The Call to Sound Doctrine
“As for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”- Titus 2:1
Today we return to Paul’s epistle to Titus and begin our study of chapter two. Paul has entrusted Titus with the task of finishing the organization of the church on Crete, leaving him behind to appoint elders who will be able to shepherd the church in godliness, truth, and love (1:5–9). This job is especially urgent because false teachers have infiltrated the young Christian community, bringing a message that reflects some of the worst aspects of Cretan culture instead of one that produces a transformation of heart and mind (vv. 10–13a). Consequently, the Christians on Crete are being greatly disturbed and are on the verge of adopting a view of purity that does not take seriously the work of Jesus and His fulfillment of the Mosaic law (vv. 13b–16).
Of course, the only way to combat this is to give the church sound instruction, and today’s passage begins a description of the good teaching Titus’ chosen elders must pass on. Paul’s charge for Titus to teach “what accords with sound doctrine” (2:1) is applicable first to elders, pastors, and teachers, but it is certainly to be carried on as well in every believing family and as the opportunity arises when we meet with other people, believers and unbelievers alike (Deut. 6:4–9). As we work through this pure teaching over the next few weeks, we will see again and again that some parts of it are hard for us to hear in the current culture. But we note today that the list of teachings and behaviors given in Titus 2 are all subsumed under the heading of “sound doctrine” in verse 1, and since sound doctrine never changes, all of what the apostle says is as binding on us in our current situation as it was two thousand years ago.
John Calvin explains that sound doctrine is “wholesome, that which actually feeds souls.” Titus 2 integrates both Christian ethics (vv. 1–10) and instruction about the person of God and the work of Christ (vv. 11–15), reminding us that God’s Word has something to say about what we think and what we do. Only as we receive and practice the truth in both areas can we have well-fed souls. Matthew Henry comments, “The true doctrines of the gospel are sound doctrines, they are in themselves good and holy, and make the believers so.”
In order for us to do what is right, we must first know what is holy. Yet as time goes on, we see also that we can understand better what is good only as we do what pleases God. Not only the abstract doctrines of theology are to be our concern but also the concrete, practical demands of the ethics of God’s Word. May we all focus on both of these areas and work this week on the one in which we have less understanding.
Passages for Further Study