“That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, no false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things….” Titus 2:2, 3
Paul left Titus amongst the new Christians on the island of Crete with the responsibility to “set in order the things that are wanting” (Titus 1:5a). His primary duty was to organize churches by ordaining officebearers (Titus 1:5b), and to continue to preach and teach in the interest of the faith of God’s elect and their acknowledging of the truth that accords with godliness (Titus 1:1). In addition, Titus was to teach the new Christians to live a godly lifestyle. Godliness in life not only condemns both false doctrine and ungodly living, but it also adorns the truth. A godly life supports and verifies the correctness of the truths of sovereign, particular grace.
Paul begins the second chapter with these words: “speak the things which become [are consistent with, harmonize with] sound doctrine” He then becomes specific, showing Titus what godliness is for the various members of the Christian churches on Crete. In this article we consider Paul’s presentation of godliness for aged believers.
The chief characteristic of the aged
The apostle does not identify the age of the “aged.” It is estimated that when Paul told Philemon that he was aged (v. 9), he was about 60 years old. The aged are those who are old enough to have families with grown children. They have the experience of having raised a family. They have had the benefit of many of the experiences of life.
The aged saints are to be “grave,” literally, honorable and respectable in their words and conduct. While the young should respect and honor those with age and experience, Paul calls the aged to the responsibility of conducting themselves so as to earn the respect. Their conduct should inspire respect and reverence from others. They are to live in such a way that they are worthy of respect.
To be “grave” is to conduct oneself in a way that “becometh holiness” (3). It is to be spiritually mature. It is to live a lifestyle that demonstrates what it is to be holy. The older saints in the church must command the respect of others by a conduct that flows from and harmonizes with holiness. Holiness is the life that results from God’s declaring the elect to be righteous
or justified. God declares us to be holy, that is, saints. To be holy is to be separated from the ordinary and devoted to the service of God. God’s gracious salvation calls them who are saved to “live soberly, righteously, and godly” (v. 12). They have been redeemed “from all iniquity” and made “zealous of good works” (v. 14). They have learned humility, for they are “gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:2). Those who are spiritually mature deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12), and are “careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8).
And they have the “hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2). They look “for that blessed hope and the glorious appearance of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
For gravity and holiness to be genuine (and not merely an outward show) they must be motivated by a deep love of God. The aged are sobered by the awareness that God is always near, always with them, and thus they live as before God’s face. They are sober because they always remember that they have an old man of sin and that spots adhere to their best works. They evidence spiritual maturity by consciously striving to control their sinfulness and sinful desires. One way they control themselves is by controlling their tongue. They strive to “speak evil of no man” (Titus 3:2). They understand how easy it is to sin with their tongue, so they put a watch before their mouth (Ps. 141:3). The years of battling sin have taught them the horrors of satisfying sinful desires but also the absolutely amazing nature of grace that gives them forgiveness over and over and over again. They strive to live in holiness.
Specific admonitions to the aged men and to the aged women
Aged men are to be “sober.” Their belief in the doctrines of sovereign, particular grace through faith alone without works leads first to being sober, i.e., vigilant or watchful of oneself. They strive to be moderate in every area of their life. In our youth we are often excessive in our pursuit of the things we like. But the mature man has learned to control himself. Also, he has learned that there is value in pursuing good activities that, though he might not himself prefer them, are beneficial for others. A sober man is moderate in every part of his life.
Very similar to being sober is to be “temperate.” This means to be self-controlled, curbing one’s desires and impulses. It is for one to think clearly from a spiritual perspective, ever aware of his own depravity, which makes his desires self-centered. It is to be aware that the first thing that comes to my mind arises out of my old man, and this must be curbed and controlled. I am temperate when I do not just do or say things instinctively, but strive to think (at least) twice, reflecting on what God would have me to do.
Additionally the aged men are to be “sound in faith, in charity, in patience.” While their physical health is deteriorating with age, they are to be growing and maintaining health in the spiritual virtues of faith, love, and patience. To be sound in “faith” is to rely more and more on God and on His revealed truth, rather than letting the circumstances of life dismay and discourage. Sound in faith is to depend on God for all things.
To be sound in “love” is to strive always to know rightly the neighbor, seeking his welfare (especially spiritually). It is to “speak evil of no man…but [be] gentle” (Titus 3:2). It is to be conscious always of what one can do to increase the spiritual well-being of the church as a whole and of the fellow saints God puts in his path.
To be sound in “patience” is to develop the characteristic of not swerving from a deliberate purpose of being godly in trials and sufferings. It is very easy when experiencing the infirmities of older age to be cantankerous, irritable, and difficult to live with. But one who is sound in patience steadfastly endures the trials without becoming bitter or angry, persevering in love for God in the face of suffering.
Aged women are also to live in such a way that they are worthy of respect. Note that Paul also told Timothy to instruct the Christian women in Ephesus concerning the same holy behavior. In I Timothy 2:9, 10 he tells them to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” Godliness will manifest itself in what a Christian woman wears, and on what she desires attention to be focused. Those who receive gracious salvation evidence their gratitude for that unspeakable gift by conducting themselves as servants of God, more conscious of what His eye sees than what the eyes of mere humans see.
Specifically, aged women are warned not to be “false accusers.” It is to slander, fabricating additional details and motives so the stories they relate are more interesting. Such talk often accompanies gossip. False accusing is often occasioned by the desire to know what happened or by the urge to tell others what we know. The seriousness of this sin is often downplayed. But its seriousness is seen in the Greek word used: “diabolos” (devilish). It then is obvious that such behavior does not become holiness.
And the aged women are warned not to be “given to much wine,” that is, in excess or enslaved to it. This language does not forbid any and all use of alcohol, but it certainly calls for self-control by those who are spiritually mature. Their maturity should give them the wisdom to use wine correctly.
Because Titus is to instruct the aged Christian women to teach the younger Christian women to love their husbands and their children, it is implied that the aged women must themselves also live such that they give evidence of agape to their husbands and to their children. This is not a natural love, but a spiritual knowledge of and joy in them as the objects of God’s love.
The great purpose for godliness in the aged saints
The purpose for a godly walk by mature saints is so they can be effective “teachers of good things.” Once we are aged, we are not without purpose for living. The aged are not to be viewed as unworthy of attention or care. They remain vital parts of the body of Christ. Their experiences of striving to walk by faith in all circumstances has equipped them with something very important. They know what it is to live as a spiritual pilgrim and stranger. They know what it is to strive to exercise faith in suffering and hurt. They know what it is to sin and to repent. It may be that they went through some of the experiences of life in a sinful way, but also those experiences taught them. They have learned and they are still learning “good things.” These experiences equipped them with useful, beneficial, advantageous information. They can help the younger saints.
But to be most effective in passing along the “good things” to the next generations, they must have the respect of the next generation. They cannot teach, if they are held in contempt. So the elderly must do everything they can to make it easier for the young Christians to listen to them. They must live in godliness and holiness so the young want to emulate them and learn from them.
The aged, then, must look for opportunities to teach. They must communicate good things to the next generations carefully, lovingly, and humbly. In this way they still serve the edification of the brethren according to the talents God has given them.