So how do we know who is right and who is wrong in these great debates?
The Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Titus, to assist him in setting things in order in the churches on Crete. Part of his instructions to Titus include the direction for Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). It seems Paul may be on to something. We need to see what he told Titus because this might just be the list we are looking for to once and for all tell us what to do and what not to do! Oh, if only Paul would give us a directory of doctrines that one must believe in order to be sound in the faith.
However, as we continue reading, we find out rather quickly that Paul takes only ten brief verses to tell Titus how to prove whether or not the church is believing sound doctrine. And guess what? Much to the chagrin of the Pharisees and Judaizers, there is not one dotrine in the list. He does not say, “Believe these doctrines and you will prove yourself to be sound in the faith.” Nope. Not even close.
What he does do is give Titus a list of characteristics that people who are believing sound doctrine will possess. These are things that men, women, young men, young women, and employees will be doing in their daily lives if they are holding to sound doctrine. That covers just about everyone in the church, doesn’t it?
But what kind of test is this? I mean, anybody can act a certain way and look like they believe sound doctrine on the outside, right? So what doctrines should we demand that they adhere to if we are to bless them with our fellowship in the gospel?
Now stop. Don’t get ahead of Paul. Not just anyone can live like this. Not consistently, day in and day out. How do we know? Because Paul also told us that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). Without the Spirit of God we cannot even know what God expects of us. But through the Spirit, and by the Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), we are led into all truth – truthful doctrine, truthful living.
In fact, the one mention in these verses about doctrine says this, “Exhort the young men to be sober minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility…” (Titus 2:6-7). Irreverence, often believed to be a virtue in the church today, especially among the young and restless, is a sign that one is not sound in their doctrine! Why is that? Because having integrity in our doctrine works its way out in our lives as we are reverent and sober-minded. That does not mean we are a stick in the mud. It means we approach life, doctrine, worship, and each other with manners, with appropriate behavior and language. Face it, to claim to believe the Doctrines of Grace and then to act in a most ungracious manner is a contradiction. Either we do not really believe the doctrine as we claim, or we are hypocrites and refuse to submit to the control of the indwelling Spirit of God and by extension disprove sond doctrine with unsound living in the eyes of those watching us.
So here is the test – we need to look at our lives and ask if the way we live proves that we believe sound doctrine. Paul gives us a short list for each group of people already mentioned. While the lists may be short, they are long on substance. And these lists are seen at times to be controversial. As the Church argues about what some of these things mean, again, we seem to be looking for a list.
We do not need any more lists. We need a lifestyle. A way of thinking, talking, acting, and relating to others that in its very characteristics prove that we believe sound doctrine. So what does it look like when men and women, young and old, believe the truth of God’s Word? A close examination of the Scriptures will teach us just how much of the Bible we really do believe. If the talk and the walk do not match, then one or both are missing the mark.
Join us this Sunday, May 29, as we begin to work through Titus 2:1-10. Our message this week will cover verses 1-2 and is titled “Qualities for Men.”