In writing to Titus about his responsibilities in Crete with the organization of the Church—Paul makes this statement in Titus 1:9, “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.” Interestingly, in this list of qualifications for the office of elder, Paul makes it clear that the pastoral duty of the elder is to provide sound doctrine and sound correction. It was John Calvin, in commenting on this verse that said, “A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.” [1]

The Voice of Edification

Just as sheep in the pasture hear and trust the voice of their shepherd, so must the people in the church recognize the voice of their pastor. They must follow his leadership and teaching so long as he is preaching and teaching the truths of Scripture. It is his calling, according to the very qualifications and responsibilities of the office, to teach sound doctrine.

What is sound doctrine? The word for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which means, teaching. The point is that the pastor must have healthy teaching. Just because a man stands before a congregation and talks doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy. The goal here is for the building up of the faith of the local church so that they will grow in their knowledge of God and become faithful contributing church members for the glory of God. This is how the pastor equips the church for the work of ministry—by teaching sound doctrine.

The Voice of Correction

The wolf hides in the shadows. Sometimes the wolf enters the church to do great damage within the body. One thing that’s sure is that the wolf never introduces himself or herself as a wolf. It’s through the faithful and diligent preaching of God’s Word that the pastor will be able to reveal who the wolf is and expose the errors of such heretics for the entire church to see. Sometimes this will involve naming names such as when Paul named Alexander the Coppersmith publicly. Sometimes it involves a more veiled description such as when he described the Cretans in Titus 1:12. In either case, the pastor’s goal is to bring about correction.

The voice of correction is also used in terms of correcting the genuine Christians who walk off into error, who are perhaps influenced by the heretical teachings of a false teacher, or engage in open sin leading to the same of Christ’s name among the people. This could involve private rebukes, public church discipline, and as necessary, the pastor can point out the errors that might be impacting the entire church as Paul does in Titus 1:10.

Notice how Paul encouraged Titus to “rebuke…sharply” those who are in error in order that “They may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). This is extremely important as Paul reveals the responsibility of the pastor and the goal of such a sharp rebuke. The goal is restoration of their faith so that they will have a healthy faith.

Through the years, I have made it known to the church I serve that my job as a pastor is not to be a life coach or religious entertainer. My goal and responsibility as a pastor is to prepare people to meet God. Such preparation should result in a life of holiness and spiritual maturity as we all journey onward toward eternal life.

If you’re not a pastor, take time to consider the responsibility of your pastors who lead you, pray for you, care for you spiritually, and diligently study God’s Word to care for your soul. Seek to follow their leadership, be open to their rebuke, and when possible—show appreciation for your pastors.

If you are a pastor, remember that it’s easy to preach and at times to make bold statements from the pulpit. What’s often very difficult is to engage with shepherding responsibilities in private where you must sharply rebuke a brother or sister in Christ with the ultimate goal of seeing them move to a healthy place spiritually. Remember, the trap of the devil is to avoid such shepherding responsibilities out of fear of man. Approach such responsibilities with care, humility, and faithfulness to God’s Word and at the same time trusting in God for the results.


  1. John Calvin, 1, 2 Timothy and Titus, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 184.
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