Reading Titus 2 last week I was captivated by a truth I had previously missed. In all of my previous readings of Paul’s letter to Titus I failed to notice the beauty of verses 9-10. This time, however, it captivated me.
“[Urge] bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” Titus 2:9-10 [NASB]
The preceding verses (vv. 2-8) provided specific instruction on walking in righteousness for older men, older women, younger women and younger men. They were encouraged to walk in obedience “so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (v.5) and “so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (v. 8).
However, when it comes to slaves, those captive in painful circumstances beyond their control, Paul offers them divinely inspired encouragement that their perseverance in walking in righteousness will serve to “adorn” the gospel.
As I meditated on this passage I thought of my favorite adornment, diamonds. Diamonds are formed through intense heat and pressure. Paul is challenging the slaves to bear up under the “fiery trial” and intense pressure of slavery. They could choose the easy way of the flesh, caring not to please their masters, arguing, stealing, etc, but Paul challenges them to choose the way of righteousness instead. In so doing they are submitting themselves to be pressed between seemingly opposing forces.
The natural, fleshly response to the pressure of their inescapable circumstances of slavery would be to fight against them, to resist, be argumentative and to justify sinful responses such as pilfering or stealing. Paul instead calls them to submit themselves to the “pressure” of walking in righteousness in the midst of the flames of their affliction. He is urging them to submit to being pressed between the suffering, pain, and sorrow of their circumstances and the pressure of crucifying their flesh and obedient surrender to walk in righteousness. As they humbly submit themselves between the two pressures they will emerge as a beautiful adornment to the doctrine of God.
As incomprehensible as it sounds, through obedient surrender to the doctrines of God we will be used to adorn or embellish the already unfathomable beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am reminded of Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” We do our share, rejoicing to walk in obedient surrender through all circumstances desiring to be a visible example of the truth of His doctrines and of His faithfulness, even in, rather, especially in the midst of affliction.
Through our obedient surrender to Him we are transformed into diamonds that radiantly reflect His light, adornments to the beauty of the gospel. Sadly, slavery still exists throughout the world, but thankfully many of us do not know the anguish of slavery. Many of us do, however, know the anguish of inescapable agonizing circumstances. As we endure and persevere, clinging to Him and the path of righteousness, I believe the promise to the slaves extends to us as well. He will use our obedience in the midst of the fires of affliction to press and transform us into diamonds that uniquely and exquisitely reflect His glory.
If you, like me, find yourself pressed between the weight of inescapable agonizing circumstances and the weight of walking in righteousness, do not lose heart. Be encouraged to persevere knowing that this affliction is temporary and it is being used to press and transform us in eternally significant ways. Persevere, dear friend, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay” (Heb. 10:37), and when He does we want to be found “adorning the doctrine of God,” radiantly reflecting Him and His truths.
Come, Lord Jesus.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 [NASB]
Artwork: Sarah Harmening