holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (1:9)
All of the qualifications Paul has mentioned so far (vv. 6–8) have to do with spiritual character and attitudes, with the kind of person a faithful elder is called to be. In verse 9 he deals with the primary ministry of a faithful elder, namely, that of teacher, what a faithful elder is called to do. Throughout the pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus), the apostle repeatedly emphasizes the critical importance of elders, or overseers, carefully and consistently preaching, teaching, and guarding God’s truth.
Preaching and teaching are much alike in content and are distinguished primarily by the nature of presentation. Preaching is the public proclamation of the truth, intended primarily to move the will of the hearers to respond. Teaching is directed more at causing the mind to understand. Preaching involves admonition and exhortation, whereas teaching involves illumination and explanation. Often the two functions overlap and are indistinguishable, as they are in many passages of Paul’s letters, as well as in other parts of the New Testament. All good preaching has elements of explanation, and all good teaching includes some exhortation. Some elders clearly have only one of the gifts, where as others just as clearly have both. Though different in some ways, however, both gifts are crucial to the church and have the common purpose of disseminating God’s Word.
Because preaching and teaching of Scripture are spiritual gifts, bestowed sovereignly on servants of God through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28), and because pastors must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24), it clearly follows that every elder is so gifted in some way and so commissioned by the Holy Spirit. The sine qua non of ministry is preaching and teaching. Giftedness in this area varies, of course, just as the other spiritual gifts vary in degree from believer to believer. But Scripture is unambiguous that every true elder is divinely equipped to preach and teach God’s Word.
As already noted, “elders who rule well [should] be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). Paul’s qualifying phrase “especially those” indicates that, although every elder ought to “work hard at preaching and teaching,” some of them do not. From the context, it seems obvious that some elders in the early church fell short in this regard. “Work hard” translates kopiaō, which carries the idea of diligent effort, of toiling with maximum self-sacrifice in order to fully accomplish a task, to the point of exhaustion if necessary. It has as much to do with the quality of the work as with the quantity. It is important to understand, however, that this quality has nothing to do with the size or influence of a pastor’s congregation. Nor is it determined by natural ability or spiritual giftedness. A pastor with limited capabilities who works devotedly without reserve is just as worthy of double honor as an equally hardworking pastor with much greater endowments.
the necessary foundation
holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, (1:9a)
The foundation for effective teaching of the Word is the pastor’s own understanding of and obedience to that revelation. He must be unwaveringly loyal to Scripture.
Antechō (holding fast) means “to strongly cling or adhere to something or someone.” Speaking of spiritual allegiance, Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to [antechō] one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13; cf. Matt. 6:24). God’s preachers and teachers are to cling to the faithful word with fervent devotion and unflagging diligence.
Word translates logos, which refers to the expression of a concept, thought, or truth. It is frequently used of the revealed truth and will of God. Speaking of the enemies of God, Jesus said, “They have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’ ” (John 15:25). Paul spoke of God’s “word of promise” to Abraham: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son” (Rom. 9:9) and of His judgment: “The Lord will execute His word upon the earth, thoroughly and quickly” (v. 28).
Logos is often used as a synonym for Scripture, the written Word of God. Jesus accused the Pharisees of “invalidating the word of God by [their] tradition which [they had] handed down” (Mark 7:13). To unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem, our Lord clearly identified the Word of God with Scripture, saying, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:34–36, emphasis added).
In the prologue to the book of Revelation, John spoke of himself as one “who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:2; cf. v. 9; cf. 1 Thess. 1:8; 2 Thess. 3:1). In the prologue to his gospel, the same apostle speaks of Jesus as the living Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1–4, 14; cf. 1 John 1:1; Rev. 19:13).
Paul spoke of Scripture as “the treasure which [had] been entrusted to” Timothy (2 Tim. 1:14) and as “the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God,” he continues, “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15–17). Paul commended the Ephesian elders to “the word of [God’s] grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Peter called Scripture “the pure milk of the word,” by which believers “grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).
Pastors, therefore, are to love the faithful word of God, respect it, study it, believe it, and obey it. It is their spiritual nourishment. They are to be “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). That involves more than mere commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, essential as that is. It is commitment to the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word as the only source of moral and spiritual truth.
An elder’s spiritual leadership in the church is not built on his natural abilities, his education, his common sense, or his human wisdom. It is built on his knowledge and understanding of Scripture, his holding fast the faithful word, and on his submission to the Holy Spirit’s applying the truths of that word in his heart and life. A man who is not himself holding fast to God’s faithful word and committed to live it is not prepared to preach it or teach it. The truth of the Word must be woven into the very fabric of his thinking and living. Like the apostles in the early church, spiritually effective pastors must devote themselves “to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
It is through the Word that an elder grows in knowledge and understanding of the character of God, the will and purpose of God, the power and glory of God, the love and mercy of God, the principles and the promises of God. It is through the Word that he comes to understand justification, sanctification, and glorification. It is through the Word that he comes to understand the enemy and his powers of darkness, and his own helplessness, even as a pastor, to resist and overcome sin apart from God. It is through the Word that he comes to understand the nature and the purpose of the church and his own role of ministry in the church. All this he teaches his people.
It is failure in the area of holding fast the faithful word that is largely responsible for the superficial, self-elevating preaching and teaching in many evangelical churches. Here is the real culprit in the weak, shallow, insipid “sermonettes for Christianettes” that are such common church fare today. Here is the real villain that has led so many to be converted to what they consider relevancy and therefore to preach a pampering psychology or become stand-up comics, storytellers, clever speechmakers or entertainers who turn churches into what John Piper in his most excellent book The Supremacy of God in Preaching has called “the slapstick of evangelical worship” ([Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990], p. 21).
Timothy had been “constantly nourished on the words of the faith” and had followed “the sound doctrine” that he learned in Scripture (1 Tim. 4:6). Based on that preparation, he was to prescribe and teach these things” (v. 11), “show [himself] an example of those who believe” (v. 12), “give attentionto the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (v. 13), “not neglect the spiritual gift within [him], which was bestowed upon [him] through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (v. 14), “take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all” (v. 15), “pay close attention to [himself] and to [his] teaching,” and “persevere in these things” (v. 16). The nine emphasized verbs in verses 11–16 all translate Greek imperatives. (As indicated by italics in the nasb, the predicate adjective “absorbed,” v. 15, is not in the Greek text but is implied.) Paul was not giving Timothy suggestions or simply personal advice, but divinely revealed apostolic orders.
Later in that letter Paul said, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). Preaching and teaching are the primary responsibilities of elders. Timothy was to “teach and preach these principles” that Paul laid out (1 Tim. 6:2), to “instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God,” and to “instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (vv. 17–18).
The apostle spoke of himself as “a preacher and an apostle and a teacher,” (2 Tim. 1:11; cf. v. 8); and he charged Timothy: “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.… And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses [that is, his apostolic teaching of divinely revealed truths], these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (vv. 13–14; 2:2). Timothy was to carefully safeguard and uphold the things he had been taught and then was to teach them to other elders, who, in turn, would teach them to still other elders, and so on. That is the Lord’s plan for teaching and preaching in His church.
Paul went on to remind Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,” as well as “for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). It is God’s Word, under the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit, that makes “the man of God”—the spiritual leader, in particular the pastor-teacher—“adequate, equipped for every good work” (v. 17. He is divinely commissioned to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (4:2). He is to “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
This duty to Scripture is in accord with the teaching (didaskalia), which refers to the content of that which is taught, to doctrine, divinely revealed truth.
Believers in the early church “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). After God’s revelation was completed through their teaching, it was recorded in what we now know as the New Testament. That truth is absolutely trustworthy and sufficient. It is not to be redacted, edited, updated, or modified.
the necessary duty
that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (1:9b)
Because he personally knows deeply and is exclusively loyal to God’s Word, the pastor becomes qualified, under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, to exercise his gift of preaching and teaching that Word in the church.
Positively, the pastor is to exhort believers in sound doctrine. He is to strengthen God’s people in their knowledge of and obedience to the Word. Parakaleō (to exhort) means “to urge, beseech, and encourage.” Literally, it means “to call alongside of” for the purpose of giving strength and help. The term was used of defense counsel in a court of law, the advocate who pleaded the cause of the accused.
In the Upper Room discourse, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Helper [paraklētos],” or Advocate, who would stand beside the Twelve after Jesus ascended to His Father. This “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things,” the Lord promised, “and [will] bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:16, 26; cf. 15:26; 16:7; cf. 1 John 2:1). That promise was fulfilled in a unique way in regard to the apostles, who authoritatively taught and established God’s New Testament Word. But every pastor who is genuinely called by the Lord is to become able … to exhort in sound doctrine.
Sound translates hugiainō, from which we derive the English hygienic. It has the basic meaning of being healthy and wholesome, referring to that which protects and preserves life. In his preaching and teaching, it should be the pastor’s sole objective to enlighten his congregation in doctrine that protects and preserves their spiritual health. It is an awesome and demanding task, and for that reason James warns, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). Speaking to those under the pastor’s care, the writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account” (Heb. 13:17). No reasonable, sensible Christian man would presume to take the role of pastor-teacher on himself without the Lord’s calling. Nor would he attempt, when divinely called, to fulfill that calling by preaching and teaching whatever ideas might come to his own mind. He will preach and teach nothing but sound doctrine.
It is for that reason that preaching and teaching must be expositional, setting forth as clearly, systematically, and completely as possible the truths of God’s Word and only those truths. Like Ezra, the faithful pastor will “set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances” (Ezra 7:10). Like Apollos, he will be “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). The pastor who recognizes that Scripture alone is inerrant and is our sole, complete, and sufficient authority knows exactly what he is called to preach and teach. He will “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). He will “fully carry out the preaching of the word of God” (Col. 1:25). That is the commission of every preacher and teacher.
Contrary to what is offered in much popular preaching today, the Bible is not a resource for truth but is the divinely revealed source of truth. It is not a supplementary text but the only text. Its truths are not optional but mandatory. The pastor’s purpose is not to make Scripture relevant to his people but to enable them to understand doctrine, which becomes the foundation of their spiritual living. The Bible is “user friendly” to those who humbly submit to its profound truth.
Sinners will be intolerant of the uncomfortable truths. That is to be expected. On the other hand, they will want to hear comfortable lies. They may seek what is sensational, entertaining, ego-building, non-threatening, and popular. But what we preach is dictated by God, not by the crowds we face. Psychiatrist and Christian writer John White has penned some compelling words that need to be heard:
Until about fifteen years ago psychology was seen by most Christians as hostile to the gospel.
[But today] let someone who professes the name of Jesus baptize secular psychology and present it as something compatible with Scripture truth, and most Christians are happy to swallow theological hemlock in the form of psychological insights.
Over the past fifteen years there has been a tendency for churches to place increasing reliance on trained pastoral counselors.… To me it seems to suggest weakness or indifference to expository preaching within evangelical churches.… Why do we have to turn to the human sciences at all? Why? Because for years we have failed to expound the whole Scripture. Because from our weakened exposition and our superficial topical talks we have produced a generation of Christian sheep having no shepherd. And now we are damning ourselves more deeply than ever by our recourse to the wisdom of the world.
What I do as a psychiatrist and what my psychologist colleagues do in their research or their counseling is of infinitely less value to distressed Christians than what God says in his Word. But pastoral shepherds, like the sheep they guide, are following (if I may change my metaphor for a moment) a new Pied Piper of Hamelin who is leading them into the dark caves of humanistic hedonism.
A few of us who are deeply involved in the human sciences feel like voices crying in a godless wilderness of humanism, while the churches turn to humanistic psychology as a substitute for the gospel of God’s grace. (Flirting with the Word [Wheaton, Ill.: Harold Shaw, 1982), pp. 114–17)
About that same problem, John Stott writes,
Expository preaching is a most exacting discipline. Perhaps that is why it is so rare. Only those will undertake it who are prepared to follow the example of the apostles and say, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables.… We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:2, 4). The systematic preaching of the Word is impossible without the systematic study of it. It will not be enough to skim through a few verses in daily Bible reading, nor to study a passage only when we have to preach from it. No. We must daily soak ourselves in the Scriptures. We must not just study, as through a microscope, the linguistic minutiae of a few verses, but take our telescope and scan the wide expanses of God’s Word, assimilating its grand theme of divine sovereignty in the redemption of mankind. “It is blessed,” wrote C. H. Spurgeon, “to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your spirit is flavoured with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is Bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows from you.” (The Preacher’s Portrait [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961], pp. 30–31)
The second duty of the pastor who teaches faithfully is negative. Not only is he to exhort believers in sound doctrine but he is also to refute those—especially those within the church—who contradict healthy, life-protecting, life-preserving doctrine.
Pastors have an obligation to God to give their people an understanding of the truth that will create the discernment necessary to protect them from the ubiquitous error that incessantly assaults them. Antilegō (to refute) means literally “to speak against.” The Lord’s preachers and teachers are to be polemicists against unsound doctrine that goes under the guise of biblical truth. Not long after Paul himself ministered in Crete, “many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,” were causing trouble and confusion in the churches there (Titus 1:10). They were not to be ignored, much less tolerated, but were to “be silenced because they [were] upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (v. 11). They were particularly dangerous because they arose from within the congregations. “They profess to know God,” Paul said, “but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (v. 16).
Even the spiritually mature church at Ephesus was not immune to false teaching. “I know that after my departure,” Paul warned elders from that church, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30).
Although false teachers in the church exist under many guises, they all, in one way or another, contradict biblical truth. They are the enemies of sound doctrine and therefore of God and His people. Simply to accept Scripture as the inerrant Word of God does not protect against its being misunderstood or even perverted. To give certain personal insights and decisions of church councils equal authority beside Scripture is to contradict God’s Word—just as surely as is denying the deity of Christ or the historicity of His resurrection. The final warning of Scripture is: “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18–19, emphasis added).
The dual role of the godly preacher and teacher is to proclaim and to defend God’s Word. In the eyes of the world and, tragically, in the eyes of many genuine but untaught believers, to denounce false doctrine, especially if that doctrine is given under the guise of evangelicalism, is to be unloving, judgmental, and divisive. But compromising Scripture in order to make it more palatable and acceptable—whether to believers or to unbelievers—is not “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). It is speaking falsehood and is the farthest thing from godly love. It is a subtle, deceptive, and dangerous way to contradict God’s own Word. The faithful pastor must have no part in it. He himself tolerates, and he teaches his people to tolerate, only sound doctrine.
9 Paul concludes the list with an overall doctrinal qualification (cf. 1 Ti 3:2, 9). The overseer must “hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught.” This will enable him to “encourage [parakaleō, GK 4151; see, e.g., 1 Ti 6:2; 2 Ti 4:2; Tit 2:15] others by sound doctrine [see 1 Ti 1:10; 2 Ti 4:3; cf. 1 Ti 6:3; 2 Ti 1:13] and refute [elenchō, GK 1794; cf. 1:13; 2:15; 1 Ti 5:20; 2 Ti 4:2] those who oppose [antilegō, GK 515; cf. 2:9; Ro 10:21] it.” Since the NT was still in the process of being written, “trustworthy message” (pistou logou, GK 4412, 3364) probably refers to apostolic teaching conveyed by way of oral proclamation (cf. 1 Ti 5:17).
1:9 / Finally, and significantly, the list of qualifications concludes in the form of a duty. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, which repeats his need to be absolutely devoted to the gospel (cf. 1 Tim. 3:9 about the deacons). He must be so, however, not just for himself but so that he will be able to fulfill his twofold task of exhorting/encouraging the faithful and confuting the opponents of the gospel.
It should be noted that these are exactly the tasks enjoined on Timothy in 1 Timothy (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2). Here, even though Titus is to lead the way (see disc. on 1:13), these tasks are to be entrusted to the elders/overseers. The church leader, for that is surely what elders are, must be able to encourage (better, “exhort”; cf. 1 Tim. 4:13; 5:1; 6:2) others by sound doctrine (see disc. on 1 Tim. 1:10). He must also be able to refute (or “convict”; cf. 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 3:16; 4:2) those who oppose it. This final qualification will lead directly to the next section of the letter.
Elders must be blameless in their doctrinal orthodoxy (1:9)
With verse 9 the apostle moves on, in regard to qualifications for the pastorate, from their home and family, and their character and conduct, to their necessary grasp of the truth. Presbyters must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught … (9a). This message (logos, being a word from God) is characterized in two ways. First, it is reliable (pistos). It is trustworthy because it is true, and it is true because it is the word of the God who never lies (2). Secondly, it is (literally) ‘according to the didachē’, that is, consonant with ‘the teaching’, namely that of the apostles. This was already an identifiable body of instruction, which in Romans Paul called both ‘the form of teaching to which you were entrusted’20 and ‘the teaching you have learned’, and which in the Pastorals is termed interchangeably the teaching (cf. 9, 2:1), ‘the faith’ (13), ‘the truth’ (14), and ‘the deposit’.25 It has now been bequeathed to us in the New Testament.
This reliable, apostolic teaching candidates for the pastorate are to hold firmly and never let go. Why so? Because they will need it in their teaching ministry. And what form will their teaching take? It will have two complementary aspects, namely to encourage others by (rsv ‘give instruction in’) sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (9b). To ‘refute’ people is not just to contradict them, but actually to overthrow them in argument. But neither of these ministries (instructing and refuting) will be possible unless the pastors concerned maintain their firm hold on the sure word of the apostles.
It is clear from this that presbyter-bishops are called essentially to a teaching ministry, which necessitates both a gift for teaching (didaktikos) and loyalty to ‘the teaching’, that is, of the apostles (the didachē, 9). Only if they are didaktikos in communicating the didachē will they be able both to instruct and exhort people in the truth and to expose, contradict and confound error. The negative aspect of this teaching ministry is particularly unfashionable today. But if our Lord Jesus and his apostles did it, warning of false teachers and denouncing them, we must not draw back from it ourselves. Widespread failure to do it may well be a major cause of the doctrinal confusion which prevails in so many churches today.
Calvin clearly understood the double nature of our teaching ministry. Here is part of his comment on verse 9:
A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means for doing both, and he who has been rightly instructed in it will be able both to rule those who are teachable and to refute the enemies of the truth. Paul notes this double use of the Scripture when he says that he should be able both to exhort and to convict the gainsayers.
Having given an ideal picture of true elders in their threefold blamelessness (5–9), Paul now by contrast describes the false teachers (10–16).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1996). Titus (pp. 43–52). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Köstenberger, A. (2006). Titus. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 608). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (p. 175). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (pp. 178–179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.