Generation Makers

Or, Embodied Doctrine for Older Women

Scripture: Titus 2:3

Date: July 7, 2024

Speaker: Sean Higgins

In Til We Have Faces there is repeated reference to the aura and aroma of the priest and his work in the temple. It was awful, unavoidable, and provoked one to deal with something other. His scent and sense were of sacrifices, of blood. Orual said:

“I think that what frightened me (in those early days) was the holiness of the smell that hung about him—a temple-smell of blood (mostly pigeons’ blood, but he had sacrificed men, too) and burnt fat and singed hair and wine and stale incense. It is the Ungit smell.”

Older Christian women should make a similar impact, not frightening but comforting, not stale but fruitful, not singed but sweet.

I did not grow up giving much thought about what a woman would want to be when she got older, at least not until stopping here in Titus 2. A few introductory remarks will help set the context before considering the four virtues.

First, remember the bookends of the whole section. This is teaching that accords with sound doctrine (verse 1), this is what the grace of God trains us for (verse 11).

Second, Titus, and the elders he appointed after him, had the responsibility to preach and promote these things, with authority (verse 15). It’s one thing when men teach other men, but Titus 2 includes women teaching women under the oversight and direction of the church’s pastors.

Third, these virtues for older women are not exhaustive, but they are explicitly inspired in this epistle. Other NT letters provide more; Paul and Peter write especially for wives and mothers. And who should ignore the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31? For that matter, the likewise in verse 3 connects with the virtues for older men; verse 2 spills into verse 3. Plus, the training of seven virtues for younger women in verses 4-5 reasonably assumes that the older women had familiarity with those, adding up to eleven for older ladies altogether.

But perhaps we could think of these four virtues in verse 3 as the Mount Rushmore of female glory. Paul wrote so that Titus would target these. There is nothing about cooking or cleaning directly, all of them are about character. These are the virtues that go with generation makers.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, (Titus 2:3 ESV)

Older women translates the word presbutidas (only used here in the NT). Paul talked about caring for widows over sixty (1 Timothy 5:9), but like older men, older women here is a broader, more fluid category. The likewise not only strings the list together, it builds on the health in faith, in love, and in steadfastness to be embodied by older men. Then there are three adjectives and a participial phrase, two positives and two negatives.

Reverent in Behavior

Behavior (only here in the NT) stands out because it is comprehensive. It’s not quite the same as “works,” and we might connect it more with demeanor. This isn’t just a woman’s conduct, this is how she carries herself. It’s her orientation, her bearing, her manner.

She’s to carry herself with the air of the temple. Reverent or “venerable” are good translations, but the word itself has “temple” built into it (a word only used here in the NT, heiroprepes with heiros meaning “a sacred thing, a temple.”). It’s the kind of way you’d act in a holy place, except she’s living in all the places as a temple of the Spirit. She’s got the smell of holiness on her (part of the reason I opened with the description of the priest).

Older men were to be dignified, and of course that touches everything. So older women likewise should behave themselves like they’ve been touched by God-worship. This is a how more than a what, meaning she’s not a walking-worship-service, but she runs errands on Monday like she worshiped on Sunday.

Not Slanderers

This isn’t listed as if it’s a way to be reverent, but slander and reverence are mutually exclusive; the same goes for the next negative. Older women must be not slanderers .

The Greek word for “slander” is diabolos, a word that in some contexts is the name for the devil. This is one of his characteristics: he accuses, he slanders. Even throughout the Pastoral Epistles this word group refers to the enemy, except for a few places, like Titus 2:3, where it describes devilish-behavior.

The NASB has “malicious gossips,” and that gets the point across.

Women in general seem to be more curious, they are also more chatty. Both of those are good things, but both of them can be perverted to bad ends. It feels important to be “in the know.” There’s a spectrum from Overhearing to Info-mongering to Secrets-spreading all the way up to the level of Blackmail. “Oh be careful little mouth, what you say.”

Younger women should rather marry and be busy rather than busybodies who slander (1 Timothy 5:13-14).

This doesn’t mean that men can’t/don’t slander, but there seems to be something specifically tempting to ladies. Use your mouth to edify, to build up, not to tear down. This has generational consequences.

Not Slaves to Wine

There are a number of ways to say “not drunk” in Scripture. This is one of the most negative, and picturesque. The older men are to be temperate, the participle in verse 3 is “enslaved.” We call it “addicted” (NIV). That’s more pointed than promoting moderation. Older women are not to be slaves to much wine.

There is a personal failure here, but it seems that it messes with her “others” work. She’s not thinking about the younger women, or her own husband and children (and grandchildren) if she’s always just thinking about the next drink.

The smell and stickiness of wine will keep her from having the smell of virtue. And, wine loosens the tongue; it breaks down the verbal barriers built by good sense.


The list of virtues for older women have some similarity to the list of virtues for older men, with the last being split into more. So older women have four, with the last one covering more.

This is a word Paul apparently made up - kalodidaskoalos; it’s not only not used anywhere else in the NT, it’t not found in any of the Greek literature that’s been found so far. It’s an adjective, a compound word, combining “good” and “teacher.” The context is less formal and more personal.

The emphasis of good is on the content, and a lot of the lesson plans come in verses 4-5. It’s good to be reverent, not gossips or wine-gluttons, and it’s good to be husband-lovers, children-lovers, workers at home, pure and kind, and even submissive to one’s own husband. One generation of women should be thinking of passing on the good of godly duties to the next generations.


What about older women teaching younger women how to study the Bible? Sure. That’s not listed, for various reasons, though Timothy’s grandmother and mother must have helped acquaint him with the sacred writings from his childhood for sake of his faith (see both 1 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 3:15). But, when you understand sound doctrine you embody it. You live like you’ve studied the Bible more than you live for Bible study.

Older women are not finished because they’ve “raised their family.” They are to have a clear mind and a mind for others. Of course how they spend their minutes won’t look the same for every woman, but every Christian woman will be thinking about her minutes for sake of the generations.


If you are an older woman, you are not just making lunch, you are making generations. Will your aroma be that of embodied worship, or embodied worldliness, or an attempt to out-spiritualize your body? Let it be what is fitting for godliness—with good works—for generations’ sake.


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV)

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