People of my generation or older will recognize the photo above as coming from the Right Stuff. This was a movie about a real group of men that formed our initial space program. Because the smallest of mistakes in space can turn into significant problems, NASA sought men of the highest quality to form our space program. There were dozens of qualities that NASA examined and tested for. In the end, they acknowledged that these men simply had the “right stuff” to be astronauts.
When Paul was training Titus to be a Pastor, he had a similar goal in mind… and for the same reasons. He wanted to be sure that Titus (or any other pastor he would train) had the right stuff to be a pastor. As leaders of the church, they were to lead by example, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity” (Titus 2:7) Paul knew that as goes the leader, so goes the group. For a man (who still has a sin nature) to take leadership of a flock, he must be strong in the Spirit, allowing that Spirit to guide him in his leadership.
Paul also knew the pastor would be the primary teacher to this flock, and all the teach must be accurate. “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)
Haddon Robinson, author of “Biblical Preaching” says the same thing in his book. Sound doctrine is critical in teaching. If a preacher goes off script from sound doctrine, he will mislead that flock significantly. Teaching from what he wants the scriptures to say is not the same as teaching from what they actually say. Hand selecting a few scriptures out of context to form fit to a personal message is not sound doctrine. Only by viewing the scriptures in their context, and for the meaning they held to that particular audience… can you truly teach sound doctrine.
Paul’s teachings to the churches in Corinth was the right stuff to them. However trying to interpret those sets of instructions through the eyes of the people of Philipi would have led to confusion. In order to understand the message in 1st and 2nd Corinthians you have to understand where they were at the time and how those instructions connected with their current plight.
So when Paul is giving instructions to teach sound doctrine and to show integrity and dignity in the process, these instructions make more sense if you understand his audience of the letter, young Titus, a new but growing pastor whom Paul has trained.
So when reading the scriptures, it is vital to understand the audience to get the full interpretation and proper application of the text. Only then can you truly grasp its meaning and discover its application in your life today.
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