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‘SLAVES, THE PRESENT AGE AND THE FUTURE HOPE’

Do you look forward to Monday morning as much as Friday afternoon?

After instructing Titus on how best to establish Godly leadership and conduct in the church (elders) and in the home (men and women), Paul now turns to a third critical context for Gospel to be lived and proclaimed – the workplace! The Gospel has dramatic relevance for the contemporary world and as a preparation for the future. We really should be making an impact wherever we are, and there should be no difference between our conduct at home, in the church, and at work (Col 3:22-24 ‘slaves obey your earthly masters in everything with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord’). It is interesting to note that ‘work’ was a gift before the Fall (Gen 2)—it only became a ‘curse’ after the Fall. ‘Our place of work should also be our place of worship’

Slaves v.9-10, Slavery in NT times was not limited to the abusive slavery we usually think of in more recent history (e.g. the horrific slave trade in Colonial times was abolished through the Christian conviction of William Wilberforce and others).

Neither Christ nor Paul campaigned against slavery in general. Paul actually asked his friend Philemon the restore his run-away slave Onesimus and treat him like a brother without condemning him for having slaves in the first place (Philemon 10-16). The fundamental duty of a slave Doulos is to submit/serve (v.9), and it is no different when it is our choice (bond-slaves) – the only obvious exception would be when
it is clearly contrary to God’s will (Acts 5:29 ‘we must obey God rather than men’).

In, v.9 ‘try to please—not talk back’—only Christ’s grace can be the source of this: ‘please’ euarestous is always used of our relationship to God (2 Cor 5:9 ‘we make it our goal to please him’); we do this by being co-operative, not disruptive. ‘Not to steal or fully trusted’.

In (v.10) there is the practical application of ‘pleasing’ our masters. Petty theft was common, and there were many subtle temptations for house slaves. ‘This brought to mind the experience of a missionary couple in PNG who had their bananas stolen from their garden and then sold back to them!’ The practical purpose and evidence of true faith is to ‘make God attractive’ (v.10) and is a consequence of our new nature in Christ.

Jesus had said, ‘When I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.’ (John 12:32), clearly referring to his crucifixion and the believer’s opportunity to lift up Christ in our hearts and lives. We are his ambassadors and bear his light, saying, ‘You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ See Matthew 5:14-16. The most attractive thing about us is the presence of Christ in us!

The Present Age v.11-12. In v.11, ‘grace—salvation relates to all men’. This is an important reminder that the grace required to live effectively in today’s world is available to all people. ‘appearance’ is lit. epiphane, which stresses the image of grace in Christ suddenly breaking into our moral darkness, like the rising sun (see v.13) ‘it teaches us to say “No” (v.12)—the world’s values are predominantly ‘yes—do anything you feel like doing’, but this has caused so much pain, addiction and real slavery.

The good news is that there is true freedom in being able (through Christ) to say ‘no’. We don’t have to conform to the world’s values and dictates (Rom 12:2 ‘do not be conformed… but be transformed.’

And ‘to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives’ – the Christian life is more about being and doing than not doing—what initially might look limiting eg ‘self-control’ is actually wonderfully liberating and sets a platform for real action and adventure! The Christian life is designed for the present as much as it is a preparation for the future.

The Future Hope v.13-14. Remember that ‘hope’ in the Bible is not vague optimism, but absolute certainty. In v.13 ‘while we wait for the blessed hope…’— ‘waiting’ is not sitting passively on a Swiss mountain waiting for the Lord’s return! However, eagerly expecting and actively serving (1 Peter 5:2, ‘Be shepherds of God’s flock… not because you must but because you are willing… eager to serve’).

This is possible because we are trusting in the sufficiency and strength of someone else, Isaiah 40:28-31, ‘those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength’.
In, v.13 ‘glorious appearing—God Christ’—this is the second ‘appearance’ of the Lord (v.11) and will establish the ultimate and permanent reality as opposed to the temporary fallenness of our current circumstances. It is also another confirmation of the deity of Christ.


Note the progressive work of Christ ‘gave—redeem., to purify’ (v.14), which is for now as much as the future. Christ’s redemptive work was because of his desire for us: ‘to purify for himself a people… eager to do what is good’. Our gratitude and new nature should cause us to be wholeheartedly committed to living out the good news. I can anticipate that you would never have met a newly engaged young woman hesitant to show you her engagement ring; there is joy in sharing!

In v.15, It says, ‘You should teach, and encourage, or rebuke with all authority’—this is not just an academic exercise—its purpose is to shape our whole beings. ‘Do not let anyone despise you’. Christianity should not be dismissed as just an optional private religion. It is fashionable in our culture to demand that religious expression should be private, not public, but nothing is further from the truth! So-called neutral non-belief is actually just as much a faith as any religion. Christianity embraces and shapes every aspect of life and is too important to be dismissed or belittled as just a private belief.

When a giant multinational corporation tried to recruit some missionaries to do some field work for them in a remote location, the missionaries declined, and when they were asked why they wouldn’t take up the prestigious and lucrative offer, the missionaries responded, ‘because your business is too small’!

In application, how important do we see our work in the Kingdom of God to be?

Key Prayer for this study:

• Lord, help us not to steal from your reputation or your ministry here to others by not being self-controlled and upright

• Lord help us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions

• Lord, thank you for your appearance and the grace you provide in your person to make these prayers possible and realistic.

  • Written by Peter Thomas for New Life Aus, Aug 2022, (ed. by doug@nlife.com.au)
  • Photo by Hussain Badshah on Unsplash