Posted by: Ety W. | April 18, 2008

Being Sensible

“Sensible” is another word that shows up on several lists in the New Testament. Four in fact. These are always lists of character traits for various groups of people. Of the four times it is used, two of them are in Titus chapter 2.

Titus 2:2 – Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

Titus 2:5 – […. young women (v 4) …..] to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.

I Tim. 3:2 – An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

Titus 1:8 – [For the overseer (v 7)…..] but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,

Sensible – Strong’s 4998 – σωφρων – sophron = safe, sound in mind, i.e. self-controlled (moderate as to opinion or passion). KJV translates sophron as discreet, sober, or temperate. Zodhiates1 explains further; “self-disciplined in one’s freedom, self-restrained in all passions and desires.”

My first thought in reading this definition is that it is very similar to the “temperance” (nephaleos) of Titus 2:2. In fact, the term self-controlled is used in both definitions. What the NASB translates “temperate,” the KJV translates as “sober.” What the KJV translates as “temperate,” the NASB translates as “sensible.” Both words use the same terms in their definitions: sober, self-controlled, temperate.

Usually, cross references are very helpful in interpretation. As the next step in doing word studies, these show how a particular word is used in Scripture. This can shed a lot of light on it’s meaning. In the case of sophron however, it isn’t particularly helpful since both sophron and nephaleos are being used in the same context: in lists describing spiritual maturity.

My next thought is to look for a clue in the roots of the two words. I can do this with my Strong’s concordance. I find that the root of nephaleos (temperance) means self-control specifically in regards to wine, though in Titus 2, Paul used it in a much broader sense. Sophron (sensible) comes from two root words: one meaning sound, one meaning understanding. To be of sound understanding.

Does all this seem to be putting too fine a point on it? Maybe so, but I think that Paul is pointing out that there are two areas in our lives which need self-control. The first is from things which can impair our ability to think and act rationally. This can definitely be from wine, which must have been a problem in the first century. But I think for us, it can include other addictive substances; beer or liquor, drugs, tobacco, gambling, etc. Anything which dominate our lives because we have no control over them. They control us. They can become our masters instead of the Lord, so that they come first rather that Him. Our service to the Lord is severely impaired because we have no self-control.

The second area of self-control is to keep from reacting impulsively to people and situations, without thinking through the consequences of our words and actions. We usually do this when we assume we know what’s going on, or when our emotions are in control. As Paul told the Corinthians:

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

This prevents the proverbial putting of one’s foot in one’s mouth! Paul tells Titus that mature Christians are not to be this way. They are to be in control of what they say and do. They are to be sound in mind or sensible.

Time for reflection. How does this apply to me? Am I sensible? Do I have sound judgment? Do I have self-control in my thought life and over my impulses? Do I react without thinking? Do I let my assumptions make decisions for me?

Definitely some food for thought and an object for prayer.Content copyright 2008 by If you find it anywhere else, it’s been stolen.
Next … Spiritual Soundness

1 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, AMG Publishers, 1992), p. 1363

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