The calling of the pastor is to lead the church through a faithful teaching ministry. His doctrine must be healthy or it will have a negative impact upon the entire church. This is why Paul instructs Titus to be certain that his teaching was sound, which is another way of saying it must be healthy.
Titus 2:1 – But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
The Contrast of the Faithful Pastor and the Unfaithful Heretics
Notice how Paul begins this verse. He writes, “But as for you.” This was a means of providing a vivid contrast to the evil enemies of the cross who were plaguing God’s people. The teaching of Titus must have a completely different aroma than the teaching of the heretics. People should be able to notice the difference without being confused.
This is critically important as we consider the preaching and teaching of faithful pastors. They must be so closely aligned with God’s Word and so consumed with the gospel that there is no mistaking their teaching with the false teaching of those who seek to lead people astray with false doctrine. Sound doctrine and false doctrine must be clearly distinguished from one another.
The Calling of the Pastor
The calling of the pastor is to the task of preaching and teaching holy Scripture. Notice that Paul didn’t call Titus to entertain the people. It should be further noted that Paul didn’t instruct Titus to engage in the work of psychology or sociology. The calling of Titus was to teach the Word of God and to appoint elders to that same task in the context of local churches across the island of Crete.
Paul says, “teach” which is the Greek term, “λαλέω” meaning to express oneself by speaking. It literally means to talk. When connected with sound doctrine, this places the contextual emphasis upon imparting knowledge in a formal sense of teaching. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who once said the following:
Preaching the Word is the primary task of the Church, the primary task of the leaders of the Church, the people who are set in this position of authority; and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this, however good the cause, however great the need.
Certainly the pastor wears many hats as it pertains to the work of shepherding. The most important task and the central calling of the pastor is to the preparation for and faithful teaching of God’s Word. The pastor can do a hundred things well, but if he fails in this one area, he is an unfit pastor who fails in his calling to the office of an elder.
The Message of the Pastor
The message of the pastor must be healthy. That’s the meaning of Paul’s word to Titus when he instructs him to deliver sound doctrine. Literally he’s saying, “teach with healthy teaching.” The word used by Paul for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which came to be used in the New Testament, especially in the pastoral epistles, to mean the sum of the body of teaching by the apostles.
For that reason, we often say, “doctrine matters.” By way of contrast, Paul had warned Titus that the Cretans were known as liars. The heretics who were peddling a false gospel were not to be trusted because they had come into the community of the Christians insisting on salvation by grace plus law. In short, these two groups that were impacting the church on the island of Crete were teaching unsound doctrines.
The unadulterated Word of God is what the local church needs. Anything else will not fulfill the people and will lead to unrest, lawless behavior, and ultimately will be so dull that it will not penetrate the hearts of people and will be incapable of saving the soul (James 1:21; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 3:16). Unsound preaching leads to unsound living. Paul understood that Titus’ responsibility was to disciple elders who would disciple local churches.
As we consider the landscape of our evangelical culture today, we must avoid the popular trappings that entangle so many local church leaders and subsequently—entire churches. It was once a very popular trend to replace preaching with psychology. Today, the popular trend seems to be centered on replacing theology with sociology. What this does is place an emphasis on anthropology rather than theology. Such an unhealthy focus leads churches to become fixated upon man rather than God. This approach to the church today will result in division rather than unity and frustration rather than doxology.
Unsound teaching will produce unsound churches. It would do us well to remember that the world around us is constantly seeking to deform the church. We must be striving for ongoing reformation as we seek to honor God through biblically informed worship and a lifestyle that is consistent with a pursuit of holiness.