A Commentary by John Stott
Titus 2:9-10. f). Slaves.
*Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything* (9a). For a discussion on the unacceptable essence of slavery, its prevalence in the Roman Empire, and why Paul did not call for its immediate and total abolition, see 1 Timothy 6:1f. and the exposition above (pp,142-143), (note 1).
The instructions Titus was to pass on to household slaves concern their work and their character. As for their work, they must *try to please* their masters by their conscientious service, and *not to talk back to them*, but to be polite and respectful (9b).
As for their character, slaves were to be honest, *and not to steal from* their masters, *nosphizo* being ‘the regular term for petty larcenies, filching etc.’ Instead, they were to be dependable, *to show that they can be fully trusted* (10a). And the reason slaves were to be honest and reliable in both work and character was *so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive* (10b), or ‘adorn’ it (RSV). For though forced labour is demeaning to human beings, voluntary service – even by slaves – in noble. So Paul chooses slaves as his example of how good behaviour can actually adorn the gospel. The verb *kosmeo* was used of arranging jewels in order to display their beauty. And the gospel is a jewel, while a consistent Christian life is like the setting in which the gospel-jewel is displayed; it can ‘add lustre’ to it (REB).
Three times in the course of these verses about the Christian behaviour of different groups, Paul has betrayed his concern about the effect of the Christian witness on the non-Christian world (5, 8, 10). In two of them he refers to Christian doctrine. Young wives are to be chaste and loving, in order that the word of God be not maligned or discredited (5). Household slaves are to be honest and reliable, in order that the gospel may be adorned or ‘embellished’. This is the alternative. Christian doctrine is salvation doctrine, a jewel, called ‘the teaching about God our Saviour’ (10). So either we give no evidence of salvation, in which case the gospel-jewel is tarnished, or we give good evidence of salvation by living a manifestly saved life, in which case the gospel-jewel shines with extra lustre. Our lives can bring either adornment or discredit to the gospel.
Tomorrow: Titus 2:11-14. The sound doctrine.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.