Adorning the Doctrine of God in Naperville:
A Church Planter’s Reflections on Titus (2:9-10)
“9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” – Titus 2:9-10
Instructions given to Christian bondservants in the 1st century seem utterly irrelevant to us today. What significance do the Apostle Paul’s instructions to “bondservants” in the first century have to do with free individuals living in Naperville in 2015? Much in fact! First, we have consider what a bondservant is. Though you have to look at each usage in context, a bondservant referred to someone who voluntarily indebted themselves to service for a period of time during which they could still own property and still possess an amount of freedom (See this TGC link for brief explanation). This shows that a bondservant was not like what we think of when hear the word servant or slave–we probably think of slavery as practiced 150 plus years ago in the South.
Bondservants had a particular role in 1st century Roman culture, and Paul had instructions for them. The Apostle urged them to be the best possible bondservants they could possibly be. That meant submission to their masters, a well-pleasing demeanor, rejecting an argumentative attitude, and not stealing. It meant showing oneself trustworthy.
Why should they do this and not just be take the selfish/sinful path? The motivation for a bondservant’s faithfulness is given in verse 10: “so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” The doctrine of God our Savior is explained in the following passage (2:11-14). Paul is making a fascinating point here: he saying that the faithful obedience of bondservants works to show the world the beauty and worth of the Christian gospel! As bondservants counter-culturally displayed willing obedience and faithfulness to their masters, their delightful behavior pointed to the objectively beautiful doctrine of God saving a lost people for His glory. Their lives projected the majesty and wonder of God’s salvation, a salvation that redefined individuals as no longer primarily finding their identity based on social status (slave or non-slave), but upon a theological reality–being forgiven of sin, right with God, and heirs of eternal life. As Christian bondservants understood this, they served their earthly masters well because actually deep-down they were seeking to serve Jesus their heavenly master.
I think these instructions are relevant for those in our congregations today who are in the work-place, they are relevant as we seek to adorn the doctrine of God in Naperville. While we are not bondservants, employers give rules and expect obedience; we are indebted to them with our time and work as they provide us with a salary. As employees, we’ll be tempted to steal from our employers, argue with them, or be difficult. But as we reject these activities and seek to be the best workers we can, our godly lives adorn the doctrine of God who has saved us. I hope we would all see that our work is not in vain, but for the glory of God and the adorning of the wonderful gospel.. Part of my task a pastor and church planter is inform and remind members of our church plant here in Naperville (Cross of Christ Fellowship) of this true theological reality–pray that I would do this well!
Our true master is Jesus and our faithful and hard work done in a willing joyful manner adorns the doctrine of Jesus saving us and making us new in Christ.