The Call to Older Men in the Church
Our church’s mission is to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is not merely to lead people to “make a decision for Christ,” but to bring people to Jesus and help one another grow in Christ, toward maturity and obedience—together as a family. This requires ongoing instruction in sound doctrine and living the life together, which is biblical fellowship.
Mature believers understand the significance of the community of the local church as the primary place where spiritual reproduction and growth take place (Eph. 4:12-13). They value its relationships and invest in the spiritual growth of others. Kent Hughes, who pastored the well-known College Church of Wheaton for many years, spoke out against the growing, self-centered consumer mentality that he witnessed in churches when he wrote,“Undoubtedly a large percentage of people in the modern church are driven by a consumer mentality. They value only what is beneficial to them and partake only of what pleases them at the times that are not disruptive to their schedules, at costs not significant enough to burden their lifestyles. Such persons will pick the church activities that are attractive to them but never think of the impact of their actions on others. Only the most mature have a sense of personal investment in regular fellowship, disciplined worship, and church community life.”
Healthy growth for the Christian includes maintaining a vital connection to their local church, which is the primary place we find the godly examples we need to follow. In light of this, we understand why Paul told Titus to be a pastor who challenges the older men and women to be wise, godly examples to those who are younger; and the younger men and women to humbly receive instruction. Last month, we examined this instruction in relation to the female gender. In Titus 2:3 the older women are called to be reverent in their behavior, exemplary in their speech and self-control so that they could train the younger women in Christian living.
Today, we take a look at what the apostle says to the male gender in the church. Here we see a picture of mature Christian manhood. Titus 2:2 is a continuation of the apostle’s instruction to Titus in verse 1; that is, this is the content of the teaching that he was to give to the church—the community of Christ. “But” announces a contrast to the self-serving false teachers already warned against (Titus 1:16). Now, Paul instructs Titus to compel the men and women of the church to maintain the natural link between healthy doctrine and healthy living. When doctrine is unhealthy then it will show up in poor Christian living, but sound teaching leads to sound living. If faith is genuine then doctrine and life will harmonize. But when examples fail to lead in wisdom then those who follow after them will suffer. To make this point, Paul begins with those who are the natural leaders in the community of the church—the older men.
FOUR QUALITIES OF MATURE MANHOOD (Titus 2:2)
The word “older” literally refers to “an old man.” It is a different word than the one used in 1:5 to refer to “elder” as a leader, an office in the church. However, though different in function, the godly character of all the men should be the same. It is the same word Paul uses to describe himself in the book of Philemon, translated “the aged.” It is believed he was about 60 years old when he wrote that letter. Most commentators believe the “older men” referred to here are at least in their 50’s or 60’s. They are probably old enough to have raised a family and now see their children beginning to raise families of their own.
Paul mentions 4 qualities of this kind of mature manhood. Note these are specifically Christian virtues; that is, “they presuppose the dynamic of God’s grace working in the heart.” (Kistemaker, p. 326).
- Be clear-headed. The word temperate originally meant “abstaining from wine.” It referred to soberness in contrast to drunkenness. However, the meaning of the word was broadened to refer to a man’s mental judgment, to self-control in one’s appetites and desires. Thus it is here translated “sober-minded.” Another word that is used is temperate, which implies mental alertness and sobriety of life, clear-headedness. It speaks of one who possesses wise caution, one who is the master of himself. This is the man who desires to master every area of his life, keeping it under self-control.
- Be serious-minded. The word “dignified” means “with reverence.” It means to be serious-minded, which naturally leads to honor and respect. In other words, the older men of the church should be worthy of respect; they are not frivolous or silly. Of course, this does not mean they should be negative or ultra-critical, for that would be the opposite of maturity. Nor does it mean they have no sense of humor. But it does describe men who are serious about living for God in a frivolous world. We see a negative illustration of this in the Bible, the man named Lot. When it became clear that God would destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, the nephew of Abraham, ran to warn his sons-in-law, saying, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting (Genesis 19:14-15). Why, in such a serious moment, would Lot’s sons-in-law think he was joking? Is it because Lot never earned the reputation of being a serious man? The older men of the church should not be like Lot. The church must not be filled with silly old men. Instead, older Christian men are to be the kind of men who are worthy of respect.
- Be sensible in judgment. This virtue is translated “self-controlled” in the English Standard Version. The word refers to mature judgment and proper restraint. It is self-mastery in thought and judgment. Older men should be balanced and discreet. They are mature, balanced men; not men of extremes, but reasonable. These three qualities, writes one commentator, “form an overlapping network of virtues that describes a life of respectability free from overindulgence, dissipation, and foolishness.” (Towner, p. 721).
- Be spiritually healthy. The word “sound” means healthy. That is, mature Christian men possess a healthy faith. Paul mentions three qualities which are present in the man who is spiritually healthy: faith, love, and steadfastness. In the Greek, all three qualities are preceded by the definite article “the.” That is, the faith, the love, and the perseverance. In other words, these are genuine Christian virtues.
- The faith = sound doctrine consistent with true Christianity
- The love = true Christian love which is a fruit of the gospel
- The perseverance = true believers persevere through the painful trials of life
Scripture calls older men in the church to be sensible, examples of wisdom and Christ-likeness. If you are in this group, you need to see yourself as an essential link in God’s chain of discipleship in the community of the church. God wants you to be actively involved in discipling younger men in the church. So, men in your 50’s and older, who is one younger man you are intentionally discipling for Christ? Remember, there is no retirement for the task of making disciples. If God has done a work of grace in your life then you now have an eternal investment to make in the lives of younger men in your church.
[This post is adapted from a recent sermon Cornerstone Community Church. Search on the title, “A Pursuit of Christian Manhood” here.]