“Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things . . . .”a
Titus was laboring among the new Christians on the island of Crete. Paul is giving instructions to young Titus concerning his work. He is to preach and teach that godliness of life is consistent with true faith. One’s acknowledgment of the truth should be accompanied by godliness (), and Titus must keep on speaking and exhorting and rebuking with all authority the things that are consistent with sound doctrine ( ).
This is always important, but it was especially so in the midst of the ungodliness that characterized the inhabitants of Crete. Paul becomes quite specific in telling Titus how godliness is to characterize the various members of the Christian congregations: aged men, aged women, young women, and now young men.
A careful examination of this passage in the original language shows that the first three words of verse 7 in the King James Version belong with verse 6. Young men are to be sober minded in all things!
The Chief Calling of Christian Young Men
We can take the young Christian men to be of the same age as the young women addressed in verses 4 and 5. The women were married and had children in the home.
When Paul instructs Titus to teach the young men to be sober-minded, he is not implying that this characteristic is to begin at marriage. Sober-mindedness must be developed in one’s upper teens in order to be present in a marriage. In fact, young women should be looking for this attribute in the young men they would date. They ought to look for sober-mindedness flowing from godliness.
To be sober-minded is not to be somber and sad, to smile infrequently, or to think that to smile is nigh unto being wrong. We are helped by realizing that this Greek word is rooted in the word “wisdom.” The idea here involves how one views oneself. Young men are to think of themselves soberly, resulting in the ability to curb their passions. It is the wisdom of exercising self-control. We often think of being sober over against being drunken. When one is drunk, one does not see oneself and other things clearly. One lacks sober-mindedness when he thinks that he lives to have fun, and that to have fun he needs alcohol or drugs.
Sober-mindedness puts balance and perspective in one’s life. The health-giving teaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (“sound doctrine”) frees one from romanticism, from unreal dreams of glamour, from the foolish demand for personal rights, from the thinking that life on this earth is only to be for my personal pleasure. One who has faith in Jesus Christ knows himself always to be a horrible sinner who must be confessing his sins, denying himself, and controlling his own desires. Faith sees (and does not forget) all that God has done: that salvation is graciously and freely given, without any merit of mine. By faith one sees himself placed by the all-wise and loving Father in every situation of life, with the calling to fear, serve, and obey this Father in his actions, words, thoughts, and even in the imaginations of his heart.
Sober-mindedness is the realization that the blessings of salvation placed on me many obligations. First and foremost, I am to be constantly grateful. The more I am aware of how much I have been given, the greater my sense of debt and of gratitude to God. To be sober-minded is to realize that grace (the undeserved love of God) is indeed sufficient () to satisfy fully our every need. Second, it is to be humble. The awareness that I have an old man who must always be put off, and that spots adhere to my best works, is a constant source of humility (Canons V, 2). The assurance of eternal and unchangeable election is an additional reason for humility (Canons I, 13). And the certainty of perseverance is so far from exciting in believers a spirit of pride, that on the contrary it is the real source of humility (Canons V, 12). Third, gracious salvation places on one the obligation to be faithful to maintain the inheritance given. It is to live in the awareness that I am privileged to be a steward of God, realizing that everything I have, I received ( ).
There are implications arising from the calling to be sober-minded
“Likewise” means that much of what was said to the Christian young women applies equally to the Christian young men. Paul does not write in detail again, having just stated these things to the young women. To be “sober-minded in all things” is the key to a life that fits with, complements, harmonizes with, the doctrinal teachings of Christianity.
Sober-minded young men realize that they have a God-given responsibility in the home and family. This attitude is so essential for the well-being of the home. They also realize that they have a responsibility in their church and at their place of work. The sober-minded young man realizes that his duties and responsibilities are determined by the Lord that bought him and not by what he thinks he wants or ought to do. The sober-minded young man will consider whether he ought to be a eunuch for the kingdom’s sake or marry in the Lord. The sober-minded young man seeks a wife based on her attitude toward Jesus (not first her looks or personality). He seeks a mate who shows in her life of obedience that she loves the Lord, is kind, and is herself also sober-minded.
A sober-minded young man strives to lead and rule his home well. In today’s world many act as if they do not want to lead and as if they are more interested in their work and fun. In contrast, the sober young Christian accepts the responsibility of promoting an atmosphere in the house so it is a home, a comfortable haven for his wife and children. He rules his home so as to promote its spiritual well-being. He uses God’s Word as his guide instead of ruling according to his whims and pleasure. He is careful to dwell with his wife with understanding, not slipping into bitterness, but giving honor to the more delicate vessel. He is aware of how easy it is to provoke a child to wrath.
The sober-minded young man realizes that his love for his wife and children is something learned and not fallen into. He is always striving to reflect God’s love. He is aware of God’s love for His people and knows that this is the love he is to reflect by being sacrificial, selfless, giving (not demanding or possessive), and forgiving. He lives aware that His love must be unconditional, as is God’s—not dependent on whether the object is nice or good.
The sober-minded young man balances his God-given home obligations with the God-given obligations he has outside the home. He has obligations to use his God-given talents in the service of the church and of the various causes of God’s kingdom. He realizes that he must labor diligently and faithfully in the calling wherein God has set him so he can maintain his household with honesty and likewise support the needy and the other causes of God’s kingdom.
To do all these things as before the face of God requires that the young Christian be sober-minded, self-disciplined.
The purpose of sober-mindedness
God’s purpose for such godliness is the same as it was for the Christian young woman, namely, “that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
God’s Word is blasphemed when it is spoken against, reviled, or slandered. This is what happens when God’s Word does not have the effect on a professing believer that it ought, namely, that he is always striving to deny himself. A professing Christian who is selfish and self-serving makes a mockery of his confession. And he gives occasion for the ungodly to mock God and His Word.
On the other hand, the professing Christian who humbly confesses his weaknesses and sins and is prayerfully striving to obey God and His Word occasions the glorifying of his Father in heaven (). The wicked always mock and blaspheme, but that their words are only lies is made obvious by the godly actions of the Christian. Godly lives disprove the words of the mockers and show them to be false. Godly lives give a better answer than all of our words denying their words. Let our lives contradict and silence their lies.
Sober-minded young Christian men bring honor to God and to the teachings of His Word. Such honor is given now in this life, but especially in the judgment day. May awareness of this fact spur young Christian men to higher levels of godliness.