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, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
Words matter. In understanding the opening verses of Paul’s letter to Titus, there is one little word that makes all the difference. It’s found in verse 1. In the 1984 NIV, this word was translated simply as “for.” In the ESV it’s translated more accurately as “for the sake of.” In Greek, it’s the preposition kata. This word can have a variety of meanings but its meaning here conveys purpose. Why was Paul appointed a servant and apostle? For the faith of the elect and the knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness.
Note especially those last words: knowledge of the truth that accords with godliness. The same Greek preposition is used in that phrase: kata. Here, however, it means the truth which corresponds to godliness. Truth and godliness belong together. If we desire to be godly, we need to be passionate about the truth. We need to believe there is public, objective truth revealed in God’s Word. That’s what this passage goes on to speak about. We’re told that faith rests on God’s promise. This is meaningful because God is the unlying one (literally: the unlying God). His Word is sure and at the right time he revealed his Word through the preaching of the apostles.
You could visualize these verses like a sandwich. Verse 1 speaks of Paul being a servant and apostle. Verse 3 concludes by speaking of preaching (tied to apostleship) and following the command of God our Saviour (tied to being a servant). At the center of the sandwich is the unlying God’s promise of the hope of eternal life — upon this our faith and knowledge rests. Faith and knowledge ultimately rest not upon the subjective (our feelings or emotions), but upon God’s promise. Apostleship was designed to preach the objective promise of the gospel of life everlasting in Christ.
Apostleship has vanished, but God’s promise remains. That promise is still entrusted to servants called to preach it. The servants have to be diligent that it is the hope of eternal life that they preach. When that is done, those who hear this preaching have the responsibility to receive it as the authoritative Word that it is and not merely as the word of men.