He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
This verse is the final category presented by Paul in Titus that a church elder must meet. It is significant how much space Paul gives to this topic. This section gets even more words than does the section on family. While a pastor must have a good family life, and while a pastor must have a solid character, he also must, absolutely must, have solid, biblical doctrine. This tells us that doctrine very much matters.
Speaking of the pastor, Paul writes, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught.” A pastor must cling tightly, never even for a moment letting go of the trustworthy word, the Bible, as it has been taught for generations. Trusting the Bible and keeping faithful biblical interpretation is central to what a church leader must be.
Why should a pastor keep to the word so solidly? There are two reasons. A pastor or elder is to instruct people in right doctrine. He is also to reprove or rebuke those who teach false doctrine. Neither of these things can happen if the pastor himself is not totally committed to God’s word and to rightly handling it.
I just spent three days with seven thousand Christians being challenged to never, under any circumstances, allow any adjustment to the gospel or the word of God. If you look around the world, if you look even around our own community, you will find churches and individuals who simply refuse to stand firm with the Bible as the inspired, unfailing, sufficient word of God. We must make it plain, regardless of how popular or unpopular, that we believe, as Jude says, the faith that was once, for all time, delivered to the saints.
You might not be called to be a pastor or an elder, but you have something to learn here. If doctrine in a pastor is crucial, doctrine in a church member and a servant in the church is crucial too. If the pastor’s job is to teach you, it is your job to listen, to learn, to study, and to grow in faithful, biblical doctrine.
Get your doctrine in order if you are going to be a faithful part of the church. This means that you do not assume something to be true without biblical support. This means that you read the Bible and good books by good preachers and teachers who are devoted to the Bible. And be careful. Just because a man says he is devoted to the Bible does not make it so. Test those who teach things. Have their doctrines been held by the saints over the centuries? Are their doctrines clearly present in the word? Be careful, because what you think, what you believe, matters very much.