Adorn the Doctrine of God our SaviorA true defender of doctrine must be a personal conduit of the life of Christ.
Ti.2: 9 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. (NIV)
Paul exhorts Titus to teach believers of all ages. But in these verses, he gives an amazing exhortation to slaves. Yes, these are slaves in the way we usually define the word. They were possessions of their masters. It is impossible to know fully how the Spirit can and does work in these situations. It does not mean God is in favor of slavery, however God does work in all sorts of twisted cultures in order to bring redemption to some. Perhaps if all slaves who believed would revolt against their masters the cause of Christ might have been misunderstood as a moral crusade and much damage would come to the gospel. Only God knows.
But consider this: If the Lord exhorts slaves in this way, how much should we heed the same admonitions? In the King James version Paul uses the term “the doctrine of God our Saviour”. There is that pesky proof of divinity so often attacked today. But in context all doctrine is teaching, therefore in the NIV it says “the teaching about God our Savior”. But Paul does not just exhort slaves to know about the teachings of Jesus. He commands them to “make them attractive” or in the KJV “adorn” them.
Oh my. How can we adorn the teachings that are perfect? How can we make them attractive? Can we make rubies more red? Can we make diamonds shine more brightly? Think about the implications of these verses. For those who believe man has no part in the presentation of God’s Word or as a vessel for evangelism, these verses openly reveal that we have been given a divine role to play. And that role is sacred and holy.
There is a question which looms large over the entire doctrinal debates. Why are words 99.9% of the debate while deeds seem almost immaterial? Sometimes God uses His Word spoken through a significantly compromised vessel, but sometimes that vessel hinders sinners from seeing the truth. And these verses do not just mean that we should not smoke or drink or curse, the actions that we are commissioned to fulfill are deep and sacrificial. Our lives are to be ornaments on the tree of God’s truth. Defending doctrine without exhibiting the Person and teachings of Jesus in our lives is like selling a car without an engine. Its like taking a nature’s walk to see the wonder of God’s animal kingdom in a taxidermist museum.
But remember, these exhortations were not given to elders and preachers and church leaders. These were given to slaves! And if slaves were to adorn the teachings of God, how much more free men? We cannot, we must not, receive self congratulations from all our verbal doctrinal victories. The greatest and most impactful victory should come through a life completely and fully surrendered to Christ with the remarkable features that openly reveal The Lord to whom we are surrendered. But we have so often reduced the faith to a few pages of exegetical prowess and doctrinal organization. And the orthodox community applauds as they look down their noses toward all those doctrinal miscreants. That is not Christianity at all.
What does it really mean to adorn the teachings of Christ? I mean in all practicality what does it mean to exhibit the teachings of our Savior in such an arresting way so as to make them attractive? Let’s face it, the church is not doing a very good job of that, and in fact the church has supplanted that challenge with other more convenient ways to say we embrace His Words.
Matt.7: 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
It is not enough to hear or even teach the Words of Christ. We must display them in a living vessel. And that is exactly why we must not just hang our hats of orthodoxy on doctrines like the Trinity or the virgin birth or other more esoteric doctrines that cannot really be seen in actions. Those kind of doctrines are important foundations, but we must be the living representatives of the life and teachings of Christ. In a more profound way we must be a dead conduit of the Living Christ, dead to ourselves and alive unto Him. That is what is painfully missing in the western church.
We have substantially move away from a living faith except for a few do’s and don’t’s. And systematically we have constructed a museum of ethereal doctrines, and although true, we have severely minimized and even significantly ignored the more open revelations of Christ’s teachings. If a person nods to a few cardinal doctrines he is “orthodox”. But that same person can show no more compassion, no more mercy, no more love, no more humility, no more concern for the poor than does his atheist neighbor.
The Christian faith is not a doctrinal exam. It is a living expression of the Person and mission of Christ grown from the roots of Biblical truths but whose visible flower is the authenticity manifested in the lives of those who profess such roots. Without that flower all that remains are unseen roots which can be legitimately questioned concerning their existence. Far from just adhering to some moral and doctrinal checklist, our lives should be pulsating daily, longing and looking to find avenues for which to express Christ. Ambassadors filled with the life and the person from whom we are sent. His life is here while our is with Him.
And that is the reality if we could ever embrace it fully. We should have no will of our own. We should reject any reputation other than His. When attacked we pray. When persecuted we rejoice. When rejected we identify with Him. When mocked we remain silent. When lied about for His sake we receive it in His precious name. When you are dead to this world what can move you? What can disturb you when you see through His eyes?
The floods will come. The winds will blow, the rain will fall, and all manner of evil will continue to grow all around us. But we are sheltered under His might wings. We are pilgrims filled with His love. We are lights in the midst of darkness. We are salt in the midst of decay. Our doctrine is truth, but our light is His incandescence shining through our humble obedience. So if you desire people to see Jesus in this world you may show them a portrait, or have them watch a movie, or even give them a Bible. God can use almost anything. But if you desire people to see Christ, and if you are willing to pay the price, then die to all that is in this world, embrace the eternal, and humbly be Him to everyone you can.
Doctrine without a living Jesus is a meal served lifeless and cold.
But if we take that doctrine and adorn it with a living expression of Christ,
it can feed multitudes.