Sound Doctrine Produces Godly Living that Demonstrates Gospel Power

Scriptures: Titus 2:1-10 ; Matthew 5:16
by Jacob Abshire on August 30, 2022

I’m old enough to remember a door-to-door salesman who introduced my mother to a state-of-the-art vacuum. After a short introduction, he carried on about the power of this new unit hoping to make a sale. But words were not working alone. The price was too steep. So, he scattered some debris on the carpet without asking and offered to give a demonstration. He knew that if he could demonstrate the power of the vacuum, my mother would be more inclined to purchase it.

This is true of many things, including the gospel. It has power, but more than often, words alone are not enough to convince a captive audience. A demonstration is needed. And, when our words match our works, people are more inclined to believe in its power.

Jesus had this in mind when preaching His famous Sermon on the Mount. He was teaching the crowd about living in the kingdom of God and described citizens of the kingdom, “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Then, He said:

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

Our light shines when our lives demonstrate the saving power of the gospel. It shows the world that God truly saves. Unfortunately, we have dimmed our light throughout history. Mahatma Gandhi once commented on the disconnection between the word and works of people who profess to know God. “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Had those who claimed to follow Christ were more like the Christ they followed, then their Christianity would have been more appealing to him. Heinrich Heine, a 19th century German poet, issued this challenge to all believers, “Show me your life, and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.”

It is of great consequence that our lives match our words. This is why the Lord inspired Paul’s letter to Titus. “This is why I left you in Crete,” Paul said to Titus, “so that you might put what remained into order” (Ti. 1:5). The churches were in chaos. Their light was dimmed. Their demonstration of gospel power was mute. In fact, they were ruining its message, rather than making it appealing. The phrase “put into order” is a single word in the Greek that contains “ortho” which is where we get our words “orthodontist,” one who straightens teeth, and “orthopedic,” one who straightens limbs. Paul wanted Titus to straighten things out and put into order what was lacking.

Sound Doctrine

The churches were lacking sound doctrine. The word “sound” carries a similar idea to “order” but relates to the quality of something. It literally means “healthy.” So, healthy doctrine is the idea. The word “doctrine” refers to a set of beliefs that mold your life. It is a collection of truths that shape and form your thinking and behavior from the inside out. To put it together, the churches were missing healthy doctrine that produces healthy living.

An easy way to think about sound doctrine is to think in terms of its opposite. The opposite of healthy is diseased. The reason we don’t eat diseased fruit is because diseased fruit produces a diseased body. It disrupts and ruins the body resulting in both internal and external disorder. Now, turn that around. The reason we eat healthy fruit is because healthy fruit provides the body with necessary nutrients that produce a healthy body and living experience. In other words, healthy fruit leads to healthy living.

When Christ saves us, He makes us into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) that cannot live off of that old sustenance. It needs the new stuff, the healthy stuff, the sound doctrine kind of stuff. Sound doctrine is, to put it plainly, the truths of God which are found in His Word.

The churches in Crete were feeding on diseased doctrine and therefore experiencing diseased living. “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers” (Ti. 1:10). These “feeders” were leading the church with diseased doctrine, so “they must be silenced” because “they are upsetting whole families by teaching what they ought not to teach” (Ti. 1:11). He adds that “their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Ti. 1:15). They are impure thinkers. They cannot discern right from wrong. They preach and live ungodly. And, they are feeding this disease to the people. Diseased teaching leads to diseased living. It ruins people and their families, particularly the families of God.

The key descriptor in all of this, however, is found in Paul’s final statement about these diseased leaders. “They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works” (Ti. 1:16). They claim to follow Christ, but don’t act like Christ. They profess to believe the gospel, but they don’t demonstrate the power of the gospel. In fact, they make the gospel distasteful and void to the lost around them. 

So, Paul wants Titus to put things into order — beginning with the leadership. “Appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Ti. 1:5). The term “elders” is a Pauline term for leader or pastor. In essence, Paul’s first line of order is to replace the leadership with healthy leaders. He describes them as men who are “above reproach” and “hospitable” and “self-controlled” (Ti. 1:6-8), to name a few. His final quality sets the stage for a more orderly church. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Ti. 1:9).

To bring this all together, the church lives on sound doctrine. It is the fuel on which it runs. Sound doctrine must be taught, trained, heard, observed, repeated, discussed, written, recited, and defended, because sound doctrine produces godly living that demonstrates gospel power.

Now, let’s parachute into Titus 2:1-10.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

Titus 2:1-10

Here, Paul is describing the kind of character that sound doctrine produces in various groups within the church. If you desire to obey the words of Christ and be a light to the world by demonstrating gospel power, then here are seven principles for you to know.

#1 — Sound Doctrine is Other Worldly

It’s important to know from the jump that demonstrating gospel power is not something that the world can do — not even remotely. “But as for you,” Paul said. This is an intentional contrast to the leaders who have disease-mouth (Ti. 1:10-16). They are teachers of diseased doctrine that rises up front the world’s wisdom. Paul is drawing a hard line between them and the person Titus needs to be. “Don’t be like them! Don’t think like them! Don’t act like them!” He says quite literally, “They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Ti. 1:16). In other words, they are useless when it comes to gospel demonstration.

Sound doctrine cannot be found in this world. It is a heavenly doctrine. “But the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Ti. 2:11-12). According to Titus 1:1, it is the elect of God who can possess the “knowledge of truth, which accords with godliness,” not the people of the world. The kingdom of God runs on the fuel of sound doctrine, which comes to us through the grace of God. It is other worldly, just as much as the kingdom to which it belongs.

#2 — Sound Doctrine is Your Responsibility

It is obvious that Paul had Titus in mind when he wrote “but as for you” (Ti. 2:1). But, most commentators will suggest that “you” has great implications and refers also to all who lead the church. We could take it a step further and broaden this implication to all who teach in the church in any capacity. In essence, what is good for Titus is also good for all believers. We should all “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” (Ti. 1:9). And, we all have the responsibility to be givers and receivers of sound doctrine because we are all commanded to demonstrate the saving power of the gospel (Matt. 5:16).

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths,” which is diseased doctrine, but to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). This is not a prohibition to being trained by someone else, but a call to take initiative and train yourself. It is a call to personal responsibility. All believers should study God’s Word in order to shape our affections, attitudes, and behaviors. “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). As we take initiative with our physical exercise, we should also take initiative with our spiritual exercise. In fact, we should take more initiative.

#3 — Sound Doctrine is Continually Learned

Titus 2:1 is a command to teach, but the word “teach” is not the typical Greek word which would be translated this way. It is the word for “speak” or “be speaking” in a continual sense. The idea of teaching is certainly present, but it is teaching through the means of usual talk in a less formal sense. It means that sound doctrine is not learned overnight, but processed over time. 

In my experience, 95% of what I hear today will be forgotten by tomorrow morning. I require a steady diet of sound doctrine in order for it to get in me. So, I listen to sermons throughout the day. I tune into Podcasts and sing worship songs while I work. It is my way of continually training myself in godliness. It gives me a steady digest of healthy doctrine and combats the noise of the diseased doctrine of the world that desperately wants my attention.

#4 — Sound Doctrine is God’s Truth

It may be obvious, but it is worth mentioning. When training yourself in godliness, you need to make sure that you are receiving God’s truth, not the junk of the world. “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Ti. 2:1). The phrase “what accords with” means “that which is consistent with” and essentially points to the truths of God’s Word. We are to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught,” as Paul put it earlier in the letter (Ti. 1:9). 

Watch what you consume. When you grocery shop, you check to make sure the produce is clean and without disease. You double-check that the cereal box hasn’t been opened. You look carefully at the top of the milk carton to see what the expiration date says. When you doctrine shop, make sure you are getting the healthy stuff, not the diseased stuff. “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching,” Paul said, “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

#5 — Sound Doctrine is For Everyone

The verses that follow indicate that sound doctrine is for all in the church, regardless of your age, gender, or social status. It is for the “older men” (2:2), the “older women” (2:3), the “younger women” (2:4), the “younger men” (2:6), and the “slaves” or bondservants (2:9). We can all identify with at least one of these groups. We are either male or female, old or young, working or not, which is the best way for us to relate to the concept of a slave at that time.

Sound doctrine is not to be hidden from any group, not even the children. God’s Word is to be taught and enjoyed by all who follow Christ. In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded all believers to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them,” and “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19). There is no limitation to this command. All disciples need to be taught.

#6 — Sound Doctrine is Communally Transferred

Again, the structure in Titus 2:2-10 teaches us that sound doctrine is passed along within the local community of believers. It is like the herd immunity. It is to spread from person to person. The “older women are to train the young women” (Ti. 2:6) and the “older men are to train the younger men” (Ti. 2:6). Our responsibility to train is not limited to ourselves, but to all in the local body. 

Paul begins with the older men anticipating that they would set the pace for the church. The same is likely true of the older women. Of course, this is not a hard rule. There are times when a younger man might be more mature in sound doctrine than an older man. “Teaching up” is not prohibited. “Teaching down” is the norm since older men are generally more mature. In the same way, teaching across genders is allowed when done so wisely. The point is that the local body of believers are teaching each other. While we can be fed sound doctrine from outside our local church, it is more effective and fitting when done within the local church. No one knows each other’s weaknesses, concerns, challenges, lifestyles, experiences, then those who have already built bridges and formed relationships.

#7 — Sound Doctrine is “So That”

There are many truths that we could draw out from the passage, but one last principle is worth noting. I call it the “so that” principle. We began with Matthew 5:16 where Jesus said, “Let your light shine, so that…” The phrase “so that” appears seven times in Titus and it always refers to the same thing in some fashion — demonstrating gospel power. It appears twice in chapter 3. In chapter 1, Paul says, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that…” (Ti. 1:5). And, “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that…” (Ti. 1:9). Paul is really driving this point home.

He implores this phrase three times in chapter 2. First, the older women are to train the younger women “so that the word of God may not be reviled” (Ti. 2:5). The world desires to vilify the gospel in order to stir up disbelief. But, when we behave godly, we stop them in their tracks. Second, the older men are to train the younger men, “so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Ti. 2:8). Again, the opponents of the gospel seek to shame us with accusations, but godly lives shut their mouths before they speak. 

Third, those who work are to show all good faith, “so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our savior” (Ti. 2:10). This is wonderful. The word “adorn” means to “dress up” or “beautify” something. It is the word from which we get “cosmetics.” It comes from the word “cosmos” which is used to describe the way God put the universe into order. Every time a woman applies makeup, she is beautifying her face or putting her face into order. Paul is telling us that when we live godly lives, we beautify the gospel and make it attractive to the lost. What a thought!

Alas, we have come full circle. Sound doctrine produces godly living that demonstrates gospel power. This is God’s order for evangelism. There is no way around sound doctrine. It is necessary for godliness. And, godliness is necessary for demonstration.

Have you made a commitment to a steady diet of healthy teaching? Do you make effort? Have you owned your responsibility? You must train yourself in godliness. There is no better time to start than now.

A New Discipleship Resource

Creative Content for Christian Men

Instead of comments, I accept and encourage letters to the editor. If you want to write a letter to the editor, you can do so here.