If you were asked to speak on something appropriate to sound doctrine, where would you begin? Would you discuss the necessity of deriving doctrine from Scripture alone? Would you begin by explaining theology, the doctrine of God? Or Christology, the doctrine of Christ? Maybe soteriology, the doctrine of salvation? If so, you would be off base. Paul didn’t ask his protégé, Titus, to speak on things that were apt for sound doctrine, he commanded him to do so: “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1). He followed that with a list of things he deemed appropriate for such a discussion. The items he mentioned might surprise someone unfamiliar with the second chapter of Paul’s epistle to Titus, because what his list makes immediately clear is that sound doctrine does not consist merely of a list of accurate facts. Knowing what the Bible says about God and man, about sin and salvation, about heaven and hell, and being able to cite proof texts concerning those doctrines are not the ultimate goal for the believer. For although it is essential both to know and to understand the truth, that level of achievement is not the aim of biblical instruction. Believers are sound in doctrine from a biblical perspective when our character, actions, and attitude reflect that of Christ. If we are truly sound in doctrine, the following things will characterize our lives.
Older Men will be “temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance” (v. 2b). The thread running through these qualities that should characterize older men is that of a mature self-control that has been nourished by a life predicated on the Word of God. We must note that such lives demonstrate persistent pursuit of Christlikeness, which means that the steadfastness is not achieved by toughness or harshness but rather by genuine love for the Lord and for others.
Older women will be “reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women” (vv. 3b, 4a). Older women who are sound in doctrine will display reverent behavior; they will not be rabblerousers but they will use their tongues, not to gossip, but to edify the younger women. Furthermore, they will not use the trials and troubles they have experienced throughout their lives as an excuse to indulge in vices.
Young women will “love their husbands,” “love their children,” “be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind”; and they will be “subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (vv. 4b, 5). No other list is so condemnatory of modern society as this one. It has become increasingly difficult to find people who meet God’s description of young women who are sound in doctrine. God’s emphasis is upon their faithfulness to domestic responsibilities, the need to have a submissive spirit toward their husbands, and to manifest a kind and loving spirit, while endeavoring, like the older men, to be “sensible,” or self-controlled, and to maintain their purity of heart, mind, and behavior.
Young men will be “sensible;” in “all things” they will “show” themselves “to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say” about them (vv. 6b, 7, 8). For the third time, Paul lists sensibility, or self-control, as an attribute of those who are doctrinally sound. (Since the older women are instructed to teach the younger women to be sensible; it is a given that they too must demonstrate that virtue.) Paul emphasizes that young men must be self-controlled in everything. Their acquaintances should be able to point to them as examples of those who do good deeds. They should not be casual or careless about doctrine. And they should shun the foolish brashness of youth, being dignified in behavior and careful to “watch their tongues,” as parents were once wont to warn.
So, are we sound in doctrine? The ultimate answer does not lie in views on election, or baptism, on church polity or methods of evangelization, but in our character and behavior. Do our lives reflect “the things which are fitting for sound doctrine”? The answer is critical.
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