Theological debates occur within Christianity; sadly, some miss the main point biblical authors were really communicating. For example, the book of Titus is often remembered for the checklist of qualifications concerning elders, yet there is more to the book than this one topic. Author Tim Chester of Sheffield, England does a great job in Titus For You of summarizing Paul’s intent for the entire epistle. Basically, Chester believes Paul wrote this letter to Titus, his younger son in the Christian faith (1:4), by saying, “His goal was not converts, but disciples. For any ministry we are involved in…that should be our goal, too.”Chester explains his thesis by exegetically explaining this epistle verse-by-verse, which includes topics such as the Gospel, discipleship, character, God’s grace, and His glory.
The Gospel is the Cornerstone of Discipleship First, Chester’s summary of Titus may be discipleship. He realizes that Paul’s letter begins by emphasizing the Gospel (1:1-3). Only the Gospel can “bring those to whom God has chosen to saving faith” because one cannot rescue oneself, which feeds into holistic discipleship. In other words, the Gospel must be lived out in each believer’s life and not just received as a one-time moment of salvation. In chapter three in the book of Titus (3:4-7), Chester explains the difference between God’s grace and His glory. He starts by showing how Paul emphasized correct Gospel application in both belief and in culture. As a result, one lives a purposeful life because one’s motivation for living is founded in the Gospel’s redemptive application in not just their past, but also in their present and future.
Gospel Based Discipleship Includes Character Since Chester believes that Paul’s goal was not “converts, but disciples,” he believes one will show a life that makes the “God our Savior attractive” because they are Christians of deep character. They are not simply individuals with a knowledge-based form of discipleship. Rather, believers will display a joy from their Christianity that will attract others towards a deeper form of discipleship. Again, this is the result of the right Gospel-belief with the right Gospel-culture. It is a character-driven discipleship that is a lifestyle of “everyday Christianity” than a compartmentalized faith that is barely used.
More specifically, Titus For You says that Paul defined character to Titus as a “disciple who makes disciples.” Notice that Chester does not engage the theological divisive debate on concerning divorced men being elders or deacons in chapter one. Instead, his exegetical focus is on one’s internal character, which coincides with Chester’s interpretation of chapter three in the book of Titus, which encourages one to avoid controversies by focusing on the Gospel. Debates can be a waste of energy, so one’s focus should be on the clear steps of discipleship that will lead to the development of one’s internal character.
Also, Chester states that Titus displays the importance of an older person in the faith mentoring a younger person in the faith. In fact, this is exactly what Paul is doing with Titus (1:4-5). As one read’s through both Titus and Titus For You, it is clear to see that Paul is not engaging Titus in a process of self-discovery common to some forms of growth. Rather, Paul is directing Titus with clear expectations of how a Christian should live (2:15). Therefore, Paul is not just telling Titus about the importance of mentorship, he is living it out in their relationship (1:5).
Character is Founded By Grace and Sustained By God’s Glory Now that the relationship between character and discipleship has been shown in Titus, it is important to focus on one final profound truth. Chester writes in Titus For You, “We are pushed from behind by the wonder of grace and we are pulled forward by the hope of glory.” He claims that Paul’s point in the third chapter of Titus is that grace justifies us before God in salvation, but also a Christian should continue on in sanctification towards God’s glory (3:4-7). Basically, the Gospel saves us and it transforms us till death or until Christ’s glorious appearing where there will be a new heaven and earth. As Chester writes, “Grace also shapes our lives in the present. The gospel is good news for the last day. But it is also good news for the next day.” This is a beautiful truth he pulls from the book of Titus without adhering to any one eschatological theology. Instead he simply states, “We live between “two appearing’s.” The first was by grace when Christ appeared incarnate as both man and God, which is past tense. The other is future tense when Christ returns in full glory and splendor to redeem not just humanity, but His creation. Therefore, since He appeared by grace, His future appearing should develop within us a grateful character of hope for one’s Christian life and not a threat of His future judgment.
Conclusion The Gospel impacts discipleship, which develops one’s internal character, and then character, is inspired by God’s future glory. These are some of the encouragements found in the book, Titus For You, which is the first entry in The Good Book Company’s “God’s Word For You” series, that is not written by Tim Keller. Rather, author Tim Chester does a great job of maintaining the quality associated with the series. The only complaint about Titus For You is that Chester seems to repeat himself when biblically explaining the latter half of chapter one and the first half of chapter two. Despite this one drawback, Titus For You is a readable short commentary similar to previous books in the “God’s Word For You” series that are recommended. This is because the well-trained pastor will find deep insights, while the average layperson will find the commentary accessible. Both groups can use Titus For You as a devotional by slowly meditating on the books content with the questions asked at the end of each chapter. By reflecting on the message found in the epistle Titus and the book, Titus For You can teach anyone that the grace of the Gospel is not only affirming for one’s salvation, but character forming for one’s transformation. As a result, a Christian should choose to be a disciple of Christ in both right doctrine, and a godly character that is neither antinomian nor legalistic, but Gospel centered and guided.