe about . . . everything. We’re going to see tonight that: the Scriptures are inspired, the Scriptures are useful, the Scriptures are equipping, and finally how to use the Scriptures.

The Text: 2 Tim. 3:16-17, ESV

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Preliminary: “All Scripture.”

First I have to make an important note here. Paul begins with saying, “All Scripture.” Paul is not beating around the bush here—everything that he is going to say about the Bible is going to apply to all the Bible. Not just a few parts. If the Bible says that all Scripture is breathed out by God, then all Scripture is breathed out by God. If the Bible says that all of it is useful, then all of it is useful. If the Bible says that all of it is equipping, then it is all equipping. There are not levels of importance in the Scriptures—all of it is important, all of it is God’s word. I’ve heard people say before that the historical parts of the Bible are not reliable or true, but the doctrinal parts are true. Folks, if God lied to you in Genesis and other historical accounts in the Bible, then why are you believing Him in John 3:16? If some parts of the Bible are not true, then none of it can be reliable or trustworthy. But because all parts are true, the whole Bible is trustworthy.

I. The Scriptures Are Inspired (v. 16a)

First of all, notice that the Scriptures (all of them) are inspired/breathed out by God. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (v. 16a). Scripture is God-breathed, it’s inspired by God—it’s not inspired the way a poem or song is—it means its origin is from God. The Greek word for “breathed out” by God is theopneustos, the only occurrence of it in the Bible, meaning that the Bible is divine in its origin—the Bible is literally God’s breath, God’s wind, God’s words. Think about what happens when you speak. Whether you’re lecturing students, talking with your spouse, or verbally disciplining your children, your words are “you-breathed.” Because when you speak, your breath pours forth speech doesn’t it? You breathe out your words, and they are a reflection of your inner self. That’s what Paul means here by the inspiration of the Scriptures. He is saying that God has breathed His character into Scripture so that it is inherently inspired. If the Bible is not inspired by God, then there is nothing inherently special about it. We could say that it is helpful literature, we could say that it is a carefully crafted book of history, poetry, and narrative.

But the Bible is more than that. The Bible is inspired by God meaning that it has power, a divine Source, and is useful for God’s people. It is “the word of God [that is] is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). If Scripture is breathed out by God, this bears obligation on us as Christians. If it’s inspired by God, then it’s the most valuable thing we have. Just if we found the location to some buried treasure, because of what the Scriptures are, we are compelled to value them, pursue them, and study them. Do you realize that the Scriptures are alive because they are inspired by God? Do you treat the Bible as breathed out by God?

II. The Scriptures Are Useful (v. 16b)

We’ve first seen that the Scriptures are inspired by God, and as you would expect, notice secondly that the Scriptures are useful. Paul says in the latter part of v. 16: “[The Scriptures are] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Paul says that the Bible is profitable. If the Bible is inspired by God, then it is surely useful—simply because of what Scripture is implies that it is useful in one way or another. Thankfully for us, Paul didn’t leave us wondering why the Scriptures are useful. He spells out four ways in which the Scriptures are useful.

1. For Teaching. Paul first says that the Scriptures are useful “for teaching.” This is one of the most fundamental uses for Scripture. Paul says that Scripture “was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4). This is because of what Scripture is. Because it has been breathed out by God, because of its content, it has this fundamental use of instructing us. The word of God teaches us how to live godly lives, and it is our primary and only source of doctrine. In fact, another word for teaching here is doctrine. For example, what we believe about God, ourselves, the world, and eternity is all informed by Scripture. As believers, we need to make sure that we are being informed and taught by the Scriptures. I’m afraid that much of people’s doctrine (or what they consider to be doctrine) is not informed entirely by Scripture—through its use of teaching. Just interview a few people on what they believe God, Christ, salvation, and many other important theological truths, and you are sure to see that misconceptions run rampant. This is because many people think what they believe is sound doctrine, but because of their ignorance of this use of the Scriptures, what they believe often times is just unbiblical.This should drive us to baptism in the Scriptures! If we are not studying the Bible regularly, in our personal lives and in the local assembly, how can we expect to recognize teachings that are unbiblical? And thinking of the historical context here, there were many heresies that were facing Timothy, Paul’s young protégé, and Paul emphasizes here that the source of sound teaching comes from Scripture alone. This is the first use of the Scriptures, and perhaps the most fundamental.

2. For Reproof. Secondly in this list, Paul says that the Scriptures are useful “for reproof.” Reproof is best defined as a criticism for a fault. This too, is one of the fundamental uses for the Scriptures. Paul could be referring to a reproof that exposes the false teaching of the heretics that Timothy was dealing with, or he could be referring to the rebuke that Scripture has on our personal lives. But either way, Scripture does both. Scripture can serve as reproof for doctrinal errors, or it can show sinners like us our many failures, and show us what we need to do about it. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, He prays for us and says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17, ESV). Being sanctified means being set apart. Daily it is a struggle to be set apart from sin in our lives, and that’s how Jesus prays for us—that we would be set apart for God. But how is this accomplished? “. . . in [through] the truth; your word is truth” (emphasis mine). That’s how it happens—through God’s word. And if we’re honest, it’s not very pleasant when God points out what needs to change in our lives. But that is one of the functions of God’s word, and if we ignore reproof we are fools—if we listen to reproof we “gain intelligence” (Prov. 15:32).

3. For Correction. Paul says thirdly that the Scriptures are useful “for correction.” The Scriptures not only rebuke our wrong behavior, but they also point the way back to godly living by correction. Once the Scriptures have convicted us and rebuked our sinful behavior, then they aim at the goal of recovery. After the Bible reveals our sin and the deep things of our heart, then it works to repair us and build us up again. Again, no one likes to be corrected, but praise God that not only are our wrongs revealed to us, but we are shown how to stay on the “way of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5). When you are convicted of sin, do you search the Scriptures for ways to overcome it? Do you search the Scriptures and allow the Scriptures to search you in order to be corrected when you are in the wrong?

4. For Training in Righteousness. Finally in this list, Paul says that the Scriptures are useful, “for training in righteousness.” The Scriptures are designed to train us in godly living. Training involves the action of teaching a person to acquire a particular skill or type of behavior. The idea here is that Scripture, by its teaching, rebuking, and correcting functions, trains us to live “in righteousness.” The Scriptures produce conduct in our lives whereby doctrine is actualized—that is, the Bible makes doctrine come alive in all areas of our lives. All of these uses for Scripture are intermingled and sometimes overlap, but they are all for training us in righteousness—putting us through a spiritual workout program to develop godly muscles for being under pressure from sin, and having the strength we need to carry out the commands of God.

Mobile phones are a great help today aren’t they? With all of their gadgets and applications, they can be hard to use, but once you learn how to work the basics, they are nearly the most useful tool in the 21st century. There are apps, calculators, dictionaries, image-editing software, and much more on today’s phones. In fact, I’ve heard it said that our mobile phones today are really mobile computers with a calling app. Mobile phones are very useful, and because they are so useful, we take them everywhere we go—we value them. They have a lot to offer, but we must simply access its many resources. Listen, the Bible has much to offer us. It is much more useful than a mobile phone—it is useful for teaching us, showing us where we are wrong and making it right, and for training us to be pleasing to God. I wonder what would happen to our Christian lives and communities if we viewed the Bible as valuable as we do our mobile phones? Do we turn to it when we need direction? The Scriptures are useful, but we must use them. Do you use the Scriptures? Do you use the Scriptures to teach you and correct you? Do you justify sin in your life because you think it can’t be corrected or do you turn to the Bible?

Set aside time each day to study the Bible. Get books that will help you understand the Bible. Once you start getting into the word and allowing the word to get into you, you will begin to notice that you are becoming exactly who God wants you to be—more like His Son every day through the ministry of the word of God. If you hope in your own life to overcome error and grow in doctrine, overcome evil and progress in personal holiness, then we must turn to Scripture, because it is profitable for these things.

III. The Scriptures Are Equipping (v. 17)

We’ve seen that the Scriptures are inspired by God, and we’ve looked carefully at the four individual uses for Scripture, so now let’s look at how the Scriptures are equipping. Listen to Paul in v. 17, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Paul tells Timothy here about the purpose for which God intended the Scriptures to be useful. Paul tells Timothy that all of these uses for Scripture serve one chief purpose, for the spiritual maturity of the man of God. This phrase “man of God” can apply to any Christian in general, or it can refer to a Christian leader. But by implication anyway, it will refer to all of us as believers.

The idea here is that the Bible is able to help us meet the demands that God places on us—to equip us with what we need to be “complete [and] equipped” for God’s purposes. First, Paul says that the Scriptures uses are for the man of God to be complete. This means that the Bible enables us to be capable of doing God’s work. In other words, we have all we need in the Bible to do God’s work in the world, to be obedient to His commands, for the Bible (considering it is used properly) makes us complete as believers. But secondly, Paul says that the uses of Scripture are for the Christian to be “equipped for every good work.” Similar to being complete, this means that the word of God enables us to meet all the demands of godly and righteous living.

Have you ever had problems with your plumbing? I know I have. We’ve just recently redone our entire bathroom plumbing system—it’s really a lot of work and sweat. Many of you have had problems with your plumbing before and have likely hired a plumber to take care of the job. Well, suppose you have a leak under your sink and you hire an experienced plumber to fix it. But there’s a catch: the plumber arrives at your door without any equipment—no wrenches, no clamps, no pipe, no tool belt, or anything. And he says, “Okay, I’m here to do the job!” How confident would you be? Probably not at all. Why? Because this man has no equipment to do the job!

For believers, we have a far more important job to do than fix a sink, and it is living godly lives—but we cannot and will not do this job without our equipment, the word of God. How can we expect to accomplish the job of godly living without our equipment, the Bible? How can we expect to know how to do God’s work without God’s word?

IV. How to Use the Bible (Selected Scriptures)

For many people, the only time their Bible is open is on Sunday—and those same people wonder why their devotion to God has grown cold, well no wonder. If you eat about three times daily to sustain your body’s strength, but you only get one meal of God’s word a week, no wonder you might be so malnourished in your life of faith. Because of what the Bible is and because it has many uses, I want us to look at a couple of ways to use the Bible. If God’s word is inspired, if God’s word is useful, and if God’s word equips us for Christian service, then how can we get the most from our Bibles?

1. Read the Bible. This is the most basic way we can use the Bible. Do you read the Bible every day? Everyone reads and learns at a different pace, so it may take some time to adjust to reading the Bible regularly—but perhaps the best way to read it is by reading a few chapters a day, in the morning and the night. A good Bible reading plan is also very helpful—helps keep you accountable and track your progress. We must take time out of our busy schedules to read God’s word. If you’re too busy to read the Bible, you’re too busy. The good part about it is that the more we read it, the more we will want to read it, and the more we will be equipped with its teachings.

Biblical Math. A while ago, I did a little math to calculate how long it would take someone to read through the entire Bible. The Old Testament, consisting of 929 chapters, would only take you 26.5 weeks to read all the way through if you read 5 chapters a day. That’s reading through the entire Old Testament in about 6 months. The New Testament, consisting of 260 chapters, would only take you 7.4 weeks to read all the way through if you read 5 chapters a day. That’s Matthew through Revelation in under 2 months. If you read 5 chapters of the Bible daily, you could read through the whole Bible once and read half of it over again. . . In a year. In a small 5 year period, you will have read through the entire Bible nearly 8 times.

2. Meditate on the Bible. This is not simply a suggestion, for the Bible implies that we should meditate on the Scriptures (Psalm 119:15, 48, 97). Do you remember the first Psalm about the godly man who was blessed in every way? How did he get blessed? How did he become so prosperous? It was because “his delight [was] in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Scripture meditation involves pondering and thinking deeply on what we’ve read. We think about what they mean for us, and ponder how to put them into action. Meditation involves allow the Scripture to dictate our thought lives—to let it swim and boil in our hearts and minds throughout our daily commute. Do you have some Scripture that you’ve been meditating on?

3. Pray the Bible. Many people do not realize the benefits of this or see that it’s even necessary, but praying the Bible helps us to align our prayers to God’s will. That’s the only kind of prayers God answers anyway—according to His will:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15).

God’s will is revealed in the Bible, so if we want to pray according to God’s will, wouldn’t it make sense to pray the Scriptures? Sometimes we pray for the wrong things, but if we want to pray for the right things, we need to be praying the Scriptures. When you’ve read your Bible each day, let what you read compel you to prayer, and then pray about what you’ve read.

4. Memorize the Bible. This one, like the others, seems to be implied by the Bible itself as a command. We are familiar with Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The psalmist there says that his defense against sinning was that he had stored God’s word in his heart. Scripture memory involves not only getting into the Bible, but allowing the Bible to get into us. It is allowing the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). Scripture memorization involves taking time to memorize the Bible, whether a few verses or a few chapters.

It is very beneficial, for we can call to mind a Scripture that is especially helpful for us in a time of need or for someone else in a time of need. Because the Spirit of God can’t call to your memory a Scripture you’ve never read or memorized. Do you take time to memorize the Bible? You can write it out on paper until you have it memorized, or you can repeat it back to yourself time after time, or you can simply read it over and over again. I’ve put Bible verses on note cards and slipped them in my pocket as I go about my daily tasks. That way, when I get my keys or phone out, I can always look at that verse first.

5. Study the Bible. Studying the Bible is key. It involves the most effort, but yields the best results. Studying the Bible is observing it, interpreting it, and applying it to our daily lives. We might spend a while studying a verse of Scripture, a chapter, or a whole book of Scripture—but studying involves doing much work to excavate the deep truths of Scripture. A good study Bible helps with this, good commentaries, or other helpful books like Bible dictionaries and Bible handbooks. In studying the Bible, we focus on it—think through it intellectually and emotionally. We discover what the particular author is saying about his subject and what it means for us today. Do you study the Bible? How much time a week is spend studying the Bible?

Conclusion: A Man Who Really Valued His Bible

We must value the Bible because of what it is—and if we truly value it, we will take the time to study and read it. I read a story once about a man who really valued his Bible. During King Philip’s War, a war between the Pilgrims and Indians during 1675-1676, there were a group of Indians who launched an attack on the Pilgrims. In March of 1676, a group of nearly 1500 Indians attacked the village of Rehoboth. As the inhabitants of the village watched from their garrisons, 40 houses, 30 barns, and 2 mills went up in flames. But only one person was killed. He was a man that believed that as long as he continued reading his Bible, no harm would come to him. Refusing to abandon his home, he was found shot to death in his chair by Indians—the Bible still in his hands. That’s someone who really valued the Bible. I wonder if we could say the same about ourselves. Do we really value our Bibles? Do you value your Bible like this Pilgrim man?

God grant us that we might pray with the psalmist in Psalm 119:

“With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word” (vv. 10-16).


1. This message was also preached at FBC Barlow in Ballard County, KY on the 14th day of June 2015.

The Healthy Church: Principles for True Ministry – Our Hope (Titus 1:2a)

Introduction

We’ve been studying through Paul’s letter to Titus, looking at how we can have a healthy church. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t want a healthy church—in fact, there was a survey conducted of the number one question the pastoral search committee asks its possible pastors. When they are interviewed, they are asked, “Can you grow our church?”¹

As Paul writes to Titus, his fellow worker, about church conduct and church order, we glean from this letter principles to have a healthy church—what the church should be doing and what it should look like. Specifically, we’ve been focusing on the first section, verses 1-4, looking at these verses under a microscopic lens, really. We have made it our aim to not miss a single detail of this paramount text of Scripture. We’ve been seeing from this passage principles for true ministry.

If we’re going to have a healthy church, this a crucial part of it—having a healthy ministry. We’ve been looking at several principles involved in having a successful, fruitful, effective, biblical ministry. Again, these principles are straight from Scripture, not a five-step program, or a book on Christian ministry—these principles are scriptural. They were the principles that God gave to Paul for his ministry, and they are the principles that God gives to us for ours. So far we have looked at two principles that God gives to us, and I want to take a moment to remind you of them:

1. Our Character. Out of verse 1, we read that Paul describes himself as an “servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” We saw here that if we’re going to be effective in the ministry of our own local church—it begins with this: we must be servants of God like Paul and Jesus—submitting our wills completely and entirely to God. If we want health in our church, we must be servants of God. If we want health in our homes, we must be servants of God. If we want a healthy, bold witness to our world, we must be servants of God.

2. Our Purpose. We saw from v. 1b that Paul’s purpose in ministry was for people’s faith, and then the building up of that faith: “[an apostle] for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness.” This too is our purpose, to aim at men’s salvation first, then at their sanctification. To get the fish in the boat and then allow Jesus to do the cleaning. We saw that without knowing our purpose, we won’t know what to aim for in our ministries. If ministry is attempted without a clear, defined purpose in mind, it won’t be effective—and most of all, it will not be biblical because in order for it to be biblical and effective, we must follow and fulfill the purposes that God has given us for ministry.

Tonight we will look at the third principle that God gives to us for ministry: our hope (v. 2). Hope is quite interesting—it does something for us that nothing else in this world can do: Hope alters our perspective on reality by informing us about reality. Hope changes the way we see things by informing us about the way things really are.

Hope is something like what General Smith had in mind while he was being tortured. Many of you know the story. He was a great, never-say-die general who was taken captive by enemies and thrown into a deep pit with his soldiers. This pit was wide, deep, long, and filled with a huge pile of horse manure. As he dove into the manure pile, he cried to his men, “Follow me men! There has got to be a horse in here somewhere to take us out!”

Hope functions to change our perspective on things. When the impossible seems to be the only option, our hope in God is that “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). In this passage, we will see how important it is to have this perspective. In fact, we will see that our hope is the basis for our ministry, as it was Paul’s. It is what motivates us, it is what gives us the right perspective, and it is what gives us confidence that God is able to do what He promised. And the great part about this is that God has given us hope as a principle for our ministries to our workplace, our families, our church, our community, and our world.

And we absolutely need it—ministry is impossible without it. What we do in ministry is unthinkable, really. I know that sounds pessimistic, but think about it. We are pleading and begging dead sinners to receive life in Christ (Eph. 2:1-3). We are trying to get a dead person to take medicine that will give him life. We are trying to get sinners to go against their nature and trust Christ—it’s not natural. Think about all the people you know who aren’t saved. It is discouraging when our message is constantly rejected. We wonder about them, we weep for them. It’s an impossible task, but the unshakable, unwavering confidence and joy that we have is in the grandest truth in all the universe that God saves. We do not save, God saves. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:9), and we have confidence in this God who has the power to save according to His sovereign will. That’s the hope we have.

But let’s see deeper what this great hope is that God gives us for ministry. We’re going follow Paul’s order of describing it by seeing first the object of our hope, then the person of our hope (God), and finally the surety of our hope—God’s sovereign will. After this we will look at a few practical ways to put this principle into action.

The Text: Titus 1:1-4, ESV

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”

I. The Object of Our Hope (v. 2a)

Notice first the object of our hope: eternal life. Paul says first, “In hope of eternal life.” I think that it is imperative first to notice where this verse is. It really does make a difference. Paul names this principle after he talks about his purposes as an apostle.² Those purposes being, “[to bring about] the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth.” This means that as he carries out his tasks of ministry that is, aiming first at men’s salvation, then their sanctification, all the while — having this hope, never losing it, but always having it on his mind.

It’s also another thing that belongs to God’s elect. Remember what two things belong to God’s elect that Paul described in v. 1? They are those who possess “the faith,” and “the knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness,” and also here, “the hope of eternal life.”

So we can infer from these two truths to say that Paul is really describing the hope that he shared with God’s elect, as he was one of them. While he carries out his ministry with its hardships, difficulties, and victories, he set his mind on this hope. This was a confident expectation of eternal life that he had for himself and for those he ministered to. In fact, this hope was the reason behind everything he did, it was the motivation he had for his mission. It was his confident, future expectation of endless life that the believer will have as a gift from God through Christ Jesus. It was the “gift of God [that is] eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). He describes this hope in other places in Titus as his eager expectation:

“Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

“So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

This hope functions in two ways for Paul: for himself, and those he ministers to. First I believe that this hope is what he looks forward to—that’s the way it’s expressed in the text. Second, I believe that his expected goal for those he ministered to was eternal life. He had hope for himself, and hope for those he ministered to.

1. Paul had this hope for himself. When ministry got tough, when people failed him, when people rejected him, he did not despair. Speaking of all the struggles of ministry, being “afflicted in every way,” “persecuted,” “struck down” (2 Cor. 4:8-9), he says in 2 Corinthians:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (4:17).

Philippians 3:20 expresses Paul’s confident expectation of heaven perhaps more than any other text: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” He endured more suffering than any of us ever will (lashes, beatings, stonings, etc.). But Paul could sacrifice anything anytime because of this—he knew what awaited him. He could endure any persecution or suffering for ministering to people—he knew what awaited him. What about you? Are your sacrifices joyful because of this expectation of eternal life, or are they drudgery because you have nothing to look forward to? When you are rejected and persecuted for your faith, do you still have this joy? Does this joy determine your response to persecution, or does your sin nature determine your response?

2. Paul had this hope for those he ministered to. We read in Acts 18, that Paul was struggling to share the gospel in Corinth. He was having some great success, but immediately met opposition by some Jews. “they opposed and reviled him” (v. 6), and he likely wondered if he should spend any more time sharing Christ with them. In fact, he said, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (v. 6c). But we read a few verses that God said, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (vv. 9-10). God promised Paul that there were still people who needed to be saved—people that God would save in His own time. God had people in that city who were His. Because of this we read that Paul didn’t leave, but stayed “a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (v. 11)

God’s sovereign election ensured Paul’s ministry—he continued to share the gospel because God promised him that He would bring about the salvation of souls in His own time. God had people everywhere in that city that He had chosen to save, and because He chose them, they would be saved. Paul was to simply continue his ministry and wait for God to do His work. So Paul also had this hope of eternal life for those he ministered to—he expected men to be receptive to the gospel because salvation belongs to the Lord, it is God’s work and He is sovereign over it, bringing it to fruition in His own time.

When I think of hope, I’m thinking of what the great Puritan Thomas Watson wrote about it. I believe he illustrates it well for us: “Hope is an active grace: it is called a lively hope. Hope is like the spring in the watch: it sets all the wheels of the soul in motion. Hope of a crop makes the farmer sow his seed; hope of a victory makes the soldier fight; and a true hope of glory makes a Christian vigorously pursue glory.”³

Praise the Lord! That’s what hope does for us: God promised eternal life for us, so no sacrifice we make for Him in ministry can be too great, and no persecution or rejection can be so great because we have eternity to look forward to. And another thing hope does for us is give us confidence for ministry to the unsaved, as it did Paul. We plant the seed of the gospel expecting salvation of souls, because God has sovereignly chosen to bring about the salvation of many souls. Our hope causes us to enter our areas of ministry to our families, our workplaces, schools, and communities because we expect people to be saved and respond to the gospel.

Do you have that expectation? Are your sacrifices measured by your confident expectation? That is, how often are your daily sacrifices for God determined by the truth that God will usher you into heaven one day? Do you expect people to be saved when you minister to them?

II. The Person of Our Hope (v. 2b)

We’ve seen the object of our hope, which is eternal life. Notice second that the person of our hope is a trustworthy, faithful God. Paul is moving on to talking about God’s person and actions concerning eternal life to prove that our hope of eternal life is unshakable. See v. 2b, “which God, who never lies.” He is attempting to prove the validity of our hope because it rests in God’s character. Paul is giving a strong, reinforcing argument to support the validity of our hope of eternal life because it is based on and sustained by a trustworthy, faithful God. He’s pointing to God for proof that our hope of eternal life is true and trustworthy.

Saying that God never lies echoes the Old Testament; this great truth that God never lies has its roots in the OT:

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19)

“And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (1 Sam. 15:29)

But talking about God this way is also in stark contrast to the culture that Titus ministered in. They were known as a lying culture. Crete was a small island, about the size of Western Kentucky, and the name Crete comes from the phrase: “to play the Cretan,” which in other words meant, “to lie.” So this was a place named because of the prevalence of lying in their culture.But notice also in v. 12 of this chapter, Paul says, “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Even their religious leaders were proud to admit that everyone on the island was a liar, and they were always that way. We live in a culture just like this don’t we?

Falsehood is all around us. A statistic I read said that 60% of people can’t go ten minutes without lying. 40% of people lie on their resumes, 69% of people lie to their spouses, and without surprise 90% of people lie when dating online.Lying is a weakness, and when we discover we’ve been lied to, we feel like we can’t trust that person anymore. We trusted their character enough to believe anything they said. But we don’t have to worry about that with God. When He promises eternal life, He is 100% truthful. He doesn’t lie to us about anything, and He never has to live with the guilt of lying—He never lies; not in the past, not now, and never in the future. He is completely trustworthy. The point that Paul is making here is that our hope is based on God’s trustworthy nature. Our hope is unshakable because it rests in an unchanging, trustworthy, faithful God. Let me tell you a few things this truth about God should do for us: This should encourage us—we’re telling people the truth when we share Christ. This should give us confidence in our hope—it’s a sure thing. This should give us strength and security and rest—our hope rests not on ourselves, not on our good works, not how good we can be, it doesn’t rest on anything but God’s unchanging, immutable, loving, trustworthy, faithful nature. Even when we fail to do our ministry: He cannot fail us: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).

God cannot lie because it is against His nature. It is something He cannot do. It doesn’t go against saying that “God can do anything,” or “God is all-powerful.” Some question if we truly believe that God can do anything, if we affirm that He cannot lie. Thomas Aquinas and Anslem, some ancient church theologians argued that God cannot sin or lie because it is a weakness, not a power. God cannot lie because lying isn’t a power—it’s a weakness.Paul’s point is that we can have this hope for ourselves and this hope for those we minister to because it is based on God’s trustworthy character. So when we minister this hope of eternal life to people, we can know that we are telling them the truth, we can know that when God promised to bless our gospel sharing efforts, He meant it. If God never lies He is deserving of our full trust—that is great encouragement for ministry. If you trust God during your ministry efforts, you won’t be discouraged when your efforts aren’t enough.

III. The Surety of Our Hope (v. 2c)

We’ve seen the object of our hope, eternal life, and the person of our hope: an unlying, trustworthy God. Notice third that the surety of our hope is God’s sovereign will. See in this verse finally that Paul describes God’s action concerning the hope of eternal life. What did God do about it? How is it possible? Because “God, who never lies, promised it before the ages began” (v. 2c).

We see here two things: God’s action concerning our eternal life, and the time when those actions took place. That is, eternal life doesn’t come to us abstract, it comes to us graciously through what God has done, and at a cost. We see here that God did something about eternal life, and we see the time when He did something about it. And like our last point, Paul is attempting to build confidence and surety about our hope of eternal life because of God’s trustworthy character first, and second (here) because of God’s action concerning it.

First we see that God promised it. Anytime one makes a promise, it is a personal declaration made to another person that certain conditions will be met. When I asked my fiancée to marry me, it was a promise I was making to her that we would get married. Our relationship is grounded in that promise—we look forward to enjoying union together; all because we promised each other that we would be life partners.

Promises are central to the way God relates to us as well. He has made us so many promises—in fact, the Scriptures function like a promise book God gave to us. But there’s a special promise He made to His people. The promise that He made was that He would save them and be in a relationship with them. It is a covenant God made “before the ages began,” before we were ever born—and not because of anything good in us or foreseen in us, but because of His mercy and free grace. He promised eternal life to His people long ago, in eternity past, “before the foundations of the earth” (Eph. 1:4). This is a hard truth to understand, and theology calls it election.

This is a hard truth to understand, but if we believe that God saves, we must believe it—for He saves according to His plan and will, not ours. This means that our work will always be fruitful—it doesn’t mean that everyone will be saved when they hear our message, but it does mean that we have confidence that God’s word will not return back to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Christian conversion takes place because of God’s promise and election. Recall your conversion. Did you plan for that to happen? Did you know and plan to walk up the aisle? Did you know the details of your conversion before it happened? No, because you didn’t plan it. But God did. That’s the beauty of election and God promising eternal life. He is the One who planned it, and He is the one who will finish it and usher us into eternity with Him.

We believe because we were chosen: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:4-5a). Here Paul says that we can confidently be sure that God has chosen us because the gospel has come to us and transformed our lives. And when it comes to our ministry, there are people all around us who might be days away from that moment; weeks away; years away; decades away; but God is using our ministering efforts right now to lead them to that moment, just like He did us. Just like His plan of salvation is His plan in His own time, He has also chosen to use us as His tools to reach people—no other way will they be saved without the preaching of our gospel.

Do you have confidence in God’s promise of eternal life like Paul did in Acts 18? Do you rest in God’s sovereign plan of salvation?

IV. How to Use this Principle in Ministry

We have seen what this principle is, but it is no good to us if we don’t know how to use it. So how can we have this hope of eternal life? How can we develop this kind of perspective for our ministries to our workplace, family, church, community, and world? I offer a few practical suggestions:

1. First, make sure you’re saved. I think this is self-explanatory. You have to have Christ as your Savior and Lord to look forward to eternal life and have this hope, and to share it with the unsaved.

2. Ponder often the truth of eternal life. Read about it in the Scriptures. As Paul says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). With this principle and great truth in mind, there is no sacrifice too great that we can make if we know that heaven is our home. There is also no persecution or rejection so great that can remove the place Jesus is preparing for us in eternity. Think about this hope at work, at the home, by your bedside. Let it permeate your being.

3. Examine your motive for Christian service. Do you minister to those around you because you are expecting them to be saved? I think we should expect more people to be saved. God is graciously at work in the lives of people everywhere, there are people on your path that God is just waiting for you to share the gospel with them. Our motive and reason for Christian service should be yes, God’s wonderful grace. But here, Paul says that his reason for ministry was this hope of eternal life—that’s one of the greatest expressions of God’s grace. So our motivation for Christian ministry should be joy and gladness in response to God graciously promising us an eternity with Him.

4. Expect people to be saved. Not everyone will believe our message, but God has promised to bless our gospel sharing efforts. If you never expect anyone to be saved, it will damage your gospel sharing efforts. Think of the farmer who doesn’t expect a crop to grow. Will he water the seed? Will he ensure it has the right amount of sunlight? No, and indeed he will not plant it at all. Neither will you share the gospel with someone you expect to reject it and discard it into the garbage. When you share the gospel, expect people to be saved.


1. I read this a few weeks ago, and now I cannot find the article. Even if it’s not the number one question asked, it is still one that all of us are seeking the answer to by the leaders of our churches.
2. You can listen to my last sermon on Paul’s purposes as an apostle here: The Healthy Church: Principles for True Ministry (Pt. 2)
3. Foster, Elon. 6000 Sermon Illustrations (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972), 358.
4. Towner, Philip H. The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 670.
5. Benjamin, Kathy. 60% of People Can’t Go 10 Minutes Without Lying on Mental Floss. May 7, 2012.
6. I expound on this further here: Theological Reflection: God’s Omnipotence and Logical Possibility.