Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are called “pastoral epistles” because for the most part they are Paul’s counsel to his assistants who served in the pastoral or shepherd-like function of those local churches, particularly in the regions of Ephesus and Crete.
When Paul visited Ephesus after his release from Roman house arrest, he discovered that during his absence, the church was plagued with all kinds of spiritual problems. The city itself, with all of its corruption and idolatry was proving to be a spiritual battleground for the congregation of believers.
What James Stalker says in The Life of St. Paul applies to all of us,
“If it be remembered how vast was the change which most of the members had made in passing from the worship of the heathen temples to the pure and simple worship of Christianity, it will not excite surprise that their old life still clung to them or that they did not clearly distinguish which things needed to be changed and which might continue as they had been.”
All of us have past teaching of some sort, whether within our local churches or outside the church. Teaching that affects our understanding of “the pure and simple worship of Christ.” That is what we should all be seeking. Having faithfully done all he could to develop and teach the truths of the gospel throughout his ministry, Paul is concerned near the end of his life that his faithful disciples would entrust these truths to other faithful Christians who would in turn entrust them to still others, and on and on. Paul viewed this body of truth as a special stewardship from God, to be managed with great care. Since this truth leads to godliness by pointing believers to Jesus Christ, it was the most valuable of treasures. The local church leaders were not only to faithfully teach truth to their congregations but also to sternly resist all attempts to undermine, pollute, or attack the true gospel.
Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-9 to the Galatians and to us:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel—not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell!”
Paul knew even his humanity and his capability of falling into error if he took his eyes off of God. So, he instructed the people that if they heard him teaching another gospel than the gospel of Jesus Christ as it had already been taught to them, they should go back to TRUTH and not even listen to Paul! If the message you hear is contrary to the Gospel already presented, turn away from it. If your pastor or your favorite Internet, TV, or radio teacher starts teaching something contrary to the truth printed within the Word of God, flee from it—turn it off! In other words, don’t get so committed to a man, woman, group, or teacher that when you start hearing extra stuff, or even just “fluff,” that you remain committed to whatever that person says. Stop. Test everything with the Word of God. Read your Bibles. Know the Word of God so well that you can move away from untruth.
Seamstresses use patterns to create fashion pieces to adorn themselves—a dress, skirt, or blouse. Looking at a single pattern piece for a dress won’t teach you how to make the dress. Looking at the finished product, the picture of the dress, gives you an idea of how the pieces fit together, though. A seamstress has the finished product in mind as she follows the instructions to use all the pattern pieces to construct the dress as it was designed. This is similar to studying the Bible.
To understand how to live as God intended us to live, we need to spend time perfecting our knowledge of Him through His Word—not just pieces every now and then, but diligently familiarizing ourselves with all of it. We need to read through the Bible at least once, not expecting to understand it all, but we will begin to have a grand picture of God and His plan throughout the ages. Before starting a detailed study of a book of the Bible, we need to read the whole book to get a general feel for its message. Like a seamstress, we get a glimpse of the whole picture before putting together the pieces. When studying a specific passage in the Bible, we should read the whole chapter in which it is found to see the context of the passage.
All of these actions require diligent planning similar to the process of a seamstress making a dress. The pieces only make sense as they contribute to the whole dress. We should not be content to adorn ourselves with only one piece of the dress—a sleeve, cuff, or collar—and think we are wearing the completed dress.
Four major themes are woven throughout Paul’s instruction to Timothy and Titus, themes that address the issues facing local churches just like the one you are attending now—issues faced by the pastoral leaders as well as the members.
· Theme #1: Teach and maintain truth and sound doctrine - guard against/avoid error
· Theme #2: Importance of identifying leadership who will faithfully teach truth
· Theme #3: Concern for the reputation of the church, “…so that God may not be dishonored”
· Theme #4: Do good deeds demonstrating what you believe
These themes are like pattern pieces that when put together lead a believer to adorn herself with godliness.
The English word “adorn” translates the Greek word kosmeo from which we get our word “cosmetic.” It means, “to arrange, to put in order.” That’s what women do when we style our hair, put on makeup, and dress ourselves. Have you ever thought that as you were applying your make-up, you were actually putting your face in order?! Or, when you get ready for a big interview, you’re actually arranging yourself in such a way by what you wear and how you act to demonstrate that you are truly the right person for the job! And, if you are married, you want the best as you make arrangements for a special dinner with your husband—his favorite meal, as you are adorned with his favorite dress, hairstyle and perfume! Adorning yourself is a good thing.
What is godliness? Godliness is a reverence for God characterized by a Godward attitude, doing that which is well-pleasing to Him, and taking on His likeness—Godlikeness, not becoming God but presenting Him. Attributes of godliness are those same ones found in our Lord Jesus—humility, compassion, love, prayer, dependency on God the Father, and many more. What could be a more beautiful, worthwhile goal than to aspire to adorn yourself with godliness? To put yourself in order with the very character of God? To arrange or live your life properly displaying the beliefs you claim to profess? What could be more beautiful than to dress, act, and be like Him for Him!
Well, 1st Timothy and Titus are full of “fashion” facts so that, as simply stated in Titus 2:10, we can truly …
“…adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” (NASB)
“…in every way make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (NIV)
“…make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.” (NLT)
“…bring credit to (adorn, show the beauty of) the teaching of God our Savior in everything.” (NET)
Now, your reaction might be, “That sounds nice; I’ll sit back and watch others do it.” Or, you might think, “I can’t do that.” Be assured that God doesn’t ask us to do something without equipping us to do it.
Jesus promised those who follow Him,
“Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever –the Spirit of truth…But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you." (John 14:16,18)
Paul continued this assurance of help in Philippians 1:6,
“…the One who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
And Peter confidently wrote in 2 Peter 1:3,
“His divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.”
We have everything we need for godliness through the Spirit of God who lives inside every believer and is continually at work in us. What assurance! We CAN adorn ourselves with godliness because of Jesus’ Spirit in us. We CAN live a godly life because of His Spirit in us.
The word “responsibility” breaks down for the Christian as “my response to His ability.” The how-to has been given us, but most of us struggle with what does godliness look like? Paul writes to women in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:
“Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess reverence [godliness-NAS/worship-NIV] for God.”
We’ll get into a discussion of “suitable apparel” when we get to the lesson covering that passage. For now, why would our adornment be important? Because THEY are always watching. Who are they? Titus 2:7-8 says,
“…showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.”
Those who oppose Christ and the Gospel (the “fashion police”) are always watching looking for an excuse not to believe. When we adorn ourselves with godliness, there is nothing for “them” to accuse. Then, the word of God, God’s message to the world that we profess, will not be dishonored or discredited (Titus 2:5).”
Don’t you wish every morning when you approached the mirror to get ready, that you could simply put on ONE THING, or do just ONE THING, that would get the job done? One thing that would present you to the world looking just the way you would like to look. But, we must go through the whole routine: the shower, the hair dryer, the curling iron, the hair spray, the foundation, the rouge, the eye shadow, the eye liner, the eye lash curler, the mascara. Then, we still have to get dressed with all that entails! Really! And we do this to feel presentable to our friends and family. They are not even the fashion police, the opponents!
Though there are several ways to reveal Christ, there is only one thing to put on: Christ! Hebrews 12:2 describes it this way: “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” Is that whom you see when you are looking in the mirror in the morning? Focusing your eyes on Jesus at all times will get the job done!
Consider a pistachio in its shell. If you loved pistachios, would pleasure would it give you if you never let it out of its shell to enjoy the taste of its fruit? None! Well, Jesus lives in me, in you as a believer. What if I never let Him live in my world? What pleasure will I give to anyone around me, anyone He has put in my life, if I never let Him out to reveal His fruit? None! Remember this wonderful saying:
He gave His life for you, so He could give His life to you, so He could live His life through you!
Adorn yourself with godliness. Look in the mirror each morning and see who you really are, and then “dress” in such a way to let others see Jesus in you. This isn’t about “acting religious.” This is about “wearing Jesus comfortably!” We (all believers) are the Body of Christ. Paul wants to encourage us in his letters so that we will approach our world every morning as we do our mirrors—getting ready to present His Body to an ugly world, desperately in need of adornment!