Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Declare Good Theology: Part 2 – Sanctification – Titus 2:14

purify for Himself His own special people… (NKJV)

What Is Sanctification?
This is a huge question. Go to, search for sanctification, and you will find many books on the subject. Not all of them are Christian books; the topic is relative to Judaism and even Buddhism. Don’t get your hopes up that it will be exhaustively explained in this brief blog. This will only cover a few points at a very high level.

Sanctification, holiness, and purity are related; sanctify is to make or declare to be holy.[1] Holy is to be “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his; in a moral sense, pure, sinless, upright, holy.”[2] As such, even inanimate objects were declared holy in the Old Testament. As applied to people, we are set aside from the world to be a unique people (1 Peter 2:9). Sanctification is the process of being separated from sin and becoming more and more pure. Holy is the eventual behavioral result of sanctification on one hand and one the other it is a position or state because of the declaration of being holy. 

God’s Will
For this is the will of God, your sanctification. (1 Thess 4:3 NKJV)

Since it is God’s will for us to be sanctified, it should be a huge concern for anyone who seeks to do His will. Titus 2:14 reveals just how much of His will it is because He is the one who purifies us. Since God is holy, only holy people will be able to see Him (Heb 12:14). Since we are not holy, the first concept of holiness or sanctification is that He purifies us. Sanctification starts with God, not with us. Through the blood of Jesus, God justifies us and declares us to have His righteousness (Rom 3:25-26). This leads to sanctification (Rom 6:22). If we were able to sanctify ourselves, then there would not have been a need for Jesus to die on the cross (Gal 2:21). 

Made Holy
Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. (John 17:17 NLT)
… Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God's word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. (Eph 5:25-27 NLT)

We are made holy by God’s Word. Jesus said it and Paul explained it. Notice that in both Jesus’ words and Paul’s, the tool used to make us holy is God’s Word. However, Paul also clarifies that Jesus had to give up his life so that we could be made holy. Paul presents this as an accomplished fact once we’ve been washed by the Word. Jesus provides the potential and His Word completes the task. When does this occur? It happens at the time of our salvation. We are declared holy and righteous. This is similar to the vessels that were used in the tabernacle. They were sprinkled with blood and then declared holy. Were they really any different than before? Not physically, but they were consecrated or set aside for holy purpose. In the same way, when we are saved, we are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus and declared holy, set aside for God’s use. We are not physically any different than before our salvation. Spiritually, we are a totally different person (2 Cor 5:17). As far as being a better person, everyone grows in practical or behavioral holiness at a different rate. And that is the second part of sanctification.

Being Made Holy
Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12 NASB)

If you would think anyone could claim to have become the epitome of holiness in this life, it would have been Paul, who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. But he had personal problems with others (Acts 15:36-41). He admitted that God gave him a physical affliction to keep him from being conceited (2 Cor 12:7). Philippians 3:12 expressed his awareness that personal behavioral holiness was something that is a work that we participate in all of our lives. 

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24 NIV)

The things we have learned from the world, habits, attitudes, desires, and in some cases cultural values, must be relearned through the Word of God. Paul describes this as putting off the old self and putting on the new self. This is not simply turning over a new leaf, it is a genuine heart change that must begin with surrendering our lives, our wills, our bodies to God in true worship (Rom 12:1). The result of this is a transformation of our entire lives and it starts in our minds (Rom 12:2) as we repent of our old sinful life. 

remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe … (Eph 1:16-19 ESV)

We must remember that this is a process and while we are declared holy at salvation, changing our behavior is a lifelong task. While Jesus sanctifies us (Heb 2:11), it is through the power of His Holy Spirit. That power is available to us when we call upon Him but not everyone knows that this power for godly living is available. Paul prayed for the saints in Ephesus to understand and use this power that was the same power that raised Jesus from the grave and exalted Him to the right hand of the Father. Think about that and appropriate that power in your own life when you are faced with temptation. There is no need to continue in habitual sin or occasional grievous sins when you have been enlightened to the power available to you to resist. God always has a way out of temptations without sinning (1 Cor 12:13). 

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. (Ps 139:23-24 NASU)
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. (Gal 6:1 NASU)

We should have David’s attitude and desire to have a clear conscience before God. Let Him convict us of sin and not assume that we have arrived at sanctification. I’m sure that if I take time in God’s Word and prayer, He will point out another area of improvement. If this doesn’t work, He may send another Christian to reveal the sin in my life with gentleness. I would prefer the first but also welcome the second (Ps 141:5) if I’ve thought to highly of myself and have ignored sin that others can see. I pray this is your desire as well.

[1] Thayer's Greek Lexicon, s.v.” NT:37” (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006).
[2] Ibid., s.v. “NT:40”.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Declare Good Theology: Part 2 – His Sacrifice Our Redemption – Titus 2:14

[Jesus Christ], who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness. (ESV)
 [Jesus Christ], who gave himself for our sins (Gal 1:4 NIV)

Take a few minutes and reread that small phrase in each of these verses, “who gave himself for us” (Titus 2:14), and “who gave himself for our sins” (Gal 1:4). Dwell on those words. If you didn’t know the Gospels, what would these words mean to you? It sounds like a hostage exchange. He gave Himself and in exchange for Himself, someone got us and our sins. Looking at it as an exchange, who received Jesus? There are some that say that Satan got Jesus because we were captive to him because of our sins (2 Tim 2:26). Satan exchanged his rights of bondage over us for the death of Jesus. This fits with the concept of redemption where a price is paid to redeem a slave from captivity. This concept of redemption is ingrained in the Law of Moses where the Lord redeemed Israel from Egypt at the cost of the firstborn (Ex 6:6), also the redemption of slaves was proscribed in the Law (Lev 25:47-49). However, it grates on the nerves of theologians who view this as Satan having some power over God to demand or accept the ransom.

However, the Bible also explains that the sacrifice was given to God, “Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:2 NASU). The sacrificial sin offerings in the Law of Moses prefigure Christ’s death for our sins. This is clearly explained in the book of Hebrews. Chapters 9 and 10 retain the concept that Jesus’ death brought about our redemption (Heb 9:12) but it clearly explains that the sacrifice was in no way associated with a payment to Satan. Rather, Jesus offered the sacrifice of his blood to God (Heb 9:14).

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:21-26 NKJV)

Redemption is expounded in Romans 3:21-26 without one word regarding Satan. It is all about God’s righteousness and His justifying us. In Titus, Paul says we were redeemed from lawlessness[1]. Whether we were aware of the law or not, we were all sinners. The only way out of the prison of sin was for someone to redeem us. It had to be someone who was right with the law otherwise, he would be in prison with us. God’s righteousness had to be satisfied and Romans 3:25 says that the blood of Jesus Christ was the propitiation, the appeasement to God for breaking His totally righteous law. Note also that set the blood of Jesus as the propitiation, not Satan. So the payment wasn’t to Satan for release but it was the payment to God as required by the Law. As Romans 3:26 says, this demonstrated God’s righteousness because He is the one who “might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” This brings all the glory back to God and Jesus completely eliminating any concept that Satan was anything other than a jailer who had to release us from his powers not because he got anything from it, but because the price was paid to God’s justice system.

Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." (John 6:28-29 NASU)

So the door to the jail is open. The blood of Jesus paid the price for our sins. What is left for us to do? Simply believe and have faith in Jesus (Rom 3:22). Without faith in Jesus, that door looks like it is still closed. Is walking through the door into Jesus’ arms works that we have to do to be saved? Only if it is in belief. We must remember that it is by God’s grace that we are justified (Rom 3:24) and His grace is a gift that enables us to have faith (Eph 2:8). In this way, our salvation is then completely dependent upon God and nothing of ourselves.

[1]  The Greek word for “lawlessness” is anomia according to Thayer's Greek Lexicon s.v. “NT:458,” (Biblesoft, 2006), its meaning is:
1.             properly, the condition of one without law -- either because ignorant of it, or because violating it
2.             contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Declare Good Theology: Part 1 – Titus 2:13-15

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (KJV)

Declare It
In verse 15, most versions say we are to speak these things. Others are more dramatic saying we are to declare or must teach them these things. However, the emphasis is still there. Paul has just unloaded a significant amount of theology in one sentence. Starting with grace, which was covered before, and ending with our response, Paul has affirmed the deity of Jesus, his atoning sacrifice for our sins, and our sanctification. In most cases, this message is sufficient to encourage people or rebuke those who try to bring a different gospel.

When we are speaking the truth of the gospel and biblical theology, we have Jesus’ authority backing us up. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore …” (Matt 28:18-19 NASB). It would be a mistake of our authority to minimize or be ashamed of any of these doctrines. How would you feel if your doctor diagnosed you with appendicitis with words like, “I think you might have appendicitis, but it might be gas. So I’m going to take a survey of other patients and see what they think.” How ridiculous, but that is exactly what the world does with theology. We have a sin problem and the authoritative answer to the problem is in the Bible. However, those in opposition to the Bible look to philosophers, gurus, TV personalities, and other for remedies other than the cross of Jesus Christ.

When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matt 10:19-20 RSV)

Paul asserts that there is no reason for us to be despised when we share the counsel of God’s Word with others. OK, reality tells us that many will despise us and the Bible affirms that some will even be arrested for sharing the gospel. But look at the assurance we have when we yield to God’s plan. The Holy Spirit will speak through us. God the Father through His Spirit will be speaking. When using the gifts God gives us, we are speak oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). So, when Paul says, “Let no one despise you,” he isn’t saying that we should put someone in a headlock and make him say, “Uncle.” But he is letting us know that what they think can’t be what drives our sense of worth. We are not out to please men but to please God. Man’s attitude toward us is not to what we use to measure our success.

Going back to verse 13, let’s look at some of this great theology that we are to declare. I’m not going to take the doctrines in the same order that Paul presented them.

God and Savior Jesus Christ
To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 25 NASB)

Take a good look at what Jude says here and what Paul says in verse 13. Jude says that God is our Savior through Jesus but Paul says that Jesus Christ is our God and Savior. Are they saying the same thing in two different ways or are they contradicting each other? If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have been confronted with the doctrine of the Trinity, One God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the way orthodox Christianity explains how the Bible can call Jesus God and Savior as well as the Holy Spirit Lord.

However, the doctrine of the Trinity is probably one of the hardest things for us to explain and understand. It was not easy for the early church patriarchs and it has not become any easier for us in the 21st century. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to explain it completely and satisfactorily in this blog. However, Titus has always been one of my favorite books when it comes to recognizing that the Trinity is a solid biblical doctrine.

Starting in Titus 1:3, Paul says that God is our Savior. Then in the very next verse he calls the Father God and Jesus our Savior. Again in 2:10, he reiterates God is our Savior, followed by verse 13 where we see Jesus is our God and Savior. Once again in 3:4, he states God is our Savior followed by stating that Jesus is our Savior in 3:5. Three times in three chapters Paul reaffirms that God the Father and Jesus Christ are both God and Savior. The conclusion must be inescapable that God is at least both Father and Jesus Christ.

Salvation is also described in 3:5 as we are washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. While this is not as strong evidence that the Spirit is also God, we can turn to other verses that describe the way the Spirit works in our salvation. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 also states that we are sanctified through the Spirit when we are saved. In this Because the Holy Spirit is active in our salvation, He is also Savior. To show that He is also God, we can turn to 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, “Now the Lord is the Spirit … For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (ESV). Clearly, only God is Lord and Paul unequivocally says that the He is the Spirit.

The way Paul switches the words around in his writing it is clear that Paul recognizes the equality of the three persons of the Trinity. But the question could be asked, is the Trinity an invention of Paul? Not at all. Jesus clearly set the standard when He commissioned the disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19 NIV). He did not specify baptism in His own name, just the Father, or any other combination. Equality of the Persons of the Trinity and the singleness of our one God is firmly established in the New Testament.

For to us a child is born, to us  a son is given;  and the government shall be  upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful  Counselor,  Mighty God,  Everlasting  Father, Prince of  Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace  there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it  with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7 ESV)

The Old Testament is not as clear about the Trinity as is the New Testament. However, there seminal verses like Isaiah 9:6-7 that should make any thinking person understand that the truth of the Trinity is also contained in the Old Testament. The incarnation is predicted in the coming of the Messiah and His description cannot be misunderstood. His equality with God the Father and identification with Him is overwhelming: Might God, Everlasting Father. He is to be a son and He will rule forever. The child that is born will never die and reign as the Sovereign of the world. As in Titus, the Spirit is in the background and not as evident. While the Old Testament did not identify the Holy Spirit as the Wonderful Counselor, He is identified as the Counselor in John 14:26 (NIV and RSV).

The use of ’ĕlŏhîm, the plural name for God when the singular was also available,[1] is used throughout the Old Testament. Every time God is mentioned in Genesis 1, the plural form of God is used. In verse 26, it is clear that this is not just a convention of writing but a keen way of showing that the one God of the Old Testament is more complex than a single person. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’” (Gen 1:26 NIV). Not only is the plural used for God, but the plural is applied to His action and His likeness.

Next time, I’ll continue with more of the doctrines contained in these verses.

[1] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: the Doctrine of God, (Wheaton. Ill: Crossway, 2006), 418-419, Kindle.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Two Effects of Grace – Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. (NASU)

The first and most commonly acknowledge effect of grace is salvation. Almost every Christian knows that it is by grace we have been saved (Eph 2:8). Just exactly how grace works or appears is a matter of great controversy among Christian denominations. The biggest divide is regarding the way that grace comes to a person so that they can be saved.
  •  Some believe that grace is imparted through the Church by participation in the sacraments,[1] specifically baptism. This is not just a Roman Catholic view but also the view of some Protestant denominations including those who believe that not only must you be baptized, but you must be baptized in their tub.
  •  Others believe that baptism of an infant saves the person even though they must later make a profession of faith at a later date. The grace received at baptism then enables them to make that decision.[2]
  •  Then there is the doctrine that grace is irresistible so that when God gives it at His time and choosing, the person upon whom it is bestowed is so moved that it is impossible for them to resist repentance and salvation.[3]
  •  Others believe that when God bestows His grace on a person it simple means that the person is then able to exercise his freedom to choose salvation. Before receiving God’s grace, he was only capable of rejecting salvation.[4]
  •  Some believe that this grace is given to everyone so that salvation is entirely dependent upon the person and not God’s choosing.[5]
  •  Others believe in universal salvation in that His grace brings everyone to salvation.[6]

As is evident, there is much confusion within Christianity over how grace saves. If Titus 2:11 were the only verse in the Bible that explains grace we would probably agree with those who believe in universal salvation, however that would rely on thinking that bringing (making available) and accepting salvation are the same. Furthermore, basing universal salvation on the word bringing would be totally inaccurate because the word was added by translators and does not appear in the original Greek. A literal translation is, “For the saving grace of God was manifested to all men” (Titus 2:11 Young’s Literal Translation). This makes it obvious that His save grace has come and that all can see it but does not imply that it brings salvation to everyone. While this doesn’t answer all the questions, it does eliminate universal salvation. A detailed answer for all the other options is not within the scope of this study.

A quick look at Ephesians 2:8-9 sheds light on several of the options above when taken for what it says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (KJV). Grace does the saving, because it is through faith, something that can only come about by hearing, seeing (deaf sign language), or reading and then understanding (Rom 10:14). This eliminates all forms of salvation by infant baptism since an infant cannot understand nor reason what to believe. Since it is a gift of God and it is not of ourselves, then that eliminates other concepts. It means that any action we take whether it is adult baptism or rituals to gain grace or elicit God’s approval must be eliminated as the source of grace to actualize our salvation.

This leaves only two options. The first is the Calvinist doctrine that grace is irresistible. The second is the Arminian doctrine that grace enables a person to choose salvation. Both of these depend on God giving the grace without a person earning it in any way. The Roman Catholic position does not fit simply because grace is earned by participating in the sacraments though some may argue that it is essentially the same as the Arminian position. I agree with the Calvinistic approach because salvation is then 100% God centered. The Arminian approach depends on man’s choosing salvation in cooperation with God. If God is not in total control, then man essentially usurps God’s choice by either refusing to accept salvation or by rejecting it at a later date either of which negates God’s election (Eph 1:4).

Godly Lives
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. (1 Cor 3:10 NKJV)

I seldom hear of anyone explaining the instructional concept of grace and it is probably with good reason. It doesn’t shout out its presence in the same way saving grace does. Except for Titus 2:12, it is hidden behind the other concepts in a verse or it is the foundation supporting them. In 1 Corinthians 3:10 grace is prominent but what it is doing can only be discovered by looking at what it accomplishes. In this case, Paul received wisdom by God’s grace. He understood that he was building the church on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:9, 11).

We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God's grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. (2 Cor 1:12 NLT)

In this verse, it is clear that God’s grace enabled Paul to live a life of holinesses and minister sincerely to the Corinthians because he was depending on God’s grace instead of human wisdom. This echoes his declaration to Titus. In Paul’s life, he had been instructed by God’s grace to live godly and deny all the temptations for abuse that his position as an Apostle afforded. It is a good example that anyone in ministry should heed. If this were the attitude of all ministry leaders whether pastors of mega-churches or parachurch leaders, we wouldn’t see moral failures or abusive cults. Even if all we do is write a blog or hand out tracts, we need God’s grace to teach us how to live godly lives and avoid the strong allure of the world to be recognized by people.

In our daily reading program, we just read from Matthew 6, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 1 is a stern warning not to practice our righteousness, charity, good deeds, piety, alms, kindness (all from different translations) before men to gain their approval. Grace teaches us that living a godly life does not include trying to impress others how godly we are. Paul lived this but had to depend on God’s grace to accomplish it.

May God’s grace be sufficient to get you through whatever you are facing at this time. Rely on His grace because it is the power of Christ resting on you (2 Cor 12:9).

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids, USA.: Baker Academic, 2013), 837, Kindle.
[2] Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn Wright, eds., introduction to Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ(Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007).
[3] Erickson, 848-851.
[4] Ibid., 844-845.
[5] Ibid., 852-853.
[6] Ibid.,942.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Christian Slaves – Titus 2:9-10

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. (NASB)

Slave, Bondservant, Employee
      I’ve read or heard various reports about the status of a slave in the first century. Some say our own history of slavery has stereotyped it and slaves were not as bad off as we think. One article describes slaves being used in three typical areas. The first is doing work directly for their masters. The second was when they acted as managers of their master’s estate. The third was where they would actually own and manage property even though it technically belonged to the master.[1] We can see all three of these positions in parables that Jesus taught. In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus described a servant (Greek doulous = slave) who owed his master ten thousand talents. Another of the master’s slaves owed the first slave a hundred pence (KJV). This is nothing like our concept of slavery so many translators use the word servant instead of slave. Matthew 25:14-30 is the familiar parable of talents where the master gives stewardship of his funds to three different servants. The word is again translated servant rather than slave because of the obvious management of resources. Luke 17:7-10 is a description of harsh slavery or drudgery where they work in the fields then come in and serve the master without thanks. Regardless of how the translators used servant or bondservant or slave, the status of a Roman slaves during this time was more in keeping with our current concept. The owners had the right to abuse (physically and sexually) and even kill a slave regardless of his or her position. The slave had only the right to serve as the master directed. Marriage was only with the master’s approval but it was not marriage in the sense we think of because the master still had sexual rights over the slave. The arrangement was called contubernium.[2]
      How did the Law of Moses describe slavery? The first difference is that it there were very clear rules and regulations regarding the way a master could treat a slave. Exodus 21 contains many of the regulations for slaves. Killing a slave resulted in the same penalty as a free person but there was no penalty if the slave survives a beating or mistreatment. However, if the slave loses an eye or tooth, the slave is to be set free. Reading this chapter gives the impression that female slaves were often chosen as wives and had specific rights if chosen for the master or sons but fewer rights if given to another slave as a wife. Leviticus 19:20-22 clearly described sex with a slave promised to another man as sin even though the punishment was not death as it would have been for a free woman. While certainly not ideal, it was much better than the Roman practice.
      When Paul wrote to Titus, he was not writing to someone with the Hebrew background and training regarding slavery. He was addressing Gentiles living under the Roman law. Clearly, all levels of slavery would be included in the term doulous. Some complain that Paul therefore endorsed slavery of any kind and that we can’t apply this to our current culture except where the culture has slavery. However, Paul is not talking to society in general, but to Christians. These slaves are people who are Christians and are owned by someone else and the implication is that their masters may not be Christians. He is saying that if you are a Christian, you must, you have no other option than to please your master. That means being subjective in everything. That is the positive attitude but you must also eliminate the negative attitudes and behavior of arguing and stealing from your master. How is this possible when a slave is subjected to humiliation, insult, and injury?
You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42b-45 ESV)
      Jesus described the situation clearly. He pointed us to culture of the time with Gentile masters, not the Hebrew culture. That means we have to consider the abusive Roman law as we consider the verses. Jesus takes our status down a notch by saying that to be great we must be a servant to others. He used the word diakonos, which is translated servant, minister, or deacon. There is no connotation that this is other than a hired person. However, if we want to increase our status up a notch to become first, then he takes us back down to the bottom rung and says we must become a doulous, a slave. Then He provides the ultimate example of his own death.
      This is the attitude that a Christian slave has to have. Without this attitude, the life of a slave on the bottom rung is without hope. Now, is it possible to apply this attitude to our current culture and to our work when employed by someone else? Is it possible to apply this attitude to customers if we run a business? If not, then we need to go back and redefine what it means to be a Christian because Paul’s direction to Titus must apply to us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves because the doctrine of our Lord and Savior is to be servants and slaves first to Jesus then to everyone else. Of course, if we don’t care about being great in God’s kingdom, much less first, then becoming a servant or slave doesn’t matter.

In Everything
      When Paul says that we should be submissive in everything to our masters, (boss, or whoever is directing the work and paying for our services), does he allow any refusal of service? Think of those slaves who were the sexual property of the owners. Would you tell them to submit joyfully to that kind of abuse? What would you do if the master ordered you to kill another slave because he spilled the master’s wine? If this means blind obedience, then that means that an accountant should falsify the books when the owner requests it. It means that a policeman should lie to protect his superior who has just beaten a homeless man without cause. I really get tired of people who look at a verse and find a word like all or everything and apply the meaning not just literally but inflexibly. While there are places where it may be appropriate, this certainly isn’t one of them. The principle of obeying God rather than being submissive to sinful commands of superiors is as ancient as the midwives who refused to kill newborn Hebrew boys (Ex 1:15-17), or the Apostles’ refusal to keep quiet about Jesus (Acts 4:19, 5:29), and extends to the future where believers refuse to take the mark of the beast in opposition to his rule over the earth (Rev 13:7).
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:13-14 NIV)
      Paul’s point and that of Peter is that a slave or anyone else who wants to do good will generally stay out of trouble. This is not a guarantee that trouble will not come along. It is not a guarantee that you may be asked or commanded to do something wrong. So Peter says that when we suffer for doing right we don’t need to fear because we are blessed by God. Wow, when you put this in perspective of real slavery and not just a nasty boss, there is only one conclusion. We must have our eyes on eternity instead of the world or we’ll never survive or have any hope. Peter offers the way to do this in the next verse, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). We can’t do it without Jesus and with Jesus, we will have the hope and others will see it. This is how we “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9).

What Are You?
      An added thought about the issue of slave, bondservant, or employee, is our relationship with God. Yes, we are sons and daughter, not slaves according to Romans 8:14-14, Ephesians 1:5 and 3:15 as well as many other verses. However Paul also affirms that we are slaves of God (Rom 6:22) and Peter says we were ransomed out of slavery of sin (1 Peter 1:18). Paul also refers to himself as a slave of Christ in Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:10, Philippians 1:1, and Titus 1:1 as does James in 1:1, Peter in 2 Peter 1:1, Jude in verse 1, and John in Revelation 1:1. Furthermore, John says that the book of Revelation is written to show his servants (doulous) what is in the future. It should be quite obvious that while we are citizens of God’s kingdom (Eph 2:19, Phil 3:20) and members of his family, our attitude should be more that of slaves than kings. How do you view yourself and does your view adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9)?

[1] Odochiciuc, Ana, and Lucrețiu Mihailescu-Bîrliba, "Occupations of Private Slaves in Roman Dacia." Studia Antiqua Et Archeologica 20, (January 2014): 231, EBSCOhost, accessed December 21, 2015,
[2] Ibid., 232.