How Do We Adorn the Doctrine of God?

Have you ever come across a passage of Scripture that you’ve read for years, even for decades, and then found yourself questioning what a word or phrase meant that you’ve just glossed over before?

I had that experience recently with the last part of Titus 2:10, which says, “in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

I puzzled over that word “adorn.” My initial thoughts ran something like this: we think of adornments as something we add on, like jewelry or hair ornaments, to make us prettier or more attractive.

But the gospel of God is perfect as it is—we can’t add anything to it to make it better. So what does the Bible mean that we’re to adorn it?

Does “adorning the doctrine of God our Savior” mean making a beautifully stitched or lettered plaque with the gospel message on it? There’s nothing wrong with that, but Paul has a deeper meaning in mind.

I looked up the Greek word for adorn here. In the KJV, it’s translated as “adorn, trim, or garnish.” Other translations say “make attractive.” According to BibleStudyTools.com, the Greek word can mean:

  1. to put in order, arrange, make ready, prepare
  2. to ornament, adore
  3. metaph. to embellish with honour, gain honour

That didn’t help a whole lot. So I looked up the definition of the English word adorn, since translators felt that was a good rendering of the Greek word. According to Dictionary.com, the first definition is the one we usually think of first: “to decorate or add beauty to, as by ornaments.” The second definition shed a little more light: “to make more pleasing, attractive, impressive, etc.; enhance.”

I went back to Titus to look at the verse in context. Titus is a letter from the apostle Paul to one of his helpers, Titus, who was then pastoring in Crete. In chapter 1, Paul stresses the importance of ordaining elders who are men of godly character. He laments those who are “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers” (1:10). “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. . . . Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (1:11, 13).

By contrast, Titus was to teach “what accords with sound doctrine” (2:1). Paul then goes into instructions for older men and women, younger women and men, so that their works and character lines up with sound doctrine.

Then Paul addresses bondservants. That term makes us bristle these days. I’ve written before about slavery in the Bible, so I won’t repeat all of that here. In an example of God’s timing, I was pondering this passage Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning while making breakfast I heard part of Stephen Davey’s message on Surprising Submission from 1 Peter 2. He explains that slavery in Biblical times was not like slavery as we think of it from the 1800s and before in this country. The Old Testament condemns the type of slavery we usually think of: Deuteronomy 24:7: “If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” So does the New Testament: 1 Timothy 1:8-11 lists enslavers (in the ESV; “menstealers” in the KJV) among those not in accord with sound doctrine. In OT times, often slavery was a way of working off a debt, like an indentured servant. In Rome, Dr. Davey explained, most of the people who weren’t Roman citizens were considered servants. These would be the everyday “worker bees” who made society run smoothly. A relatively small number of Christians was not going to be able to overthrow the Roman economy. God’s instruction was to transform people from the inside out with the truth that everyone is created in the image of God, and in the kingdom of heaven, these distinctions didn’t make any difference.

So, Paul’s instruction to bondservants here doesn’t mean he was condoning the system. His instructions for everyone had to do with how to live within their circumstances in a way that honored and glorified God.

That said, in context this passage says:

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:9-14).

Even though the word “adorn” is used towards servants, I think it applies to everyone in this passage (and within the church), because Paul’s theme to each group is the same: live lives that are in keeping with God’s truth.

So, then, how do we adorn the doctrine of God our Savior? The whole rest of the letter to Titus tells us how. Here are a few ways:

First of all, we have to believe God’s truth. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Then Philippians 2:12 says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” That doesn’t mean work for your salvation: salvation is a free gift of God’s grace. Later in Titus Paul writes:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).

But we work out our salvation. One of our former pastors used to say it’s like working out a math problem to its logical conclusion. We take those high and lofty ideals and work them out into our everyday lives. God is a God of truth, so we live by truth and tell the truth. God is a God of love, so we show love to Him and others.

The word “self-controlled” comes up a lot in this book, and self-control is one facet of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-26. We don’t blast people with angry words when we feel like it. We don’t steal other people’s goods or steal from our employers by not giving them a good day’s work.

We obey the authorities God has placed over us. That’s not always fun, especially when their faults and foibles are obvious. But we work as unto God.

Paul mentions being “well-pleasing.” Does that mean we’re obsequious sycophants? No, but we make a deliberate effort to get along with others. 

Not argumentative,” Paul says. Later in Titus, Paul writes, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).  Elsewhere he writes, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). Ouch. Probably half of social media involves grumbling and disputing. Yet even there we should “shine as lights in the world.”

After exploring the passage in context, I looked up other sources on this verse. Spurgeon has a good sermon on this passage here. I liked what Warren Wiersbe said in his Be Faithful commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus:

This will “embellish with honor” the Word of God (WUEST). When we serve faithfully, we “beautify the Bible” and make the Christian message attractive to unbelievers. When Paul addressed the slaves in Timothy’s church (1 Tim. 6: 1), he used a negative motive: “that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” But the positive motive, to make God’s message attractive, and the negative motive, to keep God’s teaching from being slandered, ought to control our lives.”

I don’t think making the gospel attractive to unbelievers means telling them all their problems will be solved when they believe. That would be a lie. Every believer in the Bible had problems. But the gospel is attractive because in Christ we find forgiveness, peace, righteousness, help, guidance, and so much more.

When I started this study, I leaned toward a definition of adornment as making attractive or honoring. While I think those do apply, I can also see the “put in order, arrange, make ready” aspect of the Greek word for “adorn.” We’re to order and arrange our lives to reflect accurately our Savior and the gospel.

Normally my blog posts aren’t so Bible-study-ish. I’ve thought about trying to rework this into something that might look a little more inspirational to read. But I decided to leave it as is. I don’t find such study dry. Each step opened my understanding a bit more. Now I can not only approach this word with more depth next time I read this passage, but I have an overarching principle to keep in mind as I go about daily life: are my thoughts and actions adorning the gospel or marring it?

How about you? Has a word or phrase or concept in your Bible reading ever sent you off on a study? Had you encountered before what it means to adorn the gospel?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads found this week:

Evaluating Evangelistic Phrases. “Sadly, much of what is called evangelism today lacks gospel clarity. Repentance and faith are often missing or muddied in many of our evangelistic endeavors. Over the years, a number of popular phrases, terms, and shorthand expressions have either watered down or replaced the Biblical response to the gospel.”

What Is the Gospel? HT to the above article. “What exactly do Christians mean when they talk about the ‘gospel of Jesus Christ’?” I especially like the definition of repentance: “To repent of our sins means to turn away from our rebellion against God. Repentance doesn’t mean we’ll bring an immediate end to our sinning. It does mean, though, that we’ll never again live at peace with our sins.”

How Valuable to Me Is My Bible Today? “What would it feel like today not to own a Bible? What if I knew hardly anyone who did? What would I be willing to do to have one for myself?” Written by our beloved former pastor.

The Paradox of Parenting and How to Trust God More, HT to Challies. “From the moment our babies leave the safety and protection of the womb, we are literally and figuratively pushing them out. They can’t stay in the nest forever, and this brings us joy and sorrow. Isn’t this the paradox of parenting? The more we want to hold on to them, the more time reveals we have to keep letting them go, little by little.”

A Common Face, HT to Challies. “One of the best things my church’s women’s ministry does is to have someone share their testimony at our events. I am often stunned at what I hear from the ordinary women around me – women who quietly go about their everyday lives while harboring beautiful, compelling stories of God’s mercy. Why do we pander and scramble to hear the famous, successful and beautiful people speak, when God’s glory is just waiting to be displayed by the sisters and brothers around us?”

Sending Love, HT to Challies. “Sending Christ-like love means moving from the busy lane of one’s own life to enter the path of another, just as Jesus did when God sent Him to earth. It’s a selfless kind of love, not one from which the giver seeks to gain. And when such love is given, it brings blessed relief, casts hope over despair, and offers a glimpse of Christ.”

Church Membership–The Biblical Basis for It and Benefits of It. I enjoyed this creative look at what the church is and does and why we need to be a part of it.

A Message for Young Women. “Somewhere out there in the great, wide world, someone is praying for you. She probably doesn’t know you and you probably don’t know her. You may not meet one another for many more years. But she’s praying for you nonetheless and has been for a very long time. She is the mother of a son.”

Resources for Bible Study and Teaching. I came to this through a link from another post on the Knowable Word site.

Incredible performance. An annual meeting of high school choirs in KY led to a wonderful tradition.

I enjoy listening to parts of Stephen Davey’s sermons on the radio while my oatmeal is bubbling. I’m thankful he puts the transcripts online so I can catch the rest. He had a series of messages about David that I particularly loved. This section from last Tuesday (Feb 8) struck me:

And as we’ve already learned, being a man or woman after God’s own heart doesn’t mean you’re sinless. David was guilty of great sin against God and others.

Why could David be called a man after God’s own heart? Was it because David was perfect? No; it was because God was David’s priority.

Being a man or woman or a young person who pursues after the heart of God doesn’t have anything to do with your perfection – it has everything to do with your priority.

And that is exactly the priority that David wants to ring in Solomon’s ears for the rest of his life.

That’s what I want to ring in my children’s hearts as well. I think I put this verse somewhere in their graduation paraphernalia for each of them: “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Laudable Linkage

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Here are several thought-provoking reads found in the last week or so.

Every Testimony Is Dramatic and Miraculous. “There is nothing basic or boring about the life-transforming power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The angels throw a party every time someone comes to Christ, and the parties aren’t less enthusiastic for the freckle-faced eight year olds. Salvation is never small. It is big and dramatic and miraculous, every single time.”

Is Prayer Enough?

What Jesus Said About White Privilege.

7 Stabilizing Principles in a Chaotic World, Part 3: Everyone Is Made in the Image of God. Even the people on the other side of the political fence or the ones who drive us crazy. And we “need to treat everybody—everybody—with that kind of respect.”

How You Might Break the Third Commandment in Church, HT to Challies.

What to Do When a Friend Loses a Baby, HT to True Woman. Much of this is good for other types of loss as well.

Give Children All of Your Attention. Some of the Time. HT to True Woman. I remember  as a young mom struggling with guilt when I did not give my children my full attention, yet feeling it was good for them to learn to entertain themselves sometimes. I thought of women in Bible times or even a couple of hundred years ago who had to do so much from scratch and could not have possibly sat on the floor playing with their children eight hours a day. But it is good to set everything aside for one-on-one time together sometimes. This post has some good thoughts along these lines.

How to Leave Porn Behind, HT to True Woman. Good thoughts on “radical repentance” for any sin.

3 Reasons Contemporary Worship Is Declining, and What We Can Do to Help the Church Move On. I don’t agree with every point here, but I especially like this: “We’ve done ourselves and the church a disservice by insisting that there are two kinds of worshipers, traditional and contemporary…Our musical tastes don’t dictate how we worship, our theology does. Both of these extremes are toxic. All worship is historic because it recalls the creative and redemptive acts of God. All worship is contemporary, because we’re doing it now. All worship is future, because it foretells the coming resurrection.”

And, finally, a smile found on Pinterest. This is close to how I really think now, except I say 20. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest round-up of good reading on the web:

You Don’t Love the Church.

What Does It Mean to Abide in Christ, HT to Challies.

The Long Drive Home. I can identify.

Studying God’s Word When You’re Tired and Busy, HT to Challies.

Three important differences between flattery and encouragement, HT to Challies.

False Friends and Dead Words, HT to Challies, on words in the KJV which mean something different now than they did then and how that causes confusion.

The Little Known Story of Olympian Eric Liddell’s Final Years.

Scott Hamilton Was Demoted As an Olympic Broadcaster. Don’t Feel Sorry For Him. Scott is my all-time favorite ice skater. I enjoyed his testimony here:

Happy Saturday!

 

For His Name’s Sake

It happened Thursday morning that my reading from Daily Light on the Daily Path intersected with my Bible reading. The Daily Light passage for September 28 is as follows:

They shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them. Numbers 6:27.

O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. Isaiah 26:13. We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name. Isa. 63:19.

All people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. Deut. 28:10. The LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people. I Sam. 12:22

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. Dan. 9:19. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? Psalm 79:9,10. The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. Prov. 18:10.

Obviously, what those verses all have in common is God’s name, and there are multitudes more in the Bible. We may be somewhat familiar with the last one, but have we ever prayed for forgiveness, as Daniel did, or help, as Asaph did in Psalm 79, for God’s sake, for the sake of His name, for His glory? I have to admit, most often my focus is on my own need and wanting it resolved as soon as possible.

Part of my Bible reading was in Psalm 79 on this same day, which is quoted in this day’s Daily Light. According to my MacArthur Study Bible, this psalm was probably written after Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He comments that in that time and culture, defeat of a nation was taken to mean the defeat of its god as well. Maybe that’s one reason God manifested Himself to Nebuchadnezzar later on – to show him that He had not been defeated, as well as to show him his need of Him.

Knowing those things magnifies the poignancy of OT saints being concerned for God’s name and, in sense, His reputation. God associated His name with Israel in a particular way. But what of NT saints, especially NT Gentile saints? What is our relationship to His name?

Are we called by His name?

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name…That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Acts 15:14, 17.

 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named… Ephesians 3:14-15.

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 2 Timothy 2:19.

What benefits do we receive through His name?

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. John 1:12.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11.

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 1 John 2:12.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 8:20.

And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24.

Do our actions reflect on His name?

And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Acts 19:17.

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you. Romans 2:24.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrew 6:10.

Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? James 2:7.

Does His name influence our actions?

 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20.

Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. Mark 9:37.

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Acts 9:15.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:5-6.

Because that for his name’s sake they went forth…3 John 7.

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Revelation 2:2-3.

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith…Revelation 2:13a.

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Revelation 3:8.

What might it cost us to bear His name?

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. Matthew 24:9.

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 1 Peter 4:14.

I hope these verses encourage you, as they do me, to enlarge my vision in my prayers, my life, and my actions to concern for His name.

And in his name shall the Gentiles trust. Matthew 12:21.

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.

(Sharing with and Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Glimpses, Soul Survival, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

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Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195Here are some noteworthy reads discovered in the last couple of weeks:

Can I Sing “Amazing Grace” If I Was Saved at Six? We tend to forget that if loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment, then failing in that is the greatest sin, and we have all done that every day!

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident.

Bible study resources.

Lies the Modesty Culture Teaches Men. We were just having a family discussion about this recently.

When Your Kids Won’t Bow Down to Your Idols.

I would never forget my child in a hot car…until she did. Good advice to teach little ones (who are old enough to understand) safety tips for such a situation.

And I found this funny on Pinterest – both moms and kids of any age can identify with this. 🙂

Happy Saturday!