“Things Which Become Sound Doctrine”
When I was trying to raise my daughter, as she grew from a little girl into a young lady, I frequently suggested that she do this or that, or not to do this or that, and always found one argument sufficient to persuade her willing compliance. I would say, “Sweetheart, that just is not becoming a young lady.” She always wanted to be and to appear to be a young lady. Therefore, she chose not to speak, dress, and act in a manner unbecoming a young lady.
The Holy Spirit uses similar reasoning with us. When believers are given directions for their conduct and behavior in the New Testament, the basis of and motive for compliance is that there are some things becoming to the gospel and some unbecoming. Paul told the saints at Ephesus not to live like their neighbors in fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness. Instead, he urged them to live “as becometh saints” (Eph. 5:3). If we profess to be saints, we ought to live “as becometh saints.” In Philippians 1:27, the Apostle urges us to so order our lives as to “let our conversation be as it becometh godliness.” Then, in Titus chapter two, the inspired Apostle instructed Titus and all who preach and teach in the kingdom of God to speak those “things which become sound doctrine.”
The study of Bible doctrine should always be practical and applicable to our lives day by day. As I was preparing this study, I received a letter from a young man that reminded me just how needful such instruction is. It was, I think, the most horribly astonishing letter I have ever received. To make it worse, it was written by a preacher, a young man I have been trying to help, a young man who, I hoped and thought, was seeking the glory of God and trying to faithfully serve him by preaching the gospel of Christ. The following is a small portion of his letter. I include it here because it reveals a shocking, alarming perversion of the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ which must be denounced.
“My goal is not to preach Christ or even serve him. My goal is to follow my joy…I want to enjoy myself as much as possible. I don’t even want to do what is right as much as I want to do whatever I wish…I am free! I am a child, not a slave. God did not die for me so that I would tend his garden and do his dishes. He did not need a slave, but he desired a son. I am that…His beloved son and to me he says, ‘with you I am well pleased.’ This is what my Lord did for me. He set me free, not in order that I turn and serve him, but be truly free. I can quit the ministry any week and surf the rest of my life and never pick up a Bible or preach again and he will still be pleased with me, because of what his Son did on the cross.
So I take the freedom and run with it. I will follow my joy until he calls me home…I do not try to resist sin. I just live…I follow my joy and tremble and trust that God really is sovereign and that he really will have his way with me…I am like a dog that digs up gardens and jumps fences and follows his instincts wherever they lead…I do not want to be cautious…I do not ever want to ask myself, ‘Is this glorifying to my Lord?’ That will kill me. I trust that he will glorify himself through me, if it pleases him to do so and meanwhile I am going to chase that tennis ball.”
I truly hope that the man who wrote those words is insane, because unless he is insane, unless he has simply lost his mind, the man who wrote those words is utterly void of the knowledge of the grace of God in Christ. As Paul said to the Ephesians when they were tempted to embrace the licentious antinominianism of pagan Gentile religion, I said to him, as I urged him to both quit trying to preach and seek Christ, lest he perish forever -- “Ye have not so learned Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
In Titus 2:1-14, God the Holy Spirit tells all God called preachers and teachers exactly how to lead and instruct God’s saints in the gospel of Christ and the doctrines of it. He tells us plainly that the gospel of the grace of God teaches all to whom it is revealed that salvation is by grace alone; and that the grace of God teaches us how to live in this world for the glory of God. These are “things which become sound doctrine.”
The Adornment of Grace
In verses 1-10 Paul tells both the man who preaches the gospel and the people who hear it and believe it how to adorn the gospel. He tells us how to behave ourselves so that we may “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (v. 10).
This is both our personal responsibility and our privilege. I hope it is our desire. We are to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” That is to say, we are to set forth in our lives as well as in our doctrine the beauty, glory, and attractiveness of the gospel of Christ. If we hope to persuade men and women to believe the gospel we preach, we must show them, by our lives (not by a show of religion, but by the way we live), the beauty of the gospel. If we would honor Christ and his gospel in the eyes of men, we must have our lives regulated and governed by the gospel.
All who preach in the name of God are responsible to adorn the gospel by faithfully preaching it. "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine" (v. 1). Every preacher has a mandate from God. The preacher’s mandate is always the same. All who are sent of God as his messengers to eternity bound men and women are sent to preach the gospel, to constantly declare those “things which become sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:1-5). The doctrine we are to preach is the doctrine of grace, which is the doctrine of Christ. And those things which become sound doctrine are those things that are consistent with and honoring to the gospel (Divine Sovereignty, -- Effectual, Substitutionary Atonement, -- Salvation by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone).
Gospel preachers are responsible to pointedly apply the gospel to the daily affairs and responsibilities of men and women in this world. It is every pastor’s responsibility to faithfully teach people how to live in this world for the glory of Christ, applying the Word of God to every area of life. And it is the responsibility of God’s saints to personally obey the gospel, applying it to every area of their lives.
I realize that many people prefer to ignore this fact, but it is a fact nonetheless -- God almighty does interfere with people’s lives. If the God of glory is pleased to open the windows of heaven and drop his saving grace into a sinner’s heart, he will take over. He insists on it. Christ will either be Lord of all or he will not receive you at all. This is what Paul teaches in verses 2-10. He has a word here for everyone who professes faith in Christ..
Verse 2 -- "That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.”
Verses 3-4 -- “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; … That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.” (vv. 3-4).
Verse 5 -- “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
Verse 6 -- “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.”
Verses 7-8 -- To pastors he writes, “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, … Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”
Verses 9-10 -- “Exhort servants (employees) to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; … Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."
The Holy Spirit here calls all who believe the gospel of the grace of God to adorn it, to show forth the beauty and grace of the gospel in all things for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). If we are indeed born of God, if we truly are believers, if we have really experienced the grace of God, we know that grace teaches us so to live.
The Work of Grace
Verse 11 -- "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men."
As Paul uses the term here, “the grace of God” refers to “the doctrine of God our Savior.” “The grace of God” in this verse means “the gospel of the grace of God.” The gospel we preach, “the doctrine of God our Savior,” is the gospel of “the grace of God.”
The doctrine of the gospel is the message of grace. The message of the gospel is not free will, but free grace. It is not works, but grace. It is not grace and works, but grace alone (Gal. 5:2,4). Grace is the origin of the gospel. Grace is the message of the gospel. Grace is conveyed by the gospel (1 John 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). And grace is the rule of the gospel (Rom. 6:12-14; 2 Cor. 5:14-15).
This gospel, the grace of God, brings salvation. Salvation is by God’s operations of grace, that is it is an act of free and sovereign grace, grace that is almighty and irresistible. However, in this context, “the grace of God” is used as a synonym for “the gospel of God.” The Holy Spirit is telling us that the gospel is the means by which salvation is brought to and wrought in chosen, redeemed sinners. The gospel of the grace of God shows us the way of salvation -- faith in Christ. It proclaims the person and work of Christ, who is salvation. It is the announcement of salvation accomplished by Christ (John 19:30; Heb. 9:12). And the gospel of the grace of God is the means by which God the Holy Spirit brings salvation to elect sinners (Rom. 10:13-17). There is no spiritual life, no faith in Christ, and no salvation given to sinners without the gospel (Rom. 1:15-17; 1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; James 1:18).
This gospel of the grace of God has appeared unto all men. Certainly, Paul does not mean for us to understand that every person in the world has heard the gospel. Obviously that is not so. There are people in every part of the world (in Paul’s day and in ours), many of them who have never heard the gospel. Paul is simply telling us that the gospel has been and is preached freely to all men and women, people of every rank, race, and region (Rom. 16:25-26). God has his elect among all people. It is our responsibility to preach the gospel to all men (Matt. 28:19-20). The gospel we preach brings salvation to all who believe. “It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
The Teaching of Grace
Verse 12 -- "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."
Whenever the gospel of the grace of God comes into a sinner’s heart by the life-giving, regenerating power and grace of God the Holy Spirit, it effectually teaches him some things. It teaches us to whom we must look for eternal life (Isa. 45:22). The gospel teaches us what we must believe (Gal. 1:6-9). And it teaches us how to live in this world. The gospel is not given for intellectual speculation, but for practical direction. It is given for our eternal salvation and for the ordering of our lives. It tells us plainly what we are to do and what we are not to do. It tells us what to follow and what to shun.
The grace of God effectually teaches saved sinners to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. The gospel teaches us to say “No” to unbelief and the neglect of God, his Word, his worship, and his will. It also teaches us to say “No” to worldly lusts, sensuality, covetousness, ambition, and the desire for recognition and praise. The grace of God also teaches people to live right. With respect to ourselves, the gospel teaches us to live soberly. With respect to others, it teaches us to live righteously. With respect to our God, it teaches us to live godly (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 12:1-2).
The Expectation of Grace
Verse 13 -- "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
Paul does not tell us to set dates or even speculate about when the time of our Lord’s coming may be. He does not tell us to look for signs of the end time, or to even think about when the end time may be. Grace teaches us to look for Christ himself, and to do so standing upon the tiptoe of faith and expectation. Grace gives us a good, well-grounded hope, a hope that breeds expectation, anticipation, and desire.
There is one common and blessed hope for all believers. There is not one hope for one group and another hope for another group. We all have the same hope, upon the same grounds, a glorious, blessed hope, a hope that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined. The basis of our hope is grace, free grace through Christ, our crucified Substitute (Eph. 1:18). The thing hoped for is glory. It is the design of the gospel to set our hearts upon the hope laid up for us with Christ in heaven, not upon the things of this world (Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:1-4).
Fade, fade each earthly joy, Jesus is mine. Break every tender tie, Jesus is mine!
Dark is this wilderness, Earth has no resting place. Jesus alone can bless. Jesus is mine!
Farewell, mortality - Jesus is mine! Welcome, eternity - Jesus is mine!
Welcome, oh loved and blest! Welcome sweet scenes of rest! Welcome my Savior’s breast! Jesus is mine!
Our hope of eternal glory with Christ, if we trust him, is a well-grounded hope. Our Father promised it (Tit. 1:2). Our Savior purchased it (Heb. 9:12). Our Representative possesses it (Heb. 6:20). We have the earnest of it (Eph. 1:14). In Christ we are worthy of it Col. 1:12).
Our blessedness will be attained when Christ, who is our hope, appears. Notice how Paul describes our Savior. It seems that he was not able to find words worthy of him. Jesus Christ is “the great God”. He is the great God “and our Savior”. Soon, this great God, who is our Savior, “shall appear”. Then, we also shall appear with him in glory. This is the expectation of grace (1 John 3:1-3).
The Motivation of Grace
As we have seen, the Holy Spirit calls for us to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” in every aspect of our lives. How will he induce us to obey his admonition? How will he persuade us? How will he motivate us? He does not threaten us with the terrors of the law, or entice us with promises of reward. (God’s saints are not mercenaries!) Rather, the Lord God urges us to honor him by the declaration of his bountiful, free, immutable grace in Christ.
Verse 14 -- "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem and deliver us from all iniquity, from all sin and all the consequences of it. He died for us that he might, by his blood and by his grace, “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Yes, God’s saints are, indeed, a “peculiar” people. We are loved with a peculiar love (Jer. 31:3), objects of God’s peculiar favor (Rom. 8:28), blessed with peculiar blessings (Eph. 1:3), supplied with peculiar provisions (Phil. 4:19), and separated from the world by peculiar grace (1 Cor. 4:7).
Christ’s peculiar people are made, by the grace of God, to be “zealous of good works.” God the Father ordained that we should walk in good works (Eph. 2:10). God the Son redeemed us that we should walk in good works. And God the Holy Spirit effectually teaches every chosen, ransomed sinner to be zealous of good works.
Verse 15 -- "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."
This is Paul’s admonition to Titus; and this is the Word of God the Holy Spirit to every gospel preacher. “These things speak.” -- God’s servants are to preach both the doctrine and the duties of grace, “and exhort,” pressing these matters with earnestness. Faithful pastors must also “rebuke,” or reprove all who neglect, oppose, contradict, and deny these things, these doctrines and duties of grace. It is the preacher’s responsibility to go about the business of preaching the gospel “with all authority” as one who speaks in God’s name, with God’s authority, with God’s approval. Then, the Holy Spirit adds, “let no man despise thee.” Those who preach and teach the Word of God must take great care that they give no one reason to despise them. Yet they must have no regard for the opinions of disobedient men. Paul shows us by his own example what he means in 1 Corinthians 4:1-3.
 The word “peculiar” means “distinctively excellent, valuable, and honorable.” We are Christ’s portion, the lot of his inheritance, the jewels of his crown, his fullness (Eph. 1:23), his peculiar people.