Do you believe in parallel universes? The tv series, The Flash, based on the DC Comics character Barry Allen shows Allen, as the Flash moving through the speed force to many different parallel earths. (You have my children to thank for this knowledge; they got me hooked!!)
Perhaps the most famous Christian fiction piece written about a parallel world is C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, travel through the wardrobe into a parallel world where they have many adventures with various characters; the most famous being Aslan the lion who is a picture of Christ.
If you remember your high school geometry you know that two parallel lines run in the same plane without ever meeting. One definition of parallel is: a comparison of things as if regarded side by side. ( dictionary.com ) Last week we talked about Paul using parallel language in his letter to Titus. Remember we said he was echoing the language of the Cretan belief system not to give credence to those false beliefs, rather it was to point to God as the True Everlasting Deity and to Jesus as the only Savior.
We see this first in Titus 1:12 when Paul actually quotes a Cretan "prophet", Epimenides. Epimenides called the Cretans liars because of their claim to have the tomb of Zeus on the island. Paul agrees with this assessment in verse thirteen. In verse two he has already established the fact that God does not lie. The writer of Hebrews tells us it is "impossible for God to lie" ( Hebrews 6:8 ) Lying is the one thing God cannot do! ( See my instagram post on this at instagram.com/janehdelong June 26,2017 ) By agreeing with Epimenides Paul is debunking the Cretans claims, not only that Zeus's tomb was on the island, but also that he was a god at all.
Epimendies goes on to say the Cretans were evil beasts and lazy gluttons. Again Paul agrees with this assessment. He began the letter saying he was sent to teach God's people to "recognize and pursue the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness." Chapter one ends in verse sixteen with the hard fact:
"Such people claim they know God, but they deny Him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good."
The remainder of the letter contains Paul's instructions to Titus of what type of man to place in leadership roles and exactly what he needed to teach the Cretan church leaders. Titus 2:11-14 is another passage in which Paul depends greatly on the use of parallel language to make his point. The Cretans believed in many gods. With their polytheistic beliefs was a hierarchy of gods in which Zeus was "king of kings". Cretans believed in an afterlife where those who had been "saved" by their good works spent eternity in a place of worldly pleasures while those who were damned went to a place of eternal torture.
In stating that God's grace brings salvation to all people Paul was declaring God as the only True God and exposing the belief that a person's good deeds could save them. This truth is also seen in verse 14 when Paul speaks of Christ giving His life to free us from sin and bring us into relationship with God. Paul echos the thought of an afterlife when he says in verse 13:
"...while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed."
In contrast to the Cretan belief that the saved will spend eternity in a place of pleasure directed toward themselves; Paul is making clear the purpose of eternity will be to glorify the only True God. He was also making clear that Jesus was the only True Savior, as Crete was home to several statues and temples with inscriptions referring to the Greek gods and "savior."
Speaking to the belief that a person's good deeds can save them Paul makes it clear we are saved only through God's grace. However, he also emphasizes the fact that our love for God should spur us on to live lives of obedience to Him; turning from "godless living and sinful pleasures", being "totally committed to doing good deeds." This same idea is shown in Titus 3:4-7.
This brief background on the religious beliefs of the Cretans reveals the many ways our culture plays into what we believe about God. From the very beginning when God called Abram out of his homeland God's people have been instructed to live counter-cultural lives. In Leviticus 11:44 God implores the Israelites:
"I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy..."
God is holy. Jesus is God in the flesh. While He walked this earth Jesus was anything but a conformist. He spoke openly with women in public places. He touched the unclean and allowed them to touch Him. He ate with sinners. He knelt at the disciples feet and washed them. Everything Jesus did was counter-cultural.
Paul's letter to Titus, with its parallel language reminds us not to look to the culture around us for clarification of our beliefs but to look to the God within us. As we study Titus in the coming weeks may we learn to search our hearts for areas we have conformed to our culture rather than standing firm in God's ways. May our lives be lived counter-culturally as we lift up our One True God, Jesus Christ our Savior.
Until next time,
God bless and keep you,
This weeks homework:
1) Continue with our May Scripture Reading and Writing Plan ( subscribe to my email list here to receive your monthly plan).
2) Read through chapter one marking any repeated words or phrases you come across.
Next week we'll cover chapter one in detail! Can't wait to grow deeper with you!
P.S. I apologize for the lateness of this post. We have our 18 month old granddaughter this week. It's very difficult to get anything done with a toddler in the house! And all the mamas of littles said a resounding: AMEN!!!