Paul commanded Timothy to “speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine,” (Titus 2:1). Our doctrine is our teaching, our spiritual instruction. The word “sound” means healthy, strong, reliable. If the foundation of a house is sound, it is solid and dependable, holding up as intended, capable of supporting the weight upon it, doing it’s job. If a person is of sound health, they are not suffering from afflictions, diseases, pain and discomfort. The type of doctrine, or teaching Paul commanded is solid and reliable, free of error or perversion of any kind.
The need for sound doctrine is continuous, and as urgent as ever. There is much unhealthy teaching, unsound doctrine being spread about in the name of religion. Much of it appears to be correct on the surface, but, upon closer examination, is violative of God’s word. Gospel preachers and Bible teachers need to be careful that they are faithfully conveying the healthy word of God, not their own opinions or the ideas of man or other substitutes.
The mere fact that it was necessary for Paul to remind such a faithful preacher as Timothy to speak the things which befit sound doctrine, illustrates how easy it is to violate this important directive. It is a danger which confronts all of us, a tendency to which we are all susceptible. We dare not imagine that, because we have been a preacher or teacher for many years, we need not concern ourselves with maintaining sound doctrine. Consider several aspects of what might be called “unsound doctrine” which should be pondered carefully by anyone attempting to teach God’s word:
1. Unsound doctrine tends to creep in slowly. Have you ever noticed that changes in congregational preaching and teaching typically do not occur overnight. There is usually a long process of departure from the truth. A ship safely docked in the harbor may lose its moorings, and gradually drift out to sea. It doesn’t happen all at once, indeed, it may be almost imperceptible. In the same way, congregations which were once very sound and faithful to God’s word can sometimes be hardly recognized after a period of years, (2 Tim. 1:13). What has happened? They have stopped speaking the things which befit sound doctrine.
2. Unsound doctrine tends to be attractive. People do not go off into error because it is ugly or unpleasant. It usually has some attraction, some redeeming aspect that convinces the skeptics. And once false doctrine begins to be accepted, there will be momentary gratifications and pleasures associated with it. For example, churches which adopt false teachings will sometimes grow at first. They may experience remarkable excitement and the thrill of progress. But it is a shallow, hollow victory. Given some time, it can be seen that a serious mistake has been made, but by then it is often too late.
3. Unsound doctrine can be addictive. Like a narcotic, it is sometimes introduced into the body in ever increasing amounts because there is a dependence on it. At first, everybody thought it could be discontinued at anytime. But it gradually takes over and becomes itself the support for the body. “For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts,” (2 Tim. 4:3). One false doctrine demands another, until a whole framework has been erected. As an example, the five major doctrines of Calvinism are mutually supportive. Once one of them is accepted, they all tend to follow. Only way to get rid of it is a wholesale repudiation.
We should never grow weary of the emphasis placed by God’s word upon sound doctrine. “My son, despise not the chastening of Jehovah; Neither be weary of his reproof: For whom Jehovah loveth he reproveth, Even as a father the son in whom he delighteth,” (Prov. 3:11-12; cf. Prov. 4:2). Don’t get tired of sermons or class lessons stressing the pure, unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ. Never become weary of warnings against false doctrine. And if you find that your beliefs or your teachings are even slightly incorrect, don’t hesitate to correct them.
Every time we go in for a doctor’s check up or physical, what we want to hear is that we are perfectly sound. We want to know that there is no sign of any illness or any disease which may have crept in to our healthy body. Similarly, as we keep checking our spiritual status, we need to be interested in verifying that our teaching is healthy and sound. Sound doctrine produces healthy churches. And healthy churches are a glory to God.
Let us determine to continually make an inspection of our teaching, and ensure that every part of it is healthy and sound!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.