Titus and Philemon
(Two Distinct Letters)
December 15th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below for each of the two books that we are studying today, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Summary of Chapters

The books in today's study represent two brief distinct letters of advice from Paul to specific people that he knew. The first was a letter to advise Titus on supervising the churches on Crete. It was probably written around A.D. 64 by Paul during a period when he was inbetween two periods of imprisonment. The letter to Titus is similar in content to the first letter to Timothy.

Chapter 1 of Titus focuses on leadership in the church. Paul describes the expected character of a leader of a church and the expected response to those working against the good of the church. Chapter 2 focuses on right living in the church and explains what Titus should be teaching his congregation, such as the following:

    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

    Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)

Paul concludes the third and final chapter of Titus by describing how the congregation should behave in society. They should live peacefully and serve as a good examples to everyone in their community.

While the letter to Titus addressed problems at the church, the letter to Philemon was a very brief letter regarding a specific personal issue. Paul sought to convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave and welcome him back as a brother in Christ. This letter was assumed to have been written a few years before the letter to Titus, which had been written when Paul was first imprisoned in Rome. The first and only chapter begins with Paul describing his appreciation for Philemon, for example

    Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, “Oh, thank you, God!” I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers.

    Philemon 1:4-7 (MSG)

Later in the chapter, Paul makes an appeal for the slave, Onesimus:

    So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.

    Philemon 1:17-18 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

Paul is bold, but respectful in his approach to Titus and Philemon. He offers sincere praise before offering advice and criticism. This is a useful model for us in many situations. Some management experts might claim they invented this type of approach for addressing problems in the organization, but the roots of it go back to the days of Paul – or perhaps even further. It’s important to emphasize that Paul’s praise was sincere and not just an opening line to set the stage for other type of comments.

As for the advice he delivers, it’s as valuable and applicable to us today as it was for Titus and Philemon. Those who are leaders of any organization need to take special care to ensure that they are upright, honest, and fair. Those who are leaders in the church have to guide the congregation to delay their gratification and put their hopes in eternal joy. It’s a tough road to follow, but the rewards are worth it.

It is also hard to welcome back someone who has abandoned us. Paul advises Philemon to not only welcome back Onesimus but to accept him as an equal. God always stands ready to welcome us back, so why shouldn’t we extend the same welcome to others?

How do we stay focused on God and the good things he offers? The Rev. Sam Schreiner offered three practical points of advice in a sermon during November 2011. Schreiner’s intent was to elaborate on a text from Philippians in order to provide parental advice, but the points can apply to any of us. He said to focus on nature, good music, and stories of good defeating evil (1). These activities will help us to appreciate God and help us to push out evil tendencies.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Where is your favorite nature spot?
    2. To whom can you offer sincere praise today?
    3. Who can we welcome back today?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you are the Creator of all the universe and allow evil to exist for a while. Help us to trust in you.

    Prayer Concern
    People of Newtown, Connecticut


    (1) Schreiner, The Rev. Sam, “God’s Moral GPS: Fuel for the Journey,” Philippians 4:8-9, Noroton Presbyterian Church, November 20th, 2011

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading:
    Overview of Hebrews and Study of Hebrews1-4 (Gods Revelation Through Jesus)

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