Pressing On


A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: bondservant

Healthy teachings for slaves

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Paul has one last group within the Cretan believers to address.  Slavery was quite common within ancient Rome; so much so that historians believe that the slave population would vary between 30% to over 50% of a given city.  While some slaves toiled under harsh conditions, others appeared to be normal businessmen; however, the function and authority of both were under the supervision of their individual masters.  Invariably, with such a sizeable population, there were slaves who became Christians.  So they also would wonder “What’s next?” after choosing to trust Christ for their salvation from the penalty of their sins.

Titus 2:9-10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 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.

One source I found made this point: “Paul’s instructions on the respectful attitude of slaves toward their masters comes against the backdrop of a standard theme in ancient comedies: the arrogant, back-talking slave.  Over and over the Greek and Latin comic playwrights present slaves as mocking their masters behind their backs, talking back to them with barely disguised contempt when they could (often getting a cuffing for comic effect), and generally being villainous characters.  Admittedly a large measure of this picture was simply the comedic portrait, but it no doubt contains an element of truth…”

What’s helpful here is that Paul gives instructions for “What’s next”, but he also provides the why for doing these things.  Did you see it at the end of verse 10? 

so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive

Paul wanted the Cretan slaves to recognize that their work for their earthly master was their way to demonstrate who God is and what God has done in their lives.  Against the cultural joke backdrop of the back-talking slave, a servant who is trustworthy in front of his master as well as when his master is not around would stand out. 

The slaves were to recognize the authority of those above them, work to please them, be respectful, and not to misappropriate the resources they were in charge of or came in contact with.  Their trustworthiness would gain them an audience with their master and those around them…their audience would find their motivations to be attractive.  Titus was to make sure that the slaves knew that their everyday choices would build the platform from which they could share the good news of gospel.  Every slave, from the one with huge responsibilities to the one who did the most menial of tasks, could make the gospel attractive by how they worked.

Although we do not find ourselves in the same employment situation as the Cretan slaves, there are some clear parallels and applications for all of us.  In a culture that seems to take work less and less serious…how a Christian works is important, no matter what job we have in front of us.  We represent our Savior in the everyday choices we make in our work.

Keep Pressing,


Letters in the ancient world didn’t have return addresses or postmarks to indicate who the letter was from or from where the letter had been sent.  Instead, ancient letters begin with the sender indentifying himself before getting to the actual reason for writing.  This style is also found in all of the New Testament letters.

Titus 1:1  Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

Admittedly, we usually skim over these sections of the New Testament letters.  However, it is within these first few verses that we get close up look at Paul, how he views himself, and how he views his God-given mission.

The two descriptions he uses to identify himself – a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ are the basis for his work in strengthening the faith of God’s people and to impart the knowledge of the truth about God that affects the way we live.  So what did Paul mean by being both a servant and an apostle?

An apostle was a representative, a messenger, or an envoy.  This term was often used for the divinely appointed founders of the church.  While “Apostle” was an easy title to apply to Peter, James, John, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples, Paul’s claim harkens back to his Damascus Road experience.  After meeting the glorified Christ, Paul’s life and mission were radically altered.  He became the envoy for Jesus to the known world.

The word servant is often rendered as “slave” in other translations; however, given America’s history with race-based slavery, our understanding of slavery in the ancient world can be a little skewed.  A servant, or a doulos, was a person who was owned, often to repay a debt, and the servitude was for a limited time.  While some slaves did have a life of hard labor, slaves also performed many domestic services, and often highly skilled ones.  Some examples include teachers, accountants, and personal physicians. 

Perhaps a better translation would be bondservant, as that term more accurately indicates one who would sell himself into slavery for another.  An additional interesting aspect of slavery in the Old Testament was that after a slave earned his or her freedom, the former slave could choose to voluntarily bond himself to his master for the rest of his life (Deuteronomy 15).  This decision was based upon the slave realizing the benefits to being permanently associated with his master, that he loved his master so much that he viewed his freedom a worthwhile price to maintain their relationship.

While an apostle was chosen by Christ, to be a servant was a choice made by the individual.

Have we chosen to be servants of God?  Don’t answer too fast.  The Old Testament slave would have his ear pierced to signify to everyone that he had made his choice to become a servant for life.

What marks our lives that we are choosing to serve God?

Keep Pressing,