Foundation for Instruction

“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

- Titus 1:9

In our study of Paul’s first letter to Timothy we saw that the elder’s ability to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) is one of his most important qualifications because that office is tasked with teaching true doctrine and with correcting those who are in theological error (4:13; 5:20). As Paul continues to give Titus the marks of a man fit to be an elder in today’s passage, he focuses on the firm grasp the elder must have upon true doctrine (Titus 1:9). This makes perfect sense because all the teaching gifts in the world will not help the church if its appointed teachers do not guide the bride of Christ in understanding the health-giving truths of the Word of God.

Time and again in church history, Paul’s prophecy regarding the presence of false teachers in the church has been fulfilled (Acts 20:28–30), and the only way to guard against their destructive influence is to appoint men who “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” (Titus 1:9). Just as in other New Testament passages, Paul is referring to a fixed and authoritative body of doctrine delivered to the people of God by the Spirit of God through the apostles and prophets (John 16:12–15; Jude 3). The purity of this teaching must be guarded with one’s very life, for only this imperishable seed is able to bring dead souls to life (1 Peter 1:22–25). All Christians, especially elders, ought to work to grow in their knowledge of these doctrines, increasingly dependent upon the Spirit to lead them to love and proclaim the essential truths of the faith. John Calvin comments, “In a pastor there is demanded not only learning, but such zeal for pure doctrine as never to depart from it.” The church can help produce and sustain such men by supporting the education of young pastors, providing the means for seasoned pastors to receive further training, and helping pastors acquire the resources they need for their own libraries.

Christ’s flock needs shepherds committed to His revealed truth, not those who pay only lip service to biblical teaching. Our pastors and elders are of inestimable value to the health and welfare of our congregations, being the first line of defense against doctrinal error and the shepherds of God’s flock.

Coram Deo

John Calvin writes, “Those persons shall be chosen who, having cordially embraced the truth of God, and holding it firmly, never allow it to be wrested from them, or can be torn from it.” The elder, as well as all believers, must have not only knowledge of Scripture but love of its teachings. As we study we should be looking not only to know for the sake of knowledge but to love what God teaches. Are you asking Him to help you develop this love?

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 112
1 Corinthians 16:13–14
2 Thessalonians 2:15
1 Peter 5:6–11

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.