But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. (NASB)
Effects of Sound Doctrine
Paul wants Titus to be a contrast to the empty talkers who preach doctrines that lead families astray. The contrast is going to show the effects of sound doctrine on families and relationships of slaves to owners. While Paul doesn’t list which doctrines of the Christian faith result in these snippets of advice, I wouldn’t be surprised if we can find other references in the Bible that will support them.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 ESV)
Since Paul is emphasizing outward behavior, it would be easy to think that people who have been taught to get their act together are the ones that are saved. However, aspects of the doctrine of salvation make it clear that this is a result of salvation not the means of salvation. Where Ephesians 2:8-9 emphasize that God’s grace saves by a gift of faith from Him and has nothing to do with our actions, Ephesians 2:10 emphasizes the result of that salvation.
His workmanship – notice the possessive pronoun in the first phrase. We are the work of God. Salvation didn’t come to us because we cleaned up our act, but it came because God worked in us. He was working long before we made a decision to follow Jesus. It was His decision to save us even before He created the world (Eph 1:4).
Created in Christ Jesus – it is through Jesus that He has been working. While God made the decision to save us long before the earth, that work was only completed when he re-created us in Jesus. Before our salvation, we were different beings than we are now. Before, we were slaves to sin (Rom 6:19-20) and the master of sin, the devil (Eph 2:1-3). But in Jesus, we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We are something totally different from what we were before. It is the fulfillment of the promise God gave to Ezekiel that He would give Israel a new heart and His Spirit so that they would want to obey (Ezek 36:26-27).
For good works – With a new heart and the Holy Spirit living in us, we are now able to do the good that we should have been doing all along. While salvation is not a result of good works, Jesus made it clear that good works can only come from a heart that has been cleansed of evil (Matt 15:19, Matt 7:15-17). This is the effect of salvation and it is this doctrine that Paul wanted Titus to teach.
Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. (Prov 16:31) NIV
Paul starts with older men because they are the ones that should be demonstrating a righteous life. They are the ones who have gained wisdom through a long life. If they are Christ followers, then that wisdom should be godly and reflect exactly what James described, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17 NASU).
However, since Paul had to address these issues with the Cretans, it means that either the older ones were young in their faith or they had not applied good doctrine to their lives. The first are understandable and hopefully teachable. But the latter have no excuse. They have been living the way they wanted and their only option is to repent or face the Lord’s discipline.
Another interesting thing is that the qualities that Titus is to teach older men parallels the qualities of elders. Temperance is also translated as sober. This particular word is also used in 1 Timothy 3:2. It is most often used in relation to restraint in drinking wine. It is not referring to sober-minded as in 1 Peter 4:7 or 5:8. Just as it is not fitting for a church elder to be addicted to wine, neither is it fitting for an older person to be a drunkard. It is often the case that we think that an older person in not capable of changing or that it is too late to help them get sober. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is the common response to those who don’t want to change their life-long bad habit.
My dad was past 70 when he stopped smoking. He supposedly started when he was seven. Of course, he had incentive to stop when cancer caught up with him. And that is just the point. Being sober or temperate or being taught to overcome past bad habits is really a matter of incentive. The incentive for a Christian to get sober is to honor God. If they are not willing to renounce their behavior, then there has to be a question of how dedicated they are to their Savior.
Not Childish or Child-like
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor 13:11 NKJV)
Teaching a man to be dignified and sensible is often seen as stifling fun, creativity, and the joy of living. But, that is not Paul’s point. There is no prohibition of having a fun-filled life, however we must not think and reason as a child does. Children do not have the capacity to understand and it is only when they get older they can process things as an adult. They are very self absorbed and decisions will almost always be what they perceive to be best for them. Their goals are short term and don’t put others first. They have to be taught to renounce selfish ambition and look out for others (Phil 2:3-4). They have to be taught that there is more to this life and not live for instant gratification (2 Cor 4:18).
I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17 NLT)
Some may point to Jesus’ words and insist that even as adults, there is virtue in being child-like. If they do, then they are misrepresenting the meaning. The context is in coming to Jesus, not living daily life. Child-like is carefree with regard to responsibilities as they are too young to support families hold down jobs or make decisions that affect not only their lives, but the lives of others. It doesn’t mean that our faith must not hold up to good reason just because a child can’t understand all the truths of Jesus’ atonement, virgin birth, or other doctrines. Child-like in coming to Jesus is being totally dependent on Jesus alone for salvation as a child has total dependence on his or her parents. It means trusting the authority of the Bible just as a child trusts his parents’ authority for his own good.
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Ps 4:7 ESV)
So there is a big difference between being child-like, childish, and putting away childish things. It means that adult believers must accept the responsibilities of being a Christian and living an exemplary life. It doesn’t mean they can’t laugh, play, and enjoy life. It means that their laughter must be pure, not from crudeness (Eph 5:4) or the expense of other. Our joy should be centered on Jesus not in the abundance of the world or the cravings and desires of the world (1 John 2:15-17). That is the joy that can come only from knowing the Father through Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit indwells us.