In 1 Timothy 3:2, 3:11; Titus 2:2, 2:5 and many other places we have this concept of being ‘temperate‘ or ‘sober’. It carries the idea of abstaining from wine or any other thing that could intoxicate the mind so as to lend to recklessness and carelessness. We are to be sober and alert. This is a primary qualification for leaders within the churches of God. Our Greek word is translated as discreet, temperate and sober.
The pastoral epistles are intended to give instruction towards the leading of the flock of God within the churches of God. Sheep first and foremost need protection. This means that their shepherds have to be sober and on constant guard against threats and dangers. These passages are not merely suggestions or guidelines, they are requirements.
Aged and Sober
The western world has an attitude of contempt for older people and their opinions, but God likes ‘old fogies’. In fact, He ordained that they be in leadership in the churches of God. The term ‘old fogie’ is derogatory and means:
“An older or elderly person, or someone younger who resembles or has the traits of an older/elderly person in thinking, actions, or demeanor.”
God actially commands the older men to be the very thing that the world despises. Why? Because our passage is in part an antidote for the barrage of ‘new’ teachings and falsehoods that Satan would level upon the churches. This was rife in the first century. Paul dealt with the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21 NKJV)
A cursory read of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2 will go a long ways in showing us just how far many have drifted from God’s directives here in the West. The sentences almost sound like words from a different planet. But it is the consequence of neglect of Romans 12:1ff where we were told specifically not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed. There is no other way to prove the will of God.
It is hard for us in the 21st Century to remove ourselves from the influences of popular culture. In fact, it is very difficult if not improbable that anyone could do so completely. Popular culture is based on a system devised, in part, by Edward Bernays in the early 1900’s. Things go in and out-of-style because he, and other like him, orchestrated the paradigm. Old is bad and new is good. In fact, people want the latest and greatest of everything. This keeps the cogs spinning in the economy, but it is deadly in the churches of God. God does not change like that, nor do His standards and methods.
We are so saturated in our culture from birth to the grave, that we cannot imagine just how much change has actually taken place in the last 200 years. None now live that remember the way things used to be, and I might dare say, few even seem to care. We have broken continuity with the foundations that we passed to us and are moving father away building a new thing. None would know this unless they were to do some serious digging. In modern times we are taught that change is good and unless you are changing you are not progressing. God will do a new thing, but that new thing is always in continuity with the old thing. Jesus said that the good man brings forth from his treasury things both new and old. We have to maintain continuity with the faith of our fathers.
Understand that the Holy Spirit knew that the churches would face a barrage of so-called ‘new’ and ‘popular’ ideals that would ‘make sense’ to men at the time, but would actually cause severe long-term problems in the churches of God. He already had a means of dealing with the tendency to change. Change used to be greatly resisted, but less so in modern times. What has been the saying for decades, “Out with the old and in with the new!” Keep this in mind thinking through these things.
Change, Not Always Good
God gave the churches a major defense mechanism against destructive change and it was that of aged men. Aged men typically have a very cautious attitude towards change. The word I’m interested in from our text is ‘sober’. The word means to be circumspect. Webster defines circumspect as, cautious, wary, careful, chary, guarded, on one’s guard; watchful, alert, attentive, heedful, vigilant, leery. Wesley defined the word as, “Serious—Not drolling or diverting on the brink of eternity.” If one were to say to them, “Let’s change so and so…” their response is usually to be cautious, wary, i.e. “Hmmm, let me pray and think on that, or I don’t know about that… let’s wait and not do that just yet, etc.“ This is a characteristic of a person that by nature refuses to be carried about by every wind of doctrine or some ‘new thing.’ They are greatly immune to the sleight of men and deceptive cunning craftiness. It is a disposition of their mind. They have seen a lot of things and they resist change. God gave these men to the church as a precious resource. But oh how the Devil loves to paint these men and women as rebels. It is unfortunate today that one of the first strategies in church growth is to get rid of such people and form a ‘team’ (usually a cloak for ‘yes-men’). This corporate strategy in the church is an abomination to God. On the other hand, elder men are one of God’s front-line defenses against destructive changes in His churches. Selah.