A Commentary by John Stott
Titus 1: 9. c). Elders must be blameless in their doctrinal orthodoxy.
With verse 9 the apostle moves on, in regard to qualifications for the pastorate, from their home and family, and their character and conduct, to their necessary grasp of the truth. Presbyters *must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught…* (9a). This message (*logos*, being a word from God) is characterized in two ways. First, it is reliable (*pistos*). It is *trustworthy* because it is true, and it is true because it is the word of the God who never lies (2). Secondly, it is (literally) ‘according to the *didache*, that is, consonant with ‘the teaching’, namely that of the apostles (Cf. Acts 2:42. For this double reliability [both of message and messenger] see also 2 Tim.2:2). This was already an identifiable body of instruction, which in Romans Paul called both ‘the form of teaching to which you were entrusted’ (Rom.6:17) and ‘the teaching you have learned’ (Rom. 16:17), and which in the Pastorals is termed interchangeably the teaching (cf.9, 2:1; 1 Tim.1:10; 2 Tim.1:13; 2:2; 3:10), ‘the faith’ (13; 1 Tim.3:9; 4:1), ‘the truth’ (14; 1 Tim.2:4; 3:15; 4:3; 6:21), and ‘the deposit’ (1 Tim.6:20; 2 Tim.1:12, 14, literally). It has now been bequeathed to us in the New Testament.
These reliable, apostolic teaching candidates for the pastorate are to *hold firmly* and never let go (Cf. 2 Thess. 2:15). Why so? Because they will need it in their teaching ministry. And what form will their teaching take? It will have two complementary aspects, namely to *encourage others by (RSV ‘give instruction in’) sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it* (9b). To ‘refute’ people is not just to contradict them, but actually to overthrow them in argument. But neither of these ministries (instructing and refuting) will be possible unless the pastors concerned maintain their firm hold on the sure word of the apostles.
It is clear from this that presbyter-bishops are called essentially to a teaching ministry, which necessitates both a gift for teaching (*didaktikos*, 1 Tim.3:2) and loyalty to ‘the teaching’, that is, of the apostles (the *didache*, 9). Only if they are *didaktikos* in communicating the *didache* will they be able both to instruct and exhort people in the truth and to expose, contradict and confound error. The negative aspect of this teaching ministry is particularly unfashionable today. But if our Lord Jesus and his disciples did it, warning of false teachers and denouncing them, we must not draw back from it ourselves. Widespread failure to do it may well be a major cause of the doctrinal confusion which prevails in so many churches today.
Calvin clearly understood the double nature of our teaching ministry. Here is part of his comment on verse 9:
A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means for doing both, and he who has been rightly instructed in it will be able both to rule those who are teachable and to refute the enemies of the truth. Paul notes this double use of the Scripture when he says that he should be able *both to exhort and to convict* the gainsayers.
Having given an ideal picture of true elders in their threefold blamelessness (5-9), Paul now by contrast describes the false teachers (10-16).
Tomorrow: Titus 1:10-16. 2). The false teachers.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.