You’ve probably heard teachers and preachers talk about the need for “sound doctrine” in today’s church. Usually, this “sound doctrine” happens to mirror a denominational statement of faith ratified years ago and enforced by church leadership, (deacons, elders, etc.), and reinforced through church membership classes and sometimes even Sunday School classes.
But, what is “sound doctrine” according to the Word of God? Shouldn’t we take whatever standards there may be for “sound doctrine” from the Scriptures themselves?
Here’s what Paul had to say about “sound doctrine” when he wrote to the apostle, Titus:
“You, (Titus) however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.” – Titus 2:1
See? Obviously Paul knew that it was very important to teach sound doctrine in the Church. Luckily for us, Paul breaks down the elements of this sound doctrine for us here:
“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” – Titus 2:2-5
Wait. So, let me get this straight. Paul says that sound doctrine is all about being self-controlled, loving, patient and full of faith? Huh. I was expecting more like rules and laws and stuff. Wait, let’s see what he says after this part. Maybe the rules and laws come later:
“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”- Titus 2:6-8
Ok. So, sound doctrine seems to be more about how we live our lives before one another. It’s like, setting examples for one another by doing good, showing integrity, speaking truthfully, living a simple, decent life before men. That’s….shocking. So is the next part:
“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” – Titus 2:9-11
Ok, then. So, slaves should continue to serve their masters in humility, show that they can be fully trusted and in so doing, “they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Wow. Paul’s goal here seems to be more about living out a sincere, authentic faith before the world than in any personal piety or in following rules and laws. Maybe he gets to the part about infant baptism or the pre-millenial kingdom in this last part? Let’s see:
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” – Titus 2:11-14
Whoa. Now Paul has started to jack up the whole idea of Grace too. Here he says that Grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. I thought Grace was there to give us a pass when we say “Yes” to our worldly passions. Right? Hmm…maybe not. Again, Paul seems to teach here that Grace empowers us to live out the Sound Doctrine of living self-controlled, upright and godly lives.“These, then, are the things you should teach.” – Titus 2:15
Really? Well….ok, then. Let’s all start teaching “Sound Doctrine” as Paul outlines it for us here. We are called to teach one another to live simple, humble, godly lives of service, love, compassion and integrity before one another and to the world around us. How? By the power of Grace that “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.”
If our churches today would major on sound doctrine like this and not divide over stupid disagreements about the return of Christ, or over doctrines of tongues or the rapture, or predestination, or any other superficial topic, we might actually live out true sound doctrine as Paul describes.
Disputes over doctrines come because we allow them to become more important to us than our unity in Christ.
What is it makes us one? Christ! Not our agreements about infant baptism, or freewill, or pre-millenialism, or the King James Bible. None of that. The only thing that makes us one is Christ, and He is more than enough.
*MORE VERSES ON BEHAVIOR AS SOUND DOCTRINE:
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15 ESV)
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17 ESV)
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9 ESV)
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 ESV)
“For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 ESV)
“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16 ESV)
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV)
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7 ESV)
“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” (3 John 1:11 ESV)
“…not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3 ESV)
Keith Giles is the author of several books, including “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb.”