By Olen Holderby
Our text for this study is Titus 2:1-5; and it would be wise for the reader to at least read these verses at this point.
Our story really begins on the is-land of Crete, a large island off the southern coast of Greece. Several references are made to Crete in Acts 27, as one place visited by Paul on his journey (as a prisoner) to Rome a brief stay here was an effort to escape a storm. According to Acts 2:11, some Cretes were in Jerusalem and heard the preaching of the apostle Peter. Anciently Crete was a very populous country. Both Jew and Gentile were found here, though the Gentiles greatly outnumbered the Jewish population.
The Cretians did not have a very good reputation, “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” (1:12). And, Paul says, “This witness is true” (1:13). This was an apparent quotation from the Cretian prophet and poet, Epimenides; he is also quoted in Acts 17:28. This corrupt reputation plays a part in some of the instructions given by Paul, which we shall discuss. Watch for them.
Most probably after his first imprisonment in Rome, Paul made a trip to Crete and left Titus there. He specifically says, “Left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting” (1:5); and this would include the ordaining of elders. Further, Titus was charged, “Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (2:1).
To Aged Men
One of the “sound things” that Titus was to speak concerned aged men, “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience” (2:2). We shall briefly notice each of these terms. First, let us recall that much has already been said to some men in chapter one. In verses 5-9 the qualifications for those who serve as elders are given. These place a heavy burden upon the shoulders of such men; for, the purity of the whole church there was at stake. This is clearly seen in verses 10,11,13,14,15 and 16. Now, let us go back to what Paul says to aged men (2:2).
Sober (sophron). This means “sober-minded”; but more, it means “a self-controlled mind.” Whatever else one might say about this word, he cannot escape the idea of a self-controlled mind. The verb form (nepho) of the word originally meant “free from the influence of intoxicants,” but, is used metaphorically in the New Testament (see W.E. Vine). To the thinking person this contrast is vivid. What a difference there is in the thinking of one who is under the influence of intoxicants and one who is not. We simply must not be foolish, irresponsible, and degrading like the one under the influence of intoxicants.
Grave (semnos). Vine says this word first denoted “reverend, august, venerable; then serious, grave.” Vine’s quoted comments should be very helpful here. He points out that neither “grave” nor “gravity” really state the meaning of this word; but that it is a combination of gravity and dignity. He goes further to point out that the word “inspires reverence and awe.” He points to a third author which says, “The word points to seriousness of purpose and to self-respect in con-duct.” Aged brethren, these are weighty thoughts!
Temperate (self-control). All powers placed upon man, by God, are subject to abuse; the right use requires control self-control. In 2 Peter 1:6, this word follows the word “knowledge,” suggesting that which is learned must be put to practice. Self-control is both negative and positive; it is not merely abstaining from some-thing. It is negative when it forces us to forego the things that are sinful; it is positive when it forces us to do that which is required. He who lacks either the negative or the positive aspects does not have self-control; and the aged are told to have self-control.
Sound in faith, or healthy in faith. Whether we apply this to one’s personal faith or to “the faith” (as in 1:13), the idea of “healthy” is still there. And, brethren, there is a great deal of difference between a healthy faith and a sick one. As age and related infirmities take their toll, we may be inclined to permit our faith to become sick; and, Paul says to the aged men, “Don’t you permit this!”
In charity (love). There is absolutely no place for bitterness, vindictiveness, and the like, in the heart of the aged. “Christian” love acts in wisdom and kindness; and, the aged men must show maturity in this. Love always does what is best for the object of that love.
In patience. This includes the ideas of perseverance, steadfastness, and endurance. James says, “The trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:3); and, in so far as I know, this is the only thing that is said to produce patience. Patience is not, I repeat is not, a passive and dull acquiescence with the inevitable, as the aged often practice it. Such an attitude does not show either perseverance or endurance.
My dear aged fellow-Christians, we must understand that declining faculties that go with being aged must not overshadow those godly qualities within. These are to shine forth as we actively (get this word) anticipate that home-coming (or home-going) in that eternal city of God. There are things that we can do to further the Cause! We must find them; and we must be busy doing them. “Though our out-ward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). The former grows weaker, the latter grows stronger; one becomes insignificant, the other becomes more significant and obvious; one is less active, the other more active. All the while, remembering, “Our labor is not in vain in the Lord,” never (1 Cor. 15:58).
The Aged Women
Another of those “sound things” that Titus was to teach concerned the aged women They were to teach the younger women (2:4). They were to teach the younger women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands. This statement gives us an idea of where to draw the line between aged and younger. These younger women had husbands, children, and home; they were not teenage girls.
Now, get this fact — They were to be taught all this “that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Aged women, to ignore or fail to do this teaching invites blasphemy toward God’s Word. Do you want that on your conscience? This is a rather plain command; and one has to wonder why it is so neglected today.
In verse 3 there are four qualifications which the aged women are to have: (1) Her behaviour is to be such that becometh holiness. (2) She is not to be a false accuser (a making of slanderous statements). (3) She must not be a user of wine. Look back to 1:12 and see the statement “slow bellies,” or, as another translation puts it, “lazy gluttons.” This expression includes the idea of drunkenness or drinking a sin that was prevalent among the Cretians. All three of these have directly to do with one’s character; thus, the power of example is brought to bear. (4) She is to be a teacher of good things. Verses 4-5, give some of those good things which she is to teach; but, it does not end there (see Eph. 2:10). Further, the statement affirms that she must not teach those things that are sinful, questionable, or improper.
Please notice in verse 4 that the aged women are to have these qualifications “that,” (so as, in order to) she may teach the young women. She is commanded to teach the younger women, and these qualifications are given in order that she may be able to do so. Is that the reason that this command is so neglected today?
Of course, inherent in teaching is the idea that those who are taught must listen. Younger women, then, are required to respect, to listen to, to learn from, these aged women. This is God’s order in this matter.
A Closing Observation
The aged will not always find it easy to observe these instructions; they are, nonetheless, instructions of our God. We can do them and we must do them. We must not think of ourselves as useless or fruitless or as rolling stones. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strength-ens me.” Consider this statement, “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immorality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Please see the word “then” in this verse. Then and only then can we rest, and the victory will then, and only then, be ours. May God help us to so do!
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 17, p. 12-13
September 1, 1994