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Titus (long version)

Slaves - Wage and Otherwise

Titus 2:9-15

It is difficult for the modern American Christian to separate slavery from race, and that sometimes blurs the lesson found in this section. Paul knew of slavery as an economic status, not a racial condition. It was only in America that racism took such deep roots as a justification of slavery. We can learn much from this passage if we will look at the slaves of our time – the wage slaves – as the subject of this passage.

(Titus 2:9-15 NIV) Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, {10} and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. {11} For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. {12} It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, {13} while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, {14} who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. {15} These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

Subject: Submission

Submission is a difficult topic for the Christian because of its conflict with that adored goddess of the late 20th century, feminism. Feminism, our preachers say, must be right because it rejects submission. This is an attitude foreign to the Gospel. All Christians are in submission – or did you think that calling Jesus “Lord” was simply an honorary title? The question is not one of “submission – yes or no” but “submission, what to do about it?”

In all forms of submission, the Scripture makes two themes abundantly clear:

  • First, our conduct in submission is to have the primary purpose of teaching others about the Gospel. They are to look at us, notice the difference in our lives (NOT how we’re just like everyone else, but how we’re different) and remark (favorably) upon that. We are to be the Christ they see.[1]
  • Second, God considers all service to others as service to him – if we offer it to him. If we take the conscious decision to say, “God, I don’t like doing this, but I am going to make this service to this slave driver as if it were service to you,” God will honor that.[2]
For and against

Paul makes an interesting set of contrasts here for the slave. Put yourself, in your mind’s eye, into your work setting. Imagine the differences:

  • First, compare the employee who is constantly talking back to the boss, arguing in anger, telling everyone just how unfairly he is treated, with the one whose work is always done on time, pleasing to the boss. Tell me: which of these is the happier man? Which would you prefer to have work for you? Does the golden rule apply at work? Which of these men reflects credit upon his Lord?
  • Next, compare the employee who is “high maintenance” – the one who has to be watched all the time – with the one who can be given a task with the calm assurance that it will be done right without looking over his shoulder. Again, which employee is happier? Which one do you want working for you? Does the golden rule apply at work? Which of these men reflects credit upon his Lord? (My kids think I repeat myself too.)

I can hear the objections: “You haven’t met my boss!” But consider: has he met Christ – in you? Want an example? Look at Joseph, in the Old Testament. Sold into slavery, accused of rape and imprisoned, he eventually rises to the top. But along the way, in each position, he is a faithful servant, noted as such. His character determined where, in each setting, he would be placed. Those in charge admired the man – despite his misfortunes. He set an example that could not be missed, not because life was easy – but because it was hard. Talc crumbles when you polish it; diamonds shine.

Purpose: make the teaching attractive

There is a purpose in all this. It is that we should make the teaching of Christ attractive to all. Let’s take the objection one more time: “You haven’t met my boss! This guy is a world class jerk!” But as Paul points out, we do this because “grace has appeared to ALL men” (emphasis added).

  • Your sins – past, present and future – are forgiven, no matter how great they are. If you are forgiven so much, how is it that you cannot forgive your boss so little? Or did you think forgiveness was something that only flowed down the organization chart?
  • Is your boss – or whoever you meet – so evil that the grace of God cannot be stretched to cover them, too? Perhaps your love will not stretch that far; but God’s love does. To suggest otherwise is to deny the very power of the Omnipotent One.

The effect of Grace

Grace is sovereign, for it comes from our Lord. Paul tells us here that it teaches us – that is, grace teaches us. How does grace teach? By the example of forgiveness. If we are forgiven, then we must be forgiven something to be removed from our lives – else why the forgiveness? When we are forgiven, we are given the example of Christ. So we must see the “yes” and “no” of our example:


We are to “say no to” – other translations use the word “deny” – which means something much more than “avoid.” This is not just a case of tiptoeing around a problem. Rather, it is to identify sin as sin and push back against it in our lives. This is a foundation of virtue. We are not to be neutral about sin, but positively opposed to it. We are to “deny” it. This is the same sense in which Christ told us to deny ourselves, take up the Cross and follow him. What are we to say “no” to?

  • Ungodliness - the word means impiety in the original. It is most commonly associated with what we say. In other words, do our words reflect our Christian character – or lack of it?
  • Worldly passions – the term is generic; it means anything in this world for which you have a desire that is out of control. It may be sex; it may be money; it could be baseball trading cards, for all I know. But if the desire is out of control, that’s it. And we must deny it; say no to it.

It is a sacrifice. It is self-denial. Take up the Cross.


We should know by now that if there is a “no” there is a “yes.”

  • Self control - the word here means moderation, other translations include “soberly” or “sensibly.” It’s the chief virtue of the man under control.
  • Upright – this word carries the sense of justice with it; one who is fair. It is a sense of moral righteousness that seeks to find what is due to each and deliver it.
  • Godly – the word means reverent. Again, this often refers to our speech; do we take God lightly?

In this present age

One of the reasons that Christians have such difficulty with these concepts is that they think this life is so important. In one sense it is: it is our qualification exam, if you will, for the next. We need to remember that we are “just passing through” this world. Paul brings out three points of great worth in that regard.


We are waiting for something. Have you ever noticed the difference that anticipation makes? This is not just waiting for the passage of time, but waiting for a specific event.

There is a contrast here. My father came from the generation which did not allow the husband into the labor and delivery areas. He was confined to a waiting room. There he waited, with no information until the nurses condescended to tell him that his son had been born. Seeing his wife was out of the question; seeing the baby was through glass only. As a result, he solemnly warned me about all the horrible things my wife would say to me when I was with her during labor.

You see, in my generation, the husband was expected to coach the wife during delivery. (The word “coach” is very elastic, but it appeals to the male of the species.) I was much better informed as to what was happening than he was. As a result, I found the process exhilarating – which is not quite the word my wife would use.

We are like the new generation husband. We know what’s going on; our Lord has told us what is to happen, and we hope to be here in the flesh to see it. If not, we will certainly rise for the occasion! And what an occasion!

  • It is the glorious return of our Lord – this time in power. All the world shall see; our faith shall become sight; and the wonder of that moment will overpower all things.
  • It is the return of our God – note the equality of Christ with the Father – and the return of our Savior.
  • It is the completion of our faith and the beginning of our reward.
Who gave Himself

We forget some times that our Lord is the one who gives. Consider what he gave for us:

  • He gave up his glory – that which he had for eternity, before the beginning of time – to become human like us.
  • He gave up the power to crush the evil ones, his opponents, by force and power, so that his love might triumph. Mercy triumphs over judgment – because he gave.
  • Ultimately, he gave his life – he died, as you and I died – voluntarily, so that we might be saved.

Gratitude begins with the gift, which in this instance is the Giver. He gave Himself.


All this has a purpose:

  • To redeem (buy back) us – from all wickedness. All sins, of all types, past, present and future are covered by the blood of Christ for those who believe. This is his purpose.
  • But that purchase would be fruitless if we did not change – if we did not repent. So it is that his sacrifice is also to purify us so that we might become a people set apart for his glory. Christians are supposed to be different.
  • Repentance is inward; it must be shown outwardly. That outward show is our desire – can we say, our zeal? – for good works.

And we loop back to the beginning of the lesson. Wage slave, are you bitter at your boss? Consider the mighty coming of our Lord. Will you greet him still grumbling at your boss, untrustworthy, a poor example of a Christian? Or will your co-workers know on that day that you are one who was “born in Zion?” He purchased you with his life; he seeks your repentance as the inward change and good works as the outward change in your life. That includes your work life, too.

Does that change show? Can they see Jesus in you? Your sins are forgiven, and they are great; do you forgive their small ones? Or have you given up on them, denying the power of God?

[1] 1 Peter 2:12

[2] Ephesians 6:5-8

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