In Titus 2:2-6, Paul unpacks practically what it means for men and women to live in accordance with sound doctrine. And he starts with the older men of the congregation.
“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” Titus 2:2
“Sober-minded” translates a term that describes moderation in the drinking of an alcoholic beverage. Its figurative extension in this verse means to be free from every form of mental and spiritual drunkenness—to be free from excess, passion, rashness, or confusion. It’s a call to be “restrained in conduct, self-controlled, level-headed” (BDAG).
“Dignified” describes a person who is worthy of respect and honor. It is a person who is noble, dignified, and serious (BDAG). The dignified person is so self-possessed and in control of his temper and fears that he elicits admiration from those who know him.
“Self-controlled” indicates someone who is thoughtful and in control of their passions. In Aristotle’s ethics, the term describes someone who avoids extremes and who gives careful consideration for responsible action (Aristot., EN 3, 15; BDAG). For Aristotle, the “self-controlled” person “is intent on the what, the how, and the when of doing what should be done.”
“Sound” literally means to be “healthy” or free from sickness. The extension of that meaning here means to be free from error. So “sound” in faith, love, and endurance means that older men have to believe in the right way, love in the right way, and endure in the right way.
It is important for men not to miss what Paul is saying here. He’s describing a man who doesn’t panic in the face of a challenge. He doesn’t get angry when provoked. He doesn’t fear in the face of a threat. This man is as solid as an oak. He’s the kind of guy people look to when something is broken and no one knows how to fix it. He is the kind of man who is sought out for his wisdom and ability to speak truth into very difficult situations. He’s exemplary in his faith and in his love for his wife and kids and church and neighbor. He faces trials with perseverance and courage. He’s the guy you want your son to grow up to be like. He’s the guy that you hoped you’d always be.
The church desperately needs her older men to be like this. We need an army of laymen who believe well, love well, and suffer well. And we need them because they are the pace-setters for the rest of the church. It’s not an accident that Paul begins this list with the older men. He begins with them because he intends for the old guys to be leading out in these things in the church and in their homes.
“The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” Proverbs 20:29
This verse means that young men are not noted for their great and profound wisdom into life. The main contribution of young men is their ability to serve others with their physical strength and vigor. That means that the young men ought to be trying to out-serve one another in ways that involve their physical ability. When someone needs help moving, they show up. When there’s a workday at the church, the young men need to be there with their able-bodied eagerness.
But as the years accumulate, strength diminishes. As strength diminishes, guess what begins to accumulate? Experience and wisdom. And gray hair represents the accumulation of wisdom and sensibleness about life and about what needs to be done. And this is an old man’s splendor and contribution to his neighbor. And it is supposed to be his contribution to his family and to his church.
Old men. We need you. And we need you to live your life in such a way that evokes admiration and respect. You don’t have to be a great orator. You don’t have to write books on theology. We just need you to be godly. That is your calling, and it should be the aspiration of every man. Set the pace for us. Your family, church, and community need this from you more than anything else.
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