“The Nature of Ministry” – Titus 3:12-15

It is always a bitter-sweet moment when I come to the conclusion of a study. Over the past three months I have gotten to know the book of Titus and have had the privilege of seeing the Lord use it mightily. The verses before us will draw this small yet potent letter to a close.


At first glance Paul’s final words are nothing more than a simple sign off. He gives some practical instruction for Titus that may seem to not have any real implications on we who read his words 2000 years later. Yet this is still inspired scripture, and thus, we know that it is good for our reproof and our instruction (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If we read a little more slowly and meditate a little more carefully, I think we will see that this text is every bit as potent as the verses that have come before it.


It is true that Paul here is signing off and that he is leaving Titus with a few more practical instructions. He lets Titus know what the future plans are for ministry and who to expect for a replacement, but that’s not all that we find here. There are several implications here for us. When we understand these final words of Paul to Titus, we will also understand the nature of ministry. In his salutation, Paul reveals three vital truths about the nature of ministry.


Ministry is Mission Oriented (v. 12)

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.


Paul would have been a master chess player. His desire is to have Titus join him in his winter quarters yet the young churches in Crete must not yet be abandoned. They are still young and in need of oversight. To solve this, Paul will arrange to send a replacement for Titus. Apparently, Paul has yet to determine which man to send, either Artemas or Tychicus, but when one of these two men show up Titus is to have his bags already packed and be ready to go.


Tychicus, the letter bearer to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:21) and the Colossians (Col. 4:7) was later sent to Ephesus to relieve Timothy (2 Tim. 4:12). It is doubtful that Paul would have left the Cretans without an apostolic representative during this time and so, while we have no way of knowing for certain which man proved to be Titus’ replacement, it seems that Artemas was the one who ended up in Crete. This is the only place where we read his name, but he had the trust of Paul and that is all that we need to know.


The choice of Nicopolis for a winter quarters is interesting. The city’s name can be translated as victory city and was founded by Augustus Caesar to commemorate his victory over Mark Antony at the battle of Actium. Located on the western coast of Greece, this is farthest west Paul has been as a free man. It is likely that Paul plans to use Nicopolis and the winter downtime to plan and stage a mission trip further west, perhaps even as far as Spain (Rom. 15:28). Paul wants Titus at his side when he plans his next move.


Paul is not arbitrarily pulling Titus out of Crete nor is he sending a randomly chosen replacement. He is arranging his people to where they can best serve the purpose of gospel propagation. He’s chosen his people well. He’s even chosen an appropriate time to gather and plan. There will be no traveling during the winter months, and so that is the time to strategize.


Ministry is always mission oriented. By that we mean that ministry is never a holding pattern of just doing the same old thing for the sake of doing the same old thing. What we do must have purpose. One reason we see such poor execution among churches and even among individual Christians is because there is no purpose, no goal, and no mission. We cannot draw up a plan of attack unless we understand what the mission is. The more specific the mission statement, the more detailed the plan of execution can be. Most churches, families, and individuals have no plan. They live day-to-day hoping to make it to the next without understanding the reason God continues to show them grace by giving them their next breath. Our lives and our ministry must have a clearly understood mission of making disciples.


Ministry is Theology Applied (vv. 13-14)


Paul has never been one to waste words, as this verse makes plain. The whole letter has had one single thrust: the Cretans must be taught the connection between sound faith and good works. Paul brilliantly provides a real opportunity for the Cretans to put this exhortation into practice and even gives Titus an opportunity to lead the charge.


The Picture (v. 13) – “Diligently help send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.


We know nothing of this Zenas except what Paul mentions here, that he is a lawyer. The term ὁ νομικός is used eight times in the gospel accounts of men who were experts in the Mosaic law. Yet this Zenas character has a Greek name and seems to be mentioned by virtue of his profession rather than by his knowledge. Perhaps there is indeed room in Christ’s kingdom for lawyers after all.


Of Apollos we know plenty. This is the same man who was discipled by Aquilla and Priscilla (Acts 18) and who later ministered in Corinth (Acts 19; 1 Cor. 1). These two men are traveling to some unknown location where they will doubtlessly engage in gospel ministry. As they come from Paul, it is likely that they also carry with them this very letter.


The first thing we must take note of is Paul’s clever play on words. Just as Titus is to be diligent (σπούδασον) to come to Nicopolis, he is also to diligently (σπουδαίως) help these two traveling ministers. Next, Paul desires Titus to repeat his own example. As Paul sends (πέμψω) a replacement to Titus, he wants Titus to send (πρόπεμψον) Zenas and Apollos on their way. In other words, this is an opportunity for Titus to show the Cretan Christians exactly what good works looks like. As Titus models Paul, the Cretans will model Titus.


We should also take careful consideration of the phrase so that nothing is lacking. This is the same wording used in 1:5 and Paul’s thesis statement of the entire letter. Titus is to see to it that these men leave Crete fully furnished for their gospel work. He is to feed them, clothe them, encourage them, and equip them before sending them off. It is doubtful that Titus would be financially able to do this all by himself and so the Church is naturally expected to join Titus in this good work.


The Practice (v. 14a&b) – “And our people must also learn to lead in good works to meet pressing needs,


It may not look like it in the English, but there is an imperative here. Paul commands that our people, that is those who follow sound teaching and have been washed by the Holy Spirit and made new, must learn. The verb here is from μανθάνω, a cognate of the noun μαθητής or disciple. A disciple is a learner, or better yet, an apprentice.


A disciple is not a student in a classroom so much as he is one who learns by observing and then by doing. It is imperative that the Cretans learn good works by doing good works. Paul is dropping just such an opportunity into their laps. But this knowledge is never for knowledge’s sake. Our people must learn good works for a very specific purpose.


The Purpose (v. 14c) – “so that they will not be unfruitful.


The implication is quite clear: those who fail to produce good works are unfruitful. Christians live what profess. James did not speak with hyperbole when he wrote, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (Jm. 2:17). John did not use exaggeration when he wrote, “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now” (1 Jn. 2:9). Our own Lord was very clear when He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15).


Good works, godly works, καλός works do not produce saving faith. Yet if we have truly been born a second time by the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit (3:5), then our faith will certainly be confirmed and revealed by the new life that we live. Rebels rebel while servants serve. The Lord has been gracious to plant a church of genuine believers on the island of Crete. They must be exhorted and given the examples of good works so that will turn and demonstrate Spirit filled good works.


Ministry is Relational (v. 15)

All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.


With this final verse we see the word greet used twice. Once as an encouragement and once as a command. First Paul encourages Titus that all of his companions send Titus their personal greetings. The “you” here is singular (σε) and is meant specifically for Titus. How encouraging this simple phrase would have been, knowing that not only Paul but also all of his companions were silently praying for and wishing him well as he wraps up his ministry there in Crete.


The second greeting is Paul’s wish for Titus to pass on his own personal greeting, though it is interesting how Paul phrases it. Titus is to greet those who love us in the faith. Why did Paul not simply tell Titus to greet all those with him? The answer to that lies back in 1:10-16 and 3:9-11. There are those in Crete who do not love Paul and are not in the faith.


Even in this closing remark, Paul is giving Titus opportunity to be an example of obedience. If Titus is to reject a heretical man after a first and second warning (3:10), then he will certainly not be passing on Paul’s greeting. These have no more fellowship with the assembly and thus no more fellowship with Paul. There are those whom Paul does not wish to greet. Titus is to demonstrate this uncomfortable but necessary distinction before the watching Cretan churches.


Paul’s final words are familiar and yet no less profound. Grace be with you all. This is a loaded statement and a perfect way of concluding this letter. With so much emphasis on good works and sound teaching it could be easy to fall into the trap of human achievement. Our growth in Christ and maturity in our faith is no less a work of God’s grace than our initial conversion. We are called to obey but are only able to obey by God’s grace alone. This is a reminder to the Cretan church and not to Titus alone.


This final “you” is a plural (ὑμῶν) and not a singular. All of the believing Cretan community must know and understand that they live, move, and have their being in God’s boundless and matchless grace. Obedience is non-negotiable. Sound teaching is imperative. Yet all is only possible in God’s grace.


Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured. There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin!


Soli Deo Gloria!