Paul tells us that in our flesh nothing good dwells (Rom 7:18). That part of us that is still awaiting final redemption at glorification fights against the Spirit. Rebellion is second nature to us. We so want to be in control, to be own own master, that we will fight against anything or anyone that tries to exert control over us. What we fail to realize is that the whole time we are fighting for control we are in fact selling out to sin. We are being manipulated and controlled by sin and our fallen flesh so that we are not ever truly in control. We are merely bondservants – slaves of whatever desire we pursue at the moment.
Especially in our American quest for continued freedom and independence we have argued in political and theololgical circles for years about the rightness of rebellion against tyranny. I have neither the desire nor the time to pursue that discussion right now. But the point I want to explore is the idea that we are always looking for goads to kick against, someone to fight, someone to oppose, someone to overthrow.
In our society we celebrate rebellion against authority that we deem to be abusive, harsh, and unjust. Be it our boss at work – Take this job and shove it – or be it any other form of authority – We’re not gonna take it – we will stand unified in a cause against authoritarianism. Authority has come to be known as “The Man”, and we hear all the time how we need to “Stand up to the Man” and “Stick it to the Man.” Civil disobedience is taught, expected, and excused for any number of reasons.
What we often fail to realize is that when we try to “Stick it to the Man” we are actually ultimately fighting against God. He is the One who has established differing realms of authority in our lives, and we are told plainly in the Scriptures that to rebel against authority is to rebel against God. God has placed each of us under the authority of the government (Rom 13:1-7), under the authority of the church (Heb 13:7, 17), under parental authority as children (Eph 6:1-4), under the authority of husbands as wives (Eph 5:22), and we voluntarily submit ourselves to the authority of our employer (Eph 6:5-9). To live rightly submitted to any and all forms of authority is to live in submission to God.
In another realm, often overlooked, we see that in Paul’s day and time slavery was common place. Understandably, due to the abhorrent history of slavery based on ethnicity in our country’s experience , we know the depths of depravity that can exist in one man’s treatment of another. The question then is raised concerning why the Bible gives instructions for slaves and slave owners. This is answered when we understand that it is estimated that up to thirty percent of the population served as slaves in the Roman world. Many slaves and many slave owners were undoubtably brought to a saving knowledge of Christ and surely questions were raised as to how this afftected the institution of slavery.
In instructing Titus as to the qualities that will be present in the lives of disciples when they hear and heed sound doctrine, Paul has given us characterstics for older men, older women, young women, and young men (Titus 2:1-8). Now in Titus 2:9-10 he takes the time to tell Titus what a life of faithfulness looks like in the life of a slave.
Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
Slaves were to obey their masters, to strive to please them, to treat them with respect, and in everything to be a model of a faithful Christian. In light of our propensity for rebellion this list of character qualities flies in the face of our lack of submission to authority, be it just or unjust. And so we breathe a sigh of relief when we read this text and rejoice in the fact that none of us are owned as slaves. We think then that this text does not have an application for us and we gladly pass it by as a passage for a bygone era.
But wait. We can find application for the church today in this text. Rightly interpreted we see that our relationship with our employer is much like the life of a slave in the first century. Of course, we may voluntarily leave (or be fired), but we still have agreed to submit ourselves to the authority of another person within the confines of the company for which we work. And this text, along with a few others in the New Testament, tells us how we are to conduct ourselves while at work.
Sound doctrine does not work its way out only in how we live at home and at church. It is a vital part of who we are and thus affects every area of our lives. Since this is true, then we need to study these things and find out what the Word of God presents to us as qualities for employees.
Join us this Sunday, June 19, for worship at 10:30 AM as we study “Qualities for Workers” from Titus 2:9-10.