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Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemonby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-87083-155-0
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 24 of 28 Section 1 of 3

LIFE-STUDY OF TITUS

MESSAGE FOUR

CHARGING SLAVES TO BEHAVE WELL IN THE SOCIAL SYSTEM OF SLAVERY

Scripture Reading: Titus 2:9-15

In the book of Titus Paul gives instructions concerning the church life, the family life, the behavior of slaves in the social system of slavery, and the saints’ relationship with the government. Chapter one mainly deals with the church life. Regarding the church life, Paul covers two main points in this chapter: the government of the church and the proper teaching in the church. The church’s government is built upon the proper eldership, and the teaching in the church is based on the healthy teaching of the apostles. This healthy teaching swallows up every kind of ism, in particular Judaism and Gnosticism, and every type of differing teaching. If we would have a church life which is healthy and in good order, there must be in the church the proper administration and healthy teaching according to the ministry of the apostles.

In 2:1-8 Paul speaks concerning an orderly human life. In particular, he speaks of the family life. These eight verses give us the foundation of a proper human life in the divine life. We in the Lord’s recovery should live such a human life. For the testimony of Jesus we need the highest human life, a life lived out according to the divine life given to us by God. By the divine life we need to have a human life that reaches the highest standard. In our living we should be Jesusly human. We should aspire to have a glorious testimony of the Christ in whom we believe and whom we serve and honor. Then we shall be a shining, golden lampstand. This is our declaration concerning human living.

After speaking of the church and of the family life, Paul goes on to charge the slaves to behave well in the social system of slavery (2:9-15). Certainly Paul did not agree with the system of slavery. However, as a teacher appointed by God and as one with spiritual insight, he did not touch the existing social system. If he had done so, he would have given others the impression that he was a social reformer and not a teacher of God’s economy, a herald of the good news. Paul did not involve himself with reformation of the social system. On the contrary, he gave instructions to slaves concerning the need to behave according to the highest standard of human character. The slaves were to have an excellent testimony of the life of Jesus in their human living.

If Paul had advocated the annulment of the system of slavery, he would have been regarded as a social reformer by those who read his Epistles. That would have obscured Paul’s teaching concerning the living out of Christ’s divine life in our human living in the midst of any kind of social system. In order to guarantee that the light would shine without hindrance, Paul did not say a word about the social system in the way of correcting it or reforming it.

When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He did not touch the social system. Instead, He lived as a typical Jew in a country under the control of the Roman imperialists. The Lord Jesus was born during the time of Caesar Augustus. At the time of His trial, judgment was pronounced upon Him by Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea. The Lord Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The Lord’s kingdom was not earthly; it was heavenly in nature. For this reason, when He was on earth, the Lord Jesus did not deal with the social system or with any earthly government. Paul displayed the same attitude. He did not try to reform the Roman social system.

When the Epistle of Titus was written, a number of slaves had become believers in Christ. According to civil law. a slave had no rights. A master could brand a slave as if he were a horse or a mule. Furthermore, a master could legally put a slave to death. What a dreadful system! To be sure, God was utterly opposed to such a social system, for it was altogether contrary to the place of man in His creation. Paul certainly did not approve of this evil social system. But instead of trying to reform it, he charged the slaves to behave well in it, to live in it according to the standard of the humanity of the Lord Jesus. Even in the midst of such an unjust social system, Christians could live out a life with the highest standard of humanity. What a testimony this is!

No matter how bad certain social systems may be today, none are as bad as the system of slavery in the Roman Empire. For the saints to live a Jesusly human life in that kind of social system was a marvelous testimony of the divine life. It was God’s wisdom that a slave, bought and branded like an animal, could testify of the divine life according to the highest standard.

Some have criticized Paul for not trying to reform the social system. We realize, however, that Paul used the worst social system as an opportunity to charge the believers to live a Jesusly human life in the midst of it. If the saints could live such a human life in the worst social system imaginable, then we should be able to live such a life in any kind of circumstances today. Praise the Lord that by the divine life we can have the highest human living even in the worst social system!


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