Christians are called not to blend in with the surrounding culture but to adorn the Gospel by distinctive living. Regardless of our age, our behavior needs to reflect the faith we profess. In this message, Alistair Begg examines Paul’s guidelines for godly living, beginning with his instructions for older men and women. As they grow older, those who are mature in faith have unique responsibilities and opportunities to influence younger generations, giving wonderful testimony to the grace of God.
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“But as for you,” he writes to Titus, “teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
Father, as we turn to the Bible together, we pray for your help, that we can understand what we read, that we can believe what your Word says, that we will trust you and live for you. So help us to this end, we pray, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The grace of God, Paul writes here in Titus, transforms people. Transforms people. And it is important we recognize that he is not providing in Titus a short manual giving instruction for various segments of society to learn how to live, if you like, from the outside in, which would just be moralism or religion, but he is writing to those who have understood the grace of God in order to help us to live our lives from the inside out. From the inside out.
The story of the Bible is essentially the story of God, who puts us in his world, in the garden, in the enjoyment of his company, and in the enjoyment of everything that he had made that was good. Man rebels, turns his back on God, and finds himself living life upside down—views things in a skewed way, doesn’t understand God, doesn’t seek God, isn’t chasing around looking for God, isn’t searching out a Bible so he can understand and read the Word of God. He’s living life upside down. The work of the gospel—what Jesus has done on the cross—is the story of what he has accomplished in order to put men and women right side up. And when a man or a woman comes to believe in Christ, to trust in Jesus, then their upside-down life is rectified, and they’re now standing the right way up, put back by the power of Jesus. They are then to live their lives from the inside out and to live in such a way that what God has accomplished in them he is now going to accomplish through them.
And I want you to understand this—all of us to understand it, but perhaps some who’ve come and they’re wondering. It would be possible, I suppose, to be misunderstood and for people to think that this is a kind of self-help manual that we’re going through, particularly this morning as it relates to various categories within the church. No, verse 11 is important: “The grace of God has appeared”; that grace brings “salvation.” In 3:7, he is reminding them that they have been “justified by his grace,” becoming “heirs according to the [promise] of eternal life.” And in verse 8, these are “trustworthy” things to be insisted on, “so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to [doing] good works.” You see the process? It’s absolutely crucial. It’s not that they are to devote themselves to doing good works so that they might be accepted by God, but because they have believed in God, who has provided acceptance for them in the person and work of his Son, the good works flow from his grace.
And in the context in Crete, it was going to be when the people who were in these congregations lived out their lives that the gospel then would be adorned, as he says; that the news of the gospel, which men and women by nature have no interest in and actually, in many cases, will really hate…
I was playing golf with somebody this week—a man I’d never met before. In fact, I was playing with four men that I’d never met before. And one of them was a believer, and he went through the other three fellows. He said that they were in various stages of agnosticism. He said, “Except for the gentleman over there. He is not simply agnostic. He hates God. And he hates anything about God.” “Well,” I said, “I suppose it’s good that you have the relationship with him and that you are so markedly different from him.”
Because the church is always at its best when the people of God are different from the surrounding culture. We have to hold on to that and understand it. I don’t mean different in the sense of wearing funny noses or dressing in a certain way, but different because before we came to Christ, we were living our lives upside down and probably living any kind of religious life from the outside in. But in Jesus, we’ve been turned the right way up, and through our understanding of the gospel, we’ve realized that this is something that is worked from the inside of me to the outside of me, so that I am not like the religious person who is hoping to be accepted by God as a result of doing all these things. And I don’t have to try and tell all my friends that I’m just like them in every respect, as if somehow or another they’re going to like me better. No, it is the distinctiveness of the believers in Crete that is going to make an impact for the gospel.
Now, Paul, as we saw last Sunday evening, has specific instructions for Titus throughout the letter. And we isolated them last Sunday evening. Notice in verse 1, which is directly to Titus: “As for you, [Titus,] teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Then we looked at verse 7, and 8: he’s to show himself to be “a model of good works” in his teaching, and with dignity and so on, and soundness of speech. And then in verse 15, he is to “declare these things.” He is to “exhort” and he’s to “rebuke with all authority,” and no one is to—“Don’t let anybody disregard you.” That is the mandate of the pastor, if you like. That is the calling, the responsibility, the challenge. And it is a distinct challenge. That’s why James says, “Let not many of you become teachers, brothers, for those who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” And the lips of Titus are not to be in contrast to the life of Titus.
And what is true for him is to be true for the rest. And so Paul gives instruction for these various categories of people that are in the congregations that Titus serves. These various categories of people—whether they are slaves or whether they are young women, young men, older women, or older men—they’re all to be taught, he tells Titus, so that they might understand the indissoluble link between what they profess to believe and how they then, in turn, behave—so that, if you like, their creed will be revealed in their conduct; that their faith is a faith that functions; that their belief is then established in their behavior.
And you will notice that he begins with “older men.” With “older men.” I find it quite striking that he begins with older men, and I hope you do too. I think if somebody was writing in our present culture, they might be tempted, if they were influenced by the culture, to begin with children or with teenagers, because that’s what you always hear. That’s what you read in the literature. They always tell you, “It’s the children, it’s the teenagers that are the future of the church.” Well, in one sense that is true, but they’re not the key to the development of the church. They could never be the backbone of the church. They could never be the group that is giving the wisdom necessary for the church to function as God intends. Who would you go to for that? For maturity—physical maturity, spiritual maturity, biblical understanding, a grasp of the gospel? Who should be these people? Older men.
So he starts at the right spot. “Make sure,” he says, “that the older men are sober-minded, dignified, and self-controlled.” Well, there’s a challenge to begin with, isn’t it? “Sober-minded”—keeping their heads—“dignified, and under control.” Every stage of life has its own peculiar challenges and its own peculiar responsibilities. Older men don’t need the same instruction that the teenagers are going to get, but older men need to be taught to live in such a way as you would expect to be becoming of senior members of the community.
That’s why it’s not a good thing when old guys try to look like young guys. Whether it is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, which we just were treated to here… Some of the geriatrics of the rock and roll world could barely get across the stage. And most of them looked like they had borrowed their clothes out of some fourteen-year-old’s closet. They don’t have to do that. You’re old! You’re allowed to look old. Why are you wearing those dumb shoes? And what is that leather thing with no sleeves on it? That never looked good when you were seventeen. And it’s sixty years since you were seventeen, for goodness’ sake! You’re an old guy. You’re supposed to be dignified, sober-minded. You say, “Well…” Well nothing!
Hippocrates, in his day, had the stages of a man’s life in seven—not dissimilar to what we find in Shakespeare. And the sixth stage of life, according to Hippocrates’s calculations, was the age between fifty and fifty-six, so that once you got beyond fifty-six, you were in stage seven—the final stage! No stages after that!
Now, I know that, apparently, forty is the new twenty and all that jazz. But nevertheless, we understand that, as in society, so in the church, the people of God ought to be able to expect that those mature men will display a maturity that is marked in the way that Paul intends, so that they will be—notice—“sound in faith.” “Sound in faith.” Healthy in their faith—not just coasting but growing in faith towards God, in love towards others, and in steadfastness in relationship to the circumstances of life, which bring their own peculiar challenges at every stage.
Now, let me just mention what I see as the biggest danger in responding to this and in seeking to apply it. And this is just my own personal observation. I’ve observed that what a man is in his thirties and his forties, unless corrected by grace and held to account by his wife and his children—what he is in his thirties and forties he will be, to a greater or lesser extent, in his sixties and his seventies. Now, at a trivial level, if he’s got the corniest jokes you’ve ever heard when he’s thirty-five, look out! Avoid him at seventy, because they’re still going around, and they were no good then, and they’ll be even worse now. Okay?
If he was a complete complainer and a whiner—in his office, all the time, everything was half empty, half empty, half empty—if it was half empty at thirty-five, there’s barely anything in the milk bottle at seventy, trust me. And when you take that in church life—and I’ve lived in church life for all of my life—I’ve noticed that older men, at the end, gravitate to one of two extremes. On the one hand, it’s kind of sentimentality. They sort of seem to have lost it, you know? They’re just sort of, “Heh, heh, oh, yes, yes.” It’s not that grace has done anything to them. They just kind of—they just punched out. But on the other hand, it’s censoriousness. You know, if they overhear, it’s like, “Oh, I love it when the little ones sing.” You know, it’s like, “Get a hold of yourself, for goodness’ sake!” Okay? And then over here, it’s like, “If these kids don’t get out of here within two minutes, I think I’m going to go nuts. It’s always been the same in this church, you know.” So the guys are like—those two guys are like the two guys up on the balcony in The Muppets, right? Waldorf and Statler, just up there going, like, “I can’t believe that. This sounds so disre… They’re ridiculous!”
No. So you need your wife to help you, ’cause you’re moving in one direction or the other: into becoming a sentimental old fool or a really annoying, disheartening, critical person. And the antidote to it is the grace of God. But the pastor’s role, given to Titus here, is to see to it that the older men in stage seven, which is over the age of fifty-six, are sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, and healthy in their faith, in their love towards one another, and in their ability to remain steadfast in face of trials.
And I think all of us who’ve lived in Christian circles for any length of time would be able immediately to write down on the flyleaf of our Bible the names of those who have helped us in this regard. I tried it for myself: I wrote down, “Mr. Causer, Mr. Barron, Mr. Blair, and Mr. Cochran”—men who scared me when I was in my twenties because of the fact that they were both dignified and steadfast and sober-minded and self-controlled and a wonderful testimony to the grace of God.
He goes on from there to the “older women.” The older women are not going to be left out from the equation. Of course, they shouldn’t be, because they’re absolutely vital. In the same way that older men have such a significant role to play in a developing congregation, so do older women. And the older women—notice the word “likewise,” in the same way, from the same perspective—these women are to be “reverent in behavior.” “Reverent in behavior.” In other words, their disposition is a disposition which is developed before the searching gaze of God. They are to be, if you like, like Anna, who served in the temple at the time of the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist, and she was bowed before the greatness of God and awed by the wonder of his provision.
When older women are filled with those kind of things, then you will find that they won’t be filled with many of the other kinds of things. If they do not find themselves filled with the Holy Spirit, then they may decide that they should try to fill themselves up with “much wine.” And if they fill themselves up with much wine, they may find that when their tongues just rattle, they become “slanderers” rather than those who are supporting the ministry and undergirding the gospel and so on. There’s a direct correlation there, isn’t there? It’s not uncommon for wine to loosen a person’s tongue, and once their tongue is loose, then they feel loosened, and they feel a little bit of freedom. Then what may come out may not exactly be that which is commending the gospel.
You see how practical this is? This is not theoretical stuff. This tells us something about the context in Crete. If he says, “Now, when you’re thinking about the older women in the church,” he doesn’t say, “Now, the older women in the church should all make sure they’re members of the choir.” You know, “Make sure they do this, and make sure they do that.” He says, “No, the older women in the church are to be reverent towards God, they’re to live under the searching gaze of God, and you need to make sure that they’re not slanderous and that they’re not filled with wine”—in other words, that they’re not out of control, that their tongues are under control, both in terms of the output and also in terms of the input.
In 1 Timothy, of course, he addresses it even in relationship to the matter of apparel, and to the way a woman dresses, and to the necessity of deportment and the necessity of that which is enhancing to a reverent perspective on God. And in the same way that you see some old guys trying to dress like they’re teenagers, the danger is that an older woman may decide that she needs to take on the challenge of her daughter—not by allowing her to be her daughter and remembering what she was herself thirty-five years ago, but in seeking to outdo her daughter. And at the worst level of it all in our contemporary culture is the kind of Kardashian phenomenon. There’s to be none of that in the church. No, the “imperishable [jewel] of a gentle and [a] quiet spirit” is supposed to be the jewelry of the lady of deportment, and externally, she’s not to be looking for that.
Now, the reason this is so important is because the role of these older women in the church. They must be “reverent in [their] behavior,” you will notice, “not slanderers,” not given “to much wine,” because “they[’re] to teach what is good.”
Now, the teaching here is the lifestyle teaching before it is any other kind of teaching. And they’re to teach what is good, teaching by example in the home and in the community. Does that rule out the possibility of formalized teaching? No, it doesn’t. But is formalized teaching what Paul has in mind here? I doubt it very much indeed. I don’t think for a moment that when Paul wrote these words, he was anticipating a classroom setting with a three-ring binder and some woman up the front telling everybody else how this is supposed to happen. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for women teaching women in that way. There clearly is. But I’m just suggesting to you that the kalodidaskálous which is here, which is a unique word in Greek, is not embodying that kind of instruction. Were it so, then he would have used the appropriate word. He used a very interesting word.
So in other words, how, then, does this instruction take place? Well, it takes place in the everyday events of life. It takes place in the casual conversations. It takes place in the arranged meetings. It takes place in the way in which women within a congregation rub shoulders with one another and learn from one another and give to one another. And the training that is taking place of these young women is training. Training. So in other words, the picture is a not uncommon twenty-first century picture: that of a personal trainer. A personal trainer. Somebody who is coming alongside, not now to help us lose two inches off our waist or whatever it might be, but someone who’s coming alongside us in teaching us what is good: “Let me tell you what’s good here.” “Well, I love this.” “Yeah, but it’s not good.” “Well, I thought I should do that.” “Yeah, but it’s not good.” “And so train the younger women.”
The place of older women in a congregation is a vital place, as it is with older men. That’s why I’m always… I know I get criticized when I talk about the people going to fossilize in Florida. But the fact of the matter is, there is a lot of fossilizing down in Florida. And I say it not with a spirit of judgment. Why, it’s with a spirit of disappointment! I understand what that’s about, but we need people here. Parkside needs older women that have run the race, that have kept the faith, that have modeled these things—not to go in classrooms and wait for people to walk in but to live in such a way in the community that you will be attractive to people who are younger than you, who will seek you out and who will be encouraged by you. Because these younger women are to be under the tutelage of the older women.
Isn’t it interesting that Titus is not told to teach the younger women? He’s not told to teach the younger women. He’s told to make sure that the older men are fine, that the older women are fine. But then it’s not his job to teach what is good, to train the young women, but it’s the job of the older women to teach what is good and to train the young women. It bears testimony to what Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy, where he says, “Treat the younger women as sisters, and treat the older women as mothers.” There’s great wisdom in that, isn’t there? Both in terms of moral purity, in terms of not allowing your affections to wander, in terms of the peculiar risks that are wrapped up in the intimacy that a younger woman may feel with a pastor, with a confidant, with somebody who means a great deal to them.
Now, what are these older women to teach these younger women to do? What are they supposed to be doing? Well, there are a number of couplets here, and we’re not going to be able to get very far into them, and I’ll stop before it gets really tough. We’ll have to come back to when it’s tough. But first of all, they’re to teach them, train them, how to love their husbands and their children. Now, we know that so well that we might not be caught off guard by it: a training—a training—on how to love your husband! But isn’t this Annie Get Your Gun? I mean, isn’t this doing what comes naturally? I mean, you just love us, don’t you? Ladies, I mean, be honest. You just… You need a training program to know how to love me? Yeah. ’Cause I’m going to some of these older men to find out how to love you.
No, you see, when we think in terms of love, we think almost inevitably on love being the victim of our emotions, when in actual fact, what Paul is referencing here is a love which is the servant of our wills—that serves our wills. Because when we got married, we weren’t asked anything in our wedding vows about emotion—unless you had somebody who let you write your own vows, which should never happen. If you had any sensible vows at all, then you know that no one ever asked you, “So, how do you feel about your husband today?” All of that feeling is assumed and anticipated and expected, but those aren’t the questions. And there’s a reason those aren’t the questions! Because emotion will come and go, will ebb and flow. Challenges and difficulties inevitably come. So the questions are: “Do you take this man to be your lawful, wedded husband, to live together according to God’s ordinance in the special relationship of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, obey him in sickness and in health, and keep yourself only unto him so long as you both shall live?” Answer: “I do. I will.” “Okay. You’re going to need an older lady.”
Because you’re not going to go very far along the road before you go, “Hey, wait a minute. I didn’t bargain for this. When you said you were going to work hard and we were going to live in the suburbs, I didn’t realize that that meant you were going to leave before breakfast, you were going to come home after supper, you were going to fall asleep with that jolly remote control in your hand every single night. And I’m sick of this.” Okay, well, hang on. Don’t go crazy. Look around. There will be a lady here whose been through this. She’ll be able to tell you: “Let me tell… I sorted him out. I can help you. I lived through it. I can help you.”
How do you love your teenager when they’ve gone into “I don’t want to talk to you ever again in my entire life” mode? When they’ve gone into “How did I ever get parents that are such idiots?” When they’ve gone into earphone mode? When they’re in “Hey, talk to the hand,” and you’re just about going totally out of your box with it? What are you going to do? Well, you can come and see a pastor, and we can tell you, we can pray with you and everything, but you need an older lady. You need somebody who said, “You know what? X and I almost despaired of Z when he,” she, “was… Let me tell you how we lived through it. Let me tell you what we’ve done. Let me tell you how we prayed. Let me tell you about the grace of God. Let me encourage you.”
And what about the tiniest ones? You bring your baby home from the hospital, and you don’t even like it. Doesn’t happen routinely, but it does happen, right? It’s called postpartum depression. Who’s gonna help you with that? What do you need, a three-ring binder? No, you need an arm around your shoulder. You need tender eyes in a lady that understands. You need compassion. You need encouragement. You need everything that you can get from the embrace of a woman who is not theoretical but is able to be there for you.
You see, Paul is not instituting a program here. He is describing a life here. He’s describing the way in which ministry, interrelated ministry in a church, is supposed to take place. It’s not programmatic. It is relational. It is as a result of knowing people. It is a result of being able to open up to people. It is a result of being able to say—or for the older woman to take the initiative as she sees the person: they’ve got three under the ages of four, and the mother looks as though she’s just about to make a run for Findlay, Ohio, or somewhere and just leave them all behind. And you don’t have to come up and go, you know, “Oh, I see you’re having great difficulty here.” Just come up and say, “Hey, come here, and come on. Let’s get a coffee. Let’s… I can help you with this.” A training program for loving husbands and your children.
Now, I’ve lived through this. What do you do when you’re overwhelmed and three and a half thousand miles from home, and your husband’s a pastor; he’s not paying any attention to you? Well, then you need Mary. Mary Lindsey. It’s all very tender. It’s all very real. It’s all very biblical.
Now, what Paul is actually unearthing, you see, is the nature of life itself within the community. Here are all these people from Crete. The Cretan context is so anti-Christian, and he’s saying to them, “Listen, you better make sure that you find in Christ and in one another the relationships that will not only sustain you as you seek to follow Christ but also as you live your lives with one another.”
Our time is gone, and so we’ll stop. But it gets even more daunting, and to this we will return: not only to “train the young women to love their husbands and children” but also “to be self-controlled” and “pure” and to be “working at home” and “kind.” Now, that phrase is liable to start a fire in an age of feminist activism. Are we gonna really take this seriously?
Remember what we said at the beginning? The church is at its greatest not when it has embraced the culture and is able to show, “Oh yeah, we just believe the same thing about you about the nature of family life. We believe everything you believe about raising children. This is what we do as well. Yeah, we’re the daycare generation.” No. When they actually say to the culture, “We actually don’t believe these things.” Boy, that’s a bit of a change, isn’t it? Now the gospel takes on a different look for people. Then they’re going to want to know, “Well, why would you ever do that?” And you can say, “Well, it’s ’cause of this old lady in our church. She’s the problem. She’s responsible. She started me on this. It had never crossed my mind until I began to meet with her for coffee.”
Well, we’ll come back to this. Let’s pray:
Lord God in heaven, we are walking along in our lives. Day passes day. Every stage of life brings its own challenges and responsibilities. And we long that in our lives and in our homes and in this church here, that you will be glorified in everything. And we want to pray to that end.
And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with all who believe, now and forevermore. Amen.
 Post-2011 ESV translations render this word “bondservants.”
 Titus 3:8 (ESV). Emphasis added.
 James 3:1 (paraphrased).
 See Luke 2:36–38.
 See 1 Timothy 2:9–10.
 1 Peter 3:4 (ESV).
 1 Timothy 5:2 (paraphrased).
Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.