Older men must live lives of observable respectability or dignity. To emphasize this, Paul uses language that, as we have seen elsewhere (1:8; 1 Tim 3:2-3), belongs to the constellation of terms borrowed from secular ethicists. Temperate, worthy of respect (or "respectable," "serious") and self-controlled (or "sensible") tend to overlap in meaning. But the implication of a dignified lifestyle that is free from overindulgence, dissipation and foolish behavior in general is clear. As Paul's use of common terms suggests, this lifestyle would be readily recognizable. Christianity does have a mystical, incomprehensible element to it, but its manifestation in life communicates in a language understood by all.
The rest of verse 2 suggests, however, that Christian respectability has a deeper source. What the NIV has interpreted as three additional aspects of acceptable behavior (and sound in faith, in love and in endurance) could, by virtue of the participle "being sound," express instead the cause or means of the behavior described above. For Paul the most basic constituents of Christianity are faith and love (see notes on 1 Tim 2:15): the vertical, personal relationship with God through Christ and the horizontal dimension of "good deeds" characterized by love (compare Gal 5:6). Endurance here speaks of commitment to this life. The more traditional triad was "faith, hope, love" (1 Cor 13:13; Col 1:4-5); but if the situation called for it, endurance might occur as a fourth virtue (1 Thess 1:3) or replace "hope." Given the presence of heresy in these churches, endurance gave this instruction the emphasis on perseverance that Paul wanted to express.
Within the social structure, older men are to be the models of dignity, respectability and wisdom. Paul knew that if this does not hold within the church as well, Christianity cannot hope to compete in the world. At the same time, the language of this instruction suggests that the absence of respectability means divergence from the faith.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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