Thursday, July 2, 2009

Titus, Philemon & Hebrews


Paul addressed this letter to Titus, another leader and teacher of the ancient Christian church. As with his other letters, this one too applies to all believers of the gospel message: paste and present who place their faith in the “hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began and has in his own name revealed His message”. 1Titus:2 Just as Titus is a child of God, we too are children of God.

Chapter 1: False Teachings

As in his letter to Timothy, Paul describes the essential traits of an elder or any leader in the church. In contrast, those who do not teach true doctrine, but teach false doctrines opposing the gospel message are by no means legitimate teachers or leaders! In fact, such false teachers must be rebuked and stopped. Don’t pay any attention to man made teachings and philosophies. Ignore myths and man made rules! As he warned in the book of Romans (the first chapter), there will be non believers who reject the message of the Lord. They are dead in spirit- with a conscious that is defiled and corrupt. And a more subtle danger is this: those who claim to be religious, yet are spiritually dead. In other words, be on the watch for those who claim to be Christians or who claim to be religious, yet at the same time deny the words of the gospel message. Such people are nothing more than hypocrites or Pharisees, believing their man made rituals and traditions will save them, while denying God’s grace thereby robbing the cross of its power to save.

Chapter 2: Interpersonal relationships

Having had been forewarned about the dangers of straying from the gospel message, you should be all the more aware of sticking with the sound teaching of the gospel message. Do not stray from it! As a leader of the church and as a teacher you have that greater responsibility to stick with the truth. Furthermore, appropriate behavior must be encouraged within the members of the Christian community: women, wives, husbands, men, children and seniors as well must strive in maintaining dignity and integrity in their own lives and their relationships with others. We are all called to be submissive and loving with each other as we are to the Lord. Despite socio-economic background, despite one’s position or station in life; man, woman, freedman, slave, servant or master- in God’s eyes no one has any advantage over the other! “For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation for all people”. Titus2:11

Chapter 3: Life in Christ

As Christians we should strive to be pleasing to God. Make no mistake- this does not mean we can merit salvation by our works! This could not be farther from the truth. By grace alone we are save- lest anyone should boast and rob the cross of its power to save. But, as believers we should act in accordance with the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, seeking to abandon our former filthy ways and acting in humility and love towards one another. Furthermore, we need to respect the laws and authorities in power, because in doing so, we will be all the more ready to promote our gospel message. In this way, when we live as the Holy Spirit leads us- this is how we do “good works”. It is not based on our own desires or merits, but based on our faith in the Holy Spirit. So, remember this: avoid worthless debates, disputes and people who seek to cause fights and dissention.

In closing, we must remember this: God saved us- God is our Savior! It is His mercy that saved us, not our own works! Through Jesus we have been made justified. Through the Holy Sprit, which God gives to his believers, we can live for Christ here in this lifetime, as well as the eternal life to come. Paul tells us that we can trust this message. It is true!


This is a unique letter written by Paul to a fellow believer named Philemon concerning a slave owned by Philemon. Apparently, Philemon’s slave, named Onesimus, escaped from his master and made his way to Paul, in Rome. While in Rome, Onesimus became a believer in Christ. Not only that, he spent much time with Paul- essentially becoming like a companion to Paul while he himself was imprisoned in Rome. But doing the right thing, Onesimus goes back to his former master to face the consequences. In his letter, Paul asks Philemon to be lenient towards his slave, because Paul considers him to be a child of God, a brother in the faith. In fact, Paul makes a comparison: that we too are servants of Christ- Paul is a slave to Christ. Just as Christ showed us mercy, and more specifically, in imitation to the mercy that Philemon received from God when he was saved, Philemon himself should imitate this and give mercy to his slave Onesimus. Paul reminds him that if his slave owes him any debt, Paul himself will pay it off. Furthermore, Paul reminds him that Philemon owes his very life- his spiritual life to Paul, because without having heard the gospel message from Paul, he would not have been saved either. And eternal life is far more valuable then any monetary debt that Onesimus may have incurred. In subtle words, Paul hints that Philemon should take the extra step in freeing Onesimus from the bonds of physical slavery and treating him like the equal man that he actually is considered to be, under God.

With this final letter, is the conclusion of Paul’s letters in the New Testament.


This letter, by an unknown apostle of the ancient Christian church, was written to the Jewish people, otherwise known as the Hebrews. The intent of this letter was to illustrate how Jesus, who is greater than all the angels, prophets and priests, represents the new covenant thereby replacing the imperfect old covenant which simply consisted of the law and imperfect sacrifices. The old covenant could not save anyone, but through faith in Jesus, salvation finally becomes available.
Chapter 1: The True Identity of Jesus

No prophets after Jesus:
A long time ago, in the times of the Old Testament, over two thousand years ago, God used various prophets as messengers of his word. His message was delivered to the masses by means of a messenger, known as a prophet. Some of these prophets included the well known prophets such as Noah, Abraham and Moses. Also included are Isaiah, Solomon, and Daniel. In these days, God speaks to us through his Son, Jesus. And Jesus is considered to be the Word, and this message of salvation is the gospel message. There are no more prophets- we do not need any because we have the gospel message of Jesus. Therefore if anyone claims to be a modern day prophet of God- don’t believe it!

Jesus, reflective of God, is the creator:
Jesus is the rightful heir of everything in this world- seen and unseen; visible and invisible; physical and spiritual. The universe was created through Jesus. Jesus made the universe! Jesus sustains the world! Furthermore, Jesus is the expression and radiance of God’s glory and nature. This means that Jesus is the perfect reflection of God.

After Jesus died for our sins, He sat down at the right hand of God in glory and honor. Jesus is worthy of worship. In fact God commanded that we as well as all the angels worship Jesus! God said these things concerning Jesus: Jesus is referred to as God. (In fact, when speaking to Jesus, God calls him God by using Old Testament references in application to Jesus.) Jesus’ throne is everlasting for all eternity. Jesus’ Kingdom reflects justice. In other words all the attributes which describe God are used to describe Jesus! The significance is this: Jesus is not simply another angel, but considered to be equal with God and one with God!

Chapter 2:

Do Not Reject the Gospel Message:
The gospel message is very important. Do not take it lightly. Do not dismiss it an unimportant. Be careful not to drift from the message of salvation. Remember the angels that rebelled in heaven? Remember the rebellion led by Satan? Is it not true that God swiftly handled their punishment, banishing them forever from heaven? Consider that to be a warning for us. If the angels weren’t spared, neither will we be spared if we turn away the salvation of God.

The Significance and Benefits of Jesus and His Humanity:
Despite the true identity of Jesus that was discussed in the first chapter: the fact that Jesus is the expression and fullness of God, and that honor and glory rightfully belongs to Jesus - for a short time, Jesus was reduced to a lower level of subordination, beneath the angels, in order that He could die and fully bear our sins. Because we are made of flesh and blood (because we are human beings with human bodies), Jesus therefore had to put on a body just like us as well. Through Jesus we receive salvation. This makes perfect sense- that this very Jesus who was responsible for creating the world, should also be responsible for its salvation as well. Through Jesus’ death, and his sacrifice for our sins, he destroyed both the Devil and the power of death as well. Just like the high priests in the Old Testament, and much more so- he was merciful and faithful in the role he took on: to make amends for the sins of the people in this world!

Chapter 3:

Comparisons to the Old Testament:
As mentioned earlier, to aid as a help in understanding the role of Jesus; Jesus is compared to the role of the high priest of the Old Testament. Keep in mind that this letter was written to the Hebrews, hence its title. The term Hebrews is another name for the Jewish people, and they would have been very familiar with the Old Testament prophets and especially the role of the high priest. Therefore familiar positions and heroes to the Hebrew people of the ancient church were used as comparisons in the letter to aid in its understanding. Furthermore, Jesus was not only compared to well known heroes of the Old Testament such as Moses, but he was considered to worthy of more honor and glory. Old Testament passages and stories were used to emphasis the points that this writer wanted to make. Just as the Israelites were hardened in their hearts and full of disbelief despite God’s miracles, we are as well hardened in heart. During the time of Exodus, when Moses and the Jews were in the desert, the continued to complain despite the miracles they witnessed. We are warned as well, not to toughen up our hearts. And just as the Jews who wandered in the desert in disbelief and rebellion for 40 years never saw the promised land, nor will we if we if we disobey God and reject the gospel message of salvation. This should serve as a warning for us.

Chapters 4 and 5: Importance of Accepting the Message and Our Advocate, Jesus

Basically we should maintain our faith in the hope of God’s promise, yet not disregard God’s warning about rejecting the message of salvation. What good will it be for us to hear the message yet not accept it and follow it? Then we are no better off than those Israelites in the time of Exodus that wandered for years and yet never reached the promised land.

“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide the soul… it is the judge of ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him.” Hebrews 4:12,13 We must remember this, Jesus is our advocate, our very own high priest, yet without sin, who can sympathize with us perfectly. In obedience he suffered for our sake. Therefore through Jesus we may be bold and confident when we approach the throne of God- we will receive mercy and grace. In gentleness and mercy, he deals with us. Jesus is the source of eternal salvation,

Chapter 6: Keep the Pace With Your Faith & Education!

It is apparent, after listening to this gospel message, and the teachings of Paul, as well as the other apostles, that many are still ignorant and have even misunderstood the message of the gospel. There really is no excuse for this, but obviously many progress in the faith and in their obedience at a slow rate. It is if they have a lot of maturing to do. They are not yet ready for more intense doctrines, and still must be taught the basics. In other words, they need a remedial course in the basics of the faith and are not yet ready for more advanced teachings. Remember the foundation of your faith must be correct in the first place: the foundation must be based on faith and not worthless works. And keep in mind another important point, as we progress in our faith, try not to backslide. Move forward in your faith! Be diligent! “For it is impossible to renew repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions of the Holy Spirit…. And who have fallen away, because to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt.” Hebrews 6:5,6 What good does it do if you turn your back on the gospel message and of salvation? Don’t be lazy, don’t forget your faith, and most of all don’t turn your back on the hope and the message of salvation- persevere to the end! God’s promise is true and we can depend on it. Once again, Jesus is our hope and guarantee!

Chapters 7 and 8: A Priest & Covenant Like No Other!

Melchizedek was a high priest of the Old Testament. He was not just any, ordinary high priest- he was the most important one. He had a special place of honor. Because of this, comparisons are made with Jesus and the priesthood of Melchizedek. And the covenant that Jesus reflects, exceeds by far the covenant of Melchizedek. To the Hebrews of the first century, this was a powerful comparison. And unlike a human priest who will eventually die, Jesus holds his place forever! And furthermore, Jesus is holy, sinless and perfect.

Earthly priests serve a purpose, but they pale in comparison to the perfection and significance of Jesus. And just as the first covenant, also served its purpose, it was flawed in its ability to provide for our eternal salvation. Therefore, God made a new covenant, known as a superior covenant. In the Old Testament, which was available to the Jews even before the time of Jesus, it was prophesized that God would institute a new covenant to replace the old covenant. Under the new promised covenant, God promised mercy and forgiveness of sins.

Chapter 9: The New Covenant Replaces the Old

The first Covenant was based on rules and regulations. Its home base was an earthly sanctuary and an earthly tabernacle. The sacrifices offered by the priest were imperfect. But with Jesus, that all changed. God set into place a new covenant with Jesus as the high priest, the mediator. This new covenant was not based on rules and regulations or a physical tabernacle. Through Jesus we have a better hope than what the first covenant offered. Through Jesus we can have the hope of eternal life—a promise of eternal inheritance. More specifically, Jesus died for our sins- and after his death, the new covenant came into effect- much like a will that goes in effect only after its owner has died. And, when this new covenant came into effect, all the blessings, promises and hope came into effect as well! No longer are imperfect animal sacrifices used to imperfectly atone for sins; but a perfect sacrifice- Jesus is the atonement. Think about how much greater this perfect sacrifice is, for our sakes, than the imperfect method of sacrifice instituted by the old obsolete covenant of the Old Testament. The man made tabernacle has been replaced with the hope of heaven. Imperfect remission of sin has been replaced by mercy and forgiveness. Jesus’ death once and for all is the atonement for sin- continuous sacrifice is no longer needed. For those who accept the sacrifice, the reward of salvation- eternal life- awaits.

Chapter 10

The Limits of the Old Covenant:
The law, as the first covenant, is imperfect and limited. It was simply a foreshadowing of what was to come. The animal sacrifices of the priest were not sufficient- they were never good enough, and they had to be continuously repeated! They were ineffective in removing sin completely and effectively! It is impossible for the blood of an animal to take away sin. Therefore, the body of Jesus was offered as the perfect sacrifice to take away sins once and for all. And those he has sanctified through his death, are in fact perfected! That means their sins have been removed and completely forgotten by God. Furthermore, after Jesus was sacrificed for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

Our Life Must Reflect Our Assurance:
We must live a life to reflect our faith in the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. We should encourage and love each other and not neglect meting together. We should act as if we have confidence and assurances because God is faithful, and we can depend on the promise of eternal salvation. “For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10: 26 Therefore if we reject the sacrifice of Jesus, then how can we expect to be saved by the very sacrifice of Jesus that we rejected? Obviously we can not expect to be saved by Jesus if we reject Jesus. It is simply like throwing the gift of God’s mercy back into the face of God. It is the same as insulting and profaning the Holy Spirit, God and Jesus. And we already know we can never be saved by the works of the law. Therefore, we may as well be cursed and subjected to God’s judgment as payment for our own sins. And be assured of this, if Jesus’ sacrifice has not covered your sins, then you will be subjected to the punishment of God as a consequence of your sins which have not been otherwise atoned for. The righteous live by faith, but as for those who reject the mercy of God and His atonement of sins, for those who reject faith, they must pay for their own sin and suffer the consequence entailed. Such people will not have eternal life.

Chapter 11: Approved By Faith

What exactly is faith? “Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen”. Hebrews 11:1. And what does having faith do for us? With faith we are “approved” by God, just as the ancient prophets were. Ancient prophets and believers of the Old Testament that displayed faith included: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses as well as others. These people serve as great examples of this. Through faith, these believers were approved as righteous! It was not through works, but faith. Their actions simply were reflections of their faith, but they were approved by God as a result of their faith and not their works. “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” Hebrews 11:6. What this means is this, we must believe in the reality of what we actually hope for even if we do not see it! Even if we do not see God, we must believe in the reality of God’s existence. And not only that we must firmly believe that God will reward us who seek Him out. All of these Old Testament characters mentioned displayed this kind of faith. It was a result of their faith that they were accepted by God. As a result of their faith, they were rewarded by God. If you need to refresh your memory as to the authenticity of these claims just read the Old Testament stories them selves! “All these were approved through their faith” Hebrews 11:30

Chapters 12 and 13: Discipline and Persistence in the Faith

Knowing all this, we should keep our focus on Jesus and do our best to avoid sins. Remember, Jesus died for us, enduring a shameful death in order that we may have eternal life. If Jesus could do this for us, we should at least persist in our endurance and our faith. Think about it in this way: Jesus shed His blood for our sins so that we would not have to. Therefore, if Jesus died for us, our trials and suffering pale in comparison to the ordeal Jesus went through. Foregoing our wants is a small price to pay when we consider the goal ahead of us. And just as an earthly father disciplines his children that he loves, our Heavenly Father disciplines us as well. This should not discourage us, but rather encourage us in knowing that we are God’s children. This discipline is for our good- we need to remember that.

Keep your eye on what is important and don’t be consumed by petty or sinful desires. For example, remember the story of Esau, consumed with greed, he exchanged his birthright for a meal! How ridiculous this sounds to us, but anytime we pursue a selfish fleshly or material desire in rebellion of God’s will, then we essentially are doing something just as stupid as Esau! When we act immorally or sin then essentially we are throwing away the glories of God for a temporary, passing pleasure. How stupid and blinded we must actually be to throw away our reward for a fleshly desire! Do you want to be just like Esau neglecting salvation for a petty pleasure? Remember that we seek something greater and more permanent than what this material world has to offer. Remember the punishments of those who ignored the prophets who delivered God’s messages in the times of the Old Testaments? If those people that rejected the prophets were punished, then imagine how we will be punished, all the more for rejecting the message and salvation of God Himself!

In closing, remember what is right and live in a way consistent with your faith. Show love and hospitality. Pray and obey those in authority and leadership. Avoid immorality and the love of money. Make your priorities straight. Be satisfied with what you have. Do not deviate from the gospel message and watch out for false teachings! Jesus always remains the same and does not change. The message of salvation that you have heard and accepted will not change! Remember that God is always with you and you have nothing to fear.

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