“Qualities of a Sound Church” is the heading above Titus 2:1-10 in my Bible. Titus 2 opens with the following admonition: “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” To be “sound” is to be well, in health, and without corruption.
I heard William Woodson tell a story about N.B. Hardeman boarding a train for Nashville. Before it departed, a man walked alongside the train, striking each wheel with a metal hammer. Not knowing the purpose of such action, he inquired of the man, who replied, “I strike each wheel to test its soundness. If a wheel is sound, it has a distinctive ring. But if it has the slightest crack, even one invisible to the human eye, it won’t ring.” What a picture for sound preaching!
But there is more to soundness in a congregation than just sound doctrine. There must be sound living on the part of the individual members. In today’s text, Paul opens with instruction as to the product of preaching sound doctrine. The ensuing result is clarified in verses 2-10, namely that sound teaching creates sound members. Within this context are descriptions of various groups of people within the local church, namely, older men (v 2), older women (v 3), young women (vv 4-5), and young men (v 6).
Additionally, there is more to being a sound congregation than sound teaching and righteous living. There is no question that the church at Ephesus was sound in their teaching (Rev 2:1-2). Moreover, they persevered in the work of the Lord without growing weary (v 3). But there was something lacking; they had left their first love.
I have heard many say that this is a loss of evangelistic fervor, but I don’t think the context allows for that interpretation. It seems more likely, especially in view of Paul’s statement in Acts 20:28-32, that the brethren were satisfied with and committed to following a heartless orthodoxy, not unlike that seen among the Pharisees and other Jewish sects.
A truly sound church will be consistent and sound in its doctrine. It will speak the truth in love (cf Eph 4:15). It will be occupied with people dedicated to holy living (cf 1 Pet 1:15-16). And it will be filled with a family who loves their Father and elder brother with a deep and abiding love that governs all they do and say.