Another thing I find emphasised in the book of Titus is the importance of good doctrine. What constitutes good doctrine, why is it important, and how do we walk in it? Consider the following passages in which Paul gives instructions regarding the battle for truth in doctrine.
- Leaders are exhorted to hold fast to God’s word – able to teach what is right, and also to refute false teaching.
[Titus 1:7-9] – “[A bishop should be]… as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy or money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”
- False teaching has dangerous potential – even being able to compromise the faith of whole households.
[Titus 1:10-11] – “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.”
- Rebuke is required to protect true faith.
[Titus 1:13-14] – “…Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.”
- We should be careful to speak what is edifying for sound doctrine, teaching others to walk in the ways of the Lord.
[Titus 2:1-2] – “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience…”
So, how do we know what constitutes sound doctrine? Titus 2:11-3:8 describes this well. Twice, the truth of the gospel is described.
[Titus 2:11-15] – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.”
[Titus 3:3-7] – “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Good doctrine requires a few things:
- Salvation that comes through the grace of God and is available to all
We cannot obtain salvation by ourselves, but neither is salvation an exclusive matter. The Bible clearly explains that salvation is offered to all. Salvation “has appeared to all men” and the Lord desires that “none shall perish” but that “all should reach repentance” [Titus 2:11, 2 Peter 3:9].
Furthermore, salvation through grace is emphasised. We cannot work or charm our way into heaven. There is only one true way, and that is found in Jesus. Only God, fully righteous and completely holy, could bear all our sins and their just judgement. Only He could clothe us instead with His righteousness so we can stand before His holy throne. We have salvation when we believe in Jesus, give our lives to Him, and allow Him to wash us clean. When we give Him permission to enter our lives, He covers our sin with His blood and, though in our sin we do not deserve it, Christ raises us up to be sons of God, and heirs in His eternal kingdom.
- Hope and purpose found in Jesus Christ
What do we hope for? What do we live for? I believe hope in Christ Jesus is central to the doctrine of the Bible. Not only is He the key to salvation, He is also the meaning of salvation. We are His people, we are heirs in His kingdom, we are meant to be with Christ and with God for eternity.
He is our hope because through Him we are brought back into the intimate relationship God always desired to have with us. He is our purpose because when we experience Christ, we understand that everything we want and need comes from Him. We live for Christ and put away the passions of the world. This is not to say that we have no pleasure in things that are temporary here on earth, but rather that we have a deeper joy that is immovable. It is a satisfaction of the soul and a determination to do all things for the glory of God. It is a mindset that seeks first the kingdom of God, and walks in constant relationship with Him.
- Good works done out of zeal for God, and a desire to live according to His values
One of the greatest deceptions is the thought that we can earn salvation through good works. How many good things will outweigh the bad, and bribe God to forget His perfect justice. A sin is a sin, and the consequence of any sin, is death – eternal separation from God. No amount of “good works” can change this. We know that the barrier of sin is destroyed through the cross of Jesus Christ. So, how then do good works fit in?
The Bible still mentions good works, and it still encourages it. However, God’s reasoning is different from how we might think. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “… For the Lord does not sees as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God is looking at our heart. Where is it focused? Are we primarily focused on building a successful ministry, or on gaining acknowledgement for our good work? Are we simply interested in the culture of humanitarianism? Do we truly care for the hurting, and love our enemies? Do we desire to see the world as God does? And do we worship Him as we live on earth? He values we live out are a reflection of our heart. If our heart is in Christ, our values will be aligned with His, and our desires also with His. We will speak what He speaks, do what He does, and love the way He loves.
Good doctrine is a matter of God’s will. If we know Him, we will know His will, and we will desire to walk in it.