Message 2: Doctrine, You, and Titus 2

Sept. 29, 2017 Mary Kassian

Session Transcript

The amount of rain that Hurricane Harvey dumped on Houston was unprecedented. It was so scary watching the news. We kept texting friends and family to make sure that they were doing all right and that their homes were all right.

My daughter-in-law is from Houston, and she was in constant contact with her mom whose neighborhood had to be evacuated because the waters were threatening.

My sister-in-law lives in Houston and has a bayou in the backyard and was watching nervously as the flood waters reached the very top, the brink of the bayou and were worried that they would have to leave their home.

In the end, both their homes escaped damage, but other people in Houston weren’t so fortunate. Rushing flood waters claimed the lives of dozens and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. And the dangers didn’t end when the storms passed.

Experts repeatedly warned people about the dangers of the murky-colored flood water that the storm had left behind. Residents were told that besides the dirt and the debris floating around, the water was contaminated with human waste, that it contained E-coli and viruses and toxic chemicals and pollutants and all sorts of nasty microbes.

It wasn’t long before hospitals in Houston were inundated with patients with staph infections and skin infections and respiratory infections and stomach illnesses. One man almost lost his life when a cut in his leg got infected with flesh-eating bacteria. The danger of the contaminated flood waters posed such a risk that the officials declared a public state of emergency in Texas.

In the book of Titus, Paul tells his friend Titus how to address a spiritual health emergency that existed amongst the believers on the Island of Crete.

The Island of Crete was a bustling trade center. It was in the kind of the junction of four different seas, so it was a really busy port. It had a spectacular stadium. It had beautiful baths. It had grand temples and a fabulous shopping mall.

Cretans were daring sailors. They were prosperous traders. They were fierce warriors. But they were also known for their character flaws, which were many.

Historians specifically mention their greed and their gluttony and their self-indulgence and their insubordination, and most of all, their propensity to fabricate stories, or to bend the truth. Things were so bad that to Cretanize became proverbial for telling a lie.

Paul was concerned that there was some Cretanizing going on in the church. He describes the problem in Titus chapter 1, verses 10—16.

So, in a nutshell, a Hurricane Harvey theological storm had hit the congregation on the Island of Crete. False teachers were flooding the church with all kinds of ideas that were politically correct but theologically wrong. And these teachers were undoubtedly great speakers. They were probably really engaging. They were popular. They were provocative. They had so many social media followers. They had fantastic blogs.

But they were kicking up the storm of controversy amongst the Christian community, a storm that was so severe it was upsetting whole households. Paul warned the church that their ideas were like dangerous contaminates.

Now, we don’t exactly know what these ideas were, but verse 14 indicates that they were concepts that were drawn from popular myths and also ideas that came from highly influential people from outside of the Christian community.

So these were progressive and politically correct ideas. The false teachers had likely introduced them into the church to make Christianity more palatable, so that it would match up better with Cretan culture and it would make for a better sell.

Their arguments probably sounded something like this: “Hmmm, those old boys, those pastors, Paul, Titus, they’re so narrow-minded and judgmental and unloving. Our culture’s ideas aren’t incompatible with Christianity. We need to update our image as Christians, and we need to be inclusive. We need to challenge the rigid traditional interpretations of the past, just like Jesus did.”

Do you think that kind of argument would go over today? I think we’re hearing that.

The flood of false teaching had created a spiritual health crisis among the believers in Crete. And Paul wrote this letter to Titus to address the problem. So the theme of the letter and the crux of Paul’s advice to his friends and the foundation for all the age and gender-specific teaching that would follow is summed up in Titus 2, verse 1.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

That’s what Titus needed to do to counteract the destructive ideas that the false teachers were presenting. He needed to teach what accorded with sound doctrine.

Now, for some of you, doctrine is a slightly intimidating church word. But it simply means teachings. The dictionary defines doctrine as “any set of beliefs that is held and taught.” Doctrine is what you believe about God, what you believe about the world, what you believe about yourself, what you believe about right and wrong, how to live. That’s what doctrine is, and everybody has one.

Michael Moore has a doctrine. LGBT groups have a doctrine. White Supremist groups have a doctrine. Green Peace has a doctrine. CNN has a doctrine. FOX has a doctrine. Your child’s school has a doctrine. Everyone who shares an opinion on Facebook or Twitter has a doctrine.

Paul argues that for Christians, we just can’t have any old doctrine that we want. Not just any old doctrine or set of beliefs or teachings will do. There’s a specific one that Christians need to hold on to. It’s the set of beliefs that was revealed by God through Scripture and through the apostles. That, according to Paul, is the only doctrine that is sound doctrine.

The false teachers were pushing a little mish-mash of beliefs that had a whole bunch of Christian beliefs but had brought in different beliefs from culture and “let’s put it all together.”

Paul told Titus, verse 13, “Rebuke them sharply that they might be sound in faith”.

Now, that word sound is an important word. It shows up five times in three short chapters in Titus. It’s the Greek word hygianino, and it’s the root from which we get our English word hygiene. Hygianino means to be healthy or correct or accurate, free from contaminates, infirmity or disease.

Now, when we think of that word sound, the English word sound, I think we usually think of something being reliable or dependable and trustworthy. Like, somebody gave you sound advice. Or we think of something that’s in good shape and not damaged. Like, she came back safe and sound.

But I don’t think that we often consider that sound can also mean healthy and free from contaminates, which is the major idea behind the Greek word used here.

I have two cups of water here on the table. The water in this glass is pure and clear, wholesome, free from contaminates. I would gladly drink it. It’s safe and healthy for me to do so, and probably good for me. Well, it is good for me to do so—drinking water.

The water in this glass here is impure. It’s polluted with dirt and debris. Someone put this together for me. I don’t even know what’s in here. Maybe it was scraped from the bottom of a puddle out back by the conference center with other things thrown in. I’m sure there are all kinds of unhealthy gunk in here—microorganisms, bacteria. Maybe not as bad as the water of Hurricane Harvey, but bad nonetheless. So drinking this water is not a good idea. If I were to have a sip, I’d probably throw it right back all over the stage. I’d probably get sick.

The clear water is sound. The polluted water, contaminated water, is unsound.

So I hope this helps you grasp a little bit more of the idea that’s prevalent in this word: sound doctrine. “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”

Sound doctrine is pure. It’s clean. It’s healthy. It’s free from contaminates. It is good for you.

Paul wanted Titus to teach things that would line up with sound doctrine so that the people in church would be sound in faith, sound in speech, sound in thinking, sound in attitude, and that they’d make sound choices.

I’m convinced that all of the failures and the flaws in our lives flow out of some sort of doctrinal error or deficiency. Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. Right thinking lives to right living. So sound doctrine is a critical foundation for living a godly life. It’s the “what” that leads to the “so what.” And we see it so clearly in Titus.

First, Paul encourages Titus to “hold firm to sound doctrine.” And then he tells Titus to teach the various groups what type of behaviors line up with sound doctrine. He provides instruction of what sound doctrine looks like in the lives of the old and the young and for a man and for a woman.

So if you were born with female body parts, Titus 2:3–5 is pure, healthy teaching based on sound doctrine about how you should live.

And that’s where the flood waters hit the fans, isn’t it? Because culture’s idea about what’s important and what’s desirable and what’s good for women is so very different than what we read in the Bible.

Over the past few decades, a hurricane of new gender-ideology has made landfall. Traditional ideas about sex and marriage and manhood and womanhood have fallen out of vogue. There’s a lot of pressure on us as Christians to Cretanize what the Bible says about these things. Even in the church there are strong voices that urge us to update and revamp the Bible’s historic set of beliefs.

So what do we do about the rising floodwaters? We do what Paul urged Titus to do. We continue to “hold fast to sound doctrine” and we “teach what accords with sound doctrine” regardless of how politically incorrect or unpopular that might be. And we do it with a spirit of grace and love, in humility, finding strength and courage in the truth and reliability of the Word of God.

We work to become Titus 2 women, women with soft hearts and sharp minds and backbones of steel.

Doctrine. When we think of that word, doctrine is not something that is dry and distasteful. Doctrine is not something that is boring. Doctrine is not something for theologians. Doctrine is for us, and it is good for us. And doctrine, this doctrine that we find in Titus is good and healthy for women.

Several years ago, I traveled to Asia to equip and encourage Christian women throughout the region. My husband met up with me afterwards in Bangkok, and we decided to do some sightseeing. So we hired this old Thai man who had a boat, this old teak book to take a tour throughout some of the canals in Bangkok.

He couldn’t speak English. He started off by taking . . . We didn’t know where we were going to go, but we thought this was going to be interesting. So he started off by taking us past the glittering temples, and then we went into the colorful floating market place. We went past some of the homes that were beside the canals and had gorgeous gardens.

And then he took us down the back canals into the slums of Bangkok. Now, I could tell from the very beginning of the tour, the very beginning of getting into the boat, that the water in Bangkok was polluted and filthy. It was murky brown, littered with debris, and it smelled bad. There was no way I was going to drag my fingers over the side.

But what I saw when we got to the slums absolutely stunned me. There the canal was lined with shacks and run-down shanties. In many areas the water was thick with household waste, and it smelled putrid. And to my utter shock and disbelief, I saw children swimming in the polluted water.

A couple of the kids in the area had visible, physical deformities that I could tell, that I could see. Several others had large, white skin lesions on various parts of their bodies. And then I saw her—this adorable little girl, probably about five years old, tussled, raven hair. She was wearing a bathing suit and playing beside her mama at the side of the canal. The girl turned to look at me and gave me a shy smile, and my heart broke as I saw this skin lesion covering half of her face and down on to her neck.

The girl started clamoring over the rocks to jump into the canal, and it was all I could do to stop from yelling, “No! No! Stop! Don’t do it! It’s making you sick! Don’t go in the water!”

And going over and shaking her mama and saying, “Stop her! Don’t let her play in this contaminated water! Can’t you see how bad it is? Can’t you see that it’s hurting her? Can’t you see that it is damaging her?”

But I remained silent. I didn’t speak their language. They wouldn’t have understood. And as we glided past, tears streamed down my face. The little girl was content to play in contaminated water. She had no idea how unhealthy and dangerous it was.

If I could, I would have warned her. I would have given her and her mom some lessons on the dangers of water pollution and contamination. I would have pointed them to a clean water source.

And that’s exactly what the Lord does for us here in Titus chapter 2, verses 3–5, for us girls, for us older and younger women, for us mums and daughters and sisters. As we dig in to explore these verses together, keep in mind that these concepts are like pure, clean water. They’re healthy. They’re wholesome. They’re life-giving and life-sustaining for women because they teach “what accords with sound doctrine.”

Let’s pray.

Father, may we be women who love Your Word, who cherish Your Word, and who truly embrace that what You have written here is true and reliable and sound and healthy for us. May we be women who “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” amen.