This lesson is a look at the word “sound,” not as in a sound-wave or noise to the ear. Often we talk about sound doctrine. What does it mean to have sound doctrine?
One of the things I’ve learned that applies to all fields about beliefs like philosophy, psychology, and religion is that either your beliefs determine your actions or eventually your actions will determine your beliefs.
A person may believe that it is wrong to use foul language and so they will not use foul language. Let’s say that person starts using foul language. Just a little bit at first but it increases to regular usage. That person will feel guilty but only at first. Eventually, out of a subconscious desire to escape from that guilt, that person will convince themself that it is not wrong to use foul language. Thus, that person will use all the foul language they want and not feel guilty about it all. Once their actions did not match their beliefs, their actions slowly changed their beliefs to become justified in their eyes. Like I said, either your beliefs determine your actions or eventually your actions will determine your beliefs.
When it comes to evaluating a belief or beliefs, there are many factors. Is it true? We don’t want to believe anything that isn’t true. But whether a belief is rooted in truth can be debated. Another factor that is often overlooked is, what does the belief lead to? Does the belief lead to good things? Does the belief lead to bad things?
We often forget this factor. Does what you believe lead to good things or bad things? The ideas in your head, if you follow it, does it lead you to do something good and productive? Or does that idea in your head lead you to do something you shouldn’t or something that would hurt someone else?
For example, if you believe God’s forgiveness of sin means that it is okay to sin, then what are you going to do? You are going to sin. You are going to look just like any person who doesn’t have Christ. The belief that sin is not that bad will lead you to do bad things.
Or if you believe that there are unidentifiable mistakes in our Bibles, then you are not going to trust the Bible as much. If you don’t trust the Bible then when the Bible tells you to do something you don’t want to do, are you going to do it? If you don’t know which parts are corrupt and which parts aren’t then you are essentially going to mistrust the whole thing. Believing that the Bible has mistakes in it is going to lead you to not obey God’s commands. That belief leads to bad things.
Or if you believe that every time you commit a sin you lose your salvation. That if you don’t say a prayer right then and there you are going to Hell if you die. Then what is that going to lead to? That will lead you to anxiety and worry. You will never have a moment of peace. You will always be worried and you will never be able to trust in God’s grace. That belief leads to bad things.
You know who knew this way before I did? Jesus. In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about false prophets who are in sheep’s clothing but are actually wolves. By what measure do you judge a prophet and determine whether a teacher is a wolf or not? Jesus said by their fruits.
[Matthew 7:15-20 ESV] 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Fruits are the visible manifestations of whatever is inside. The fruit might be what they say or what they do. Here Jesus is connecting wrong teaching that does not come from God with actions that God does not approve. A bad tree produces bad fruit. A false teacher teaches and lives out false teaching.
1. Healthy, “sound”
The topic tonight is the concept of what is “sound.” You may have heard that term in the sense of “sound” doctrine. But a study of this word and concept will show something different than you may expect. We think what should be “sound” is our doctrine, but scripture has a different slant on that term. We use the word differently than scripture does.
The word “sound,” not referring to noise in the ear, is defined this way by Merriam-Webster,
1. a: free from injury or disease. of sound mind; b: free from flaw, defect, or decay. sound timber
2. a: SOLID, FIRM. sound construction; b: STABLE. a sound economy; also : SECURE, RELIABLE. sound investments
3. a: free from error, fallacy, or misapprehension. sound advice. sound reasoning; b: exhibiting or based on thorough knowledge and experience. sound scholarship; c: legally valid. a sound title; d: logically valid and having true premises. a sound estimate; e: agreeing with accepted views : ORTHODOX. sound doctrine.
4. a: THOROUGH. a sound recovery; b: deep and undisturbed. a sound sleep; c: HARD, SEVERE. a sound whipping
5: showing good judgment or sense. a sound advisor
So we use the term in a variety of ways. But it means a quality without poor variation, without inconsistency, without error.
- In the Gospels and Acts
The Greek definition of the word is, “to be sound, to be well, to be in good health; metaph.; of Christians whose opinions are free from any mixture of error; of one who keeps the graces and is strong.”
The Gospels and the book of Acts it is used about the human body being in good health especially when Jesus or the Apostles heal a person. Like in the book of Luke,
[Luke 5:31 ESV] 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (KJV, whole; NIV, healthy; Greek, sound)
When Jesus healed a centurion’s servant (Luke 7:10), she is described as being “well.” NASB says, “in good health.” The word is the Greek word for “sound.”
And in Luke 15 in the parable of the prodigal son who returns to his father, the father describes his son as returning back “safe and sound” (15:27).
OTHER USES OF THE WORD (hygiainō, ὑγιαίνω, G5198, and hygiēs, ὑγιής G5199), Mat. 12:13; 15:31; Mark 5:34; John 5:6, 9, 11, 14-15; 7:23; Acts 4:10; 3 John 2
- In the Pastorals
But the word is found most in the pastoral letters, 1 Tim., 2 Tim., and Titus. If you walk through the uses of these words you will see the word “sound” not applied to human bodies but instead applied to teachings and most particularly behavior.
The word takes on a new sense in the Pastorals. Christian proclamation and teaching is called sound teaching/sound doctrine (1 Tm. 1:10; 2 Tm. 4:3; Tt. 1:9, 2:1), or sound word/sound message (1 Tm. 6:3; 2 Tm. 1:13; Tt. 2:8). Another way to phrase this may be “healthy doctrine” or “teaching without any hint of impurity.”
Sound doctrine is true and correct teaching in contrast to perverted doctrine which contains within it lies and error (1 Tm. 1:4). This is the pure teaching which is established and validated by the apostles and preserved by the office of preacher to which Timothy and Titus are called.
When you read these books and how they use the term “sound doctrine,” you will find a greater emphasis on works than how we use the term. How do we use the phrase “sound doctrine”? We use it in the sense of a teaching that is true according to the Bible, but we limit the usage of the phrase to teachings in the realm of belief.
The doctrine of salvation by grace through the cross of Christ, we would say sound doctrine. But also the teaching that we must work out of faith: sound doctrine. Being saved by works: not sound doctrine. Being baptized for the remission of sins: sound doctrine. Being baptized for a show of faith: not sound doctrine. This is how I hear the phrase is used.
That is not how Paul uses the phrase. Paul’s use of the phrase includes qualifying the quality of teaching but that is a secondary usage. Sound teaching, as used by Paul, emphasizes the godly obedience it calls. The phrase “sound doctrine” was used in a practical way by Paul.
Paul did exactly what Jesus said to do, judge a person’s inner quality by the quality of their fruits. The quality of “sound doctrine” is seen in its fruits, their actions. A person “sound in the faith” is first and foremost someone who lives in a godly way, Tt. 1:13; 2:2. That godly living, sound living, is the product of sound teaching.
A healthy teaching, as taught by God, results in a healthy person who lives a healthy life. If you find a person who is not living a healthy life, then the problem is that they have within themselves a healthy teaching. If someone is living a life of sin, then they do not truly believe in the sound teaching that Jesus saved us from sin. The works of their lives show the state of their heart. The fruit shows the state of the tree.
Good works are a product of good doctrine. Usually we do not connect doctrine with actions but that is a mistake on our part. The use of the word “sound” shows us that connection.
Doctrine is beliefs, teachings that you hold. If God’s doctrine teaches us that God desires holy lives, then why would we live unholy lives? If God desires humility, then why would we live a life of pride? If God desires repentance, then why would we sin?
God does not just want us to believe his word, he wants us to put his word into action. We are not just to hold doctrine but to put doctrine into action.
3. The Pastoral Use Of Sound
Here are the eight verses that use the word “sound.”
1 Timothy 1:10 uses the word to say that the works of ungodly people are not in accordance with God’s healthy doctrine. The healthy doctrine is the gospel.
[1Ti 1:8-11 ESV] 8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
1 Timothy 6:3 uses the word to describe the healthy words of Jesus Christ and “the teaching that accords with godliness.” Verses 1-2 speak about obeying slave-masters in the name of God. Verse 3 reprimands anyone who teaches rebellion against the slave-masters.
[1Ti 6:3-4a ESV] 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing…
2 Timothy 1:13 pairs the healthy doctrine with faith and love.
[2Ti 1:13 ESV] 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 says that people will not want to hear healthy teachings. Healthy teachings is not according to people’s passions, is based on truth, and is not based on myths.
[2Ti 4:3-4 ESV] 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Titus 1:9 is describing an elder in the church with the godly characteristics he should have. He must hold to sound teaching and be able to teach people to have these characteristics.
[Tit 1:7-9 ESV] 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 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.
Titus 1:13 is about teaching those who live ungodly lives. They must be rebuked so they can live a godly life and be sound in the faith. Being sound in the faith is contrasted with sinfulness.
[Tit 1:12-14 ESV] 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.
Titus 2:1-2 is one of the clearest indicators that sound doctrine produces godliness. Then in verse 8, the word “sound” is used to describe godly speech. In these verses a practical description of being sound is given.
[Tit 2:1-8 ESV] 1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Spiritual healthiness in a Christian is a product of their spirits and what they believe. Like in real life, your health is mostly dependent on what you consume. What teaching have you consumed?
Do you believe, like Titus said,
[Tit 2:11-13 ESV] 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
If you believe that the grace of God trains us to renounce ungodliness, then you shouldn’t be living in an ungodly manner. If your fruits are bad, then the problem is within the tree itself.
Are you living in accordance with sound teaching? Are you sound in the faith, living a godly life? Look at your own fruit and ask yourself, are you consuming the right teaching?