Self Control

Titus 2

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
August 2011

For the last two weeks, we have been studying the topic of church leadership in Titus 1.  Paul planted a church in the Greek island of Crete.  After he leaves Crete, he gives him a job to do – appoint elders in the church (1:5).

He also tells him why he needs to do this and the reason is that there are many false teachers in Crete who are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain.  Paul says that these false teachers happen to be Jewish (Paul was Jewish, although Titus was not).  Paul says that this group of people should be silenced (1:10-11).

Madelyn Murray O’Hair was the most famous atheist in America in the latter part of the twentieth century. She is not an atheist anymore.  She is dead.  She was murdered in 1995.  She now knows that God exists.  She was the woman who got prayer kicked out of public schools when she filed suit against a school district in 1963 and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court (Abington School District v. Schempp and Murray v. Curlett).

She was at one time the most hated woman in America. She went around the country and spoke on college campuses.  One time a very famous Christian apologist debated her named John Warwick Montgomery.  He had three doctorates.  He is still alive.  He is 79 years old.  After he debated Madelyn Murray O’Hair, he was criticized for not being very polite to Ms. O’Hair.  He replied, “I did not go there to save souls but to destroy a heretic.”

When we come to Titus 2, Paul is no longer talking about church leaders.  He begins to talk about church members.  He gives instructions to five groups of people – older men, older women, young men, young women and slaves. Apparently, the church in Crete had all different ages of people.

That is the way it should be.  As we look around the church in America, we typically find some churches with nothing but old people.  Anne and I went to a funeral in a big liberal church in Elon and the speaker encouraged people to come to that church.

Why?  He said that “we keep sending our members to heaven.” He went on to say that he had five funerals the week before.  Other churches have nothing but young people.  The youth group takes over the whole church.  There is something lost when a church does not have some older mature Christians who are seasoned saints.

This chapter not only has exhortations to several different groups of people, notice what the emphasis is on.  Paul tells Titus to do something over and over again.  What is it?  Let’s read 2:1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 12 & 15.  An emphasis on teaching runs throughout the whole chapter.  A teaching ministry is vital to the church.  It is part of the Great Commission.

Most people think that the Great Commission is all about evangelism.  That is part of it but the Great Commission has three parts to it (Matthew 28:18-19).   Even if you preached the gospel to every person on the planet in every language you still would NOT have fulfilled the Great Commission.

The Great Commission also involves teaching people EVERYTHING Jesus commanded.  Paul told Timothy to PREACH THE WORD (II Timothy 4:2) “in season and out of season” (i.e., at all times, even when it is unpopular).  When Paul was leaving the Church at Ephesus after being there for three years, he said, “I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Every minister, every preacher, every pastor will one day stand before Christ and be held accountable for preaching the whole counsel of God.  Did he preach the Bible?  Did he preach all of the Bible?

Many churches believe the Bible but don’t teach it.  I have sat in these churches.  You could be in them for twenty years and know very little what is in this book.  Other churches do a fairly good job of teaching God’s Word to kids (VBS, AWANA, SS) but do a terrible job of teaching it to adults.

Teaching in Titus 2 takes a certain form.  It is not primarily doctrinal.  It is practical.  It is exhortation.  Titus is to challenge and encourage people to live a certain way.  Some preaching is all doctrinal.  Some preaching is all practical.  Preachers should be doing both.  II Timothy 4:2 says “Preach the words . . .  reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering AND DOCTRINE.

In these verses Paul gives instructions to different age groups in the church.  Which age group are you in?  What does Paul say that you need to do?  Paul does not talk about my age group.  My kids think I am old but I am not.  If you want to see old, go visit a nursing home.  I am middle aged and Paul did not say anything in this chapter about that group of people.

Paul does not deal with every category of people.  Paul talks about young married women but doesn’t say anything about young married men.  He tells the married women to love their husbands but doesn’t tell husbands to love their wives in Titus.  He tells husbands to do that in Ephesians 5.

This list is not exhaustive.  Let’s briefly look at what God says to each group of people.   As we go through this list, I want you to ask yourself if any of these qualities were required of elders.  At the end, I want you to tell me if any quality is required for all four age groups.

Older Men (2:2)

A paraphrase of the passage would be “Teach the older men to be self-controlled, to be serious and worthy of respect, to have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.”  It is a picture of older men who are dignified and honorable.  They are sound in faith.  They know the Word.  They are solid in their faith but they also have some important character qualities (self control, love, endurance).

  1. Self Controlled
  2. Serious
  3. Worthy of respect
  4. Sound in faith
  5. Filled with love
  6. Filled with patience

Were any of these required of elders?  Yes.  Three of these rules applied to elders.  Elders were to be self-controlled.  They were to be sound in faith.  They were to be worthy of respect (blameless).

Older Women (2:3)

There are three rules for the older women.  One deals with the tongue (gossiping).  One deals with alcohol or addictions.

  1. Not slanderers
  2. Not drunkards
  3. Teach what is good

Were any of these required of elders?  Yes.  Two of them are specifically mentioned for elders.  Elders were also not to be drunkards and to love what is good and they are to be teachers as well.

  1. Younger Married Women (2:4-5)
  2. Love their husbands
  3. Love their children
  4. Self-controlled
  5. Pure
  6. Kind
  7. Submissive to their husbands

When we come to this, there is a change.  Paul does NOT tell Titus to teach the younger women.  Titus was to teach the older women and the older men but NOT the younger married women.  That job is for OLDER WOMEN in the church.

Titus was a teacher of teachers.  He taught the older women who were to teach the younger women.  This is the biblical model for mentoring.  The word “mentoring” is not in the Bible.  It is not a biblical word but it is a thoroughly biblical concept.

It is taught all through the Bible.  Moses mentored Joshua. Eli mentored Samuel.  Elijah mentored Elisha.  Priscilla and Aquila mentored Apollos.  The Apostle Paul mentored Titus and Timothy.

Jesus mentored the Twelve.  Women teach women.  That is the Titus 2 model.  It is counter-cultural.  Most churches that have classes put the same age together so students can be with their peers.

High school kids stay with the high school group.  College students are in the college group.  Young married people are in a group with other young married people.  In American Christianity, wouldn’t think of mixing the young married with the old married or the married with the single but that is what we see in Titus 2.

Paul did not say that godly young married women should teach the young married class.  He said that older mature Christian women should teach the younger women.

Younger Single Men (2:6)

Titus is to teach the young men and he is to teach theme by example as well (2:7-8).  He is to be a good role model.  What was Titus supposed to teach the young single men in the church with raging hormones?  Just self control.  What quality or virtue is repeated with all four age groups?  Self control.

When I was working on my master’s degree in religious studies in the 1980s, my mentor was William L. Lane, who passed away in 1999 after a battle with cancer.

Dr. Lane was a Professor of Religious Studies at Western Kentucky University and then later at Seattle Pacific University.  He was a world-renown biblical scholar.  He wrote several commentaries on the NT.  I will never forget one story he told us in class.

Dr. Lane earned a doctorate from Harvard in NT. One of his doctoral seminar classes was with the famous NT scholar Krister Stendahl (if my memory serves me correctly).  The students were given the assignment to read two books on a research topic, one in German and one in French and write a paper on them.

After the class, he came up to the professor and said to him, “Excuse me sir but I do not read French.”  His response was, “By the time the paper is due you will read French.”  This was before the days of the Internet and Google Translate.  Every morning, Dr. Lane got up extra early and tried to translate the book one page at a time with an French-English dictionary.  This took incredible discipline and patience.

Self control has a genetic component to it (ADHD) but according to Scripture self control is not just biological or hereditary, it is moral.  Self control is one on the nine fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  There are nine visible attributes of the Holy Spirit manifested in the life of the Christian.  It is the last of the fruits of the Spirit and perhaps the most unpopular.

This is something that every Christian should have: self control, discipline.  One of our problems is that we may have self control in one area of our life and a complete lack of self control in another area of our life.  What are some areas that we should demonstrate self control as Christians?

Areas of Self Control


There is nothing wrong with food or enjoying food.  The Bible says that God has given us all things richly to enjoy.  The problem comes when we eat and drink too much and become food addicts or drug addicts or alcoholics.


We are to control the words we speak.  How many times have we gossiped about someone or said something that we wish we could take back.  How many people do we know that have no filters.  They talk before they think.  They do not think about what they are going to say.  It just comes out.  That is why the Bible says that we should be “quick to listen but slow to speak” (James 1:19).  James says that it is very hard to control your tongue (3:7-10).


It is fine to have some entertainment but many can watch television or play computer or video games for hours and hours.


Choosing to wait to have sex until you are married requires some self control, especially if everyone else is not doing this.


Some people have no control over their emotions.  They get angry and blow up.  The Bible says that we are not only to be slow to speak we are to be slow to get angry (James 1:19).  Controlling your emotions doesn’t mean ignoring them or suppress them but to use coping mechanisms to control them.


When I was a kid and got any money, it was gone.  My dad used to say that money burned a whole in my pocket.  Self control in the area of spending.  For many people, spending can become an addiction.  People spend impulsively.

Self-control is the one thread that runs through the entire chapter.  It is a requirement of elders.  It is a requirement of older men in the church.  It is a requirement of older women in the church.

It is a requirement of young Christian women and young Christian men.  It is even mentioned at the end of the chapter.  Let’s read Titus 2:11-15.  Notice what Paul says.  Grace not only SAVES people (Ephesians 2:8), it TEACHES people how to live (2:11-12).

Many think that if you believe in salvation by grace, you will live any way you want.  They think that if you are NOT saved by works, that you will not have any.  That is an error (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God’s grace appeared in 2:11 (a reference to the First Coming of Christ).  Grace is personified.  Grace appeared and teaches.  What does it teach?  It teaches two things.  There are two lessons in the school of grace.

Two Lessons in the School of Grace

The first lesson is NEGATIVE.  Grace teaches people to say NO to ungodliness and worldly lusts.  What is ungodliness?   Ungodliness is not necessarily the same thing as wickedness.  A person who lives a wicked and immoral life is also ungodly.

On the other hand, a person who is ungodly is not necessarily immoral.  He may live a moral life.  He simply has no place for God in his life.  He focuses on himself.  When we think of worldly lusts, we might immediately think of sex.  That is part of it but the word “lusts” simply means desires.

Grace teaches people to say no to premarital sex.  Joseph said no to worldly lusts.  Grace teaches people to say no to sexual immorality but it also teaches people to say no to drugs and other addictions.  It teaches people to say no to materialism and greed.

The second lesson is POSITIVE and it has three parts.  Here we have a reference to the Second Coming (2:13).  This is another appearing.  The Greek word is epiphany (επφαίνω).  The first coming was an epiphany of grace (the grace of God appeared).  It was past tense.

The Second Coming will be an epiphany of glory.  Paul calls it “the blessed hope” and that will take place in the future.  It teaches people to live self-controlled (in reference to yourself) upright (in relation to others) and holy (in relation to God).  We will look at some of these others next week as we conclude the Book of Titus.

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