As described in Titus 2, sound doctrine includes both ethical instruction (vv. 1–10) and the teachings that we more often associate with systematic theology (vv. 11–15). Paul starts off with the ethical instruction, giving specific characteristics to several different groups according to their gender, age, and social class.
Older men are the first group addressed, which makes sense because Scripture lays upon men the primary responsibility for servant-leadership at home and in the church (Eph. 5:22–33; 1 Tim. 2:11–15). When the apostle refers to “older” men, he is likely thinking first and foremost of those males who are middle-aged and older, but all believers should certainly pursue the character traits he gives in Titus 2:2.
Being sober-minded is the quality that heads the list Paul gives, a clear-headedness that is necessary for successful, holy living. The man who is sober-minded has his thoughts and intentions centered upon the Lord and is kept in perfect peace, not making rash decisions because of a troubled conscience or disturbing circumstances (Isa. 26:3). A sober mind is one transformed by the Word of God (Rom. 12:2) to produce a life that eagerly follows the direction of the Spirit (8:5).
We also see that older men are to be “dignified” and “self-controlled” (Titus 2:2). They are to have a way about them that commands respect as they are observed by others. Instead of the excessiveness of lust that marked Cretan culture and is identifiable in our culture today, older men must show appropriate restraint in all things so as not to worship the gift in lieu of the Gift-giver. Dignity and self-control develop over the span of a man’s life, Matthew Henry reminds us, and “those who are full of years should be full of grace and goodness, the inner man renewing more and more as the outer decays.”
It would be a mistake, however, to believe that such traits can be gained apart from the gospel of God. They are grounded in a sound faith in Him, love for His Word, and steadfastness in the truth (Titus 2:2), through which the Spirit works to produce His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22–23).