Paul writes to Titus and explains to him about appointing elders in every town. After he lists a variety of character traits, he says (in 1:9),
“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
The question that stands out to me is, “What is the trustworthy message Paul is referring to here?”
Verses 10-12 says,
“For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach — and that for the sake of dishonest gain.”
My next question is found in this passage, “What is the teaching that ought not to be taught?”
Then when we jump down to chapter 2, verse 1, we read,
“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”
Following my same line of questioning, “What is the sound doctrine being referred to here?”
Paul also warns against false teaching in his letters to Timothy. In chapter 1, verse 3-4 he says,
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work — which is by faith.”
In his second letter to Timothy, he says in 1:13,
“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you — guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
What is it that Timothy heard from Paul that he is to use as the pattern of sound teaching?
I think when many of us read these verses, we automatically assume the teaching we have received in our religious upbringing is “the trustworthy message” that Paul taught, that it isn’t “the teaching that ought not to be taught” or “false doctrine”, but rather that it is the “sound doctrine” that Paul taught. But what if we’re wrong? What if we’re off by just a little bit?
I believe we are at a slight disadvantage. Because Paul says in his second letter to Timothy (in 3:10):
“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.”
Timothy and Titus has first hand knowledge of Paul’s teachings. We on the other hand, only have a handful of letters and a record of his “Acts”. Oh, wait a minute…we do have one more thing. We have the Scriptures from which he taught.
Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Which Scripture is he referring to? Which Scripture did Paul have at the time?
I believe we need to be willing to humble ourselves and go back to the drawing board of Scripture…the same Scripture Paul used to teach from so that we may know if what we believe to be “sound doctrine” is in fact sound.