21 May 2013

What's in a few names?

by Dan Phillips

Last Sunday's sermon featured the exposition of Titus 3:12-15. Here's my translation, sans footnotes:
When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me in Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Diligently help send Zenas the legal expert and Apollos on their way, in order that nothing may be lacking for them. 14 And also our own people must learn to take the lead in good works, for the pressing needs, in order that they might not be unfruitful. 15 All those who are with me greet you. Greet those who are fond of us in the faith. Grace be with all of you.
Understandably, many would look at that as slim pickings for a whole sermon; but I managed. How well is for God and others to judge.

But one of the things that struck me was implicit in the section. The fellows Paul mentions in verse 12 were named Artemas and Tychicus. Not only are those Greek names, they're really pagan Greek names. They don't mean Lemon and Bumblebee, or nothing; "Artemas" is the masculine form of Artemis, as in Artemis [Diana] of the Ephesians. And "Tychicus" means "Lucky," as in a universe ruled by chance.

Yet one of these two — Diana-Man or Lucky — was going to be Titus' replacement heading up the Cretan mission. Paul, nearing the end of his life, was sending one or the other of these two pagan-named Gentiles to take over for Titus the Gentile in this mission. The future of Christ's church would be in their hands, under God.

And who brought the letter to Titus? Two more pagan-named guys. "Zenas" (short for "gift of Zeus") and Apollos, a Jew who somehow was saddled with yet another pagan name. One an expert in Roman law, the other an expert in God's law. Paul trusted this letter to them, and urged Titus to be sure they had all they needed.

In the sermon, I make a good bit of this. While Jesus instantaneously did everything necessary to effect reconciliation between formerly warring ethnicities (Eph. 2:11-22), the process of working this out took a whole lot longer. In fact, it isn't done yet.

But what Paul did was talk a lot about it, go to jail for it, and model it. He did the latter by surrounding himself with men like these — not just saying "Yeah, boy, the Body of Christ really should model reconciliation," but doing it. Investing himself in such folks, training them, giving them positions of visibility and responsibility, expressing full confidence in them, and letting them loose.

If you like, give the sermon a listen. I develop that at great length, take a sally at Biblical decision-making vs. Blackabism, and a whole lot more.

Titus is a very underappreciated and underpreached book. I've really enjoyed it.

Dan Phillips's signature


Paul Reed said...

That's certainly true about Titus being under-preached. Especially the part about women being "busy at home" and "subject to their husbands". And then there's the part about "Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them". Now there's a verse you won't ever see on a church sign.

Tom Chantry said...

Excellent, Dan.

It's similar to Acts 6. Problem: two cultural groups in the church - one full of rather Greek-ish Jews and the other very culturally orthodox. The Greek-ish group's widows think they're being neglected. Solution: seven men - each and every one of them with a Greek name, and one of them a Gentile convert. If the apostleship tilted orthodox, the diaconate must tilt Helenistic.

That's putting reconciliation into action.

DJP said...

Thanks, Tom. I do actually bring that into the sermon at some length. At the same time, I work at showing what a painful, hard-work process it was — accomplished by Jesus on one day, but worked out in practice over the course of decades. Instructive!

trogdor said...

This is a great follow-up to last week's Arabia question. These men, born in pagan families and even named for pagan deities, who apart from Apollos may not have even been cognizant of the Jewish faith (let alone Christ), when the truth was proclaimed and revealed to them, repented and believed and became godly leaders in the church. Why could the same not happen with someone today born in a different pagan culture and named after a different false prophet?

Faith is not inherited. If, as the Araby objector claims, those in Western nations are more likely to become Christians, it's not because cultural influence prepares us for it - if anyone ever has been in a cultural position to believe the gospel, it was first-century Jews, and that hardly worked out as the objector would expect. No, the only advantage is that we're more likely to be confronted with the gospel, which is the only way to break through our true universal cultural conditioning.

We who believe the gospel are united in Christ in a way that surpasses our biological families - I'm more closely related to people of different skin tones at my church (and countless around the world I've not yet met) than I am to either of my unbelieving earthly brothers. In our attempts to break old racial barriers, we must not disregard the gospel (see MacDonald/Jakes). But where the gospel is truly preached and believed, no earthly categories (ethnic, racial, socioeconomic) should continue to divide and stratify.

Frank Turk said...

I might be tempted to go by "Diana-Man" if I can have a magic lasso and an invisible airplane.

Lynn Arthur said...


DJP said...

Sorry Lynn; sermon explains and oldtimers here know, but I shouldn't have assumed.

I've added a link to that word, you can click and be enlightened.


Kerry James Allen said...

She also possesses an arsenal of weapons, including the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara which serves as a projectile, and, in some stories, an invisible airplane.

Well, Frank does frequently wield the "Lasso of Truth." And talk about Franking a meta.

Aaron P said...

Thanks for the blog post (and sermon link!). This topic is one that is very close to my and my wife's hearts so it's encouraging to hear it hit on directly. It's a topic that typically seems to be either completely overlooked or else turned into a sort of legalistic "here's what you need to do to be 'diverse'" Willow Creek-esque system. It's refreshing to hear the concept of reconciliation (whether ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, etc) pulled straight of out scripture and applied to us today.

I also appreciate that you presented it as a relatively simple concept, but also acknowledged the challenges associated with and time required to live it out.

DJP said...

Thanks, Aaron. Very kind of you.

Morris Brooks said...

I finished up our Titus series a couple of months ago. Very rich time for our church, and I agree that it is an underpreached and underappreciated book.

Damilare Lana said...

Hi Dan,

Thought provoking insight ... just what I needed at the moment.

Michael Coughlin said...

Now we can worship the One True God on "Sun"day!

Thank you, DJP!

A Simple Elder said...


A Simple Elder said...
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A Simple Elder said...
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A Simple Elder said...

Pastor Dan,

Thanks for investing your life in the word of God and serving God's dear children.

Titus has been placed in the difficult position of appointing elders not in each church but in each city. How easy is that? Not so much since it turns out the churches on Crete began shortly after Pentecost (Acts 2:11) and are now upwards of 30 years old. The leadership is pretty awful (Titus 1:10-16).

The churches were led by rebellious men for the most part ("many," Titus 1:10). Such men would not submit to the oversight ministry Paul gave Titus over all the Christians on the entire island - and Paul is so confident of this that he says for the most part they "are useless for any good work (Titus 1:16). How could they – they weren’t elder-qualified (Titus 1:6-9).

In light of the horrible spiritual conditions of the churches, appointing qualified elders in every city was nothing less than apostolic reformation (think the Protestant Reformation, only apostolic). Nobody and no church got left unreformed. An amazing plan.

And in 3:12-15 we get the amazing plan of Paul for reformation unfolded in one last step. Titus the reformer will soon be replaced by two other men who will continue his work of appointing elders in every city (polis). Why? And Paul is sending a lawyer!! Why? And the great Apollos? Why??

One reason no doubt is the sheer size of the reformation needed. Judging by ancient records and modern scholarship there were about 100 cities/towns on the island of Crete. Apparently the island was teeming with churches by the time first visited in Acts 27:5ff. When Titus was finished, or the men following on his work were finished, each of those towns would have one church in it with one set of qualified elders.

Notice then how intense Paul is about this work of reformation! He commands Titus to do this work even though he had already spoken to this already faithful man personally about it (Titus 1:5). And then he uses the very strongest of all NT words for "command" to urge upon Titus this work - diatasso (1:5). It's the word for "decree" (Acts 18:2). He means business all the way.

So when we come to 3:12-15 we are met with a surprise. What? Titus is to be replaced by two men? Can these men also appoint elders like Titus – unilaterally and on behalf of Christ? What makes them qualified to do so? Are there any hints in the text? Obviously neither of these men is from Crete since Titus has to arrange for their provision once they get there. Who would provide for them once Titus sails for Nicopolis? And why would anyone of leadership in the churches help these men after Titus has just angered most of the church leadership on Crete by obeying Paul's command in 1:5-9?

No "slim pickings" in the text here, my friend. You have only just begun to scratch what is in this amazing text of God and i's historic setting. Dig deeper! Don't be satisfied with superficialities like names and their origins. If that's what God wanted you to take away from this text He would have told you that in the text!

Think ecclesiologically. Think pastorally about what it means not to appoint elders "in every church" but "in every city." Think deeply!

And then, once you understand, apply it to the flock you are privileged to lead into the Word of God every Lord's Day.

And may God, the God of Titus and Artemas and Tychicus, and Zenas and Apollo, mightily help you as you do.