You can’t have one without the other. Professing to know God without living for God are mutually exclusive (Tit. 1:16). To really believe is to be mindful of how you actually behave. No sense claiming to embrace a systematic theology if there’s no evidence that it is having a sanctifying influence. Teaching sound doctrine needs to be accompanied by training in sound living.
That’s the big idea I’m chewing on as I hover over the first ten verses of Paul’s letter to Titus, this morning.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be . . . Older women likewise are to be . . . train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be . . . Likewise, urge the younger men to be . . . Show yourself in all respects to be . . . . Bondservants are to be . . . so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
(Titus 2:1-10 ESV)
To be or not to believe? That seems to be the question.
Beyond teaching sound doctrine, Titus is told to spell out what accords with sound doctrine. That which is becoming, or comely, of healthy teaching. And if there’s any doubt as to what accords, the following verses make it exceedingly clear–it’s what we are to be. What is becoming of sound doctrine is sanctified behavior.
Spell it out. Make it clear. Connect the dots. Paint the picture. Regardless of whether your talking to older men or younger men; older women or younger women; bondservants or free; teach them what living as children of light should look like. After you’ve revealed the mind of God, don’t neglect to show them the way of God. Once you’ve helped them to plumb the depths of God’s revealed mysteries, don’t forget to connect it to what it means for the daily reality of living in line with God’s revealed purposes. As the New Living Translation puts it, “promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching.”
Because what’s at stake is the glory of God. God’s people are to live right so that “the word of God may not be reviled” (2:5b).
What’s more, in all that they do, their actions in daily life should adorn the doctrine of God. God has delivered His word. He desires His people to dress it up. He provides the main meal, but He asks us to provide the trimmings. He is the great I AM. We are the garnish that says, “Amen!”
You can’t have one without the other. Our best behavior apart from right belief is but filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). But our systematic theology, or our statement of faith, if not accompanied by a demonstration of its power to transform our lives, is but testimony to a false reality. Claimed beliefs without consistent behavior is counter-testimony concerning God our Savior.
Not that it’s all on us. He transforms–through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). He conforms–according to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:29). But it doesn’t happen without teaching that accords with sound doctrine. Nor apart from students who submit to that teaching so that they might adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
And that, by His grace. And that, for His glory.