Doctrine for bad actors

May 18, 2016 admin

old-black-bible-isolated-on-white-1632113You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

What comes to your mind when you hear the word doctrine? Yup, I thought so.

For most, doctrine conjures up negative images of ivory tower seminarians droning aimlessly about that which is impractical, irrelevant and boring.

But doctrine is truth. In the ancient world, doctrine was the core instruction of a teaching master, or doctor.

I remember being at Mount Carmel Bible School in Edmonton, in the mid-70s. Stan King was an excellent Bible teacher with a razor-sharp intellect and quirky sense of humour. He announced an additional – but optional – class for those interested in a deeper study of biblical doctrine.

Bodies slouched. Eyes rolled. Minds zoned out. (“He did say optional, didn’t he?”)

Visions of socially awkward theology geeks with pens bulging from their pocket protectors, gathering excitedly on a Friday night for dull, tedious lectures in the library immediately came to the minds of most of my classmates.

But with Mr. King, for that tiny handful of student keeners, doctrine came to life! And its systematic energy consistently drove us to the kind of right thinking that pursued wise living.

Holistically, spiritually healthy, living.

The kind that pleased God, and sought to live in the centre of His blessing.

That’s what Paul wanted for the Cretan Christians to whom Titus had been sent as the Great Apostle’s emissary.

Crete was not the kind of place where you would expect to find Christianity. Think of the Mediterranean version of the wild, wild west. Everyone took the law into their own hands.

Violence was common. Piracy was the norm.*

We don’t know when Paul visited Crete. He sailed along the shore of the island during the voyage that ended in shipwreck in Acts 27. He may have revisited later; if he did, it’s not recorded in the New Testament.

But Paul’s evangelism led bandits to belief, felons to faith, and crooks to Christ.

Churches were planted. Lives and communities were restored. The transformative power of the Gospel was again in evidence in this particularly rough Mediterranean neighborhood.

And Titus was sent by Paul to advance the process.

When Paul instructed Titus on his mission, it’s interesting to me what he didn’t say.

Paul didn’t tell his young designate to bring about social change; or advance the cause of justice; or encourage openness and vulnerability; or to build self-esteem; or to assist the oppressed and disenfranchised.

Paul coached Titus to teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

In the original language, the word Paul chose for sound was the word from which our English term hygiene is derived. Paul only used the term in his correspondence with Timothy and Titus – nowhere else in his NT writings. And he used it 4 times in the 46 verses of this little epistle.

The word meant to be sound, well, complete, of good health. Those characteristics are what Paul knew good doctrine would produce in the life of the Cretan believers.

To do this Paul wanted Titus to preach – and to model – biblical truths.


Because proper biblical teaching when embraced, leads to healthy thinking, vigorously righteous attitudes – living that is holistically healthful.

Takeaway: Paul wanted these former pirates to be complete, spiritually mature Christ-followers to the glory of God. And that starts with right – biblically healthy – thinking, right doctrine, right theology, right attitudes, evidenced in holy living.

But in the 21st century, most Christians veer away from doctrine. People say, “doctrine divides” or “doctrine’s too tough to chew”. Both are lies from the evil one to keep the Lord’s people from a spiritually healthy diet.

We must have – and it’s essential that we plead with the Holy Spirit to enhance – an appetite for doctrinal truth and theological soundness – founded solely on the Word of God.

The spiritual health of our lives, marriages, families, and churches depends on it.

*in his book Restoring Health: Body, Mind and Spirit, The Reverend Doctor Ed Hird says that Crete at the time of Titus “had been swarming with pirates for the previous 800 years. My thinking for this blog was influenced by this commentary on Titus.

~image by Robert Owen-Wahl,