Fitting Gravity

Or, Embodied Doctrine for Older Men

Scripture: Titus 2:1-2

Date: June 23, 2024

Speaker: Sean Higgins

This is a great chapter. There’s no reason to hurry through it. It’s practical at point blank range, though the particulars leave a lot of room for different practices.

In verses 2-10 there are six different demographics: older men, older women, younger women, younger men, younger men who are leaders/teachers in the church like Titus, and then slaves. There are other letters addressed to churches that speak to individual household relationships (husband, wife, father, children, etc.), but this letter has more about the kind of people in the church, though obviously you’d take these virtues home with you, and the women have special obligations in home relations.

It should get our attention in verse 1 that all this accords with sound doctrine. And at the back end, note the “For” in verse 11; the soteriology provides the foundation for how our salvation is adorned in character. Truth accords with godliness (Titus 1:1), doctrine accords with virtues that have some variety depending on one’s gender and age.

I’m going to give one sermon for each batch. Not only will it not be boring to hear about the groups you’re not in, it’s important to see some of the differences and, even more than that, to promote the different virtues. Other than telling Titus to teach these things (in contrast to some who were upsetting whole households with unhealthy teaching, see Titus 1:11), there isn’t actually much particular instruction provided on how to develop these personal things. So in order to encourage these virtues we should promote them, praise them, preach them, and point them out when they’re being practiced. Your part will be appreciated, and your part will be blessed when all the parts are healthy.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (verse 1)

Three brief comments about this before talking about the first group.

This is overseer-level work, which is one reason why there are qualifications for elders, including holding fast to sound doctrine, in contrast to those who make things up for their own gain. That includes, apparently, tickling people’s ears when it relates to expectations for godly men and women.

Again, what follows in verses 2-10 accords with sound doctrine , which both means that the following virtues aren’t the content of the doctrine but these virtues fit with it, they follow from it.

And I’ll repeat this as we go through each group, but Titus was to affirm elders who would oversee all of this, though their methods might be quite flexible. It requires maturity to advance maturity.

Now the first group, and how sound doctrine fits for older men:

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (verse 2)

Older men is a similar but different word from “elder” used in 1:5, it’s the plural presbutas here compared to presbuteras there. There is an expected maturity for those in the office of elder, and yet Titus 2:2 is not for those in the office but rather who have more candles on their birthday cake. How old exactly? Without exact years-old numbers, it is at least relative compared to the younger men. And, even if you’re not sure if you are an older man yet or not, these virtues are still what you should value.

There are four virtues, the fourth one has three parts. The first few are not exclusively biblical or even religious. We might say they are natural, they fit, whether or not they are frequent. And while Christians have the same Spirit who produces the same fruit (of which self-control is included, and self-control is found explicit to three of the groups), there are some targeted virtues.

Nothing here about his husbanding or fathering, though a man with these virtues would be a blessing as a husband and father. The qualities themselves are not exhaustive, though they do cover a lot. They are less concrete, more abstractly stated, but embodied doctrine for older men.

Older men are to be sober-minded. It comes first (even before the verb in Greek). I don’t want to read more into it than is proper, but also, we’re limited in pictures of men like this, so looking below the surface isn’t necessarily the same as reading between the lines.

The adjective relates to a verb for not being drunk, for avoiding excess. The NASB translates it as “temperate.” It’s connected to self-control, sure, but that is its own adjective. To be temperate is a moderate position, but moderate in two directions. He must not be extreme in addiction to wine but also not extreme in anxiety about wine. Wine/alcohol is not the only setting to consider on the table of a man’s life, so to speak, but it is actually a decent tell about how a man handles good things.

Is he so fearful that he has to make up extra rules? Or is he consumed with wanting more than his share so that he loses clarity and respect, if not actually making a fool of himself? Does he know what things are good, and what things are good for, and how to use/enjoy them for good?

The second adjective is dignified , meaning worthy of respect. What is honorable? However it’s defined, demanded dignity is not even close to dignity demonstrated and earned. You don’t get respect because of a one-time correct guess. This is to be pursued, it is a “seriousness of purpose” (Mounce), and it’s a broad category, with a spectrum from less to more, but possible to not be in it. Man, do you have weight? Do you have godly gravity?

The third adjective is self-controlled . This is the one that’s found multiple times in the list. And, may there be more of it.

What I’d like you to marinate in, is that it is better (and maybe harder) to rule yourself and your spirit than it is to rule a city (see Proverbs 16:32). Self-control is both 1) minimal reactivity to others and 2) maximum responsibility for self. Consider the scale from reactivity on one end, where everything else is wrong and provoking your choices, to the other end where you choose and pursue and work. Which side of the scale would you label Maturity? Which is dignified?

The fourth adjective is sound , or healthy, and there are three areas of health.

First is healthy in faith . Older men don’t get to start living by sight because they’ve seen it all. They keep living on unseen things.

Second is healthy in love . Older men don’t get to isolate themselves/withdraw because they’ve been burned or lost loved ones. It is not sentimental or effeminate to abound in affections for your people, it’s fitting.

Third is healthy in steadfastness . Paul often plays the chord of faith, love, and hope. Here he chooses a related but different string, a minor one. Older men don’t get to quit because they’ve done their part. Consider how fitting endurance is for older men who have been through the grinder.


So according to sound doctrine, older men should not be drunk, shameful, reactionary, living on the seen, isolated, and justifying their quitting time. They should not be frantic, frivolous/rudderless, or chronically passive/drifting down life’s lazy river. They should avoid reactivity, anxiety, and absenteeism.

Younger men who see older men unsoundly/unhealthily/unfittingly should say something, with respect as they would to their father (see 1 Timothy 5:1).

Maturity. Stamina. Girth and gravity. Weighty, such that pulls toward more than pushes away.

Such men have a tangible presence, a fitting gravity. Older men, first in the list, should be sound doctrine embodied.


Men, if you are out of sound doctrine shape, get to it. Your health, not just at the gym but, in dignity and discipline over the long haul will bless your wife, your children, your grandchildren, your church, and honor your Lord. Be considerable men for Jesus’ sake.


Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (1 Corinthians 16:13–14, 23 ESV)

See more sermons from the Titus - Adorning the Doctrine series.