Thursday, October 12, 2023

2023.10.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Titus 2:9–10

Read Titus 2:9–10

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom is he to address in Titus 2:9? What are they to be? Unto whom? What are they to attempt to be in all things? What aren’t they to do? What else aren’t they to do (Titus 2:10)? What are they to show? In order to adorn what? The doctrine of Whom? In how many things? 

How can lowly Christians glorify Christ? Titus 2:9–10 looks forward to the second serial reading of in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that lowly Christians glorify Christ by being inexplicably godly by the grace of their Savior. 

The last group that the apostle tells Titus to address specifically is bondservants. Christians are not to think like the world thinks. A slave who is a Christian has a high calling. He has good reason to live carefully and diligently.

God’s calling. When the apostle says “their own” masters in Titus 2:9, he is reminding us that our standing, our employment, and our relationships all come in the providence of God. How did that man become a slave? Possibly as a spoil of war or due to economic disaster. How did he become his master’s particular slave? Probably through some choice by the master or by one who gave him to him. But these are all under the sovereign control of his God. Thus, we can receive even lowly class, employment, or economic circumstances as gift from God and assignment from God. This is true for you, dear reader—whatever God’s providence to you has been! But especially in circumstances where the world sees no dignity, the believer has a great opportunity to show the difference that it makes to belong to the Lord.

God’s commandments. If a slave’s work is an assignment first from God, and only secondarily for his earthy master, then it must be obvious that he is to serve according to God’s instruction. God’s way will often run at direct cross-purposes with our flesh. 

We see this in a parallel passage in 1 Timothy 6:1, where a slave considers his master worthy of “all honor.” Compare this to “honor” for widows in 1 Timothy 5:3 and “double honor” for elders in 1 Timothy 5:17. The flesh resents that our labor might enrich another man—even if that man is caring for our food, clothing, and medical needs, besides considering us to be members of his household! But the Spirit says to count an earthly master worthy of “all honor.” What a difference this would make in employment situations, where we are tempted to begrudge how much prosperity is coming to our employer by our labor! This fleshly resentment is ingrained in the writer’s present culture—giving Christians a particular opportunity to show the grace and glory of Christ by contrast.

Here, in Titus 2:9, the first instruction given is that slaves be obedient. This seems straightforward enough (though our hearts will often rationalize against plain commands). But this is joined by the grammar to the idea of being “well pleasing.” Here is not just complying with orders but striving for excellency—wishing to do well enough that the master cannot help but be pleased with the service. There is a motivation here that goes to the heart. If the life of a slave is dignified by his union with Christ, then he can be zealous and even cheerful from his heart to show how excellent a Christian slave can be. And so with any Christian of low standing in the home or the society! Shall we now show, by our zealous and cheerful work, “how excellent a Christian ___________” we can be?

And of course, he should obey the 5th and 9th commandments (guarding his tongue to be used only in an honoring way), as well as the 8th commandment (not stealing—whether it be property, time, or effort). Incidentally, as the writer lives in the American South, he is aware that some think that not permitting children to talk back is somehow a Southern thing. No, it is a Christian thing. If the slave was not to talk back as a derivative application of the fifth commandment, how much more must a son or daughter only reply to parents with honor and respect as a direct application of that commandment.

The Christian slave should be dependable. The word translated “fidelity” here is a form of the word “believe or trust” that means, literally, that his master can put his “faith” in the slave. Not faith for salvation. The idea is that he can trust his servant with everything, as Potiphar, the jailer, and Pharaoh all ended up doing with Joseph. From food service, to housekeeping, to the president’s cabinet, a believer aims so excellently to labor that whoever is over him knows that he can trust anything to his hands.

God’s commendation. The goal, of course, is described further in Titus 2:10, “that they may adorn the doctrine of God.” All of these instructions have been in order to live appropriately to sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). We considered the high calling of younger women that they labor “that the Word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:5). A Christian who does not love for God to commend him, by making his life to commend Christian teaching, is a weak and immature Christian, if he is one at all. But for those who love to please God, and who love to be used to bring honor to God’s Name, how great a motivation he has for his daily labor!

God’s care. And let us not worry that laboring excellently in this way is a “dead end” for us in the workplace or the home. For, God is “our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10)—whatever our place in life is (cf. Titus 2:11). We are able to humble ourselves and cast our cares upon Him, because He cares for us (cf. 1 Peter 5:6–7).  That is to say not only that He cares about us, but that He is attending to everything that is necessary to bring us at last into perfect blessedness and glory.

What do you consider to be your most tedious or lowly tasks? How will you bring the teaching of this passage into how you think about them and do them? What are you hoping to “get” out of your life?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we rejoice to see how even a Christian slave has a glorious calling to adorn the gospel and display the great difference that Christ makes in the heart and the life. But, we confess that we have often been discontent with our place in life or our daily labors. Forgive us for so despising you, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP117B “O All You Nations of the Earth” or TPH533 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”

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