See? I told you God’s high standards applied to you and not just to bishops and deacons! Titus 2 also reminds us that even though the ordained clergy have a very special commission to guard the Word and teach the truth, that doesn’t let other Christians off the hook. All members of Christ’s body are ministers.
From where are godly church leaders going to emerge? From a godly church, filled with godly members, young and old, male and female.
What especially impresses me is that when Paul gives commandments to Timothy about what to teach the older men, older women, younger men, and bondservants, he does so by commanding him to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1.) In other words, whatever it is that Paul commands Timothy to teach church members, they are things that are essential to proper doctrine.
And what he teaches is the necessity of holiness in all of God’s people, not just church leaders. Paul’s commandments to the older men are what we might expect. But it is what he commands the older women and younger men to be like that ought to really catch our attention. In Paul’s apostolic teaching, the Christian home and the Christian church were to be closely related so that no Christian home thought of itself apart from the larger teaching and ministry of the church, including lay people. This was necessary because Christian homes are to be intimately connected under the oversight of the local church.
What are the older women to be like in God’s household? A few things stand out. They are to be teachers of good things (verse 3), and so it is not just the ordained teachers who must be able to teach. Verses 4-5 are describing what they are to teach. First, and perhaps most importantly, they are to admonish the younger women to love and obey their husbands. This one is unexpected, but there it is in Holy Scripture. Somehow, this seems like a novel and even threatening idea in the modern church. But older women are to stand beside the younger women and encourage and teach them to love and obey their husbands. I don’t know why we spend 13 or more years teaching our children about math and reading and science, knowing that they will not automatically pick these things up, but when it comes to leading a godly life we assume that Christians will somehow magically do it.
The fact is, that the entire church is to be engaged in the Christian ministry. Our lives are supposed to be connected together, and the church is supposed to be your extended family. There ought to be no shame in younger women learning from the older ones how to love and obey their husbands, but this is a radical proposal for the modern church. It would mean first of all that the older women actually knew how to love their husbands. Second, it would require humility and teachability on the part of the younger women. And third, it would mean that the older women would have to spend enough devoted time to actually showing the young women how to love their husbands. All of this would require the kind of church where such things happen.
The fact is, that we’ve taken the commandment for wives to obey their husbands out of our marriage vows and out of the church, and there are not enough Christian men or women who even think this is a good idea after all. Worse yet, Paul commands Timothy to teach the older women to teach the younger women to be homemakers. And yet there the commandments are in the Bible that we say we cherish. Some of you may have even noticed that being a good homemaker, which is essential to the ministry of the home and the church, is not something all wives automatically know how to do well. For this reason, Paul commands the older women to teach the younger ones how to do it.
You would think that loving their children would come naturally to young mothers, and yet even this seems to require older women to come and assist with their wisdom and godliness. Again, the picture of Christian lives Paul portrays is of a church whose members live in close fellowship with each other and are not afraid to either give or receive wisdom or teaching from others.
What about the young men? It’s not so startling what Paul has to say about young men. But when I compare what Paul expected of young men and what the modern church often expects of young men, I am, in fact, startled. Paul seems to have one specific commandment for the young men, and that is that they be “sober-minded”, which means of sound mind, serious, or perhaps most usefully self-controlled,
We seem to assume that it is normal and even healthy for young Christian men to “sow their wild oats” or to go through a period of rebellion. We see the rebellion coming, because it starts earlier and earlier, but since their Christian peers are often just as rebellious it seems normal and acceptable. In fact, we have created a world of, by, and for adolescents, and much of what we do in our churches and in raising our young people is geared for adolescents and assumes that adolescence will be a time of rebellion and defining oneself by one’s peers instead of the mature and godly adult world. We have created a class of adolescents who then mature to become permanent adolescents. In fact, instead of what happened in every culture worldwide until about the 1960s, when children were expected to gradually enter into the adult world, it is now the adults who have entered and remained in the adolescent world.
Youth groups become an occasion to just hang out or get out of the house. The youth minister is often just an adult kid who wants to be cool, and the single most important thing about a youth group is that it is fun. When youth groups become serious (you could even say, “sober-minded”) about the Lord and there is a focus on discipleship done in close fellowship with the parents, there is often a high attrition rate. We do our best to shield young people from their parents or any adults who will actually demand respect and responsibility, and then we wonder why they are not self-controlled.
But the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Our job as pastors, parents, and mature men and women in Christ is to train those who are younger to be self-controlled, holy, and godly. This is, in fact, nothing less than the Great Commission to make disciples of the nations. If we can’t even make disciples of our own children and young people in the church, what makes us think we’ll do better with people we lure into the church?
Training young people will take some doing, and we need to do so with our own self-control, sobriety (remembering always the coming of our Lord in both judgment and glory), and holiness. But we also need to do so with sensitivity, humor, passion, and imagination. When I taught school for many years, my goal was always to have the best of both worlds. I wanted to be a teacher who was respected because he knew his material, cared about it passionately, and expected a lot from his students. But I also wanted to be a teacher who was respected because he loved his students and laid down his life for them and enjoyed spending time in their company.
By the way, if you want to know what Paul means by sober-minded, go back and read Titus 1:6-9. The requirements of an elder in the church are the true goal for each and every young man, even if he will never be ordained. This is end we must have in mind as we labor together to produce young people who are self-controlled.
How shall we raise a generation of Timothys? By being Pauls and Loises and Eunices who together teach the young women to love and obey their husbands and to love their children and to teach our young people to be holy and self-controlled. By being ready in season and out of season to teach our children to obey all that the Lord has commanded them, and by doing it with the family and the church working together in God’s kingdom.
Prayer: Father, teach me to be holy, godly, and self-controlled, that I might teach others. Make me a more faithful disciple that I may be equipped to disciple others, as you have commanded all of us. Make me fertile soil so that the seed of faith you have planted in me will produce fruit one hundred fold. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. If you are a young person, consider how you might acquire self-control in your life. Are you willing to seek and receive the wise counsel of your elders? Are you too governed by your peers and the media around you?
2. If you are an older person, how active are you in helping to teach younger Christians? How willing are you to participate in their discipling? What gifts and talents do you have that are not being used to their fullest potential?
Resolution: I resolve today to consider what St. Paul would have me learn about being a Christian in my state of life, younger or older, man or woman.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day