Slaves Adorning the Doctrine of God
Titus 2:9-10
Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;…

As the number of slaves in the first century was so enormous it was only in accordance with human probability that many of the first converts to Christianity belonged to this class; all the more so, as Christianity belonged to this class; all the more so, as Christianity, like most great movements, began with the lower orders and thence spread upwards. Among the better class of slaves, that is those who were not so degraded as to be insensible of their own degradation, the gospel spread freely. It offered them just what they needed, and the lack of which had turned their life into one great despair. It gave them something to hope for and live for. Their condition in the world was both socially and morally deplorable. Socially they had no rights beyond what their lord chose to allow them. And St. in commenting on this passage points out how inevitable it was that the moral character of slaves should as a rule be bad. They have no motive for trying to be good, and very little opportunity of learning what is right. Every one, slaves included, admits that as a race they are passionate, intractable, and indisposed to virtue, not because God has made them so, but from bad education and the neglect of their masters. And yet this is the class which St. Paul singles out as being able in a peculiar way to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." "To adorn the doctrine of God." How is the doctrine of God to be adorned? And how are slaves capable of adorning it? "The doctrine of God" is that which He teaches, which He has revealed for our instruction. It is His revelation of Himself. He is the author of it, the giver of it, and the subject of it. He is also its end or purpose. It is granted in order that men may know Him, and love Him, and be brought home to Him. All these facts are a guarantee to us of its importance and its security. It comes from One who is infinitely great and infinitely true. And yet it is capable of being adorned by those to whom it is given. There is nothing paradoxical in this. It is precisely those things which in themselves are good and beautiful that we consider capable of adornment and worthy of it. Thus adornment is a form of homage: it is the tribute which the discerning pay to beauty. But adornment has its relations not only to those who bestow, but to those also who receive it. It is a reflection of the mind of the giver; but it has also an influence on the recipient. And, first, it makes that which is adorned more conspicuous and better known. A picture in a frame is more likely to be looked at than one that is unframed. Adornment is an advertisement of merit: it makes the adorned object more readily perceived and more widely appreciated. And, secondly, if it is well chosen and well bestowed, it augments the merit of that which it adorns. That which was fair before is made still fairer by suitable ornament. The beautiful painting is still more beautiful in a worthy frame. Noble ornament increases the dignity of a noble structure. And a person of royal presence becomes still more regal when royally arrayed. Adornment, therefore, is not only an advertisement of beauty, it is also a real enhancement of it. All these particulars hold good with regard to the adornment of the doctrine of God. By trying to adorn it and make it more beautiful and more attractive, we show our respect for it; we pay our tribute of homage and admiration. We show to all the world that we think it estimable, and worthy of attention and honour. And by so doing we make the doctrine of God better known: we bring it under the notice of others who might otherwise have overlooked it: we force it upon their attention. Moreover, the doctrine which we thus adorn becomes really more beautiful in consequence. Our acceptance of the doctrine of God, and our efforts to adorn it, bring out its inherent life and develop its natural value, and every additional person who joins us in doing this is an augmentation of its powers. It is within our power not only to honour and make better known, but also to enhance, the beauty of the doctrine of God. But slaves — and such slaves as were found throughout the Roman empire in St. Paul's day — what have they to do with the adornment of the doctrine of God? Why is this duty of making the gospel more beautiful specially mentioned in connection with them? That the aristocracy of the empire, its magistrates, its senators, its commanders — supposing that any of them could be induced to embrace the faith of Jesus Christ — should be charged to adorn the doctrines which they had accepted, would be intelligible. Their acceptance of it would be a tribute to its dignity. Their loyalty to it would be a proclamation of its merits. Their accession to its ranks would be a real augmentation of its powers of attraction. But almost the reverse of all this would seem to be the truth in the case of slaves. Their tastes were so low, their moral judgment so debased, that for a religion to have found a welcome among slaves would hardly be a recommendation of it to respectable people. And what opportunities had slaves, regarded as they were as the very outcasts of society, of making the gospel better known or more attractive? Yet St. Paul knew what he was about when he urged Titus to commit the "adorning of the doctrine of God" in a special manner to slaves: and experience has proved the soundness of his judgment. If the mere fact that many slaves accepted the faith could not do a great deal to recommend the power and beauty of the gospel, the Christian lives, which they thenceforward led, could. It was a strong argument a fortiori. The worse the unconverted sinner, the more marvellous his thorough conversion. As puts it, when it was seen that Christianity, by giving a settled principle of sufficient power to counterbalance the pleasures of sin, was able to impose a restraint upon a class so self-willed, and render them singularly well behaved, then their masters, however unreasonable they might be, were likely to form a high opinion of the doctrines which accomplished this. And Chrysostom goes on to point out that the way in which slaves are to endeavour to adorn the doctrine of God is by cultivating precisely those virtues which contribute most to their masters' comfort and interest — submissiveness, gentleness, meekness, honesty, truthfulness, and a faithful discharge of all duties. What a testimony conduct of this kind would be to the power and beauty of the gospel; and a testimony all the more powerful in the eyes of those masters who became conscious that these despised Christian slaves were living better lives than their owners! The passionate man, who found his slave always gentle and submissive; the inhuman and ferocious man, who found his slave always meek and respectful; the fraudulent man of business, who noticed that his slave never pilfered or told lies; the sensualist, who observed that his slave was never intemperate and always shocked at immodesty — all these, even if they were not induced to become converts to the new faith, or even to take much trouble to understand it, would at least at times feel something of respect, if not of awe and reverence, for a creed which produced such results. Where did their slaves learn these lofty principles? Whence did they derive the power to live up to them? Nor were these the only ways in which the most degraded and despised class in the society of that age were able to "adorn the doctrine of God." Slaves were not only an ornament to the faith by their lives; they adorned it also by their deaths. Not a few slaves won the martyr's crown. What slaves could do then we all of us can do now. We can prove to all for whom and with whom we work that we really do believe and endeavour to live up to the faith that we profess. By the lives we lead we can show to all who know anything of us that we are loyal to Christ. By avoiding offence in word or in deed, and by welcoming opportunities of doing good to others, we can make His principles better known. And by doing all this brightly and cheerfully, without ostentation or affectation or moroseness, we tan make His principles attractive. Thus we also can "adorn the doctrine of God in all things." "In all things." That all-embracing addition to the apostolic injunction must not be test sight of. There is no duty so humble, no occupation, so trifling, that it cannot be made into an opportunity for adorning our religion (1 Corinthians 10:31).

(A. Plummer, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;

WEB: Exhort servants to be in subjection to their own masters, and to be well-pleasing in all things; not contradicting;

Servants Adorning the Gospel
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