What Is Sound Doctrine?

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Titus 2:1

In this passage the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to instruct the preacher Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine.”  He told the preacher Timothy to do something similar in 2 Timothy 4:1-5:  “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

It’s easy for preaching to turn into something it’s not meant to be.  Tell a joke from the pulpit and get that laugh from the crowd, and it’s easy to be tempted to make the majority of the sermon nothing but jokes.  Get feedback from the people in the pews that they want preaching about self-help topics like how to raise one’s self-esteem or manage your money better, and it’s easy to give into the temptation to only bring up the passages of the Bible that cover those topics.  If churchgoers give you feedback that they don’t like to hear anything that steps on their toes, it’s easy to think about things like job security and thus avoid anything the Bible mentions that would upset anybody.  Before you know it, most of the Bible is put on the backburner.

God warned Ezekiel about this.  He told the prophet, “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’  And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain.  And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it” (Ezekiel 33:30-32).  If you are one who sits in the pew as the preacher preaches, take this warning to heart.  If you are a preacher, remember that God wants you to preach “what accords with sound doctrine.”  He wants you to “preach the word,” nothing more.

“Sound” means “healthy” in this context.  “Doctrine” basically refers to what is being taught.  God wants healthy teaching from preachers.  Healthy teaching comes only from Scripture.  More specifically, it is “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), “the entirety of your Word (which is) truth” (Psalm 119:160).  It isn’t man-made traditions (Matthew 15:9).  If the doctrine taught from the pulpit is not the doctrine taught in the entirety of the Bible, it’s from man instead of God.

It isn’t “smooth talk and flattery” either (Romans 16:17-18).  Sadly, many people can be persuaded of just about anything depending on the communication skills of the one who is speaking.  No wonder God warned through John, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1)!

Sound doctrine is more than just about theological points of doctrine such as how one is saved, how one worships acceptably to God, or how Revelation is supposed to be interpreted.  It is also about how we live our lives.  Paul told Timothy that the law is good if one uses it lawfully and then listed behavioral sins such as profanity, fornication, and lying to be “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:8-10).  As he went on to tell Titus, everything that Christians do should be “showing all good faith, so that in everything (we) may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10).

Only when one is continually fed a steady diet of sound doctrine does one not only become a Christian but grow into a mature Christian.  Are you hearing sound doctrine?  Preachers, are you preaching it?