by Roland W. Keith
In His letter to Titus Paul wrote, “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10). The first time I can recall reading that passage I wondered how do we “adorn the doctrine of God?” Since then I have even read some commentators describe it as dressing up or decorating the word of God to make it more appealing to those we are trying to evangelize, which sounds dangerously close to telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, something we are warned to reprove and rebuke, not to use as a teaching method (II Timothy 4:1-5). Of course, the answer to my question is made clear when we read the verse in its full context.
In Chapter 1 of his letter to Titus, Paul writes that an overseer (and all Christians for that matter) must hold firm to the word, rebuking those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). The second chapter begins with Paul instructing Titus to teach according to sound doctrine (2:1). Finally, in Chapter 2:11-12 we are told, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). We are not to dress-up the word of God to make it more appealing, rather we are to adorn ourselves with the word of God— in our habits and actions, so that the world will see the word of God reflected in us. As John put it to abide in the word is to have the Father and Son; those who do not abide in the word do not truly have a relationship with God (II John 1:9).
It is a hard fact for many Christians to accept but we are not responsible for the world’s behavior. Whether they accept the gospel or reject it is a choice each person makes on their own. We are only responsible for giving them the opportunity to know Christ, and to reason with them insofar as we can. But if they turn away to follow other beliefs and reject the word we bring them that is beyond our power to control (See again II Timothy 4:1-5). Concerning those who reject the truth Jesus said, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town” (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5). We have an obligation to take the gospel into the world and share it with as many people as we can, but we have no power or authority over the free-will choice they make with regard to the word— we cannot make anyone believe what they will not to.
If we are dutiful, studious followers of Christ then we are well-equipped and prepared for the Lord’s work (II Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 6:10-18). We have in fact adorned ourselves with all that we need to go forth in the world to do our part in God’s work, and we are well-protected against the advances of the devil and his minions. Being prepared also means being forewarned. The world is not our friend, nor can it ever be so long as we are faithful members of the Lord’s kingdom (James 4:4). We are in very real terms mortal enemies. Only in death will we be truly free of the world and its temptations. Only then will we be beyond the reach of its dark master. We are protected, but we remain subject to our own free will, which is why we are warned to protect our own salvation so often in scripture (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 2:1-3; I Peter 2:2, 10-11; Jude; Ephesians 6:10-18).
If we wonder what being adorned with God’s word looks like we can compare some of the world’s adornments to those of scripture by reading Galatians 5:19-25: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
Those who live by the Spirit are in step with the Spirit. To be in step we must live according to the word that God delivered to us through the Spirit. If we dedicate our lives to God’s word and His service our lives will be transformed, as Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). The truly religious person separates himself from the world in personal behavior, because the focus of their life is the spiritual welfare of the world, not the secular goals that others pursue. Does that mean we turn our backs on all forms of worldly success? No. It means that the focus of our lives is driven first and foremost by God’s will and not our own. According to James the Christian seeks to “keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
The Godly prepare their whole lives for the return of their King, as Paul wrote to Titus, we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14). We may achieve great financial success in the world, even fame and fortune, but for the true Christian the first goal is always the kingdom of the Lord (Matthew 6:33). We cannot, as Elijah put it limp “between two different opinions” (I Kings 18:21). Our hearts cannot be divided between the world and heaven. Jesus directed John to write these words to the church in Laodicea: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16). The Christian who is not on fire for the Lord or trying to divide his loyalties between the world and the church will find himself rejected by the Lord.
We adorn ourselves with the doctrine by worshipping the Lord in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), with worship that is acceptable to the Him (Hebrews 12:28-29). When we are gathered in His name, it is for two reasons— to edify ourselves and build one another up in our faith, but more importantly it is to bring glory to the Lord with a form of worship that conforms to His will, not man’s (Hebrews 10:25; Romans 12:1; Matthew 15:9; John).
We are adorned with the doctrine when we do the works of God for which we were created as His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). As workers in the Lord’s service we can do no better than to follow Paul’s directive on the matter: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). It is in our service to the Lord that many of us find our greatest reason for rejoicing (Philippians 4:4-5). Who does not feel joy and find satisfaction in strengthening a brother, or being there for a sister in her hour of need? Who would not thrill to have someone they are studying with come to the Lord as a result of that study?
There are many things we can do in life that are worthwhile and are therefore worthy of our time and effort, but none so valuable as the time we give to the Lord. None so critical as when we wear His armor into the world to fight the good fight. Again, we would all do well to heed the words Paul wrote to Timothy: “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:12). What letter of recommendation are we writing for ourselves as servants of the Lord? Paul told the Corinthians that they were his letter— those that he had brought to Christ, that he had labored to strengthen, that he had guided, and risked health, life and limb for. That letter he informed them was written with the Spirit of God, on human hearts (II Corinthians 3:1-3). Do we not have the same word that Paul had to work with?
Jesus told His followers, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:13-15). We too are followers of Christ. Have we lost our saltiness? Or do we wear the doctrine, the armor of the Lord, with pride? Are we lighting the path for others, or are we blending into the shadows of the world?
What do our letters of recommendation say about us? How many hearts have we written on with the Spirit of God? Some letters may be long, some may be short. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we write them. I already know what I want the last two sentences of mine to read, “Lord, I did my best to touch others with Your word and to keep it Mat 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
Mat 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Mat 5:15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
myself. ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” (II Timothy 4:7).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.