“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.”
Paul left Titus among the new Christians on the island of Crete with the responsibility to “set in order the things that are wanting” (Titus 1:5a). Titus was to complete matters not yet finished. His primary duty was to organize churches by ordaining officebearers (Titus 1:5b).
Meanwhile, Titus was to continue his main task of preaching and teaching in the interest of the faith of God’s elect and their acknowledging of the truth that accords with godliness (Titus 1:1). Such preaching and teaching included the duty of rebuking sharply those who brought false teachings and wrong lifestyles (Titus 1:10-13). When he taught the truth he would confront and condemn errors in belief and in life. Errors and evils are confronted and condemned with words of condemnation accompanying the Word of truth. In addition, Paul calls Titus to teach the new Christians a godly lifestyle that would also condemn an evil lifestyle. Christians living in a godly manner overcome evil with good. Godly lives adorn the truth. It is concern for this duty to live godly that is presented in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to Titus.
What Titus is to teach and to speak stands in sharp contrast to the teaching of the false teachers and the generally wicked world (cf. Titus 1:9-11, 16). It is obvious that there was a generally immoral atmosphere prevailing among the people of Crete. “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” And Paul adds, “This witness is true” (Titus 1:12, 13a). Their unbelief (not holding to the sound teachings of God’s Word and not striving to obey His commands) resulted in a lifestyle of grievous sins.
There were gainsayers (Titus 1:9b), that is, those who contradict, who declare themselves to be against the right. Generally they were insubordinate and vain talkers, liars. Their false teachings resulted in their being spiritually unhealthy. Their total depravity clearly revealed itself in their walk. God declared them to be “abominable” (detestable) in His sight (Titus 1:16).
To answer these evils, Titus is called to do two things. First, it was committed to him (as it was to Paul) to preach the truth, so that God’s elect would believingly acknowledge this truth unto the hope of eternal life (cf.Titus 1:1-3). Second, Titus was to accompany the preaching of sound doctrine with the strict preaching of God’s commandments, for the truth that is to be believed is also to be lived. This is what Paul meant in our text: “speak the things which become sound doctrine.”
Let’s consider this “sound doctrine.” It is assumed that Titus was preaching sound doctrine. The word translated “doctrine” is literally “teachings” or “instruction.” The proclamation of the gospel is not merely the presentation of a set of doctrines to be grasped intellectually. The word “teachings” describes the manner in which the truth is communicated—teachings are taught by one to others. Further, this word implies that there is a relationship between the one doing the teaching and those receiving the teachings. Preachers and pastors are teachers who, like Jesus (Mark 4:33, 34), convey the truths of Scripture in the best way for the sake of the hearers. They strive to know the ones being taught, and they strive to communicate the truths of Scripture to them in the best possible way.
The teachings are “sound,” that is, healthy in the sense of health-giving. Teachings that are faithful to God’s Word as to its contents will result in the spiritual health of those who believe the teachings. The instruction of God’s Word is healthy for us. For example, the correct understanding of the doctrines of grace is constant reason for humility before God and others (Canons I, 13). This implies that false teaching or compromised teaching is unhealthy for the hearers.
There is a very practical and powerful implication here: it is for our spiritual well-being that we attend a church where God’s Word is faithfully preached the best. There are other factors that can lead to a lack of spiritual health, but that which guarantees spiritual ill health is the lack of right teaching of the pure doctrines of the gospel. Just as a good diet leads to good physical health, so when the clear preaching/teaching of the truths of Scripture are truly grasped by believers, then it produces good spiritual health in them. The right and true teachings of the Word of God generate good health.
Paul admonishes Titus (along with all of his spiritual sons in the gospel ministry) to teach the “things which become” sound doctrine. The word “become” means “to be consistent with” or “to be in harmony with.” With similar language Paul besought the Ephesians to walkworthy of the calling to which they had been called (Eph. 4:1). What are the “things” that are in harmony with these health-giving teachings? The next verses give the answer. They consist of those things that Paul tells Titus to admonish the old Christian men to do, what the old Christian women are to do, what the young Christian men and women are to do, and what the Christians who are slaves are to do. The aged men who are Christians are to be taught to be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, charity, and patience. For the older Christian women, that which is consistent with sound teachings is a holy life, not being slanderers, not being given to much wine, but being willing to teach and help the younger Christian women. There are similar things for young men, young women, and slaves. These “things” refer to a godly life that flows from and is consistent with sound teachings of biblical truths.
How is it that a godly life is in harmony with right teachings of Scripture’s truths? Well, doctrine and life are very closely connected. What one believes will be reflected in how one lives. By their fruits shall ye know them! What we believe determines how we live. What we believe concerning God and the way of salvation affects the way we live and conduct ourselves.
This is exemplified in the false teachers. They profess to know God, but their works deny Him: they are disobedient, and their good works cannot stand the test of God’s judgment (1:16). The root of such an abominable life is the erroneous teaching of work righteousness. For example, if you teach that man must earn salvation by keeping the law, then you alter the law so you can keep it with a shallow or superficial obedience that is without a heart of love for God. Again, their total depravity reveals itself in their ungodly walk.
On the contrary, all teaching that is true to God’s Word will glorify God and thus will teach a lifestyle that is God-centered. All false teaching leads to a man-centered lifestyle. The seeds of a proper walk before God are found in those doctrines that are faithful to God’s Word. Therefore right, biblical teaching is not only healthy for God’s people, but also results in a godly life.
Titus is commanded to “speak” the things that become sound doctrine. He is to instruct in sound doctrine andin the things that are consistent with sound doctrine, and he must “speak” of that in his everyday conversation and walk. He must demonstrate in his life what true doctrines mean for the lives of the saints. His own life must exhibit the correctness of what he preached. He must practice what he preached!
This is the calling of every minister of the gospel. First, he must preach doctrines that present the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures. He must not give his own ideas or the current ideas of other men. Rather, he must come to the pulpit and classroom only with the truth—the whole truth of God.
And the faithful minister of the gospel must instruct concerning the lifestyle that must accompany and that flows from the right teaching. He must admonish the saints as to how they must live. Their life is to harmonize with what they believe.
Why? So that God will be glorified by and through His people. God is glorified by the confession of the believer (church). And God is also glorified by the life and conduct of His people. The world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:9). “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).
The Father is honored when His children conduct themselves well. And He is dishonored when they sin. Our life is to adorn or dress up the teachings we hold, evidencing that we belong to Him.