“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
We have spent a considerable amount of time looking at false teaching and teachers, and how we are to deal with them in the church. But one of the most significant things, and one that we too often neglect, is being sound in our own doctrine. I love this quote from Voddie Baucham: “If we don’t know the Bible, if we don’t know doctrine, if we don’t know theology, it is virtually impossible for us to identify false prophets.”
Notice the contrast Paul paints at the beginning of Titus 2, right after telling Titus to “rebuke them [false teachers] sharply.” He begins, “But as for you…” Sound doctrine is our sure footing against the onslaught of a world in rebellion to Christ. As Paul reminds us, we are “household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20). And to use another analogy, it is an anchor, holding us firm, so that we are not “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14).
As we saw in chapter 1 of Titus, Scripture commands elders to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” and to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Sound doctrine flows from God’s Word and revealed will in Scripture. God gave us His Word and sound doctrine so we could know Him, love Him, obey Him, and teach others about Him and what He’s done for us in Christ.
Of course, this was the same message Paul gave to Timothy in his first letter to him. Paul says that sound doctrine is “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11) The gospel is a message to be proclaimed and taught. Sound doctrine is the substance of true gospel teaching. Our love for the gospel should be tightly bound with a love for sound doctrine because sound doctrine communicates gospel truths that bring salvation to their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).
And as he sits in prison penning a second letter to Timothy, knowing that his days on earth are short in number, he again exhorts Timothy with this same message. “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). And, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Paul will also remind Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3).
The mission of the faithful minister of the Gospel in each generation is to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). That is, obeying from our hearts, the pattern of sound teaching and words.
This pattern of sound doctrine is established in Scripture. It has been expressed by the Church down through the centuries in creeds, catechisms and doctrinal statements. It is a declaration of what we believe.
The Greek word for “sound” is “hugiaino” that gives us our English word hygiene, which refers to “clean or healthy practices.” It signifies healthy, sound, wholesome, free from flaw, defect or error, and emphasizes the absence of disease, weakness, or malfunction.
Today we so need faithful proclaimers of sound doctrine, not swayed by emotional hype or the patterns of this world and its passing fancies. “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
A.W. Tozer, who died almost 60 years ago, had such insight into the condition of the church. He wrote, “Increasing numbers of [Christians] are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe, but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.” This is just another confirmation that every generation must contend against “the time…when they will not endure sound doctrine…” This is not something new. It is the very thing that enticed Adam and Eve in the Garden, the Israelites in the wilderness, and the church through the ages.
Let us resolve to faithfully follow and proclaim the pattern of sound doctrine as established in the Holy Scriptures! Like the Romans, may we “who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom. 6:17).