The Message of Titus: An Overview -- By: Ray Van Neste

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 07:3 (Fall 2003)
Article: The Message of Titus: An Overview
Author: Ray Van Neste


The Message of Titus: An Overview1

Ray Van Neste

Ray Van Neste serves as the Director of the Center for Biblical Studies at Union University. He has recently completed a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Union University. He has served in pastoral and preaching ministry in Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Scotland.

Introduction

Each year as I teach New Testament Survey here at Union University I have my students list the books of the New Testament and answer a few basic questions: Which books do you think you know a lot about? Which books do you think you know little or nothing about? Why do you think you know more about some books than others? Titus never fares well in this basic survey. While this might be expected in some ways, two student responses from this most recent term are especially revealing. One student said she had more exposure to certain books because they have “more value and application than others do.” Titus was singled out as an example of one with less value and application. Another student wrote: “I am unfamiliar with the teachings of Titus and Philemon, possibly due to their short length and lack of profoundly deep insight. (They have insight, just not profound—I’m not degrading any books of the Bible!)”

Aside from the faux pas of turning in such statements to a professor who has spent several years of his life studying such “less than profound” books (which made for a good laugh in class) and the problematic view of scripture implied, these statements illustrate the basic lack of awareness of the message of this powerful little letter. Indeed, this lack of awareness is not limited to the church, but I have often encountered it in the halls of academia as well (e.g., those who think of it as only addressing pastors).2 Yet, this has not always been the view of this letter. Martin Luther, who was willing to criticize some biblical books (e.g., James), wrote concerning the letter to Titus: “This is a short epistle, but a model of Christian doctrine, in which is comprehended in a masterful way all that is necessary for a Christian to know and to live.”3 This is a striking commendation for an oft neglected epistle—a masterful summary of “all that is necessary for a Christian to know and to live”! I believe Luther is right. He is, once again, a surer guide than our contemporaries, for this letter summarizes the essence of the Christian life, particularly with a view to what the Christian community, the church, is to do. Indeed, I believe the letter to Titus i...

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