This sermon was originally preached in 2016.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husband, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
Titus 2:1-6 ESV
Having concluded the first chapter of Titus, we can now easily see that Paul’s theme and focus throughout was establishing a correct view of church leadership. First, we learned that the New Testament assumes a plurality of elders leading and shepherding the local churches. Second, Paul delivered to us a list of qualifications for being an elder of a church, as well as emphasizing the importance of pastors leading the church in holding firm to the Scriptures. Third, the apostle gave a rousing exhortation against false teachers, during which he warned Titus how to both identify and confront them.
Moving into the second chapter of Titus, there is a shift of focus from one aspect of the church to another, a shift from leadership to membership. Paul’s overall aim throughout chapter two is to reinforce the importance of each Christian living a godly life for the glory of Jesus Christ. Just as we covered leadership in three parts, we will spend an equal amount of time on members. Across this chapter, we will continue to see the same basic theme of the letter: the marriage of sound doctrine and good works.
Paul begins our discussion of active church members with a familiar topic: discipleship. Since we know that Jesus’ final command to His disciples before ascending to heaven was the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), it should come as no surprise that Paul would consider this crucial for every Christian to understand. By speaking to older and younger men and women in purposefully broad generalities, he seeks to encourage and guide everyone into further obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples.
TEACHING SOUND DOCTRINE // VERSE 1
Paul opens up the second chapter of the letter with a shift in focus from previous section of text. In the last seven verses of chapter one, the apostle gave Titus much advice for identifying and dealing with false teachers. After hitting such a grave topic, the attention is returned to Titus: but as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. What a sharp contrast between Titus and the false teachers! While they taught for shameful gain (1:11), Titus was to teach sound doctrine. Where might this solid, steadfast, and trustworthy doctrine come from? Sound doctrine can only come from a submission to the Scriptures. Everything we do must derive from our grounding in the word of God. Furthermore, this grounds our text in disciple making because teaching sound doctrine means fulfilling Jesus’ command to teach others all that He has commanded of us.
Before moving into the next section of the text, allow me to speak briefly upon the idea of discipleship. Too often, we preach and teach discipleship as being a necessity, while failing to explain what it is. A disciple is, at the most basic level, a follower or a student. When Jesus commanded His disciples to follow Him, He called them into a life of discipleship, of learning and following. Christians are, by design, disciples, followers, and students of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we talk about making disciples, we mean teaching others to follow Christ. That is the goal and heart of discipleship. If we do not give ourselves to this task, we are in disobedience to Jesus’ command.
Because of this broad definition of discipleship, the practice of discipleship is also broad. Some may grow frustrated that the Bible does not teach a specific method for discipling another person; however, we must realize that no discipleship relationship will ever be identical because no people are identical. The Bible deals in generalities because it applies to all of humanity. Thus, as with most things, we must cling to the broad principles as Scripture teaches and trust the Holy Spirit to lead us in specifics. Do not expect from the Bible what it does not give.
I believe the primary goal of discipleship to be the expansion of the kingdom of God. Jesus claimed to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, and He did so by teaching His followers, His disciples. Likewise, Jesus commands Christians to continue the expansion of His kingdom through making disciples until He returns to fully consummate it. Because it was essential to Jesus’ life, discipleship is at the core of being a Christian. A Christian will make disciples because that is what Christians do. In fact, evangelism is only important if it leads to discipleship. Jesus did not command us to make converts but disciples.
Because of this importance, it seems that disciple-minded Christians will have a healthy fixation upon the upcoming generations. Often it seems that too many people become focused upon their own work, or even to past work. They become stuck in a cycle of remembering the former works of God. And while it is important to remember what God has done, the most significant actions that we do in this life are to train those who will live beyond us. A failure to raise up others displays apathy at best and selfishness at worst. We are to be a people who live and die for Christ and His kingdom; therefore, our goal should be to see those who follow us make greater progress for the kingdom than we did. The disciple-minded Christian will aim to plow their field so that the next generation can reap a greater harvest. If this is not our mindset, we are not following the example of Christ.
GODLY OLDER MEN // VERSE 2
As alluded to previously, Paul keeps much of his writings of discipleship in generalities, and older men is one example of this. The subject is purposefully ambiguous. He does not intend for one demographic of people to be in view; rather, he wants to define a principle for all people. We can only be older or younger in relation to someone else, which is the point: discipleship can only come through relationship. You will almost always be older and younger than someone, in physical or spiritual maturity; thus, we must pay close attention to everything that Paul says here, knowing that in some relationships we are the elder and in others the younger.
Paul lists a few qualities that older men should display. Please note as we study these and the ones to come that these characteristics are not exclusively for men nor are the ones stated for women exclusively for women. Rather, these are attributes that ought to be fruit that indicates Christian maturity.
Older men are to be sober-minded. Literally, this means to be free from alcohol. It is used in 1 Timothy 3:2 as a qualification for elders and in verse 11 of the same chapter of deacons’ wives. This does not, however, mean that one must be a teetotaler—someone who abstains entirely from alcohol; instead, it is anti-drunkenness. Biblically, drunkenness is almost synonymous with foolishness, and the Bible aims for us to be wise, not fools. Therefore, just as Paul warned that an overseer must not be a drunkard (1:7), so mature believers should live a life of sober maturity.
They are to be dignified, which means honorable, venerated, or respectable. Paul uses this in 1 Timothy 3:8 in description of deacons’ character and in verse 11 of their wives. It should be the goal of every Christian to live a dignified life that is worth emulating.
Self-controlled is one of Paul’s favorite words in Titus. It is only used four times throughout the New Testament, and three of them are in Titus. First, Paul used it in Titus 1:8 to speak about elders and uses it in 2:5 as what older women should teach younger women. In Greek, it comes from two roots words, one meaning safe (often the word used for salvation) or whole and the other meaning mind. So self-controlled means having a saved or whole mind that is able to overcome passions and pleasures. This comes in stark contrast to the description of Cretans as evil beasts, that is people who are entirely governed by their feelings and pleasures. Also, Paul states in Titus 3:3 that before Christ we were once “slaves to various passions and pleasures”. The message is clear that Christians ought to be a self-controlled people.
Older men should be sound in three things: faith, love, and steadfastness. Being sound means to be strong, healthy, and rooted in something. Thus, we should aim for a strong and healthy faith in God our Savior. We should strive to be strong and healthy in love, that we might keep the two greatest commandments—loving God and loving people. And we should model strong and healthy steadfastness, which is patience, endurance, and perseverance. In short, older men must model healthy Christian life for younger men.
GODLY OLDER WOMEN // VERSES 3-5
Paul now sets his sights upon the older women. The word likewise shifts the focus but also ties the women as being similar to men. This means that women are not excluded from being dignified, sober-minded, and sound in faith, love, and steadfast. Nor are men excused from being reverent, avoiding slander, pure, and kind.
First, he urges them to be reverent in behavior. Reverent comes from holiness or consecration. Thus, being reverent in behavior means that all of our actions are dedicated or given over to God. Though this is a lofty standard, we should strive to glorify and exalt Christ in all of our actions, no matter how big or small.
Second, they must not be slanderers. We could also say a false accuser as the KJV translates it or a malicious gossip in the NASB. In case we might think that speaking gossip or maliciously against someone is not that bad, let us note that the Greek word used is an adjective version of devil. Just as Satan means adversary, devil means accuser or slanderer.
Not being a slave to much wine is similar to being sober-minded, so we will not approach the subject again here.
Here is the main discipleship thrust of the passage: older women must teach and train younger women in what is good. Though it is expressly the responsibility of the elders to teach the Scriptures (1 Tim. 3:2), it is the role of everyone to teach the Scriptures and how to live them to one another. Discipleship requires us to teach each other in how to live out the Bible. Paul further specifies this teaching by claiming that it is the training of others. Training here is a verb form of the same word for self-control in verses 2 and 5. Biblical training is a teaching of how to be self-controlled, living like Christ.
Paul then dives into a few areas of specific training. First is the training of younger women to love their husbands and children. I find this particularly interesting because most people think that love must come naturally and involuntarily or not at all. Paul appears to take the opposite approach, assuming that we do not know how to properly love our families. For Paul, love must be taught. Real love required training and discipline. While some love does come naturally, correct and godly love does not. For instance, during times of strife, our spouses can be difficult to love; however, biblically we must continue to love them through anything. Or in terms of children, many parents can find themselves in a form of worship of their kids, which is not a biblical love. It is from older men and women that we should be able to learn how to properly love our families.
Self-control is the same mentioned in verse 2, and purity is similar to it. Purity involves being completely and entirely devoted to something. Being pure in godliness means living a self-controlled life.
Working at home is likely to be the most controversial aspect of this chapter. Does Paul mean that all women are only allowed to work at home? I think not. First, we must consider that women had little choice for working anywhere else in the ancient world, so in commanding them to work at home, Paul may be warning against laziness. Second, we should note that Paul is emphasizing the importance of women in homemaking. While it is not the sole-responsibility of the woman to maintain a home, it is certainly a greater emphasis for her than her husband.
Finally, Paul exhorts young women to be trained in kindness and to be submissive to their own husbands. The command for wives to submit to their husbands is often a source of much misunderstandings. It is important to remember that submission is not identical to obedience. Throughout the New Testament, we are all encouraged to submit ourselves to Christ, and Ephesians 5:21 urges us to submit to one another. Submission is therefore far from being a term exclusive to marriage; rather, marriage is a reflection of the gospel. A husband then must love his wife as Christ loved the church, and the wife follows her husband’s leading.
Why does Paul tie marital submission to the reviling of God’s word? Because marriage is so tied into the gospel message, the apostle understood that dysfunctional marriages point to dysfunctional beliefs. As our present society continues to devalue marriage and the family, the Scriptures proceed to be reviled evermore by the same society. In fact, I would argue that if we denigrate marriage, we cannot have a healthy view of the gospel.
YOUNGER MEN LIKEWISE // VERSE 6
Paul closes this section of text by turning his attention to the younger men, meaning that everyone has been challenged. We will all fit into one or most likely two categories: an older or younger man and an older or younger woman. Once again, the presence of the word likewise ties the men into the commands given to the women. Thus, Paul is not exclusively commanding older women to train younger women but for older men to likewise train younger men. It may seem odd that Paul does not devote much time to the younger men, but in commanding them to be self-controlled, he evokes all of the previous commandments made because in many ways self-control encompasses them all.
Again notice that the apostle has not given specifics for how to train or be trained in the faith. Paul’s emphasis of discipleship is not upon the methodology but upon character. By conforming ourselves to the image and character of Christ, we naturally become the kind of people who worth being imitated. Likewise, if we truly wish to grow in being more like Christ, we will find ourselves drawn toward more mature believers who are displaying that Christ-like spirit. Discipleship is not series of steps to complete; it is a life to live.