The Gospel is the power of God for salvation according to the Apostle Paul. The Gospel is good news of great joy according to Luke. The Gospel is the message conveying the purpose of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. While millions across the world can affirm these truths by the grace of God, millions who reject them still remain. This fact is the impetus for us who believe to share this message and to have an answer for the hope that we have in Christ, and thankfully many are going all over the world doing this very thing.
The Bible often discusses several hindrances to God’s message spreading including the hardness of people’s hearts, the fear of man, and pride. However, the one hindrance to the gospel being heard that we often neglect is the individual witness of Christians. A witness in a courtroom setting is supposed to accurately attest to facts and evidence that an event has occurred, therefore the best witnesses are obviously eyewitnesses. However, even an eyewitness’s account of an event can be compromised if the person’s’ character or track record appear to contradict the truthfulness of their witness. Even so, good witnesses to a court case are sometimes not considered because the lives they live or associations they have despite the fact they know the truth.
The importance of biblically defining the gospel and rightly dividing God’s word can not be overstated. What we also cannot overstate is the importance of the biblical charges to be holy and above reproach for the sake of the message. Today, we know the unfortunate reality that people with the right content of Christianity often can be poor witnesses to its truthfulness, and many doubt the integrity of the individuals and the message. The right theology should produce godliness and right living, but this has often not been the case. Thankfully, there is clear instruction from the Scriptures to help us match our life with our lips which will drive my thoughts on this topic.
Adorn the Doctrine of God
Titus 2:7-12 is a part of a fatherly encouragement from Paul to a young pastor Titus urging the church in Crete to live faithful to Jesus in the midst of a perverse culture. Paul makes note of the licentiousness of the Cretans and how Paul’s letter directly confronts the sin and false teaching that were common place for the church in Crete to encounter. Within Paul’s exhortations, an important message to bondservants is made that applies to all who are in the church along with “be a model of good works”, “show integrity”, and namely “ in everything adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” in verse 10.
This passage is rich in content and deserves a lengthier exegesis than I will do here but this encouragement to “adorn the doctrine of God” should influence how we think about our Christian witness. Paul is not making the case that by adorning the teaching of Scripture we add anything to it to make it look better, but he is telling Titus and the church in Crete not to add anything to it make it look worse. It is not by accident after Paul addresses false teaching in chapter one and then exhorts the church to teach what accords with sound doctrine at the beginning of chapter two that he immediately instructs the variety of individuals within the church on how they should live. The point here is that living inconsistent to sound doctrine hinders the reception of that doctrine and gives opponents ammunition against our witness to the that doctrine, namely the gospel.
People will naturally reject the gospel according to Scripture, therefore we have to be aware of the barriers we put up that makes them reject Christians before ever hearing about Christ. We often lose sight of the affect our personal sins or public affiliations can have on the community of Christian faith, and therefore we ignore the hindrances we create for the collective witness of Christians. Now, the Christian should not have a reputation of perfection but it should be one of trustworthiness, so that we can truly let people deal with the truth of Scripture apart from the garments we dress it up with. The Christian witness is too often closely associated more with a political party, socioeconomic class, and even an ethnicity more than a crucified and risen Jesus or love for fellow believers.
Associations with various types of social groups is a beautiful reality of diversity and inclusion and should be celebrated, but it also cannot be the primary allegiance for the Christian to champion merely for social advantages. Our place in Christ and relation to His people should take precedent over anything this life can offer us to advance or adorn our personal reputations. Should we not bear the reproach of Christ as little Christ if necessary? Maybe it’s our public opinions or platforms that make the gospel unattractive to the world around us? At whatever cost it is to us as individuals, we must listen to Paul and adorn the gospel not adorn ourselves for the sake of our witness to Christ. Theology is usually seen before it is believed.