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The cloak and the crown


Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!"

John 19:1-5

It is hard not to read this text in a purely sombre way. It is a painful thought to imagine our precious LORD Jesus being treated in such a barbaric, humiliating, shameful manner. Being subject to such brutality and injustice. I'm sure many who have seen Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ” maybe like me left the cinema almost in pain at the heart wrenching scenes of torture and abuse. The Passion week, as it is called is a terrible, terrible tragedy at the worldly level. That such a pure, kind hearted, innocent man could be treated in such an inhuman, barbarous way by unrepentant savages is utterly sickening.

Yet if this is all we see when we read these verses, if this is all we think about the death of Jesus we have missed the main point John the gospel writer is screaming out to us. If we think of this as merely a low point in human history, it is one to be left in the past, forgotten for the sake of moral advancement. Not an event to be celebrated, not to be meditated over, not worthy of praising God for. John does not want us to be fixated with the tragic physical and mental abuse that was dealt to Jesus like Mel Gibson demonstrates in his film. He has a lot more to tell us in these three verses we have read and we would be fools to let any gut reaction of abhorrence deafen us to what he is saying.

If we are to realise what John is saying in these verses we must first come to grips with two of the main literary devices the disciple employs in writing this Gospel. The first is multiple allusion and the second is irony. He uses these two literary techniques to layer the text with meaning like a angel cake and reveal to us much of this meaning behind the text. Let me explain these to you with the help of some examples. Firstly, multiple allusion is used often in John to set up a understanding/misunderstanding scenario. Chapter four of John gives us a classic example of this, where Jesus meets the woman at the well and tells her

"If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." (Joh 4:10)

Here John uses a multiple allusion (the water in the passage being both the water in the well and spiritual water from God) to set up a understanding/misunderstanding scenario where Jesus understands obviously, the reader is meant to understand and the woman needs to be enlightened. In these particular verses John uses this to teach the reader a little more about Jesus and enlighten him/her to the spiritual revelation of the text (that Jesus gives life). So we see that John uses multiple allusions to give layers of meaning to the text.

Secondly, John uses irony like a vein running through his Gospel. For those whose English is not their first language or those who just want a reminder, irony (in broad terms) means an outcome of events contrary to what might have been, expected. John is a master of irony, in fact it can be said that the author smiles, winks and raises his eyebrows as the story is told. The ultimate irony in the Gospel of John is that Jesus the Messiah is rejected by the world and more incredibly by the Jews, his own people who he came to save. It makes sense that a Jew would find this ironic, the Messiah is not supposed to be rejected by the Jews, he is supposed to come and rule the Jews and save them from the gentile nations and set up the kingdom of God on earth, ruling on the throne of Israel. So it is incredibly ironic that Jesus is rejected, and crucified by his own people. If the gospel of John is to be applicable to a Jewish audience in the slightest, John needs to address this issue. And he does so repeatedly throughout the gospel explaining that Jesus had to come be rejected by his people and die for the sins of the world.

So now we have these two literary devices John uses, let us re-assess these verses looking to see how he uses them here and to what effect. Firstly, considering the words Pilate spoke about Jesus in 18:38 “I find no guilt in him.” Is it not ironic that Pilate has him flogged anyway? Having admitted to the crowd Jesus innocence. John is clearly trying to show us the injustice of the punishment inflicted on Jesus and the unjustness of the rulers who inflict it. As a side note on the flogging at this point, the word used for the flogging here describes a lighter flogging than the scourging described in the other gospels. This is the kind of flogging used to deter criminals or used on Roman citizens, the kind Paul would of received often. But John wants to make it clear to us, Jesus is innocent and even this lesser flogging is unjust. John clearly demonstrates to us the injustice of man and the innocence of Jesus. This is the beginning of the point he is trying to make.

Moving on, John then mentions two items they put on Jesus body. The crown of thorns on his head and the purple robe. Remembering John's use of allusions It would not be unusual if there was more to these items than first meets the eye. In the crown of thorns we can rightly see an allusion to the fall as many commentators have suggested. It is right to consider the crown of thorns as a representation of the curse God placed on nature at the fall.
And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.
(Gen 3:17-18)
It is a curse of pain. Because the man who was made lord over creation, the steward of the garden must now bear the burden of toilsome labour of a overrun, uncontrollable garden. The very purpose God made him for to be the master over creation, this creation has turned against and ridiculed its master. Unfallen man wore a crown signifying his control and mastery over a beautiful creation and it had been replaced by fallen man's crown of thorns signifying a unruly, vicious, rebellious creation man is constantly toiling to control. This is the curse of pain.

The second item John mentions is the purple robe. And again I think this may be an allusion to the curse of the fall. Remember before the fall it says;
the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Gen 2:25)
Adam and Eve have no shame, they have nothing to be ashamed about. They have no burden of guilt or feeling of awkwardness or wrongdoing. They are shame and guilt free. But after they ate the apple Adam and eve saw their shame (nakedness) and needed to cover it so they made clothes. They see there is something wrong with us, we are not perfect, they are burdened with fear and shame and so they sew themselves loincloths out of fig leaves. But then letter, having been found by God and cursed for their disobedience God makes clothes for them out of animal skin, God covers up their shame. Notice that there is no need for clothing before the fall, it is only upon the arrival of sin and the removal of innocence that the concept of nakedness and shame arrives. Notice secondly as Matthew Henry says

“when God made clothes for our first parents he made them warm and strong, but coarse and very plain: not robes of scarlet, but coats of skin. Their clothes were made, not of silk and satin, but plain skins; not trimmed, nor embroidered, none of the ornaments which the daughters of Zion afterwards invented, and prided themselves in.”

And so we can conclude that the nakedness and need for clothing represents the second mark of the curse, which is shame or guilt. A sense of wrongdoing and fear of God which Adam and Eve experienced after they had eaten the fruit.

Therefore coming back to the passage. If John means the crown of thorns to represent the curse of pain and toil. The robe may represent the clothing man needs to cover the curse of shame and guilt before God.

What is really ironic about the way John presents both these items if they are indeed to be seen a symbolic of the fall is that man shapes the curse of pain like a crown and fashions clothes of luxury and pride. Mocking God, “even the curse you have given us we wear as a crown and we have covered our shame in splendour.” John wants us to see the truly rebellious nature of unrighteous man who mocks the righteous God.

And so in both these items we see the image of fallen man. And what happens? Jesus takes this image and takes it upon himself. He is clothed in the robe and wears the crown of thorns. Jesus becomes the image of fallen man, cursed with pain and covering his glory with shame and human pride. He the fullness of God becomes crowned and clothed in the fullness of fallen man.

And so John sets the scene for his final piece of irony. Here, unrighteous man takes God's seat of judgement over the righteous son of God who has taken man's fallen nature and man mocks God. Jesus in the image of man rightly receives the righteous mockery from the unrighteous. Let me say that again. Jesus in the image of man rightly receives the righteous mockery from the unrighteous. John's greatest piece of irony is that the mockery Jesus receives is right and righteous because Jesus has taken upon himself the full curse of fallen man. But that mockery comes from the very lips of those who should rightly bear that image and therefore receive that mockery.

And so these verses do not simply represent the horrific mistreatment of the innocent by savage man. John is screaming out to us, here is the fullness of God becoming the fullness of man. Jesus takes upon himself every facet of the curse of fallen man right down to the ridiculous as he wears the curse as a crown and the robes of pride to cover fallen shame.

What a saviour we have that even although he is the righteousness of God, He took upon himself the full curse of the fall and the punishment that is ours by right. This is what John is saying to us. The death of Jesus does not merely represent the barbaric nature of humanity who slaughtered the innocent son of God for Jesus did not come into the world to rescue the Jewish nation from the Roman occupation and set up the heavenly kingdom of God on earth the way the Jews though the Messiah would. Jesus came to die for our sins that we may be clothed not with shame and nakedness but rather clothed with righteousness and no longer be subject to the pain and toil of the world, but be given eternal life in heaven. Jesus came to bear the curse and reverse the curse that we might be set free to know Him, love Him, rejoice in Him. In Christ we are free. And soon we will see him face to face. This Easter let us not mourn the death of a innocent but rejoice at the grace of God in the face of Christ Jesus our Saviour.

The Titus Series: The Pursuit of Godliness


Have you ever taken up a task only to find that within a little while you don't know how you are supposed to do it or why you started in the first place?

The last job I did over the summer was some temp work in a hotel in the centre of Glasgow. I was basically working as a room cleaner. I arrived at the hotel for my first shift was given a cleaning trolley a hover and some bin bags. Now many of you may think cleaning rooms is a pretty straight forward job. But when I came to my first room I didn't have a clue where to start. And of course they wanted it cleaned and arranged in a very specific way. The bed covers had to be folded right, the bathroom toiletries had to be arranged in the right way and the curtains had to be tied back, but I hadn't been shown any of this. I was just given the hoover and cleaning materials and told to get on with it. And so my first couple of shifts lasted 4 hours longer than they should of as I had to go back through all the rooms and redo everything after the supervisor had seen my first attempt. And tidying hotel rooms isn't the most rewarding of jobs so before long I was wondering why I was doing it at-all. The first couple of days was utterly depressing as I didn't know what to do and doubted if the job was worth the effort.

If Paul were to be considered Titus employer, he has given Titus the task of pursuing godliness and promoting the pursuit of godliness in the Cretan church. Now Paul is not going to leave Titus in that task without direction or motivation like my hotel employer. He doesn't want to leave Titus out on the mission field worrying about how he is going to go about fulfilling his task, or wondering why he is on the backward island of Crete in the first place. He intends to give Titus every assistance and every reason to achieve his task. In the final chapter of the letter to Titus Paul does this by laying out the reason for the pursuit of godliness and the attraction of that godliness.

Paul begins this argument for godliness in the first verses of chapter three by once again setting the scene, portraying the image of a godly person. A godly person will be;

subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

(Titus 3:1-2)

This is the picture of godliness Paul has been painting for us throughout the letter. This godliness is expressed in two ways, submission and self control.

That word subject to in the NIV can be rightly understood as submissive. Now some people do not like the word submission because it means to lower yourself and give over power and authority to another. To be humbled before another. Paul uses this word here in direct reference to authorities. By that he means the Roman authorities which ruled Crete in his day. Paul expects them to give these authorities the respect and recognition they demand. And the Roman world of the first century isn't some kind of utopian society. Its not ruled by well meaning, caring benevolent rulers. Senators and governors who had no sense of justice, no care for those in need, no desire to produce a prosperous society for all. Paul wants the Church to submit to such rulers and authorities? Those authorities who persecuted the early Christian Church, who martyred the saints and who crucified the Son of God. Has Paul made a mistake? Perhaps, Paul's teeth are gritted as he give this command. However, it is clear to him that this is how it must be. This is the way God has chosen. We can see this in the example of Christ our LORD. Who submitted himself to the authorities, to the Jewish priests even although he rightly is the great high priest and to the Roman authorities even although he alone is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He submitted himself to them and submitted to death on a cross. In the same way Paul calls us to submit ourselves to the powers and authorities of our country. Many in our society are so quick to slander and bad-mouth the authorities. Gordon Brown our prime minister, his name is so often dragged in the gutter. He is scapegoated for all our nations problems. Blamed for every hardship and difficulty. Paul wants his Church to leave such hypocritical nonsense to the heathens and instead to submit itself to rulers and authorities. We must totally place ourselves under the authority of Gordon Brown. We must not be like the world, so quick to rebel and ridicule. Like Christ, we his Church are called to sacrifice ourselves for the lost.

Now please don't think I'm saying we should let authorities and rulers commit terrible injustices and simply sit back with hands tied. That's not what Bonhoeffer did when the Nazi's massacred thousands of Jews and Hitler lead his country into a horrific war. Christians must stand up against such atrocities. We must never let the weak suffer at the hands of the ungodly, we must make every effort to remove injustice in our world. But we must take on the example of the disciples who in the book of Acts when they were taken before the Sanhedrin and told to stop preaching and healing in the name of Jesus said “we must obey God rather than man”. Paul is not asking the Cretan Church to lay aside Christ to obey the authorities, but rather to be Christ-like in their self sacrificial submission to the authorities. Paul calls us to submit ourselves to death, to sacrifice ourselves for the world like Christ sacrificed himself for us.

After this command specifically concerning submission to rulers and authorities, Paul expands this to all people.

be ready to do whatever is good,to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

(Titus 3:1-2)

See godliness is not just a servant heart towards those higher up than us. If it was it might be considered a means of scoring points on the social ladder. Paul expects such goodness, peace consideration and humility to be shown to all people. To that boss that's driving you up the wall, to the neighbour who shows you no consideration, to that relative who is utterly selfish. All people. This commandment to submission is radical in its expectations. It is a utter benevolence towards others at the cost of the self. It is a high bar to aim at.

However, submission is not the only expression of godliness. Throughout Paul's letter he portrays many different characteristics of godliness. As a reminder to you let me mention a few. In chapter 1 Paul says the elders must be blameless, that is their conduct must be unquestionable to the public. Furthermore, Paul tells Titus he must be sound in faith and dependant upon the reliable word as it has been preached. That is Titus is to be dependant on the scriptures for the truth that leads to godliness. In chapter 2 Paul says young men must be self controlled in everything and older women must be admirable and responsible. And we must all renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.

That is the picture Paul has painted for us. It is a remarkable vision, one I am sure that all of us fall short of in one way or another. And I'm sure for many of us this is not a new revelation, we all know that becoming a Christian means we are called to live lives like Christ. We have committed our lives to Him to serve him to live for him, to pick up our crosses and follow Him. But if you have committed your life to Christ and struggled and faltered and down right failed to live up to this calling, I can assure you you are not alone. The utterly remarkable nature of the life of godliness Paul presents to us here in Titus is a measuring stick we all fall short of. Perhaps, one particular day you gave your life to Jesus saying, lead LORD and I will follow, do with me however you want. And then kids came alone, or a pay rise brought fresh temptations or you failed in this quest for godliness once to often and thought, its hopeless! This kind of Christianity is for the super Christians, and I'm not one of them. And so you settled for less. The urgency left, the dream faded and left you in religious mediocrity. If that is you here, your not alone. Paul has written this letter for us. How are we to continue in this pursuit for godliness with often less evidence of success than we hope for? Why should I stand up here and echo Paul to you, calling you back to urgency, back to hope, back to the vision of godliness? Paul gives us two reasons for this in this passage, decided for yourselves whether he is wasting your time or not.

Firstly,

For (this is the reason for the pursuit of godliness) we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

(Tit 3:3-7)

This is the driving force of Paul's whole letter. Here is the reason for his whole life and the reason he calls others to imitate him. Lets break it down a bit so we get the whole force of Paul's thought. Firstly, Paul reminds us what we were without Christ.

we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Paul looks back himself to when he was a Pharisee hunting down Christians, approving of the death of innocent men and women and fuelled by self righteousness and hatred. I don't know if there are many here who can reflect on that kind of past but we all know selfishness that drives us towards pleasure seeking at the neglect of others. We have all said and done hateful things, perhaps some of which we still struggle with the shame of today. Furthermore, we have all had unhealthy passions and pleasure, things the world offer us that are enjoyable but as soon as we reach out to grasp them; enslave us in addiction, dissatisfaction and hopelessness. Whether its drink, nicotine, sexual temptation or sport, academic or business success, money or romantic love. Every pleasure this world has to offer is fleeting, unsatisfying and if pursued by our hearts enslave those hearts leaving filling them with malice and envy, not enlarging them but rather shrinking them. In times when your tempted to turn back from this quest for godliness look back and remember what you were without Christ. Remember the enslavement, remember the foolishness, remember how unsatisfying it all was. But, Paul continues, having remembered the past;

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us

It was while we were in this state of foolishness, enslavement and hatred, that Christ our LORD saved us! And to us who were thoroughly undeserving that he showed goodness and loving kindness. I was in a prison in Aberdeen a couple of weeks back as part of the mission week I was doing with the Cornhill team up there. I met some of the prisoners and we had a short Sunday morning service and afterwards a time of prayer and discussion. I've never been in a prison before so I was a little nervous mostly about how I would react to meeting these men who had possibly murdered someone or committed some other horrific crime. But when I did meet them, when I looked into their eyes, I did not see a criminal, I did not see a monster, I saw myself. Because I was overcome with the realisation that, but for the goodness and loving kindness of my LORD Jesus I was no different to these men who had been locked away from society for their crimes. Do you feel that conviction in your hearts? The LORD Jesus saved you from such a life!

Furthermore, He saved us not because of anything we had done, not because we were more deserving than others. But purely because God is merciful. Notice this is the reason Paul gives for why we should not separate ourselves off from the world but rather submit to the world, because we were once like them and but for the mercy of God we still would be.

But now that the goodness and loving kindness of God has appeared to us in Jesus Christ our saviour we are no longer such people. We are no longer of the world. We have been given a new identity a new purpose and new life. Through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit we have been transformed. And so we are no longer what we were. So why do we so often turn back to live the way we used to? Why do we become like a beaten army fleeing before a battle that has already been won. We have a new purpose, to pursue godliness, why should we turn back to the old purpose to pursue selfishness. You do not put old wine in new wineskin's that is not what they are designed for. Similarly we have been redesigned by God for a new purpose. You can try turning back to your old life, you old passions and pleasures but they will not satisfy because that not what you have been made for. We have a new purpose and to pursue anything else is to waste our lives in the dissatisfying old ways.

Finally, if anyone was still wondering the reason for pursuing a godly life Paul adds the cherry on the pie;

so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

God has been gracious indeed. Not only has He saved us and transformed us but He has given us a future inheritance, a sure hope so that when the real trials of life tempt us to give up we can look to a heavenly future, in which there will be no despair, no pain, no dissatisfaction no stress, worry or heartache. Heaven is a good place to look forward to and I'm sure some of you are looking forward to leaving for your heavenly home sooner than others. Paul encourages us to do so. Paul sums up in verse 8

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

(Titus 3:8)

The reason to pursue godliness, because we have been saved, transformed and given a sure heavenly inheritance, these things are true. And furthermore, it is excellent, beautiful, beneficial, worthwhile, profitable in every way, it will satisfy you, delight you fulfil your purpose and enlarge you heart. Tell me which one of our old pleasures and passions will do that? Which will fulfil the whole purpose of your being and deliver on its promises? None will. God has offered you so much more, seize it with both hands and it will not enslave you but set you free to delight wholly in Him and the pursuit of His ways.

Finally, Paul leaves the Cretins with one last warning and one last encouragement. The warning in verses 9-11 is to avoid all this nonsense that those who do not have the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness get themselves wrapped up in. In the Crete of Paul's day it was;

controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law.

(Titus 3:9)

In our day it might be materialism, new ageism, political correctism anything that misleads us from the truth of the gospel, anything that takes our attention and energy away from the pursuit of godliness, anything that divides us in the faith anything that causes distress and confusion. These only lead to fruitlessness. To a wasted, hopeless lives. Instead we must devote ourselves to good works, to help those in urgent need to live our lives in the pursuit of godliness. Be wary of a waste life.

His final encouragement is found right at the end of the letter in the words Grace be with you all. If any of you were worrying that this letter was only written for the super Christians. Remember the F.R.O.G bracelet you can buy in some Christian book shops. F.R.O.G stands for fully reliant on grace. As always we are fully reliant on the grace of God in this task He has set us. We cannot achieve it on our own and as soon as we start to think we can. “I'm alright, I'm a pretty good model of godly living. I've got this box ticked” that is the point we are at the greatest risk of failure. Instead pursue godliness fully reliant on grace to get you through day to day. Depend on God for that grace and trust that He will provide. Giving up is to say either God is not kind enough or he is not able to provide you with the grace to succeed and that is a lie of the devil! God has poured His grace out on us, he continues to do so and He will do so for eternity. Don't doubt Him, just pursue godliness head on knowing that He will sustain you.

The Titus Series: A Vision of Ecclesia


The passage we read in Titus this evening falls into the third sermon in our series on Titus. Therefore, I will start with a quick recap of the first two sermons dealing with chapter one. Paul's purpose for writing the letter to Titus, his assistant on the Island of Crete, is to instruct Titus and the Cretan Christians in the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness so that they will not be unfruitful. That is, he passionate that they will come to know the full truth about Christ Jesus, their saviour and through this truth become like him. Living a godly life rather than a wasted life. Titus had a battle on his hands in Crete as many false teachers of Jewish extraction were attempting to sway the Churches away from the truth. Paul told Titus to make every effort to muzzle them and encouraged him to stand bravely with sound doctrine teaching. Titus had the task of appointing elders in Crete and Paul gave him a clear portrait of what an elder should look like.

“he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”1:8

These are not qualities exclusively for prospective elders but these qualities are expressions of godliness in a person who knows the truth and so are qualities we should all aim to replicate.

So having instructed Titus for his task to appoint elders and having warned him against the work of the false teachers Paul now intends to lay out what kind of Church Titus should be aiming towards in his work on Crete. Paul intends to explain what a Church fellowship will look like if they are filled with the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. Such a church Paul says will Adorn the gospel and not let it be reviled, it will be submissive and self-controlled. It will live in the present knowing the past and the future and it will have a zeal for good works.

This evening we are going to catch a glimpse of Paul's vision of such a Church. We are going to take a look at the Church through the Apostles eyes and in the processes, I hope, take a look at our own Church, as a whole body, the Church of Scotland and our individual fellowships. Does this Church reflect Paul's vision? And we may ask ourselves, do we really have a place in such a Church?

Paul says in verse 10 that the Church of his vision will

“make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.”2:10

and will give no-one the excuse to

“malign the word of God.” 2:5

That is, the purpose of this Church will be that in every action, in every effort they will be seen to be blameless, that their reputation both individually and as a body will be highly respected so that those who encounter them will consider the beliefs which their actions are built upon to be wonderful.

Such respectability was a highly sought after commodity in the 1st century world. Business interactions were based on trustworthiness and often clientèle would only be seen by referral from other clients who had proven to be trustworthy. Those on the higher rung of the ladder were unreachable by those on the lower rungs unless they were given a hand up. In Crete especially, where all were considered lier's, as Paul tells us in the previous chapter, trustworthiness was a rare and remarkable thing. Minor religious groups were held under special suspicion, as many Romans considered such cults, groups of rabble rouser's with malicious intent. The early Christians were considered such a cult by many who thought that they practised cannibalism, a misunderstanding of the Lord's supper and incest as married Christian men and women seemed to call one another brother and sister. They met quietly in members houses and who knew what went on beyond those doors? In the first century the Christian cult was treated at best with casual suspicion and at worst with persecution, hatred and detest. Therefore, it was very difficult for the Christians to evangelise to those with such attitudes. Their witness was hindered by the public's perception. When I was preparing this sermon I wondered. Has anything changed today? How do the general public view us? In the vast majority of countries Christianity is no longer thought of as a cult which practices cannibalism and incest. People are a little less ignorant of what goes on beyond these Church doors. However, I'm sure that our witness for Christ is still hindered by the general public perception of the Church.

I don't know if many of you are watching the series on channel four called The Bible: A History. Its presented by the former MP Anne Widdecombe, who is a professing catholic. The episode this last week was on the ten commandments and there influence on modern day national law. Anne Widdecombe can be a bit stuffy but I thought she presented the Bibles teaching on morality and ethics pretty well and made a good argument for why we should be continuing to implement them in modern day law. That was my opinion, however I went on the channel four website and found that not everyone held my view. I'm going to read you an except from a review on the show by a lady called Sarah. I think her words reflect how many people perceive the Church and Christian believers.

“I thought this episode of The Bible was extremely poor, badly-handled, and prejudiced. Ann Widdecombe displayed such ignorance towards any different viewpoint except her own, and put forth the same age-old assumption that all believers- and all Christian believers- are perfect, and the only ones who know right from wrong, and that all atheists, people of different religions, and people like me who are spiritual but not religious, are evil, immoral, silly, shallow, and lacking in morals. What right does she have to judge like that? Has she met every person, in the entire world, who is not a Christian? Has she seen concrete evidence that every last person who's not religious is a bad person, who doesn't know right from wrong? And if Ann Widdecombe blames all the ills of today's society on a lack of religion, then who does she blame for the child abuse scandals that have shook the Catholic Church to the core, for the Magdalene laundries, the industrial schools, and all the things that have had such an impact in Ireland today. And have any of the priests or church members, or the Pope himself, apologised for any of this? Of course not- they're still going on about homosexuality, abortion, and unbelievers, as if they were the worst problems in society. How can anyone still stand by this church- or by any denomination- when it has treated people this way?”

-SARAH

Like I said I don't think Sarah is the only one who has such a scathing perception of the Church and Christian believers. There are many in today's society who are actively anti-christian. Stephen Fry the famous actor and comedian is one who scathingly attacks the church for being full of;

“fatuous bishops, pompous, illiberal and ignorant priests, politicians and prelates, sanctimonious censors, self-appointed moralists and busy-bodies”

and he considers the bible to be outdated and prejudiced. Whether, you are willing to accept the wisdom of Stephen Fry or such an appraisal of Christians and the Church it is obvious that such a perception runs all the way through society.

Is that really surprising? Should this shock us? Christ himself told us that many persecutions would come and Paul warned Titus in this very letter about such false teachers who would deny the gospel. It doesn't worry me that the Church has its critics. It doesn't scare me that we are often the brunt of persecution and ridicule. The Gospel is life to those who are saved and utter foolishness to the world. No. What is really disturbing is that so often such critics are given every right to voice such opinions by Christians. The Church seems to be intent on providing fuel for the fire on which it is being torched. Sarah, has every reason to feel angered and aggrieved by the child abuse scandals that have often reared their head within the Church. Stephen Fry has no end of examples of illiberal and ignorant priests and ministers may I add. You don't need to dig deep beneath the skin of the Church today to find a rotten core.

In our own body Church of Scotland there are elders and ministers who have openly committed adultery without recognition of wrong-doing or repentance and have not been removed from their posts. There are ministers who open the word of God and proclaim justification of sin rather than salvation for the sinner. The current situation in the Church of Scotland is summed up in those words. Don't let anyone tell you it is purely about a man's sexual feelings for another man. It is about how we define sin and salvation. Do we define it by what we think is right and wrong, do we take a stab in the dark, can we dethrone God and make man's heart king? Or do we trust the word of God alone, do we rely on the master of the universe to instruct us, do we need a Saviour? I will say this bravely cause I am only a student minister and can be brushed easily aside, our Church is rotten to the core.

And so, with such a justifiable public perception of the Church, how can our witness for Christ be effective!? The answer is it cannot be. This is not Paul's vision of a Church that adorns the gospel. Instead we dress it in rags and throw it to the dogs. It is a mournful sorrow that the glorious gospel of Christ or saviour is treated in such a way by those who claim to belief in it.

This the state of our witness as part of the wider body of the Church of Scotland, however, I am glad to say it is not reflected by us here as part of the Churches we represent although I cannot speak for you individually. If you feel a conviction that your life has not adorned the gospel or simply need a reminder of how to do so, Paul is ready to tell you.

His message comes in two key words. Submit and self-control. Paul uses the word self-controlled four times in this passage v2,5,6,12 and the word submissive (translated in the NIV as subject to, but rightly understood as submitting to.) he uses three times v5,9,3:1. Lets look at each one of the uses of these words and try to look through the eyes of the apostle Paul to see the type of people he envisions will make up the Church.

Firstly, lets look at the word self controlled. We see its first use in verse 2

“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.”

We learn here that Paul wants older men in the Church who are worthy of respect. And for what reason are they worthy of such respect? Because they evidence self control in their lives. They demonstrate it in their conviction of true faith, their love towards God and man and their endurance in the hardships of life that would tempt them to doubt and despair. They are remarkable and steadfast role models. In the same way he wants older women who are of such blameless virtue that the younger women look up to them and come under their wing to learn how to practice such self-control. Paul wants the Church to look like a family, in which the younger members look up to and revere the older members. Valuing their experience that has come to express itself in godliness. Like earlier in the letter when Paul lays out the requirements for an elder, he places the bar almost unreasonably high. In verse 6 we read

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled”

Again I don't think this is best translated by the NIV. And if you think I am talking from ignorance your right, cause I don't have much training in biblical Greek. But the renowned commentator William Hendricksen agrees with me so it might be worth considering. He says that this verse should read;

“Similarly, urge the younger men to exercise self-control in every respect.”

As he considers what the NIV has as the beginning of v7 should be the end of v6. We can see the NIV have translated v9 in a similar way and I think this demonstrates Paul's intent more clearly. Paul does not allow for any area of life to be outside this command. He does not allow for our compromises. As this is a commandment specifically to men, I think we males should take a moment to realise just how stark it is. Every area of your life needs to be controlled by faith, love and endurance. I know that when daily I commit my life to Christ almost without exception it is not wholeheartedly, there is always something I will hold onto inspired by boyish immaturity or manly pride. There is a well known quote from a Catholic knight in the middle ages who had a desire to be baptised “all but my sword arm”. Christ can have every bit of me... apart from that bit that I'm keeping for myself. I'm sorry guys, that won't do. Paul's God given vision for the Church will not allow such half hearted sacrifice. Every aspect of our lives must be brought under his will. This is Paul's mantra for young men and let it be ours;

“Nothing in my hand I bring,

simply to the cross I cling;

naked, come to thee for dress;

helpless, look to thee for grace;

foul, I to the fountain fly;

wash me, Saviour, or I die.”

Attitude of self control is to be expressed in our relationship to God, our love for one another and our inner endurance in testing times.

In comparison Paul uses the word submit in reference to three relationships, that of a relationship of a wife to her husband, a slave to his master and the whole Church towards the state rulers and authorities. The first use of this word in verse 5 has caused much upset in the Christian Church in-fact only yesterday I found this article in a newspaper.

REV TELLS HIS FLOCK: WOMEN SHOULD SHUT IT!

A VICAR has been blasted by women parishioners for saying they should keep quiet and “submit to their husbands in everything”.

The Rev Angus MacLeay said they should “be silent” if questions could be answered by their husbands. In a leaflet for parishioners, he wrote: “Wives are to submit to their husbands in everything in recognition of the fact that husbands are head of the family as Christ is head of the church

Now we should consider that this newspaper has probably misrepresented this minister's words or almost certainly what he meant by them. Nevertheless it is certain that many women struggle to apply the word submission within marriage. I'm not going to try to justify Paul's use of the word here in his letter to Titus, rather I want to help us catch a glimpse of the vision Paul has for Church families.

Firstly, I think it is only responsible to recognise that the word submit is only used in the circumstance of self-control. That is Paul is calling married women to submit themselves to husbands who recognise their need for self-control. Such a husband who is loving, faithful and enduring should be responded to with submission from his wife. Paul is not saying a wife should submit to a drunken, violent, ungrateful pig. But rather that she should encourage her husband to become a model of self-control by submitting to him.

I hope that helps some of you to approach these words in a new light and perhaps Paul's vision of family life will be more attractive to you. If that is not the case however, I think it's important that we again realise Paul's purpose for such submission. In verse 5 it says;

[Wives are]“to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Like the command to be self-controlled, Paul wants wives to be submissive so that the word of God will be adorned. The family relationship between Christian husband and wife will be so attractive to the outside world that they will want to know the beliefs that inspired such love, faith and endurance. Therefore, if you struggle with the idea of submission within marriage. Please do feel free to wrestle with the scriptures and with God, asking with a humble heart how Christian marriage can best adorn his word. But do not bring his word into slander. Do not let it be reviled because of your personal uncomfort. Don't be like the women at this church in England who went to the papers fuming,

“I will not be going back and will have to seriously consider my faith if this is the nonsense they are spouting.”Another fumed: “We’re supposed to let our husbands talk for us and remain silent? What kind of medieval sermon is that?”

The word of God is too precious to be clothed in rags and thrown to the dogs.

The final two uses of the word submission can be grouped together. As we do not have any slavery in our society the first is not directly applicable, but the second;

“the people to be subject to rulers and authorities”

This can be directly applied to our society. Many in our society are so quick to slander and bad-mouth the authorities. Gordon Brown our God-appointed prime minister is so often, his name is so often dragged in the gutter. He is scape-goated for all our nations problems. Blamed for every hardship and difficulty. Paul wants his Church to leave such hypocritical nonsense to the heathens and instead to submit itself to rulers and authorities. And Paul is not talking about Christian authorities. He isn't talking about righteous, gracious and affectionate leaders. He is talking about the Roman government. Senators and governors who had no sense of justice, no care for those in need, no desire to produce a prosperous society for all. Paul wants the Church to submit to such rulers and authorities? Those authorities who persecuted the early Christian Church, who martyred the saints and who crucified the Son of God. Has Paul made a mistake? Perhaps, Paul's teeth are gritted as he give this command. However, it is clear to him that this is how it must be. This is the way God has chosen. We can see this in the example of Christ our LORD. Who v14

“who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness”.

Christ himself, demonstrated the ultimate in self control and submission by giving himself up to death, even death on a cross. He controlled himself by choosing to be our sacrificial lamb and he submitted himself to God and to the earthly authorities to do so. The Church is called to make such a sacrifice for the lost. Now please don't think I'm saying we should let authorities and rulers commit terrible injustices and simply sit back with hands tied. That's not what Bonhoeffer did when the Nazi's massacred thousands of Jews and Hitler lead his country into a horrific war. Christians must stand up against such atrocities. We must never let the weak suffer at the hands of the ungodly, we must make every effort to remove injustice in our world. However, the way Paul calls the Church to do this is by submitting itself to death, to sacrifice for the world itself like Christ sacrificed himself for us.

Finally, on this point I conclude. Paul's vision of the Church seems to be interrupted in verses 11-14. It's almost as if his is momentarily aroused from a dream by a question. What is the reason for such a Church to exist. What is its motivation to be submissive and self-controlled. What is the driving force behind this vision? Here is his answer in verses 11-14, which are really amazing verses of scripture, lets read them again.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 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 glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, 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.”.

Why is the Church to become like Paul envisions? Because it exists in the present knowing the past and the future. We as Christians know where we have come form. We have been saved by the grace of God v11 that has appeared to us through Christ Jesus. And we know where we are going to v13. We are awaiting a blessed hope of glory. A heavenly kingdom, in which we will be given an everlasting inheritance, an abundance of peace and joy and where there will be no-more pain, sorrow or anguish. And greatest of all we will meet our God and Saviour, Christ Jesus face to face. We know where we have come from, we know where we are going to therefore, v14, we should be eager to do what is good so that the gospel of God which has brought us salvation and everlasting life will be adorned and our world might give glory to God for such grace. Let the Church of Paul's vision be our Churches of today, by the power of God in our lives.

The Titus Series: The Colour of the Truth


Let me start today by asking you a rather odd question, what colour is the truth? Is it blue, green, purple, mauve, silver, gold, tangerine, is it monotone, is it multicoloured? What does it look like? Is it spotty, stripped, square, 2D, 3D, smooth, pointy? What does the truth look like? This is the question we are facing in our reading today in Titus. And Paul has the answer.

In the previous sermon two weeks ago we looked at the introduction to the letter of Titus, where Paul declared his intention for writing. v1

for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

Its Paul's desire for the Cretan Church to discover the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. In the rest of the introduction Paul went on to say why he was someone who was worth listening to, why he could be trusted to show them this truth. If you remember his reasoning for this was firstly because he himself was not the source of the truth but rather a messenger sent by God. Secondly, God is truthful, he never lies. And thirdly, that the message which Paul bore was not simply empty unproven words but rather words of power that had been proven by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and words of good news because they meant salvation for mankind.


What does the truth look like?

So having laid the foundations Paul now wants to reveal to Titus and the Cretins what this truth looks like.

Now of course in the context of this letter to Titus, Paul is instructing him in the characteristics to look for when choosing Church leaders. Its clear that Paul had been in Crete with Titus previously and managed to set up a number of basic Christian groups. Although Paul had only intended to pass through the Island probably on the way back to Jerusalem and had not been able to nurture these groups forming them into organised Churches. And so he left Titus behind on Crete with the mission to:

“straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town”

However, this I think is really the secondary purpose of the letter. Paul real purpose is as he says in v1 for the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. So, this instruction Paul gives Titus concerning the appointment of leaders must be seen in the light of this primary purpose of the letter. Therefore, as we investigate these characteristics Paul describes we should see them as an example of how to express the knowledge of the truth in our lives. The men Titus is to choose as Church leaders should have their lives coloured by the truth.


The truth is...

So what is Pauls requirements for a elder, a leader in the Church? A man who life demonstrates a knowledge of the truth. V6An elder must be blameless”. Those are pretty high standards! Any elders wanting to step down now? Anyone here feel they can take their place...no...well Murdo it looks like you might have quieter session meetings from now on! This first requirement does seem at first to set the bar unreasonably high. Although, if we look at the Greek word Paul uses here it does not mean perfect. Paul uses the Greek word meaning perfect only in the context of our eternal life where we will be made perfect in heaven. The word Paul uses here translated in the NIV as “blameless” carries the meaning, without blame, or without accusation. So what Paul means here is that a man who is to become an elder should be unaccused by the Church community and the wider Cretan population. He should be a man of high reputation, one who is trusted by all and respected. This is to be expressed in three areas of his life. In his family life, in his character and conduct and in his doctrine, that is his understanding of the truth. Let us explore each one of these areas in turn, firstly his family life. Paul says an elder must be;

the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”

The reason Paul places an elders family life first in his list of requirements is because as He says in 1 Timothy;

“If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?”

What is initially challenging about this verse is Paul assumes that all Christian fathers should make every effort to bring their children up to be believers. Now in an age of political correctness this doctrine might seem rather barbaric. Do you mean to say Paul that we are to influence our children's choices in such a way as they imitate our beliefs? Oh, but we can't possibly do that, no children must make their own choices, they must decide what is right and wrong, they must find their own beliefs. This is the voice of political correctness in our society that urges parents never to influence their children's decisions. As I told you last sermon the authorities hold this view as one counsel in England demonstrated in its sexual education policy, which encouraged children as young as 14 to explore for themselves what was right and wrong for them. And perhaps we are seeing the results of such a politically correct society in the case of the two brothers aged 10 and 12 who are being charged this week, for torturing two other boy's aged 9 and 11 in Doncaster. Many question whether the parents should also be charged for their children's crimes, after all, these brothers choose themselves what they thought was right. Such political correct snobbery is evidently corroding our society. Paul envisions a very different policy of family governing. One where the father knowing the truth that leads to godliness educates his children and makes every effort to bring them up so that they might know the truth. This is a father's duty. It is his primary task, so much so that he must abandon all other tasks if he is failing in this one.


When is a child not a child?

Now I realise for many elders this can be a very troubling verse and I don't want to add to anyone's troubles. Many families today are divided by faith. There is no guarantee that if parents are both Christians and make every effort to bring up their children to be believers that they will have any success. A family divided by faith can be very troubling and children who actively rebel against their parents every efforts can bring real heartache. Therefore, I think there are two things to bear in mind when we consider the implications of this verse. Firstly, there is a point at which Children become more independent and should be expected and encouraged to make their own decisions. In Jewish culture this point came at 14 and it is probably under 14's that Paul would classify as children. In our society some might say this point comes at 16 or 18 or perhaps 21...but many parents would hope they had flown from the nest by that point! Therefore, after this age when children become more independent all responsibility for the way they choose to live their lives cannot be placed on the parents alone.

A second consideration is that Paul may not be simply damning such fathers by questioning their ability to lead but rather he is recognising the priorities of life. That a father's priority is to his family then the church. God has given us families, children, wives and husband, brothers sisters and parents to enjoy and be responsible for, not to neglect. And therefore, other priorities should be set aside when the family is in need.


Its so wonderful this morning in Kenmuir to see this priority in action through baptism. Such action shows thatFraser will be blessed by responsible active parents who have taken it upon themselves to make every effort to bring him up in such a way as he might come to know God for himself. And it is important to be reminded that it is also the Church congregation's responsibility to support the family in these efforts.



So having checked off the family life, Paul moves on to a man's character and conduct. He lists here 5 negative terms,

“not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain”

And 6 positive terms;

“hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined”

Lets just think about the positives for just now we will come to the negatives later. The meaning of hospitable here is to be loving towards strangers, to provide lodging for those in need. Likewise Paul means by lover of good, to be ready to do what is beneficial for others. Upright means to do ones duty towards man and holy means to do ones duty towards God. We are beginning to build up a picture here. And perhaps it is not one you would initially expect. Paul doesn't expect a Church leader to be a skilled politician, nor does he expect him to have excellent public speaking skills, nor does he expect him to be a proven administrator. Paul expects an elder to be...a servant. He expects an elder to be the kind of man who is ready and willing to serve others and serve God. He doesn't want a go getter, he doesn't want a motivational mastermind, he wants a humble kindhearted servant. This reminds us of the way Paul introduces himself at the very beginning of the letter. Paul, a servant of God. And why Paul had cast aside any self worth because he counted all things as worthless compared to knowing Christ. As such he expected other Church leaders to be of the same heart. To count anything of themselves as dispensable and giving up everything they had to serve Christ. This is a point at which we should examine ourselves. Do we make every effort to be hospitable, to love strangers and live for the benefit of others? Do we see this as our duty towards man and God? Do we serve Christ, not with a spirit of pious self worth but rather delighted to dispense with everything we have and everything we are to receive an increasing knowledge of Him and reveal Him to others? This is what truth looks like. If you want to know it better you must have a servant heart.


How can we see the truth when we can't see?

Thirdly Paul says an elder must;

“hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

Colour blindness is an odd affliction. I've always wondered how people see the world if they don't see all its amazing colors. Or how can you explain to someone what red looks like if they have never seen it. Saying...well its just kind of...red, you know like a rose...kind of falls flat on its face doesn't it? Really the only way someone can know what red looks like is to see it. Until they do they only know what red doesn't look like. It strikes me that we are all like this when it comes to truth. As far as truth is concerned we are colour blind. We have no ability to see it ourselves. Paul recognizes this in his requirements for an elder. He does not expect an elder to have worked out the truth for themselves by meditating in some cave on an island exclusively populated by turtles. He realizes we have no means to know the truth. And so we must be given it. It must be revealed to us. This is precisely what Paul means when he say an elder must hold firm to the trustworthy message as it has been taught. He means that the message of the truth has been given to us by the proclamation of the gospel. And the proclamation of the gospel concerns the revelation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, an elder must be someone who has a firm grasp, a good understanding of the gospel which is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. This is so important for us to learn. We cannot do anything ourselves to learn the truth other than submit ourselves to learning the scriptures. This is the knowledge of the truth. God has given it to us. God has revealed it, although we were blind, God has made a way for our eyes to be opened. Without this revelation we can have no hope to challenge a world of truthlessness. We cannot teach others and we cannot grow in the knowledge of the truth ourselves. Paul would say to us to give up any attempts at trying to discover what is right and wrong, what is good and bad and rely on the scriptures the trustworthy message as it has been taught.

Now we come to verse 10. Paul has explained the characteristics required by a leader of the Church and now he intends to uncover those who would lead the church astray. What to look out for in misleader's. It seems that as I have already said Crete at the time contained many Jews. Among these Jews were members of the circumcision party. A group of Jewish Christians who demanded that Greek Christians become circumcised if they were to believe in God. They probably regarded their own circumcision as a mark of superiority, entitling them to be heard and looked up to by others. Furthermore, they taught the Greeks Jewish myths and Rabbinic commands. Exotic fictitious tales about the Jewish forefathers Moses and Abraham were very popular in Greek society at the time. Such was their influence among the fledgling Christians that they were deceiving some and upsetting the faith of others. Paul could not of disliked these Jewish deceivers more. And his advice to Titus about how to deal with them is remarkably strong. He says Titus should muzzle them. They should not be tolerated but silenced. Perhaps, we might think Paul is too condemning of these misguided Jews. He is too quick to judge. But Paul knows what he is doing. He knows that such misleading speech is too dangerous and can only be met with sharp rebuke. Paul is zealous for the truth and he is seeing what little good seed he has sown among the Cretan being blown away. His passion is that they know the truth. This is a zeal we desperately need today. The church all around us seems to be totally lost concerning what is true. No-one can agree on anything, some are lead by the commands of people, what society thinks is right, some have devoted themselves to myths and some are motivated by shameful gain. We must consider carefully the Church today. Before we get mislead by deceivers. Why? Its no big deal, surely we can just all agree to disagree and live life in peace! You go your way, I will go mine and we will meet some day in the middle. Why is Paul so rilled by the circumcision party? Because such false teaching leads to us becoming detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. The one thing Paul says he is writing his letter to prevent, that they not be unfruitful. He doesn't want them to waste their lives being lead astray by false doctrines and teachings. He has so much more to give them!


Live a life truth coloured!

Let me conclude with two points. If you don't remember anything else from this morning please try to remember these and take them to heart. Firstly, Beware of a wasted life. There is so much in todays society that pulls at us and does all it can to mislead us. Advertising for example always wants us to buy and buy and buy. Teaches us that each new thing we buy, whether its a new ipod, a widescreen tv, a new car somehow defines us. They give us an new identity and new is always better than old. The politically correct culture around us tries to teach us to live as a community of individuals. Living with each other but never living for each other, never really loving each other. The media does all it can to create a false world around us. False hopes, false fears, false dreams. Society has converted so many to its empty words and only for shameful gain as bankers and business executives line their pockets with other peoples suffering. Beware of a wasted life. Don't follow their falsities. And if society wasn't enough even our own hearts mean to lead us astray. A Cretan prophet said about his own people "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.", I haven't heard a better description of Glaswegians. This is the nature of our hearts, and our society is the result. If we have any desire, and hope not to waste our lives we need to find it outside our society and outside ourselves. We need to find it in the knowledge of the truth. Here is the knowledge of the truth dwell on it, study it. Take time to understand it. If you do I promise you you will not waste your life. But this banner of truth isn't really about ethical codes and requirements, its not really about what is the best way to live your life. You see like I said at the beginning Paul was laying out to Titus what the truth looks like...how it is demonstrated in a believers life. Not what the truth is itself. Men and women who know the truth reflect it in their lives. But what is this truth itself? What is the essence of it? Well we can work it out from verse 16 where Paul tells us

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.”

What Paul is telling us here is that the Jews of the circumcision party do not know God. Even although they claim to it is obvious by their actions that they don't. However, those whose lives demonstrate the truth know God. Because He is the truth. Therefore, knowledge of the truth can be rephrased simply as knowing God. I urge you brothers and sisters, make every effort in your life to know God and I don't mean know about Him. If, I was to go to 10 Downing Street and ask the nice police man to let me in to see Gordon Brown he would thrown me out cause it doesn't matter if I know about Gordon Brown. However, if I know Gordon Brown and he knows me I could walk up to his door and be lead straight in to have a sit down a cup of tea and a chat with the pm. In the same way you could spend all your time coming to church reading the bible and only know about God without really knowing Him. And that I believe would be the worst kind of wasted life. Instead I urge you to make every effort to know Him, He doesn't want a bunch of students studying Him, He wants sons and daughters. Therefore, live you lives as His children, for that is what He has called you to and that is the greatest way any man or woman can live.