Throughout his epistles Paul gives us glimpses of the nature of his calling — his job description. He opens most of his letters by identifying himself as an apostle or servant of Jesus Christ, but these are primarily job titles rather than job descriptions. Similarly, in his letter to Philemon, Paul introduces himself as the prisoner of Jesus Christ because of his captivity. But once again, this is a summary of his role at that time, not an extended job description.
It is interesting to look closely at verses in which Paul elaborates more fully on the goals of his work. One such job description occurs in the apostle’s letter to Titus: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness — in the hope of eternal life . . .” (Titus 1:1, 2, NIV). This description revolves around Paul’s famous triad of “faith, hope, and love,” although that may not be obvious without thinking about it. Paul mentions faith and hope directly, and the third quality — love — is lightly veiled in the form of godliness, which the Bible frequently equates with love. Because God is love (1 John 4:8), godliness obviously is also the way of love. We see the equation made clear, for example, in 2 Peter 1:7, where godliness is positioned with brotherly affection and love.
But Paul does not just mention the great triad of spiritual qualities in passing. Instead, he stresses these qualities as being at the heart of his work. Reading the whole of Titus 1:1, 2, we see how Paul envisions this. The apostle clearly sees a big part of his job as furthering, or growing, the faith of those God has called, as well as their “knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” and their “hope of eternal life.”
We may usually think of “faith, hope, and love” in the context of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul shows that with God’s help we should develop these qualities in ourselves. So it’s easy to read over the same qualities in the epistle to Titus without grasping their significance for Paul as key elements in the job he was called to do. We may even study, meditate on, and pray about these very traits as things we strive to develop in ourselves. But how often do we think of them as goals we can be praying for and developing in the lives of others?
Many Christians see the outgoing aspect of our calling as essentially helping others to initial belief in Christ, but we do not always focus beyond that point. We may understand the importance of the ongoing general encouragement of our brothers and sisters. But Paul’s words show us that the job of developing faith, hope, and love/godliness lies at the heart of being the church and serving God’s people.
Keeping Paul’s job description in mind can help us think more about how we too can help encourage the growth of these qualities in others. How we apply this principle often depends on our circumstances. But if we want to imitate Paul as he tells us to do (1 Corinthians 4:16), as he himself imitated Christ (11:1), it’s a job we can all be involved in.