The Greek word kata or kat appears four times in the first four verses of Titus. It carries a variety of meanings including down from, over against, and according to. Paul is “a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of (or according to - kata)” faith and knowledge. The faith and knowledge of the elect “accords with (or according to - kat) godliness, in hope of eternal life.” God’s promise of eternal life was proclaimed through proclamation or preaching. Paul was entrusted to preach this good news “by the command of (or according to - kat) God our Savior.” Finally, Titus is the spiritual child of Paul in (or according to - kata) a common faith. By the way, there is no difference in meaning between kat and kata. The only difference is that if the next word begins with a consonant then kata is used. If the next word in the sentence begins with a vowel, then kat is used. It is the same word. That may sound very academic and impractical, but it gives us an understanding of how the paragraph develops.
So the paragraph develops around four core ideas. First, Paul’s role in ministry is according to, or for the sake of the faith and full knowledge of God’s elect. Central to the argument of Titus is the importance of good, or healthy teaching or doctrine. Ministry has several aspects, or expressions. A shepherd leads, feeds, guides, and protects the flock. Those in church leadership have aspects of all of these activities in their ministries. A pastor (shepherd) leads, feeds, guides, and protects the church. Elders are responsible to lead, feed, guide, and protect the church. Parents are responsible to lead, feed, guide, and protect their children. Sunday School teachers lead, feed, guide, and protect their Sunday School class. Some leaders are more gifted at feeding. Some leaders are excellent leaders or guides. Others are in their element when it comes to protecting the church against spiritual or theological attacks. No one is gifted in all of these areas of ministry, yet in some ways we all do them all. It is for the sake of the Church.
In this letter to Titus Paul is zeroing in primarily on importance of teaching. Teaching builds faith and full knowledge. Faith and knowledge promote godliness. Godliness affects every area of life. Sound, good, or healthy teaching is foundational to the health of the church. At Northern Bible Church we may not put on a great show, but for us it is not about the show. We believe that sound teaching is central to all that we do. If we don’t do anything else, we are committed to pursuing our mission of reaching, growing, and equipping devoted followers of Jesus Christ through Holy Spirit led living and teaching of the Word of God. Sound teaching is for the sake of the faith and full knowledge of God’s elect. We are all in positions of influence in someone's life. what you are teaching. Can the influence of your life be characterized as sound teaching?
Second, faith and knowledge accords with, or is according to godliness. Faith and full knowledge never stand alone. I can know a lot of information that never changes my life in any way. But when knowledge is fully known and coupled with faith it changes me. It is one thing to be able to explain perfectly all the dangers of cholesterol in a diet coupled with a passive lifestyle. That is just information. It is when I come to truly believe that my diet and lifestyle need to change that lifestyle transformation actually begins to happen. In sound teaching our goal is not to prepare people for their “final exams.” We are not interested in pumping information into people for the sake of information. Sound teaching accords with godliness.
Godliness is rooted in our hope of eternal life. That hope is rooted in the promise of God. God’s promise is based on the character of God. He never lies. God’s promise is rooted in eternity past. It was “promised before that ages,” or before time eternal. God’s promise was revealed “at the proper time.” From eternity past, before time began, God had a plan. That plan was guaranteed by the very nature and character of a God who cannot be untruthful. The Fall of mankind did not catch God by surprise. He didn’t have to quickly come up with an alternate plan. There are theologies which suggest that God knew all possibilities, but that he could not be sure whether mankind would eat of the Tree in the Garden of Eden. That theology is incorrect. God does not develop contingency plans in case things do go his way. His plan has been in play since before time began. Adam did not completely understand God’s plan. Noah did not completely understand God’s plan. Abraham did not completely understand God’s plan. I doubt that anyone in history has completely understood God’s plan, but God himself. Yet, he called each of them to trust him with as much as he had revealed. At the “proper time” God chose to reveal more detail about his plan. He did that through preaching, or proclamation. Sound teaching accords with godliness which is rooted in our eternal hope.
Sound teaching is for the sake of the faith and full knowledge of God’s elect. Sound teaching accords with godliness which is rooted in our eternal hope. Third, the proclamation of these truths are “by the command,” or according to “the command of God our Savior.” The word “command” carries a unique meaning. It is not to be equated with the commandments. Rather, it carries the idea of being a command fitting to a particular situation or circumstance for the purpose of achieving a particular goal. This takes us back to the promise rooted in eternity past, and the truthful nature of God. What is the goal toward which God is working? Faith and full knowledge in hope of eternal life that is according to godliness.
Sound teaching builds faith and full, experiential knowledge in such a way that it actually changes how we live. How we live equips us for leadership, influences our relationships, and impacts our world. It all starts with sound teaching.
All of this is by, or according to the command of God our Savior. Teaching and preaching is God’s idea, not man’s. Godliness in the context of eternal hope is God’s plan, not man’s religion. The plan is God’s. The timing is God’s. The implementation of the plan is God’s. Sound teaching and proclamation of God’s truth may look somewhat different in different cultures, but it is always teaching and proclamation. Five minute sermons, and light devotionals were never God’s plan for training up believers in faith and knowledge according to godliness. Attention spans may be short. Preachers and teachers may need to hone they ability to communicate. But proclamation has always been central to the church.
Finally, Paul writes to Titus “in (according to) a common faith.” The word common holds the idea of being shared. It is the opposite of something that is set apart for one person, or one group of people only. It is the opposite of sanctified. It is common. If we were using these words regarding plates and utensils in the in the context of the Old Testament Temple, then the plates and utensils dedicated to temple use would be called sanctified or holy. The plates and utensils used in the priests’ homes would be called common. They were for everyone’s use. Paul and Titus share a common faith. It is not a faith only for the spiritual elite. It is not a faith that only spiritual superheroes like Paul can experience. This is a faith for everyone.
Paul is assuring and encouraging Titus. Even though Paul had been entrusted with the proclamation of the gospel, teaching the truth is not limited to specially called people. We have a common faith. We all stand on level ground before God. We are all entrusted with the responsibility to communicate the truth of God’s word in our own unique setting and calling. Titus ministry was not the same as Paul’s ministry, but Paul is encouraging Titus to get on with the ministry to which he has been called. We are all called to unique roles in the Kingdom, but we are also all called to proclaim the hope of eternal life because we share a common faith. It may not be through preaching. It may not be through formal teaching, but we are all teaching in some way.
Who are you teaching? What are you teaching? How are you teaching? We have the same faith as Paul and Titus. It is a faith rooted in the Grace and peace that comes from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Trust him, and get on with the job.