THE VITAL WITNESS OF OUR ELDER BROTHERS

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HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

Titus 2:1-2 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

Older men and women in the church need to live faithfully for Christ because of the great influence God has given them over others in the church.

I wonder; has God ever used the example of a godly older man or woman to inspire you in any way? I’d bet that those of us who are walking faithfully with Jesus Christ today—if we each give it a moment’s reflection—I could name more than one! Today I want to keep in mind the name Patriarch Dr Granville Williams.

Now; I say this carefully: I’m talking specifically about godly older ‘men‘. I appreciate the powerful influence godly older ‘women’ have in the body of Christ. I can name many such women who have been like mothers to me, and grandmothers, and aunts.

  • Reverend Catherine Myers                                    Reverend Ivy Hunte
  • Mother Daisy Ollivierre                                          Reverend Inez Richards
  • Grandmitress Pearlie Roache                                 Reverend Clarissa Adams AKA Mother Marga
  • Reverend Mother Bloucher                                    Mother Gazette

But as great as their influence is in the church, it does not have the same kind of power as that of godly older ‘men’. Personally, I can name six specific ‘elderly’ Christian men that have had a life-changing influence on me through their example of a long-term walk of faithfulness to Christ. I believe that I’m a minister today because of the examples displayed by them and that I’m the kind of man I am in my role as a minister because of the examples of these men of God.

  • Reverend Nimrod Myers                                    Archbishop Kenneth Ash
  • Pointer Conrad Anderson                                   Archbishop Neville Campbell
  • Pointer Phillips                                                    Patriarch Norris Ashton
  • Bishop Francis                                                     Bishop Francis Moses
  • Patriarch Conrad Sutherland                               PatriarchEdmund John
  • Patriarch Cosmore Pompey                                 Archbishop Frank Simon

Did you know that, in the household of God, older men in the church are intended by God to have a crucial influence upon the faith of the younger generation of believers? Those older brothers have experienced struggles and temptations and trials that younger Christians haven’t yet encountered. They’ve learned of the Lord in the school of real-life experience, and have found that He is good. They’re on the other side of a long walk through life with the Saviour. And when such men speak to us of God’s faithfulness, they have a credibility that no one else can possibly have.

The Bible tells us how those older brothers know God’s love in ways that can only be learned through long experience. In Psalm 37:25-26, King David writes;

I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.
He is ever merciful, and lends;
And his descendants are blessed

  • The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.
  • 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.
  • 25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
  • 26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. (Psalm 37:23-26).

And those spiritual ‘elder brothers’ are given the privilege of declaring God’s faithfulness to the generation to come. In Psalm 71:17-18, the psalmist writes;

O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded,

O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come (Psalm 71:17-18).

In fact, God graciously keeps those godly older men in the church to serve as flesh-and-blood testimonies of God’s faithfulness just by their very lives. Psalm 92:12-15 says;

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him (Psalm 92:12-15).

If you can name such godly older men who have testified to you of God’s faithfulness and exhorted you to follow Christ—elder brothers who have nurtured your faith, and who have led the way before you by their own faithful example—then you ought to spend some time thinking about the impact they have had on you, and give thanks to God for them!

I want to thank God for men as Patriarch Dr Granville Williams and Patriarch Conrad Sutherland for the teaching I received at their hands.

And if you are an older man who professes a faith in Jesus Christ today—even if you’re an older believer who has, up to this point, not presented the sort of example for the faith that you should—I ask you pay special attention to what God’s word has to say to you today. This church family needs you to become an example worthy to follow, and I believe He will help you to become just that.

I invite you to turn with me to the Book of Titus chapter 2. And may God use His word today to show us the qualities of the kind of older man who truly adorns the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul, as you may remember, had written this letter to Pastor Titus in order to see to it that the people under his pastoral care lived in such a way as to help advance the gospel of Jesus Christ in this world. The great theological truth of this New Testament letter teaches us is that ‘genuine faith in Christ is to lead to godly living’. Look at the very end of chapter two. There, Paul writes;

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14).

And the ‘flip side’, you might say, of that same ‘coin’ is that the people of God must be faithful to live godly lives so that they will bring credibility to the same gospel of Jesus that they are to declare to the world. They are to live godly lives that truly ‘adorn’ the gospel. Listen as I read Titus 2:1-10 to you, and please pay special attention to how often Paul urges that these things be taught in order to advance the cause of the gospel.

Here Paul writes to Titus;

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Titus 2:1-10).

Three times in this passage—in the midst of urging Titus to teach the people to live faithfully, he stresses the impact that faithful living has on the ability of unbelievers to hear the gospel. He urged Timothy to teach these things, “that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (verse 5); and “that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (verse 8); and “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (verse 10).

The unbelieving people of this world are not likely to listen to us when we tell them about our wonderful Saviour unless they—at the same time—see the reality of His life-changing impact in us. And dear brothers, sisters, and my fellow ministers; they long to see that impact! They yearn to see us live differently! They are well-neigh desperate to be shown the proof, through our own experience, that He really is alive and really can change the lives of anyone who trusts in Him!

And so; at the very beginning of this important chapter—as a vitally strategic matter for the spread of the gospel in this world—Paul tells Titus, “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (verse 1).

Would you mind if we took just a moment to look a little closer at that first verse of the chapter?

First, note that Paul says to Titus, “But as for you . . .”; and in the original language, that’s put emphatically. In the previous verses, Paul had been writing about those who were teaching false doctrine from out of a spirit of unbelief. “But you, Titus—” Paul writes; “You speak something different! You are sure that you don’t speak false things. You are sure that you don’t speak the vain principles and idle speculations of this world. Instead, you are very sure that you speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine!” How important it is that the spiritual leaders of God’s household make absolutely sure that they speak something different from what the spiritual hucksters and frauds of this world speak—that they speak the very things that God’s word commands!

Second, note how Titus is to speak those things. In the original language, the word that’s used for “speak” is one that means “to utter”—and it refers to the sort of talk that occurs in regular, common, everyday conversation. It’s put in the present tense; suggesting that it’s something that Titus wasn’t to do simply once in a formal way but was to do all the time as a habit of life. In other words, Titus was to make it a regular part of his everyday conversation with the people of God—along with the formal instruction and preaching in the church—that those things which are proper for sound doctrine be addressed. In our culture, the people of God have this world’s ungodly values, priorities and philosophies thrown at them all day long—and from every possible angle. And so, it’s not enough that we talk about these things occasionally—just for a few minutes once a week each Sunday morning. Godliness must characterize our lives constantly; and so, the exhortation to live godly lives must be going on as a regular part of our daily conversation all the time.

And finally, note what it is that is to be spoken; “the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” The word that’s here translated “sound” is the one from which we get our word “hygiene”. Just as hygienics is the science of those practices and habits which promote health and well-being to the human body, we’re to speak about those practices and habits which promote ‘health and well-being’ with respect to our doctrine.

And in expanding on that, do you notice that Paul then goes on to speak—not of abstract theology—but rather of practical behaviour? Make no mistake about it: good doctrine is essential to the Christian life. It is, in fact, the basis for godly behaviour. But it’s also godly behaviour that, in turn, promotes ‘soundness’ in our doctrine; so that we’re not saying one thing in our preaching, and then discrediting it all by doing the exact opposite in our practical living.

Now; Paul doesn’t just give general words of instruction, and then leave everyone to figure out for themselves how to put them into practice in their own particular case. Rather, he breaks things down into specific applications with respect to specific groups within the church. And I’m hoping that, by God’s good grace, we’ll spend the next few weeks giving attention to the instructions God gives to each of the different groups in this passage.

But I want you to notice that the first group he addresses this exhortation to is older men. “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience . . .” This, I believe, is because the older brethren are a strategic group within the body of Christ. The life and character of the church family truly is a reflection of the life and character of its godly elderly men.

Let’s look at this in greater detail. First, note that he says

1. THEY ARE TO BE ‘SOBER’.

When we read that word “sober”, the first thing some folks might think is that the older men in our church shouldn’t ever be drunk. And of course, they shouldn’t. But I believe this word is meant to communicate something much more than that.

The word itself actually means something more along the lines of “sober-mindedness”. It has to do with an attitude of carefulness and circumspection in one’s walk. An older brother in Christ ought to be a man who takes care where he puts his steps in this world; someone who is level-headed and circumspect in his approach to life. But it doesn’t mean that he walks around with a gloomy look—scowling at people who may be enjoying themselves. Rather, I believe that the best way to understand this is that, when it comes to the outward and external things of this life, an older man in Christ is not controlled by them. He’s not ruled over them in such a way that he must have them. He isn’t harmfully ‘addicted’ to anything. He isn’t materialistic. He isn’t gluttonous. He doesn’t have any life-damaging habits. He isn’t on a desperate search to find something from this world that will satisfy his soul. He uses the things of this world, but they don’t use him. He is a master of things, but things are not the master of him.

And this is something that should flow from the fact that such an older brother has been truly transformed by Jesus Christ. It ought to demonstrate that he has come to truly know and love the Lord Jesus Christ personally; and that the more He has tasted of Jesus, the less he cares for the things of this world. It ought to demonstrate that he has found that nothing satisfies the soul like fellowship with Jesus; and that, because He has Jesus, he really wants nothing more. He ought to be a living demonstration of the prayer of Psalm 73:25-26;

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

When younger folks look and see a godly man, in his later years, so satisfied in Jesus that he is ‘sober’ when it comes to the things of this world, they will learn to want the relationship with Jesus that he has. What an inspiring example such a man can be!

Second, Paul lets us know that . . .

2. THEY ARE TO BE ‘REVERENT’.

It’s a little hard to know exactly how this is to be interpreted. Should Paul’s use of this word, for example, be taken to describe the older man’s attitude? If that’s so, then it should be understood to mean that he should be a man who recognizes the true value of the things of God and treats them according to their worth. He should treat the things of God with the dignity and holy awe that they deserve.

And that’s something we need very much in the church today. I’m grateful for the relaxed and informal atmosphere of our church family. We dress down a bit. We’re at ease and comfortable together. We laugh a lot. But we must never go so far as to treat the sacred things of God lightly. We are not to make jokes about God’s word. We mustn’t treat the ordinances of the Lord carelessly. We should never act silly and inappropriately in God’s house. We should never allow ourselves to behave in an undignified and disorderly manner in worship. An older man of God—who has had time to think about things, to reflect on the Lord, and to grow in his deep appreciation for the precious things of God—is someone who lovingly but firmly reminds the rest of us about the awesome and holy character of the God we serve. He brings a gentle, loving insistence to the church family that we are properly ‘reverent’ with the things of God. I’m very grateful for men like that.

But on the other hand, should Paul’s use of this word be taken to describe, not the attitude of the man, but rather the man himself? If that’s so, then it should be understood to mean that he is a man who conducts himself with a sense of dignity that is ‘becoming’ of a man redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He should be a man who is, himself, holy in his attitude and behaviour because of who he is in Christ. He’d be the kind of man who conducts himself according to what it says in 1 Peter 1:17-19;

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:17-19).

Perhaps we’re meant to understand both senses of this word to be what God wants in a godly older man—that is, reverence toward the things of God, and dignity in his own manner of life before God. What a testimony such a man is!

Third, Paul says that . . .

3. THEY ARE TO BE ‘TEMPERATE’.

The idea here is that he is to be a man who is self-controlled. Paul used this word when he wrote to Timothy and said, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7; or “self-discipline”). Such a man isn’t given over to his own passions. He doesn’t fly off the handle in anger. He isn’t easily drawn away by his lusts. He’s balanced in his behaviour. He has learned, by long experience, to bring himself under the lordship of Christ.

I believe we can put it this way: when an older man is rightly related to the things of this world, he is ‘sober’; when he is rightly related to the things of God, he is ‘reverent’; and when he is rightly related to his own self, he is ‘temperate’. And all of these qualities come from—and demonstrate a saving dependency upon—a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Finally, Paul says that . . .

4. THEY ARE TO BE ‘SOUND’:

The word Paul uses for “soundness” here is the same word that was used in verse one—where he commands Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine”. It means that an older man of God needs to be living in such a way as to promote his own health and well-being in relation to the vital virtues of the Christian life.

Paul breaks this down into three areas. First, the older man of God must be “sound in faith”; and the idea is that he must be a man who is well-acquainted with the fundamental doctrines of the faith—a man who knows what God’s word teaches and who believes it whole-heartedly. He ought to be well-balanced in his theology. It doesn’t mean, of course, that he must be an expert in systematic theology. But he ought to be a man who is well established in the basics of what the Bible says that we are to believe; and who isn’t easily shaken from them. I had lunch with an older brother some time ago; and he told me how nice it was to be at the stage of life he was in—where he now knew confidently what he believed and wasn’t shaken by doubts or questions any longer. That, I believe, is what it means to be sound in the faith.

Second, he’s to be “sound in love”. He ought to be a man who has become so personally impacted by the love of God for him that he cannot help but be loving to others. His love is “sound” in that it isn’t based on the wrong things. It’s sound in that it isn’t easily forsaken by him. It’s sound in that it isn’t in word only, but that it also expresses itself indeed. It’s sound in that it doesn’t confuse “love” with a tolerance for sin; but rather, models God’s own love by loving someone enough to confront their sin.

And finally, he’s to be “sound in patience” or “sound in endurance”. I believe this has to do with a man maintaining his sense of hope and joy in Christ. One of the most tragic things you can see in life is an old man who reaches the end of his days bitter and cranky and crusty and ill-tempered—especially when it’s a professing Christian. A ‘church-curmudgeon’ is a very poor witness for the gospel, and he makes everyone else around him as miserable as he is. But an older man of God should be characterized by the sort of sweet, patient endurance of faith and love that makes him a joy to be around in his older days. He should still be rejoicing in Jesus and finding constant delight in walking with Him—even in the midst of the trials of life. He ought to rest joyfully and confidently in his knowledge of the sovereign God.

My dear older brothers and sisters in Christ; I urge you—as one who is growing increasingly to be one of you—let’s be such men. Let’s embrace “the things which are proper for sound doctrine”. Let’s labour together to “be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience”—both now, and in our later years.

And let’s do this knowing that, when we do so, we bear a powerful witness to the world of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. We become an inspiration to the generation to come. And we truly help to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things”.

 

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