22 July 2009

Adorn the Gospel [1]

by Frank Turk

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
The thing about this letter is that it just wells up on the reader. I think a lot of people miss that for their own reasons -- most of them not intentional -- but here the stuff that ought to stick to your ribs, theologically and practically, is simply so obvious that I think most people read past it.

The reason I say that is this: it's somewhat astounding that Paul doesn't here break into doxology, doesn't break into Eph 1-2, doesn't publish a digested book of Romans. I mean seriously: this is Paul. This is inspired Paul who is totally capable of writing something you can't even explain in a 200-page Doctoral thesis -- and here, after warning good Titus to hold fast to the truthworthy word, and to teach and rebuke, and to establish men who can do the same, Paul tells Titus: make sure you administer the sacraments rightly.

Oh wait -- no. Paul says, "make sure you uphold the continuity of the covenants by baptizing babies and maintaining the Law/Gospel contrast."

Huh. Paul doesn't say that, either, does he? What about this: "Get serious about your Greek and Hebrew, and make sure every sermon you preach is verse-for-verse, word-for-word preaching." This is what we want him to say, I am sure. This is what we sort of glaze over with after we see Paul say, "teach what accords with sound doctrine." But those things are not what he says.

To Titus, who is sent to put things in order, and who must raise up elders, and is in a culture that is, frankly, as far from the Gospel as the most unchurched city in the ancient world could be, Paul tells Titus, "teach people how to adorn the Gospel." Teach what accords with sound doctrine because these people need to adorn the Gospel.

I could probably name ten men right now who would take this post here at TeamPyro and accuse me of adding works to faith, adding works to grace, thereby voiding the Gospel by reading this paragraph exactly as it is written. But this passage is astonishing for one reason only: it says unequivocally that the church ought to be training itself up in such a way that the word of God will not be reviled. That is: it ought to be teaching people how to live after they know the Gospel is true.

The doctrine in this passage is shoe-leather doctrine. It says that those of us who are in the church must act like the church -- that it is necessary and not optional. And in that: we have to be building each other up. The older must teach the younger -- not merely systematics but pragmatics, like how to love one's husband and be submissive to him, how to be a self-controlled young man, how to grow old with dignity and sound in faith.

And this makes perfect sense, given what Paul has already said about raising up elders: if elders ought to be men who are clinging to the word of God, and are formed by the word of God, bearing fruit by the word of God, somehow the church has to be the place where these kinds of men are grown.

We're going to come back to this again next week, but think about this, dear pastor reader: somehow good works adorn sound doctrine. Somehow, the facts about God ought to be adorned with a people who are a "model of good works". And it's your job to preach doctrine and the consequences of those doctrines -- that is, how to live now that this is true.


Eric Kaminsky said...

This is the kind of talk that humbles our heart and blows up our mind. It's much easier to talk about sound doctrine, or more precisely those that don't have sound doctrine, than to live out that doctrine and adorn the gospel. If I was hearing you say that to me in person in a discipleship setting, it would not be well received by my intellectual, prideful, boastful, disobedient self.

My hope would be that I would realize the disobedience of my heart.

Yes, have sound doctrine and live that sound doctrine. Sometimes it feels like a medieval stretching machine on my soul

olan strickland said...

Well said Frank!

What good is it to believe right but not behave right (see James 2:19)? Also hearing the Word but not doing the Word merely deludes (James 1:22).

Doctrine determines duty and in the Bible the doctrinal is given before the practical; we are not told how to behave until we are told how to believe because our behavior is transformed by the renewing of our minds (what we believe).

But the pastor is to give the practical after giving the doctrinal. He is to make application with the interpretation.

"Works" is used twice in Ephesians 2:8-10, and in that one case works are excluded as a means of salvation (2:8-9) and included as a result or fruit of salvation (2:10) - just in case someone wants to accuse you of adding works to faith :)

Frank Turk said...


They do. They think it makes me a closet Catholic.

BTW, on the days when I think I can't finish this series, I think to myself, "But Olan will be sorely disappointed," and trudge on.


olan strickland said...


Jugulum said...

I'm torn.

I understand why people are very alert about salvation-by-works.

But it's mind-boggling that people have a problem with what essentially translates to, "It's important for us to follow God's will."

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Excellent post, brother Frank.

Bob said...

In fact Frank, this could be one of your most meaningful posts, in the light of the resurgence of so many young people coming into the doctrines of grace, i.e. the emerging churches who are sound in doctrine, but kind of wacky in methodology and stuff. I think it would do some of these young Pastors well to heed this, obey it, and teach other young men the same. It would, well, adorn the gospel.

David said...

But but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but. . .

Nothing comes to mind. Blast!

David Sheldon said...

Turk - WOW! WOW! WOW!
This same Paul said in Romans 1:5 that he preached the gospel THAT HE MIGHT BRING ABOUT THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH AMONG THE GENTILES. We dare not throw out the baby of "the obedience of faith" with the bathwater "make sure you're not practicing a works-salvation."

So your article graciously and wonderfully has prompted in my heart this question: Is the indicative (facts of salvation) of the gospel THE WORD OF GOD and the imperative (commands that follow) "not so much???" How incredibly faulty our thinking!

The reason this is in my heart right now is the fact that this morning I spent time considering Psalm 103:20.

"Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Mighty in strength,
who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His Word!" NASB

They DO IT COMPLETELY as powerful angels because they know in ways we can't even begin to comprehend EXACTLY WHO IT IS THAT SPEAKS TO THEM! Since they are angels they do it PERFECTLY with EVERY SINGLE WORD!
Never faltering! Ever!
It is impossible to bring Him all the glory that is due Him if we decide we can "fudge" on the imperatives (commands).

To make sure we "adorn" the gospel - like you have said - is to bring glory to the God of the gospel. You have placed it in the negative, like Paul. Make sure the Word isn't reviled, i.e. don't make/be a distraction from the glory of the One who has told us in His Word to do something by being disobedient!

Are we like the angels per Psalm 103:20? I am still working at it. Evidently - until I die or He returns.
Great Post! Insightful and humbling for sure.

John said...

Great job, Mr. Turk. Well said and timely reminder of one of Scriptures clearest themes. God actually expects us to change the way we live in light of His truth. Brilliant.

Rachel DiPaolo said...

Interesting . . . I believe that the "good works or good behavior" is the fruit of the spirit within us. We aren't to go after the fruit trying to be this or that, our work is to believe. John 6:29. To abide in the vine (His truth and Presence) and then the natural outcome is a life moving toward living more and more in God's wisdom which produces the fruit that Paul talks about. This is a confusing and hard topic for many - but you have to take all of scripture to understand what God's will is for us. Our part is to abide - not work. When we do the works follow as they should and they are real born out of love not out of forced effort.


Mesa Mike said...

@Jugulum wrote:
> But it's mind-boggling that people
> have a problem with what
> essentially translates to, "It's
> important for us to follow God's
> will."

But, but, but... We don't wanna be legalists!

David said...

Rachel, what do you make of this passage and all of its imperatives?

Anonymous said...

The glorious truth about this is that the Gospel works, it is sufficient to bring us to all forms of godliness, i.e., complete sanctification. If more so-called Christians would realize this, they may shy away from all the self-help driven, love language drivel and truly embrace the glorious Gospel.

Thanks for proclaiming truth!

Gary said...

"But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine... ... so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior."

Teaching sound doctrine and the implications of sound doctrine leads to sound behavior that adorns the gospel. I think a helpful contrast is I Tim 1:3-7. Instead of teaching sound doctrine, the teachers at Ephesus were teaching a different doctrine. Instead of leading to sound behavior it simply promoted speculation and vain discussion.

So, don't teach something just because it is interesting. Teach it because it builds the faith and promotes holiness.

Morris Brooks said...


Couldn't agree with you more, and this passage in Titus lines up with his stated goal in I Timothy 1:5 The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. People who live like this do adorn the doctrine of God.


Frank Turk said...


Bingo. That's all there is to it.

Gordan said...

WHAT? The gospel has real-world implications, beyond merely the state of my soul in the courtroom of heaven?

Dang! And I just bought that shiny new "two kingdoms" book, too. Give some warning when you're about to destroy a man's whole deal next time.

Anonymous said...


This post echoes a question I recall you asking a commenter some time ago.

I believe the question was "Exactly how many of the NT commands were given to the Holy Spirit to do?" or something like that.
I believe your point then was, who is supposed to love your wife? You or God?

This post reminded me of that question and was an excellent reminder to me that believing I should love, without actually loving is, well, a lot like a sounding gong or resounding cymbal.

Julius Mickel said...

Amen to this post simple and practical. Christianity IS practical and the God who works all things in order to CONFORM us to His image can certainly set the guidelines, since it is HIM working in us.
Pastor Voddie Baucham just posted last week a sermon on Discipleship preaching out of Titus
As Brother Voddie points out such leaders are to be EXEMPLARY in these traits, since these are things we are to all strive at!
I was just lamenting in post form the lack of spiritual fathers and mothers in our churches.

The UNDERLINED stuff, very good! Quite counter-cultural (hoop jumpers)!