By Bob Myhan
[From an Outline by Leroy Brownlow]
There are a number of ways to look at this subject. The word "sound" can mean different things in different contexts because brethren can be “sound” in both good and bad ways. [All definitions in this article are taken from Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary.]
Some Are Sound in the Faith
“Sound” (in Titus 1:13) means “having no defect as to truth, justice, wisdom or reason: sound advice.” At least two things are involved in being “sound in the faith.”
First, those who have “no defect as to” the faith, will “hold fast the pattern of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). This means that whatever they “do in word” [teaching] they do “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” or by His authority (Col. 3:17). It is one thing to say that the Lord authorizes us to teach this or that; it is altogether another thing to show that He does so.
Second, those who are “sound in the faith“ will also be “sound” in practice; that is, whatever they “do in ... deed” they do “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). Again, it is one thing to say that the Lord authorizes this or that and another thing to show where and how He has authorized it.
There are only three ways in which the Lord authorizes a thing—direct statement, approved example and implication. Anything that the Lord cannot be shown to authorize in one of these three ways should not and will not be embraced by those who wish to be “sound in the faith.”
Incidentally, the Lord showed authority for what He did and taught in these same three ways—direct statement (John 12:48-50), approved example (John 5:19-23) and implication (Matt. 22:31,32).
Some Are All Sound
Those who are “all sound” simply talk too much. They include those who gossip (1 Tim. 5:13), boast (2 Tim. 3:2), “say, and do not do” (Matt. 23:3), tell lies (Eph. 4:25), engage in corrupt talk (Eph. 4:29), and/or speak evil of brethren (James 4:11).
While almost everyone believes it is wrong to gossip, most people seem to do it unknowingly. To “gossip” is to engage in “idle talk or rumor, esp. about the personal or private affairs of others.” In other words, it is talking about things one has no business talking about, especially to one who has no business hearing about it.
Concerning boasting, Jesus said, “when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matt. 6:3,4). Those who act and speak in order to be seen of men “have their reward” in this life (Matt. 6:2,5). It is clearly wrong to boast.
Those who “say, and do not do” are hypocrites (Matt. 23:1-13). They “talk the talk” but do not “walk the walk” of true discipleship. But we are to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving” ourselves (James 1:22).
Those who tell lies are among the seven people the Lord especially hates.
These six things the Lord hates, yes seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).
Corrupt speech is the sure sign of a corrupt heart, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34; see also Matt. 15:18-20). It is implied in Eph. 4:29 that corrupt speech is that which does not edify. Truly, “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10).
He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law” (James 4:11).
Here, James is obviously speaking of one who judges hypocritically, not of one who judges “righteous judgment” (John 7:24). It is certainly true that the sins of a brother must be dealt with (Luke 17:3; Gal. 6:1). But to condemn a brother for something that is not a sin is unjustifiable and sinful.
Some Are Sound Asleep
Of course, we mean, “sound asleep” spiritually, rather than physically. It has been said that in every congregation there are three groups of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder, “What happened?” The third group is simply not sufficiently attuned to spiritual matters to recognize either progression or digression, when it occurs. They remain with the original group, after a church split, not because they are convinced the original group is right, but because they are oblivious to the issues over which the others left.
Paul refers to some who were spiritually weak, sick and asleep (1 Cor. 11:30), due to their habit of eating and drinking “in an unworthy manner … not discerning the Lord’s body” (vv. 27-29). There were also those in Rome who needed to “wake up” (Rom. 13:11-14) and those in Thessalonica who needed to “watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:6).
Some Are Sounding Brass (1 Cor. 13:1)
These are they who simply love to hear themselves talk, having no genuine love for the brethren. In the 13th chapter of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, the abuse of spiritual gifts was simply a manifestation of the real problem. They were more concerned with their desire to speak in tongues than with their obligation to edify brethren.
It is probably for this reason that Paul describes love mostly in negative terms:
Love ... does not envy … does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity … never fails (vv. 4-8).
Far too many were “sound asleep” when the Lord’s churches were being divided over unauthorized practices. Thus, they do not know “what all the fuss is about.” Still others are “all sound” and “sounding brass” when discussing these matters. These engage in corrupt speech and hypocritical judgment. They apparently love to hear themselves talk and obviously have no genuine love for those who are “sound in the faith.” &