Partners in Ministry2 Corinthians 8:16 – 9:5Theme: Sharing.This week’s lessons teach us the blessing of carrying each other’s burdens.
LessonIt is worth pausing to think a little bit about these people who shared in the work with Paul. Titus had a long history with Paul. The first historical incident that we have is the one Paul tells us about in Galatians. Paul was in a great theological tussle in those days because there was a kind of Christian Judaism that was trying to force the Jewish law upon Gentiles.
The Christian Judaizers said that people could not be saved by Christ alone. In order to be saved, one had to have Christ’s work plus the keeping of the Law because the Law is a holy thing. It had been given by God through Moses, so all the requirements, including the ceremonial requirements of the Law, were advanced in the name of this particular kind of Jewish Christianity.
The test case involved circumcision. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant. Those arguing for Christ plus Law said, “If you are to be saved, you must be within the covenant because it is a saving covenant. And if circumcision is the sign of the covenant, then you must be circumcised to be saved.”
Now early in Paul’s ministry when Paul first set out among the Jewish and Gentile communities to bring the Gospel, he took Timothy with him. He had Timothy circumcised because Paul did not want to be a cause of offense. When he went into a Jewish community, he did not want to be rejected because someone would find out that Timothy had not received the sign of the covenant.
But when this became a question of being saved by circumcision or saved by Christ alone, Paul refused to capitulate. On the occasion he tells us about in Galatians, Paul brought Titus up to Jerusalem with him to a great council where circumcision was the issue to be resolved. Must Gentile converts be circumcised?
Paul pointed out that Titus, a Gentile, was not compelled to be circumcised. Therefore, Titus himself was evidence of the decree of the Jerusalem Council to the effect that salvation is by grace alone. Wherever Paul went, as long as Titus was along, he was proof of the way that issue was decided in the early days of the church. So, we know that Titus was traveling with Paul and obviously was closely associated with him in the ministry.
The next historical information we have about Titus is what we have here in the Corinthian letters. Titus had made several trips to Corinth because Paul was unable to go. Titus at this point was so trusted by Paul that he became Paul’s representative. Apparently he made two – and perhaps three – trips. In these verses that we are studying, we read that Titus is about to make one more, because Paul had sent Titus ahead to arrange this matter of the collection and report on some of the disorders in the church. Titus had come back with a message that the disorders had been cleared up. Now, Paul was sending Titus ahead to complete what had been started perhaps a year before.
Then, we find out about Titus again somewhat towards the end of Paul’s life through Paul’s letter to Titus that bears that name. At this point, Titus had been left on Crete, just the way other followers of Paul were left in strategic places throughout the Roman Empire. There in Crete Titus was to order the church, and, as Paul spells it out in the letter to him, appoint elders in every place in order that the Church of Jesus Christ might be established in that island area.
When we take what is said about Titus in those places, we find that Paul thought very highly of this young man. Here in
2 Corinthians 8 Paul commends him. One thing he commends him for is his enthusiasm. Paul wrote, “He is coming to you with enthusiasm and on his own initiative” (v. 17).
Titus was a self-starter. He was one who plunged into the work and did it zealously because obviously he was serving the Lord Jesus Christ above all. That is all that Paul says about him the first time.
But later on in verse 23 when he mentions him again, Paul said several other things about him that he appreciated. He said that he appreciated Titus’s partnership. Paul used the Greek word that means “commonality of experience,” or “a commonality of work.” It is the word, therefore, that is used technically to speak of a partnership, of somebody who, in a technical sense, is bound together with another individual in a particular economic enterprise. Paul applies that to Titus when he refers to him as his partner.
What was Paul’s history with Titus?
Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised?
What did Paul mean when he referred to Titus as his partner?
Further StudyRead Paul’s epistle to Titus to find out more about how he related to this fellow worker.