The Adornment of an Assembly

The Adornment of an Assembly

John Bramhall

The Epistle of Titus beautifully portrays the spiritual adornment of a local church. Titus was instructed by Paul to minister in God’s assembly on Crete, and to establish God’s testimony according to scriptural pattern. Chapters one and two present God’s appreciation of an assembly testimony: He is impressed neither by outward adornment nor by geographical surroundings, but rather by the spiritual character and conduct of His beloved people.

The Adornment of The Elders

In their proper place of responsibility, godly elders should adorn every assembly. These are to be Spirit-directed overseers who shepherd the flock of God, performing their work among God’s people with power and blessing. The Apostle reveals their qualifications and work (Titus 1:5-11). How beautiful to God is a company of qualified shepherds who adorn God’s assembly in this position and work!

The Adornment of Aged Men

Aged men, though possibly not qualifying as shepherds, are to be “sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience” (2:2). How precious to God is the testimony of men who fulfil His Word by growing in spiritual character and maturity! They are an adornment of divine glory and blessing among the people of God, contributing spiritual beauty and power to the local assembly. How essential it is for every young man to have before him these spiritual objectives, either to become qualified as an overseer of the flock, or, at the very least, to be in later years a brother possessing the spiritual character here described. He should seek to become an adornment in the assembly of God!

The Adornment of Aged Women

The sisters of the assembly are responsible to be “in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women …” (2:3-4). The character and ministry of older sisters adorn the assembly with spiritual beauty when they fulfil this work for God and His people. Every older sister in Christ should endeavour by God’s grace to have such an influence upon her younger sisters that by example and teaching, she may set before them spiritual lessons that produce blessing for the assembly and glory for the Lord.

The Adornment of Young Women

Aged sisters should instruct younger ones “to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed” (2:4-5). The prominent place for this to be done is the Christian home, rather than the assembly itself. Nevertheless, in that hallowed sphere, her ministry is great, and it produces for the glory of God a beautiful adornment in the assembly. The character of the Christian home always brings either blessing or loss to the assembly testimony. Every young sister may set her heart upon God’s ideal place for her, seeking to fulfil her ministry and to become a true “mother in Israel” in the days of her maturity. This will truly magnify God’s holy Word in her life.

The Adornment of Young Men

Young men are exhorted “to be sober minded.” Titus was told to shew himself, in all things, “a pattern of good works; in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (2:6-8). Their responsibility to adorn the testimony for God’s glory is plainly presented. Beloved young brother, seek to be faithful to God’s word and by His grace, do your part in adorning the assembly with spiritual beauty.

The scriptures did not directly advocate the abolition of slavery, but exhorted believing servants to prove by their godliness, honesty, and faithful testimony, that their character and conduct adorned the assembly of God. Regardless of their unfortunate circumstances, the essential thing for them, as for all, was to prove that Christ in His beauty could be reproduced in the believer’s life by the Spirit of God, to make the testimony of God on Crete one of spiritual wonder. How great is God’s plan to develop spiritual character in the lives of His people, irrespective of their outward circumstances!

The Complete Beauty of it all

Thus, by their spiritual character and obedience to the Word of God, elders, aged men, aged women, young women, young men, and even slaves, would “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (2:10). This is the paramount beauty of a local assembly of saints and a joy to the heart of God when fulfilled. Nothing upon the earth is more precious to God than this spiritual glory of His Assembly. Are we all doing our part, old and young, brother and sister? God grant that we shall be properly exercised to do this!

How It Can Be Done

How this can be accomplished is also revealed (2:11-13). The dark background of the Cretians by nature is graphically recorded by Paul in the words of one of their own prophets: “Cretians are always liars, evil wild beasts, lazy gluttons” (1:12, J.N.D. trans.) What power could ever transform such a people into an adornment of spiritual beauty and character? Nothing but the grace of God!

First, they received The Gift of God’s grace in salvation. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared” (2:11). Salvation is the foundation of all things for the saints. That is where God begins to form His assembly, by bringing men and women into a knowledge of sins forgiven and the joy of salvation, brought to us in the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His wondrous grace, God saved us too, thus laying the foundation of a testimony He could develop for His glory and beauty.

Second, they came under The Discipline of God’s Grace, “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (2:12). The word “teaching” literally means “training”. How wonderful that the grace of God can thus train His children to live! The believer’s life is his contribution of beauty to the assembly of God. Should we not place ourselves constantly under the discipline of God’s grace that we may be taught how to live? A brother once said, “The world is the best place God has to make a Christian.” “In this present world,” the grace of God can teach us how to live for His glory, thus forming a character that will properly adorn the assembly for His honour.

Third, they also possessed The Hope of God’s grace: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2:13). How that blessed hope and consummation provides an incentive for holy living, purifying the motives and the lives of His people! “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Thus the grace of God was sufficient to develop the Cretian believers in their spiritual character for the adornment of their assembly in that day. Is not His grace sufficient for us today? Certainly it is! Young and old in the assembly of God should recognize and obey the scriptural instruction of adorning the assembly in their respective places for His glory. Beloved young believer, the grace of God is able to fulfil this in you.