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Category: Titus

The example of older men

Although it is always humbling to read the word of God, my reading in the book of Titus this morning was especially humbling. After addressing the issue of false teachers, Paul turns his attention in chapter 2 to the things that he wants Titus to do in contrast with those false teachers; namely to teach the congregation what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Paul paints a visual picture for Titus of the fruit or behaviors that should result and be expected from different groups in the congregation as a result of this teaching. Two of the groups he addressed included both “older men” and “younger men”. As much as I wanted to classify myself as a “younger” man I realized the section that I should probably focus on the most was the instructions targeted toward the “older” men. Although I hate to admit it, it’s true. I am older. I even have a bum back reminding me of that fact every single day (should putting on socks and shoes really hurt this badly?).

So, what were Paul’s instructions to the older men?

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”
Titus 2:2

If that is what older men are to be like and if I’m an older man, what does this all mean?

Sober-minded: this means that older men are to be temperate, restrained and self-controlled and not given to excess or not be a slave to appetites (both good and bad) of the flesh. This is really about being clear-headed in thought, approach and action.
Dignified: this doesn’t necessarily need to mean stuffy but it certainly means worthy of respect. In other words, don’t be a clown, bro.
Self-controlled: This is essentially a reinforcement of the call to be sober-minded. I’m thinking the call to be wise, thoughtful and prudent must be pretty important.
Sound in faith, love and steadfastness: The word “sound” in this context essentially means “healthy”. So older men are not to have faith in their own personal experience but rather they are to have a healthy faith and trust in the Lord. Likewise, they are to be healthy in their love for God and the things that God loves – His word (the truth) and His people (the church). And the word for steadfastness essentially means a “patient endurance”. Older men are to persevere and finish the race, not swerving to the right or the left. Older men are to be overcomers and not easily shaken. Their testimony and witness are to remain strong to the end.

This list is really not that much different than what is expected of overseers and deacons as Paul outlined in his letters to Timothy. Paul is basically describing some of the characteristics of what it looks like to be a mature Christian.

As the father of three young children it is not too difficult for me to imagine why it is important for older men to behave in this way. As an older man, I am to provide a witness and example for the younger men and women of the faith to follow. They are to imitate me as I imitate Christ. Of course, if I’m being honest, much of my example seems to be focused on repentance. But, as I continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling and as God continues His work of sanctification in my life, I make it my goal to fulfill my duty of an older man.

High Standards

In reading through 1 Timothy and Titus over the past week I was reminded of the Biblical qualifications for church elders and deacons. Usually when I read through these sections of scripture I like to think to myself, “aren’t these attributes that any mature Christian should posses?” But if you really take the time to review the qualifications as outlined by the Apostle Paul and if you are really honest in asking the Lord to search your heart, it can be very humbling. At least for me. Let’s review shall we?

If anyone desires the noble task of being an elder, he must be:

  • above reproach
  • sober minded
  • respectable
  • able to teach
  • a husband of one wife
  • self-controlled
  • hospitable
  • a good manager of his household
  • well thought of by those outside the church
  • a lover of good
  • upright
  • holy
  • disciplined
  • a man that holds firm to the trustworthy word so that he may give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it

He must not be:

  • violent
  • a lover of money
  • a recent convert
  • a drunkard
  • quarrelsome
  • arrogant
  • quick tempered
  • greedy

The above lists were compiled based on my perusal of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Some pretty serious qualifications. And what do you do if there is no one in your church body that fulfills each and every one of these attributes? I stumbled across the following thoughts from John Piper this week and found it to be helpful. Here is his take on lowering standards to fill church leadership roles:

The acceptability of a church lowering its standards in order to fill leadership roles is this: “low” is partly relative, isn’t it?

If you have a church that’s made up mainly of long-term, seasoned, wise, mature, Bible-knowing Christians, your standards of who should lead in that group are going to be high, because in order to lead you have to be ahead of somebody.

In a church made up of newer believers or just simpler non-studying believers who don’t know as much about their Bibles, what it will take to be ahead of others in that situation will not be as far ahead in Bible knowledge as in another kind of church. So for that to be called “lower” is, I think, fitting.

So, yes, there is an appropriate way to adjust our expectations. Like when it says that an elder must be apt to teach, OK? He must be a good teacher. Well, how good? How skillful does he have to be in handling his Bible to take people from where they are to where they need to be? In one kind of church he has to be really skillful, because these people know a lot. And in another church, if he has been a Christian for five years and knows where Romans and Psalms are, he might be ahead.

So, there is a good deal of relativity that comes into assessing the qualification of elders. We want them to be qualified with biblical qualifications, and that’s a relative judgment in some of the cases.

Some good (and realistic) pastoral counsel. Do you agree? Do you have a different perspective or opinion? What are your thoughts on this?

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