04 June 2024

Last words to Titus.

Titus 3.12-15.

Paul wraps up his letter to Titus with the usual stuff you might find in any personal correspondence; plans to meet, people you oughta bring along, friends who say hi, and salutations. Goes like this.

Titus 3.12-15 KWL
12I might send either Artemas or Tychicus to you;
when I do, be quick to come to me in Nikópolis,
for I decided to winter there.
13Quickly bring Zenas the lawyer, and Apollos, with you,
so they might not be left behind.
14Our people must also learn to maintain good works;
they’re necessary business
so they might not be fruitless.
15Everyone with me greets you.
Greet our friends in faith.
Grace to all of you. {Amen.}

Verse 12 is why some people, including the editors of the Textus Receptus, figured Paul wrote this from Nik√≥polis, Macedon. But since he calls it “there” when he wrote this, instead of “here,” kinda looks to me like he’s not there yet! We shouldn’t be surprised if he wrote it on his way somewhere.

Travel back then was particularly difficult in winter, ’cause weather, and no reliable way to forecast it. So Paul had to hunker down somewhere, and Nik√≥polis had decent resources and decent temperatures.

Artemas and Tychicus were members of Paul’s ministry team. They’re both Greek names, but don’t presume that automatically makes ’em Greek; plenty of Jews back then had gentile names, same as today. Like Apollos, who had the same name as the Greek sun god; and “Artemas” is the masculine version of Artemis, the moon god. Artemas is never referenced in the bible again, but Tychicus comes up in Acts 20.4 as being from the province of Asia Minor, and Paul refers to him in four different letters. Ep 6.21, Cl 4.7, 2Ti 4.12, Tt 3.12 He had him deliver letters a lot!

Paul tells Titus to bring two guys with him: Zenas “the lawyer,” and Apollos. Zenas, short for the Greek name Zenodoros (meaning “gift of Zeus”) isn’t ever mentioned again. We’ve no idea what sort of lawyer Zenas was—whether he was a Jew, and an expert in the Law of Moses; or a gentile, and an expert in Roman law. Paul calls him “the lawyer” likely because both he and Titus knew another guy named Zenas, and wanted to indicate the right Zenas. As for Apollos, he’s the apostle—the Alexandrian Jew who was full of the Spirit, eloquent, knew his bible, taught Christians, and most tellingly, was receptive to correction. Ac 18.24-28 Paul refers to him a bunch of times too. 1Co 3.4-6, 22, 4.6, 16.12, Tt 3.13

Then, kind of as an afterthought, there’s an important verse about good works.

Because we gotta do good works.

Just to remind you: The whole point of Paul’s pastoral epistles was to encourage church leaders (specifically Timothy, Titus, and Philemon; but you can apply most of this advice to everyone) to encourage their churches to behave themselves, dangit.

Because without adequate leadership, people will follow their own ideas instead of Jesus, and create loopholes to bypass everything he taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Look at all the churches telling people how to achieve their best lives now, instead of giving us practical advice about how to worship and how to love our neighbors. Or the churches which are all focused on theology, or condemning sinners, or worrying their members with scary tales of the End Times… instead of showing us how to bring God’s kingdom near to a world which imagines God is far, far away. Or not even there.

This is why Paul reiterates good works throughout his letters. All his letters. Now that we’re saved from sin and death, how are we Christians to live? Duh; follow Jesus! How do we do that? Learn what he teaches and do that. But what if we screw it up? Well, make every effort not to… but when you do, ’cause you will, there’s grace. God already knew you were gonna blow it, long before he even saved you, so it’s not like it’s gonna get you kicked out of his family! He loves you; he forgave you already; don’t beat yourself up about it; get up and try again.

And try not to repeat the errors and foolish behavior Paul brings up in his letters. Because Christians totally keep doing that. You’d think we’d have learned by now, but people don’t read, including bible. People keep presuming they know what’s right, instead of double-checking their assumptions against the scriptures. People keep ignoring the big waving red flags of bad fruit or no fruit, and figure if Christians know a bunch of bible verses, or pray impressive-sounding prayers, or play the guitar really well, or otherwise sound devout (or, in some cases, simply claim they’re devout, with no evidence of this devotion!), they must be. Fruitless Christians are especially gonna fall for such things, ’cause of course fruit’s not a priority for them. Other things, more worthless things, are.

Hence Paul tells Titus these good works are “necessary business so they might not be fruitless” in verse 14. A Christian who doesn’t work on their good character and good behavior simply isn’t gonna grow into a mature Christian. They’ll be Christians in name only, and little more. And God wants so much more.