Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness IV
11/12/2005 - James White
Titus 2:7-8 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.Teaching marked by integrity, dignity, and now, "sound speech." Literally, "whole, healthy, sound" in word, speech. In this particular instance, the term Paul uses is u`gih/ , which of course is related to his more common term, u`giai,nw , "sound, correct, well-grounded. Consider for a moment how often Paul uses this concept in exhorting the next generation of church leaders:
1 Timothy 1:10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,Sound doctrine, sound words, sound in the faith---all refer to that which is in proper order, functioning aright, healthy.
1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,
2 Timothy 1:13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:3 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,
Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Titus 2:2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
I can't help but think of an example from my own life right now. I am looking forward to riding in my first cycling race in seven years. The last race I rode in was El Tour de Tucson in 1998, riding the 75 mile portion. In a matter of days I'll be riding in El Tour again. Things have changed a bit over the seven years I've been gone, and now the 75 mile portion is an 80 mile run. In any case, you climb a lot in El Tour. If I recall correctly, the full 109 mile course had 3,300 feet of climbing in it. Though I've dropped nearly forty pounds since June, I've kept lifting, so I'm still much heavier and more muscular than I was the last time I rode El Tour, so climbing hills is slow going in comparison to the lightweight hammerheads around me. So I've been working hard on my climbing of late (did 3,300 feet last Wednesday over 36 miles, and 3,500 over 41 miles just a few days ago, all on South Mountain here in Phoenix). Now, a bit over a month ago I "tweaked" my left knee kneeling down to do something in the back yard. Now I have to ice my knee after every ride. In fact, the faster I get the ice on it, the better chance I have of avoiding pain. My knee is no longer truly "sound." It's not working the way it is supposed to. Thankfully, it hasn't started bothering me when I ride, only afterward---but as anyone knows, it is on my mind even when I'm climbing. I probably unconsciously favor it as well. It's still functional, of course, but it is not fully sound, not perfectly healthy (as all my 40+ readers can probably understand). Something isn't quite right, and it reminds me of that fact with regularity.
Apologies for my sports-related example, but in the same fashion, teaching that is not "sound" may "work" by many standards. It may "get the job done." But if it is not really sound, it will have results, down the road. It is like feeding the sheep an imbalanced diet: they may live fine on it for a while, but eventually, it will have an impact. Sickness will develop. Disease will enter the flock.
Sound doctrine is not something that would be "nice" if we could just "afford" it. You will never become truly healthy by cutting corners on diet and exercise and nutrition---though you can, in the short haul, get away with things. But short-sightedness is the hallmark of American evangelicalism, is it not? The shallow pap we call "teaching" in so many churches today cannot long nourish the famished sheep. It builds no solid foundation, and it results in an anemic, birth-defect filled next generation. Sound doctrine is simply letting God say what God says in His Word: unsound doctrine means we are ashamed of the truth and think we are wise enough to come up with something else.
Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness III
11/10/2005 - James White
Titus 2:7-8 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
There is another aspect of in our teaching showing dignity that should be brought out. To handle the Word of God is a great privilege. For far too long in conservative circles the ministry of the Word has been taken for granted and not seen as the high calling it truly is. The radical individualism of Western Society, and especially American society, has resulted in the idea that as long as you claim to have been "called" that this means no one can question this call. I remember the shock I had when I first spoke with the elders at PRBC about such things. Don Fry made it clear in discussing the issue early on that the elders of a church have a duty to examine someone who claims such a call and, if there is simply no evidence of God's gifting that man to the office, they should be direct in telling him they see no evidence of such a call. Unheard of! But oh so proper. For if such discernment is not used, you end up inflicting men upon the flock who have no business behind a pulpit, and in every case the ministry of the Word suffers as a result. The dignity of the office of teacher/pastor is diminished as a result.
To teach the truth with dignity requires work. A good sermon takes time, study, preparation, thought. How sad that so many today rush through that preparation rather than savoring it, mainly because 1) we have made them CEO's and hence left them no time for such work, or 2) those involved in the ministry find it easier to adopt the "look up some stories online, go play golf" model of sermon preparation (one reason I would never have made it in those circles). To handle teaching in a dignified manner requires not only a proper view of the gravity of the matter at hand, but it likewise requires you to hold a particular view of the ministry of teaching itself. Sadly, many go into the ministry without the foggiest idea of what is necessary to pursue the work with dignity before God and man. The work, the dedication, the single-minded devotion to please God and to leave the results in His hands---these things should mark the godly minister's work, and, beyond that, should be the source of his joy in his work as well. If the minister finds joy in that which cannot be taken from him by external factors, he will have a strength in ministry beyond human comprehension, an ability to "last" and remain steadfast, content in the setting in which God places him.
Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness II
11/05/2005 - James White
Titus 2:7-8 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.Just as we noted when we looked at 1 Cor. 1:17 a number of weeks ago, we can, by the means we use to proclaim the gospel, alter it and in fact empty the cross of its power, making it void. If we use worldly words of wisdom--human methodologies that prove we really do not trust God's Spirit to make God's message come alive in the hearts of His people--we may see "results" but they will not be abiding results to the glory of God. They will be man-made, and the resultant church anything but divinely blessed. An impure Gospel results in impure saints at best, or pure hypocrites at worst. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about sinless perfection or the concept of certain hyper-Calvinists that a person has to have memorized Berkhof's Systematic Theology before regeneration can take place. I'm talking about integrity in doctrine---putting the emphasis in the right place. Today the emphasis is upon the "end result" and being "user friendly." The fact that men of God are called to be His ambassadors and to proclaim His message without diminishment or alteration has been lost to a large portion of those who stand behind pulpits today.
A teacher with integrity will teach "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" to the best of his ability. The integrity of the truth will be a high priority---far higher than "the possibility of offense." Today the greatest heresy in many churches is hurting someone's "feelings." The teacher who has integrity will not seek to unnecessarily offend, of course. But when offense is part and parcel of the message, the teacher marked by integrity will leave the matter in God's hands.
The next term Paul uses is semno,thta, "seriousness, proper conduct, respectability, dignity, probity, holiness," "a manner or mode of behavior that indicates one is above what is ordinary and therefore worthy of special respect," "behavior which is befitting, implying a measure of dignity leading to respect - 'propriety, befitting behavior.' " Once again the modern trend is seen to be directly opposed to the biblical standard. Today the "minister" who is intent upon making himself "just one of the boys" or a "clown for Jesus" will gain an audience. How far from the attitude of the ambassador who, invested with the authority of the one who sent him to deliver a message, treats that proclamation with the dignity due to its author, resulting in the hearers likewise treating the message with dignity and respect. How little respect is shown the proclamation of God's message today! Congregations tell their pastors to keep it to twenty minutes---we want more music, more entertainment! Give us "gospel lite." Keep it simple! Nothing heavy! We want to feel good when we leave! No doctrine! No content! Stories, tell us childhood stories! Many sleep through the sermon with their eyes open, never considering the gravity of the message (if there is any gravity in the message to begin with), day dreaming about getting home to watch football, or worrying about what will happen Monday at work. We live in a generation of sound-biters---if you don't get the message across in four minutes and thirty seconds, you've lost me. Better throw a joke in to wake me up now. I can't concentrate on one thing this long! Of course, that's why I only read a few verses of the Bible a week, why the biblical text is a choppy mess of individual verses instead of a contiguous whole, etc. and etc. ...
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Doctrinal Integrity, Dignity, and Soundness
11/04/2005 - James White
I was reading through this text sort of "on my way" to verse 11 during a sermon lately, and could not help but be struck by how little attention is paid to this vital passage in so many churches today. Oh, there's plenty of emphasis upon being an example of good works, I guess, at least in an outward fashion. But for the large portion of folks today, good works and showing integrity, dignity, and sound speech in reference to one's doctrine and teaching...well, what on earth could be the connection between those two things? And yet, in biblical theology, they go hand-in-hand. One without the other involves imbalance. Doctrine and conduct, perfect balances of each other.
Literally Paul exhorts Titus to be "in teaching, incorruptible." The term, avfqori,an, is not a common one in this form: it is in essence the negation of the far more common term for corruption (fqora,). One's teaching can be corrupted by many things. It can be corrupted by the influence of human tradition, as in the case of the scribes and Pharisees with whom the Lord did battle over and over again during His earthly ministry. It can be corrupted by a desire for worldly things: money, fame, power, the adoration of the crowds. Paul told us about men who sought after these things and their teaching was corrupted thereby. But taking it in the positive form, "integrity, honesty, purity, soundness" what does this mean when it comes to doctrinal teaching? One lexical source sees it as communicating "telling the whole truth," and that would fit with Paul's words elsewhere:
Acts 20:26-27 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.To have integrity in teaching you can't hold back on any element of God's truth. This is truly a major area of failure today, and that for "fear of the face of men." As our culture becomes more and more post-Christian (and indeed, anti-Christian), the pressure to compromise on the content of the Christian faith will continue to grow, not only so as to create large mega-churches that do not at all challenge the sinner's rebellion against God so as to make him or her "comfortable," but even more directly in forcing us to count the cost of speaking the truth when the culture decides to make speaking the truth illegal. Who will we obey at that point? Who will we be willing to "offend"? Men, who love their sin and rebellion, or God, who gave us the Gospel? The day may well be coming when we will have to make that very choice, as recent events show.
Of course, to teach in honesty, integrity, and purity, assumes something that, sadly, apostate Christianity no longer confesses. If I am going to say "this gold is pure," I need to have a standard of purity and a way of defining the substance of "gold." If I can't tell you exactly what gold is, I can't claim to possess pure gold. In the same way, if you cannot define the gospel clearly and specifically you can't claim to be teaching it with integrity and purity, since those terms assume it exists and can be defined. So we see that those who plague the church today with their constant sowing of doubt and confusion are a manifestation of God removing his blessing, something that is hardly surprising in light of God's wrath coming upon Western Society, and the fact that a blessed, discerning church is a blessing upon any nation. [continued]