Can a letter to an individual have a lasting global significance?


Some of the content draws upon but not exclusively on the ESV Global Study Bible.

Titus was written to one man on a relatively small Mediterranean island in an ancient Roman Grecian culture.  How is this applicable now in a global context?

Titus was a principal member of the second generation of the early church leaders.  He was converted under the ministry of an apostle and as such received primary source teaching. He was exposed to firsthand accounts of Jesus life and teaching. Now it was his role to pass on the same teaching, however as we know oral traditions are subject to variation as the accounts are passed on. The Apostles therefore left written accounts for permanent reference although in many cases they were assisted by other disciples who brought their clerical and research skills to bear, such as Mark and Luke.

Paul’s letter to Titus whilst it was a personal letter was also an open letter intended to be shared with the churches.  It gave authority to Titus’ teaching and responsibilities. The concluding blessing of grace 3.15 is for the church as a whole and implies it was to be read to the entire church. It was in a sense a bit like a modern job description, openly disclosed, so that all will understand the parameters of the job.

Titus places the current age in the context of redemptive history. God promises eternal life before time, v 1.2 he then reveals the grace of God keeping that promise through Jesus Christ’s first appearance, v 2.11 he also speaks of Christ’s appearing as a future event as our blessed hope, v 2.13 that is, his second coming.

Titus’ message that sound teaching leads to God pleasing lives is not time or culturally restricted, whether people are currently embroiled in false teaching or are church leaders. Titus contains three universal themes: doctrine fuels godliness, v 1.1 the character qualities required for church leadership vv 1.6-9 and the twin connected gospel messages of grace and obedience. vv 2.11-14

In the light of the above teaching the contemporary church is called to, ‘devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need.’ v 3.14 The broad scope of the whole bible’s gospel message encompasses that, ‘humans are made in God’s image and human life therefore has intrinsic worth and dignity.’ ESV global study bible

So what things globally would now be included in urgent need?

The provision of basic needs such as clean water and sanitation, the welfare of unborn and young children, universal education, protection from war and violence, the capacity to be heard and understood, a right to flourish mentally, physically and intellectually and the capacity to live free from personal oppression including forced marriage and FGM.

What makes the Christian response to urgent need distinctive? It is the combining of the gospel life with the gospel message, aptly represented by Christian missionary, aid and development charities. Paul’s letter to Titus summons us to a life of self-giving love as we walk with Jesus, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (ESV study bible).

Create in me a clean heart, O God

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