The writer of this article is in the group of society designated as ‘aged men and aged women.’ Many do not want to include themselves in this group because it conjures up ideas of a group of people who have little more to do in life and have little significance. It is common to imagine that people in this group have reason to be ashamed. Many sit in their homes, later in life perhaps in retirement homes, imagining that they have little meaning and purpose any more at this stage of life. But this kind of thinking is wrong for Christians and especially for members of the Reformed church.
In the sphere of the covenant family and in the church that maintains the blessed truth of God’s gracious covenant, the aged members of the church have great importance and great purpose. God saves His elect people in families. Sometimes we see three and four and even five generations of one family in the church. The Lord has promised that in the church we will see our children’s children and peace upon Israel. To be sure, there is no reason for human pride and boasting in this reality. The presence of these families are the wonders of God’s sovereign grace who is pleased to continue His church in the line of generations. What cause for humble thanksgiving and praise to God when we see these wonders in our own families! What cause for humble praise and thanks when He saves and preserves us in our generations!
The aged should have a place of honor in the covenant home and in the church. The writer of Proverbs says concerning the gray headed: “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31). Paul admonishes Timothy to teach the members of the church: “Rebuke not an elder [an aged man], but entreat him as a father; the elder women as mothers” (I Tim. 5: 1-2). This is a beautiful way to describe the honor that should be given to the aged men and women in the church, through love and respect for them.
It is a sign of the last days in which we are living that the elderly are not given the honor due to them. The modern day world is all about the young. We must do everything in our power to please them, to keep them in the church when they are leaving by the droves. We must look to them for the future. We must listen to what they have to say. The aged are old-fashioned in their ideas and out of touch with the times. In some societies they live in old-age homes and are not taken seriously for what they have to say. Some are seldom visited or cared for because the younger generation is too busy pursuing their own agenda. We are living in a rapidly changing world, in a day of the explosion of new ideas and ever-changing lifestyles. Traditional values of home and family are considered irrelevant. In this world the elderly sometimes feel confused and left behind, unable to cope. Their insights into the philosophy and concerns of life are not taken into account.
This must not happen in the church. The aged saints, in teaching and by the godly example of their lives, must instruct the youth how they must live godly in this increasingly wicked world.
In order for aged men and women to be honorable, they must behave in a manner that is worthy of honor. This should especially be the case in the sphere of the covenant home and in the communion of the church. The inspired apostle Paul instructed the evangelist Titus working in the churches of Crete to teach each age group about their particular godly behavior. We all must be careful that we do not bring shame to the Lord and become a stumbling block in life to others.
Titus 2 gives this specific instruction for the aged in the church: “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, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (Tit. 2:2-3).
However, he begins with this: “Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1). In harmony with this theme Titus must instruct the aged saints of God in the church to be sound in the faith, sound in doctrine, in the fundamentals of the faith and the glory of God. This soundness of faith must characterize the aged saints who by the grace of God have known the truth for many years. They have grown to maturity in the truth. They have often been called on to engage in spiritual battles for the truth’s sake. In these battles they have, by the grace of God, learned a great deal in their understanding of the truth; their wisdom has increased. They have stood unmoved against the winds of false doctrine in a life founded on God’s Word. They have learned not to pursue every new idea that arises in the world.
Over the years of their lives they have learned the depths of the riches of God’s truth by reading the inspired Scriptures over many times in their homes. Throughout their lives the senior members of the church have heard hundreds of sermons. Some of the aged men have served several times in the special offices of elder and deacon in the church. Many saints of God have learned the precious comfort of the truth of God in times of great trials and suffering, through which they remained faithful to God and His truth. The older generation has the great responsibility to pass down the legacy of their knowledge and wisdom to the younger generation in the church. The younger generation is wise to listen to what they have to say. When elderly saints of God remain steadfast over many years in the love of God and for His truth, they bring glory to the name of the Lord whom they served all their lives.
Elderly saints of God who are grandparents of covenant children must continually involve themselves in the lives of these children and seek to be an influence for good. They must talk to them often and take an interest in the spiritual direction of their young lives. Going on extended vacations, restaurant eating, spending too much time on the golf course, and maintaining expensive houses must not occupy too much of their time, for then they will often miss God-given opportunities in the lives of their children and grandchildren to give instruction and be an example of godliness.
Much of what Titus says in the above-quoted passage has to do with the great importance of godliness. Children and especially young people in the church can sometimes be turned off by hypocrisy in the lifestyle of the aged members of the church. It is, of course, not always true when young people without thinking criticize the elderly for hypocrisy. Young people can be very wrong when they criticize the elderly for hypocrisy. Sometimes they do this only to excuse their own wicked lifestyle. Through wrong and sinful judgment, they separate themselves from the true church. Sadly, they even at times leave the Christian religion altogether and join themselves to this ungodly world.
On the other hand, we who are among the older members of the church must be doubly concerned about our lifestyle, lest we by our own worldliness and covetousness lead the youth astray.
Over the years of our ministry, having served in several congregations, I have seen among the aged in the church sad and shameful examples of behavior and attitudes that have caused others to stumble. May God forbid that our behavior either in our covenant home or in the fellowship of the church should be an offense to others as well as be dishonoring and displeasing to God.
In light of all that we have just written, how significant is the instruction of Titus 2! Aged men and women must be sober and grave and temperate in their lifestyle. These words are quite similar in meaning. Ideas are repeated for emphasis. The word “sober” is used repeatedly in the book of Titus in Paul’s counsel for all ages. The idea of soberness does not mean that Christians should always be long-faced and that they should never laugh or have a smile on their faces. There is so much in the Christian life that should be the occasion for great joy and thankfulness to God. This joy should also be conveyed in the lives of aged saints, and not the attitude of bitterness over trials. The word “sober” has to do with seriousness about truth and doctrine and Christian living. The word refers to spiritual soberness, not merely physical soberness as opposed to drunkenness. Spiritual sobriety has to do with knowing and understanding the truth and applying it to daily living. It has to do with avoiding the judgment of God in our lives and seeking always His favor and blessing.
The words “temperate” and “grave” used in Titus 2 are similar to soberness. They suggest behavior of a person that is not given to excesses of passion, greediness, covetousness, and worldliness. They suggest self-control, the ability to control one’s own spirit and temper. There have been cantankerous old men in the history of the church given to uncontrolled bursts of anger and harsh words, by which they have done great damage in the church and brought shame upon themselves. Some intemperate aged men have taken radical and unbalanced positions regarding the truth, which has led others to forsake the church in discouragement. Some of the aged men mentioned above have even withdrawn themselves from the fellowship of the church, imagining that they alone still hold to the truth while all others are pursuing false doctrine.
How much better have been those who have shown sincere love of God in their behavior. These have lived a lifestyle in which they embraced their own covenant children in tender affection. They have taken great care to show genuine love in connection with guiding young people in the truth. Their daily behavior has been of great encouragement to support their efforts in teaching sound doctrine to the young people. The aged man who is patient in the instruction he gives remembers the days of his own youth and how hard it was for himself to appreciate the need of sound doctrine and the urgency of living by it. What a great influence such godly men have been among covenant young people!
In Titus 2 Paul addresses some specific instruction, knowing that some sins are more common in men and others in women.
Paul warns the aged women in the church not to be false accusers. One of the great evils of ungodly living is the evil of gossip, slander, and evil speaking, judgmental speech, even of fellow members of the church. Some aged saints have become so hardened in this sin that they do not even realize the shamefulness and destructiveness of them. Churches have been torn apart by this devilish speech. Families have been destroyed. Youth growing up in the church have become utterly discouraged by harping criticism and lack of charity.
The great positive calling of the aged women in the church is to be holy. They are to be saintly, literally, serving in the holy temple of God. The church has been greatly blessed by her saintly, aged women, who were great in their knowledge of the Word of God through their life-long, serious study of it. These have been saintly in devotion to the church, in church attendance, and in faithful involvement in many activities and ministries of the church. They have been saintly in care for their fellow saints. What a blessed example and influence these have had over the years in the church and in the covenant home!
What a calling Paul speaks of for the aged women in the church when he says: “That they may teach the young 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, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Tit. 2:4-5). What could be more antithetical to the modern-day philosophy about the role of women?! What a mighty influence these have on the succeeding generation to teach them true godliness in the covenant home and in raising their children!
Thanks be to God for the aged women who teach these truths to the young mothers of our day, supporting this teaching with their own pious self-sacrificing, humble, and godly life.