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Self-Control as the Mark of a Christian, Part 2
Self-Control Word Study, Lesson 4
In Lesson 3, we looked at self-control as the mark of a Christian in general. In this lesson, we’ll look at three specific groups of people for whom self-control is necessary: men, women, and leaders. Seems pretty all-encompassing, right? Each one of these groups has specific instructions about self-control, and the Greek words have different connotations for what self-control looks like for that group.
To help you process your thoughts as you go throughout this lesson, a reflection journal sheet is available. You can access it by clicking here.
Self-Control for Men
The passage in Titus 2 gives special instructions to older men, younger men, older women, and younger women. In this section, we’ll focus on the men. We’ll discuss the women in the next section. First, let’s consider self-control in older men. Titus 2:1-2 says:
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
The Greek word for self-controlled here is sōphrōn, which is similar to the sōphronōs and sōphroneō terms we learned about in Lesson 3. The connotation here is that older men should have a sound mind; they should be temperate and discreet. They should be calm and in control of themselves at all times.
In contrast, the instruction for younger men is different. Let’s look at Titus 2:6-8:
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
The Greek word for self-controlled here is sōphroneō—the same term used in Mark 5 and Luke 8 when it talks about the demon-possessed man. Once again, this has the connotation of a sound mind, but it also comes with the idea of being sober-minded and sedate. In other words, younger men should remain sober so they can practice self-control at all times. We’ll talk more about the connection between a sound mind and being sober in Lesson 6.
Self-Control for Women
Now let’s look at the intervening passage, Titus 2:3-5:
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Interestingly, the word self-controlled here goes back to sōphrōn, which is the same word for self-control that Paul used for the older men. In this case, self-control is connected with younger women maintaining sexual purity. We’ll talk more about this in Lesson 5.
But here’s what I find fascinating about this group of verses. There’s another connection to self-control hidden in there. The word translated “urge” is sōphronizō—look somewhat familiar? The instruction here is for older women to encourage and guide younger women by helping them develop a “right mind” or “sober mind.” In order for younger women to be self-controlled, they have to have a right mind, which is exactly what we learned in Lesson 3. This suggests that older women must also have a right mind as a model for the younger women to follow. We’ll talk more about this in Lesson 7.
So now, in just a few verses, Paul uses four different terms for self-control that are all related. Let’s compare them directly using the definitions given by Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary:
Verse 2: Older men must be sōphrōn—of a sound mind, sane; temperate, discreet
Verse 4: Older women must be sōphronizō—encourage, to restore to a right mind; to make sober-minded, to steady by exhortation and guidance
Verse 5: Younger women must be sōphrōn—modest, chaste
Verse 6: Younger men must be sōphroneō—to be sober-minded, sedate
So throughout this passage, the idea of developing self-control is strongly connected to your state of mind. Self-control starts in the mind, not in your actions.
Self-Control for Leaders
The last group of people that the Bible addresses when it comes to self-control is leaders, specifically elders or leaders in the church. Two passages speak directly to this, and both use the sōphrōn term used in Titus 2, with the similar meaning as given to older men above.
1 Timothy 3:1-3: Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
Titus 1:8-9: Rather, he [an elder] must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Among all the qualifications for leadership in the church (these verses are just a small part of a larger list), self-control is one of the qualities a leader should have. Leadership in the church requires having a sound mind that allows them to act in ways that are in the best interest of the church, not in ways that are self-indulgent. And this starts by having a mind that is focused on Christ.
Which one of these groups do you fit into? When you look at the instructions for your gender and age group, do you see anything you need to change in your mindset or in your actions? If you are a leader in your church, how can you better place your focus on Christ so that you can serve the church with integrity?
We have so much more to learn about what the Bible says about self-control. Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at two specific areas where we need self-control to manage our actions and keep ourselves within the will of God. I hope you’ll continue to join me for this meaningful study!
To help you process your thoughts as you go throughout this lesson, a reflection journal sheet is available. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically.
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