Those who are called into the ministry of pastorship must know what the Bible teaches to preach sound doctrine and to rightly lead his people through the moral wilderness of this world. Paul writes to Titus, “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (2:1). This applies to all pastors since gradually but surely the days are coming (and are here) when people will not “endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3).
The minister of the gospel must teach and preach the absolute truth in contrast to all the falsehood that is taught in the world through false religion and philosophy. The word “sound” in these passages mean “wholesome – healthy”. Therefore all that the pastor teaches must come directly from the word of God (Bible). Whereas false teaching corrupts, destroys, and leads people to eternal damnation, the truth sets them free (John 8:32) and leads to everlasting life. Because of this Paul urges Titus and Timothy to know what the Bible teaches and to minister that word to others. He had previously exhorted Timothy to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If he did this Timothy would have the weapon to “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (:16).
To preach sound doctrine means that the pastor will not teach his own ideas or opinions, nor will he adopt the latest spiritual gimmicks. His foundation will be the Holy Scriptures and all that he builds upon that will be according to what God’s written word says, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Corinthians 3:10). He will not add to or take away from God’s word. He will not interpret the Bible in light of modern atheistic science, but will proclaim it with full assurance of it being God’s inspired and authoritative revelation.
The minister of the word must believe that the word of God preached will be effective in the hearts and lives of those he is dealing with, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Since it is the pastor’s duty to feed the flock it goes without saying that he needs to know where the green pastures are, (1 Peter 5:2 & Psalm 23). Paul told Timothy to teach the truth as a good minister who has been feeding on God’s word himself, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (1 Timothy 4:6). We see in this text that a good minister must have good doctrine received by being nourished by God’s word. When the faithful minister does this, and continues to do so, not only is he walking the path of eternal life, but will encourage others to follow his example, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16).
In the passages referred to in the question above Paul indicates that preaching the pure word of God should be the pastor’s consuming passion. Especially in 2 Timothy 4 we notice how forcefully he drives his point home: “Preach the word” – “Be instant in season, out of season” – “Reprove” – “Rebuke” – “Exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine”. In the best sense of the term we could say that the minister should be obsessed with teaching the truth. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:16 should be burnt into his soul, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” It is only by preaching and teaching (though a pastor’s personal life should be an example of godliness) that his people will receive a fuller knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. If he knows what the Scriptures teach then he will be equipped to deal with the situations, circumstances, and dilemmas of those under his care. He knows that the message he brings to his people is a matter of life and death, therefore he desires to stir them up to even greater commitment to Christ. Paul exhorts Timothy to teach with “all doctrine” not bits and pieces, not popular religion, not pep talks, but minister “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
The pastor realises that the only offensive weapon that God has given to him (and all who love the truth) is the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). With this he is able to resist all the lies that seek to infiltrate his church and so corrupt his people. He would use the word of God as a scalpel to bring health and healing to those who follow him, but as a sword against the enemy. Therefore he does not compromise the truth in any way. In our own church we have a plague that says, “We don’t scratch itching ears here” (2 Timothy 4:3), which is exactly what Paul wanted Timothy to adhere to.
In 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul writes to Timothy to “make full proof of thy ministry”. The Greek here means to carry on to the end or to fill to the brim. The pastor must have the determination to complete the work that God has called him to. The most important responsibility of the pastor is to shepherd his flock according to the revelation of the Holy Scriptures, “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15) – “I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:4). After this he must ward off all that is not of sound doctrine. He will not entertain it or meddle with it, but like a shepherd with his sheep he will rid the fold of the wolf (even the disguised variety). The bottom line is that the faithful minister must be both a constant student and teacher of God’s word, fully equipped to bring others to full maturity in Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).