2 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
(Titus 2:1-3 NIV)
In the previous two passages, Paul laid out the prerequisites for spiritual leaders (elders) in the local church. Paul then gave Titus the reason he started with the attributes that spiritual leaders must have, describing the problems in the Cretan believers and the churches.
Today, Paul reminds Titus what to teach the adult men and women of the congregations. Not everyone will be a spiritual leader, but all have a responsibility and calling to live a life that is Christ-centered and honoring to God. Paul begins by focusing on the older men, then the older women, then the younger women, and finally, the younger men. We will look at the instructions for the older men and women today, and the younger women and men next time.
Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men first. This was likely a formidable command to Titus, a young pastor. So what character attributes does a godly older man possess?
- Temperate – to be sober, not drunk, not intoxicated by anything, to have a clear mind not influenced by any substance. Remember that Crete was known for its wine exports, so alcohol was in abundant supply. This character trait was an inner choice to have a clear mind and an outer choice to maintain that clarity.
- Worthy of respect – a combination of gravity of character and dignity which together inspires deep respect in others. This involved both the person’s inner life (their focus of heart and seriousness of purpose) and their exterior life (reverence in conduct).
- Self-controlled – mentally fit, with a sound mind. This is an inner trait that manifests itself in the outer life in multiple ways, particularly how the person responds to tough circumstances. Do they weather the storm and remain unflappable, grounded in Christ, or do they respond negatively or poorly?
- Sound in faith – healthy in the quiet conviction of belief, not wavering in their relationship with God. This is a person that, when you question how deeply their relationship with God goes, they look you in the eye and say, “I know that I know that I know.” This is King David saying, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
- Love – this is the Greek word “agape”, meaning unconditional love. This is the deepest type of love, the love that God has for us, the primary character trait of God. This is not an emotion, but a deeply and firmly held conviction of character.
- Endurance – to have endurance is to abide and be steadfast under trial, to hold up under intense pressure or persecution. This comes from an ordered inner life and is manifested or shown in our outer lives.
Next, Paul instructs Titus on what to teach the older women:
- Reverent – of godly character on the inside and behavior on the outside. This is befitting a person whose life is fully given to the Lord.
- Not a slanderer – not one who is a false accuser, not one who jumps to conclusions before listening and knowing the facts. The Greek word that Paul uses for slanderer has the same root word used for Satan.
- Not addicted to much wine – not in bondage to alcohol. Just like Paul told Titus to tell the older men to be temperate, he instructs Titus to tell the older women to not be dependent on alcohol. With wine abundantly available on the island of Crete, it would be easy to lean on alcohol to drown the sorrows and hardships of the day.
- Teach what is good – to intentionally instruct others on worthwhile subjects.
May we reflect on God’s teaching through Paul’s words to Titus and live out our calling for God’s glory and our good.
Regardless of our age group, may we desire and intentionally live our lives so that we may finish well and reflect the character attributes of God, where at the end of our lives, He says, “well done, good and faithful servant.”