Paul will often call himself “a servant” of God as well as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” The first phrase has its roots in the Old Testament, where several of the figures are called, or call themselves, “a servant of God.” The New Testament uses the Greek word “slave,” which focuses on the humility involved in submitting oneself to the authority of another. The servants of the Lord in the Old Testament claim authority as being God’s spokespersons. Moses is repeatedly called the servant of the Lord. Leaders like Caleb, Joshua, and even Samson are called servants of the Lord. David, Solomon, and Hezekiah were called servants of the Lord. Prophets such as Ahijah, Elijah, Jonah, and Isaiah are also called servants of the Lord. My point is that there seem to be two aspects of the title “Servant of the Lord.” The first involves submitting oneself to God as your authority. The second part is speaking for God or leading God’s people. Paul calls himself this title as he begins his letter to Titus. He writes, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness.” An apostle means a “sent one.” Thus, Paul serves God and is commissioned and sent out by Jesus. We see in Paul both the submissive aspect of being a servant and an authoritative part in serving God and being sent out by Jesus.  But this introduction has a couple of other phrases that deserve comment.

First, Paul says he is a servant of God and an Apostle of Jesus “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect.” Yarbrough understands that to mean “to further the faith of God’s elect.”[1] Paul’s passion is to increase the faith of those chosen by God to believe. Throughout church history, there have been two main views on the doctrine of election. One view, which we will call the foreknowledge view, teaches that since God knows beforehand that an individual will believe in Jesus, his election is based on this knowledge. One web article states, “This view is held by most American evangelicals.”[2] The second main view is the Augustinian view, which teaches that God’s election unto salvation is not based on a foreknowledge of an individual’s faith but is based on the free, sovereign grace of Almighty God. People come to faith because God elects them. In the first view, man has control. His free will is sovereign and is the determining factor in his salvation. The foreknowledge view diminishes the biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty. This view puts the Creator’s provision of redemption at the mercy of the creature; if God wants people in heaven, He has to hope that man will freely choose His way of salvation. In the Augustinian view, God has control; He is the one who, of His sovereign will, freely chooses those whom He will save. He not only elects those whom He will save but Also accomplishes their salvation. Rather than make salvation possible, God chooses those whom He will save and then saves them. This view puts God in His proper place as Creator and Sovereign.[3]

Second, Paul is a servant and an apostle for the “sake of their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness.” Now the term “elect” “Reminds us that God chooses his people to be his own out of his mercy rather than because they have achieved some mysterious level of holiness. To emphasize the point, Paul says that ‘the knowledge of the truth’ (words in Scripture that are more about being in a convinced and committed relationship with God than about having a head full of religious facts)  leads to godliness. The order is absolutely essential to note. Godly conduct itself does not lead to a relationship with God. Rather, the relationship with God that gospel faith establishes leads to righteous actions. God is not waiting to love us until we have gotten our own lives straightened out.”[4] I’m afraid most sermons I’ve listened to and commentaries I’ve read put the cart before the horse. Being good leads to being elected. No, being elected leads to being good. And as Campbell says, Paul “Wanted God’s elect to be a people who were strong in their faith, i.e., a people whose faith embraced more and more of divine truth and whose grasp of divine truth was more and more firm.

And that is still one of the great aims of Paul’s apostolic ministry. The man himself is, of course, no longer here in person. He has been in heaven now for the best part of 2,000 years. But his apostolic work goes on. Through the letters that he wrote and which have been incorporated into the New Testament, Paul continues to speak to us as an apostle of Jesus Christ. And he does so for the nurturing of the faith of God’s elect.”[5]

[1] Yarbrough, Robert W. 2018. The Letters to Timothy and Titus. Edited by D. A. Carson. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; London: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos.


[3] Ibid.

[4] Hughes, R. Kent, and Bryan Chapell. 2000. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[5] Campbell, David. 2007. Opening up Titus. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.