September 30

Titus & Philemon

We are in the Church Stream today reading from the Lexham English Bible. | @7StreamsMethod | @serenatravis | #7Streams | Donate

Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis

Titus was an apprentice and disciple of Paul and a soul that Paul had the utmost trust in. He was a greek that Paul himself had converted to following Christ. He was with Paul in Ephesus; a highlight of Paul’s ministry years. Paul later sends Titus to Corinth to quell problems that Paul couldn’t find time to deal with further…this is a great indication of the trust that Paul had in Titus. Titus was instrumental in gathering the offerings that Paul took to Jerusalem. He was a sage that did great work for the church in Crete. The similarities we read in Titus and I Timothy are because Titus in Crete and Timothy in Ephesus are dealing with very similar issues for which Paul has similar advice.  You’re not “seeing double” in your hearing.  Paul is saying things virtually a second time.  You may get the same feeling when we are reading what sounds like ditto material going through the gospels.  You didn’t accidentally flip backward in the pages and you are not in the twilight zone.

T – 1 – Paul’s life is coming to a close and he is getting more and more fixated (wondrously so) on eternal life. Eternal life was a grand motivation to Paul and has been throughout his ministry.  His next urgent message is that Titus plant elders throughout the Church of Crete so that there be an orderly body of believers on the island.  Christendom was the antidote for the culture that had bedeviled Crete for centuries. The scallywag nature of the population was legendary. Even some the so called Christian teachers on Crete were more committed to the dark heritage they grew up in v.s. blessed faith that Paul and Titus had explained to them. The indictment of liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons, etc. is Paul quoting Epimenides from around 575 B.C.  He had little positive to say about the Cretans about 500 years before Paul quotes him about these same people.  Let’s put it this way, they needed Titus’ input badly.

– 2 – Titus has sterling advice for all ages, both genders, every class of citizen and basically his advice is the needed recipe for transforming the culture of Crete along with saving the souls of the Cretan people.  There is simply no argument against an exemplary life and Titus wants believers to exercise the power of exemplary lives for a witness and to strengthen the power of evangelism upheld by right living.

– 3 – The Cretans believers also received instruction to be supportive of their civil leaders. Nonstop rebellion and under-handedness had been the Cretan trademark long enough. Paul wanted Christian believers to lead the way in being cooperative and gracious all the more.  He lastly reminds to not be involved in senseless arguments about law, old doctrines, and genealogies.  That was a trademark of the trolling “circumcision group”.  They thought they could pull their stunts authoritatively so because they were the 11th generation great grand nephew of the prophet Zephaniah or some other ‘blue-blood’.  Paul thought all this contention was nonsense – and rightly so.  I.e., Titus is basically saying, “hey, act like a Christian!”

Philemon was a property owner and Onesimus was actually Philemon’s property; Philemon was the master and Onesimus was his slave.  Paul dives right into a touchy subject today and his writing here has much to teach even today in a world where 2020 A.D. is fast approaching and there are in upwards of 200 million slaves currently on earth!  In about 60 A.D. Paul had departed Colossae where Philemon was living. Five years or so later, Onesimus seems to have stolen some of Philemon’s property and stowed away to Rome.  Onesimus happened upon Paul who led him to Christ.  There was great admiration for Paul and Paul loved Onesimus like a son.  Paul wrote this book “Philemon” and had Onesimus hand deliver it back Philemon; his master. Paul urges mercy, forgiveness, he strongly hints at releasing him when he welcomes him back – telling Philemon to be as warm as a dear relative to Onesimus.  This is in great contrast to what is known of Roman Law that requires that this runaway slave Onesimus be executed.  Paul’s antidote to current law IS The Gospel. And as with all other aspects of the gospel, it’s a better way to live than current law the world over.

The Thread Through the Streams

The impression that surfaced each day this week could be articulated, “Can you believe it? Can you believe what is going on here? Can you believe what we are witnessing? What on earth is going on?!”

-in Numbers Balaam is setting off to do something he shouldn’t be doing and is stopped by an angel that he doesn’t see, which is halting a donkey that he does see- because the donkey sees the angel and Balaam doesn’t. He shames himself by ignorance and rage at a donkey that has more sense than he does – THEN he sees the angel!  He had to be thinking, “I can’t believe what is going on here!”
-In Chronicles this week David is putting in place all the tens of thousands of staff before he passes and they commence on construction of the Temple. This “rollcall” must have had them all buzzing in anticipation.  Here goes boys!  We’re getting ready to start real soon here.  The Temple was the greatest endeavor and we begin on this soon…
-The Psalms’ finale~ is a virtual foretaste of heaven. Imagine being on the Temple Mount as thousands sang this together at the top of their voices as David’s life is in its final chapter!
-Ezekiel, about 400 years after David was enthroned sees the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple in a vision we would label “high definition” – several years before it actually happened. You might say “Ezekiel saw it first!”  He had to be in awe of what he was witnessing.
-Habakkuk is incredulous and aghast as the Babylonian/Chaldeans are bearing down on Judah. His appeal to God is desperate. God’s answer must have left Habakkuk feeling numb.  “Am I hearing things?? God? Really?  Habakkuk realizes the greater truth in our reading next week. But this week, he is in disbelief of what is going on.
-Luke tells the story of the Resurrection in ch. 24.  The women at the tomb can’t believe that their Lord is not there.  The two on the road to Emmaus can’t believe that it was Him who was there!  They heard Him, they welcomed Him, they ate with Him…and he vanished.  They run back to the disciples who can’t believe anything. Then Jesus appears and, … it must be a ghost. Hey, the gospel continues to stun the world!
-Titus has the marvelous task, with Paul’s backing, to transform the Island of Crete and he gets started upon it.  Philemon receives the initial document that sends the first shock waves leading to the emancipation of slaves everywhere.  It goes way beyond apparent slavery.  Paul wants Philemon to be free too of resentment, vague thoughts of retribution, pay back, the darkness of Roman Law that requires Onesimus to be executed.  God’s mercy has a much better way.  And Philemon is living at the intersection of world history where slavery is normal, and freedom in Christ is the Way. What shall Philemon do?  What a joyous time to obey a brand new order!

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