December 14, 2008
his week’s study is significantly longer than my usual weekly writing. The comprehensive teaching that Paul gives to us in the second chapter of Titus needs to be examined as one piece, not subdivided. Sadly we often hear the negative side of the woman’s role in the church emphasized without any positive teaching that tells women what Scripture instructs them to do. If our preaching the gospel is to be compared with food, as Scripture often does, we need to learn from the analogy. Telling a sheep all the things it cannot eat provides that sheep with nothing of substance to satisfy its hunger or give spiritual nutrition to its soul. A sheep that never hears anything except what it can’t do and what it can’t “eat” in terms of spiritual ideas and behaviors is a starving sheep. My last study addressed the Biblical negative; this week I try to address the Biblical positive, what the Bible teaches about things that godly women in a New Testament church should do. The role is dynamic and essential to a healthy church, and women need to be taught what and how to accomplish this task from the model of Scripture.
will not be able to publish Gospel Gleanings for the next few weeks. According to plan, I will enter the hospital on Monday morning, December 15, for low back surgery. Three of my lower (lumbar) discs are degenerated and pinching nerves. Arthritic bone growth is also pinching nerves outside the disc area. The surgeon plans to repair the collapsed discs with what he terms “interspinous fusion with instrumentation,” a big term that means he will primarily use two hinged plates to decompress and stabilize the joints. He will fuse some bone material around these plates, but, if successful, the procedure will preserve some ability to bend in these joints, unlike the traditional solid fusion of the joint. If this procedure doesn’t work, full fusion is the next step. He will also trim away the arthritic bone material that is damaging nerves in the area. I will likely not be able to concentrate or to sit at the computer long enough to write for the next three or four weeks. As soon as I am able, I will return.
sincerely appreciate the many prayers and encouraging words that I have received, and I have powerfully felt the strength of those prayers in my preparation for this procedure. I ask your continued prayers on Monday and through my recovery. I also ask your prayers for the church I pastor, that they will be well cared for during my absence. They are a special people full of love and grace.
What about Sister Phoebe?
The Godly Woman’s Role in the Home
"I commend unto you Phebe our sister…. (Romans 16:1-2)
Biblical Role of Women in the Church
"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. (Titus 2:1-5)"
he second chapter of Titus presents a comprehensive model of behavior for every member of a healthy New Testament church. In the verses quoted Paul begins with his charge to Titus, the preacher/pastor. He moves immediately to the older men and women. Every member of the church, regardless of gender, age or social/cultural standing, is then given a godly job description. When all members of a church function within that divinely given role, God will be honored, and the church will be a warm, safe, and godly place for spiritual pilgrims to rest and work.
ut speak thou the things which become sound doctrine… What does Paul mean by this expression? The word translated “become” is defined as
To be eminent, distinguished, to excel. In the NT usually in the impersonal form prépei, it means becoming, proper.
ave you ever heard a man preach the truth, but do so with such an unbalanced or hateful attitude that you would have been far happier to disagree with the man than agree? He failed to “become sound doctrine.” God charges ministers not only with the responsibility to always preach the truth, but equally with the obligation to preach it in such a manner as to magnify and beautify it.
aul links this sound, becoming form of preaching with specific results. Godly, becoming preaching nudges people to action. It never hypnotizes them into complacent apathy. While I believe every preacher should preach so that young and old alike understand and benefit from his preaching, Paul focuses the objective of preaching to a particular audience in this lesson. I believe children should be taught by their parents to listen attentively to the sermons preached, but often they may not understand the points made. They need help to supplement and to clarify what they hear from the pulpit. Paul says more about a healthy church culture than we might immediately grasp. In the healthy church that models the New Testament teaching begins in the pulpit, but that teaching invades every area of the church, so that the whole church becomes a place of teaching and learning. Teaching is not restricted to the pulpit; it begins in the pulpit and permeates the whole body.
hat the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. Six life-changing behaviors grow out of sound, becoming preaching in the lives of the older men.
- Sober. At its heart, the quality of being sober refers to self-control. Yes, we should apply this term to alcoholic beverages, but we should not limit it to this idea. Often men in their younger years are too full of vinegar for their own good. They easily slip into extreme ideas or behaviors that are not healthy for them or for their families. To be sober in this sense means to maintain balance and moderation, to avoid extremes. Rather than running “out of control” to various extremes in word or action, the instructed Christian maintains self-control and godly balance.
- Grave. In his definition of the Greek word translated “grave” Zodhiates includes an enlightening observation. “There lies something of majestic and awe–inspiring qualities in semnós which does not repel but rather invites and attracts.” This magnetic attraction lies at the heart of Paul’s instruction that the man in the pulpit preach so as to become sound doctrine. It stimulates the same winsome attraction in the hearers that it embodies in its preaching. This trait respects God as the Creator of the curriculum that all teachers in the church follow with faithfulness and “gravity.”
- Temperate. The point is that the wise hearer will be self-disciplined, self-restrained. The temperate hearer does not constantly attempt to push the limits of acceptable belief or conduct to the edge. He does not rely on others to apply the brakes and to define temperate behavior. As applied to older men, it seems that as men grow older they either become more mellow and moderate or they become more bitter and extreme. The gospel’s design is to mold us into the self-disciplined and graciously moderate frame of mind.
- Sound in faith. Similar in meaning to the underlying Greek word, Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines “sound” with such words as “entire… undecayed… unbroken… whole… healthy… right; correct… perfect.” Our personal sincerity is never in Scripture made to be the ultimate and final word on what is acceptable with God in the faith. God in Scripture repeatedly and consistently affirms what is and what is not sound in the faith. We either embrace that soundness, or we leave ourselves in the broken and unhealthy position of differing with God over issues that God alone dictates to be true. A primary purpose of Scripture is to give specific dimensions to the historical faith that was once and for all time (not repeatedly and in contradicting points of belief) delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)
- In charity. A prevailing gracious other-centric love permeates the fruitful disciple’s life. To the extent that we focus on self and what we intend to get out of a situation we fail the test of Biblical love. We are to be no less sound in our love of God and of His people than in the faith. Soundness in charity—in fact all of these traits—requires that the lifestyle of the teacher be consistent with the words of the teacher.
- In patience. Paul does not limit soundness in his teaching to what we believe. He rather applies it to every dimension of our life and Christian conduct. I try to avoid superficial stereotypes, but will offer that most of the time in the New Testament the term “longsuffering” refers to how we deal with circumstances, and “patience” describes how we should deal with other people. Paul is here quite obviously defining how those who learn from a “becoming-sound-doctrine” kind of ministry deal with those around them who may not be as sensitive or responsive to that gospel as they should be. Our Biblical patience is not to be measured by how we react to the near-perfect model Christians around us, but with how we react to those who manifest flawed and broken behaviors in their efforts to live the Christian life.
he 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. Only after Paul has laid the foundation in both the preaching of the word and in its consistent application in the older men in the church does he broaden the scope of his teaching to the whole church culture. As this teaching, modeling attitude and behavior permeates the whole church, all members of the church become teachers, even the young; “…a little child shall lead them….” And his next step rather specifically addresses our study question, the godly role of women in the church. Here Paul does not focus on the negative, on what women should not do. He rather emphasizes the positive, what women should do and how they should apply their faith with edifying benefit within the church’s culture.
ikewise, in other words everything that Paul just wrote regarding the older men he intends to apply to the women as well. Their lives are to be as reflective of balanced, self-controlled charity and patience as the older men in the faith. Interestingly in this context Paul adds substantially to these traits to give godly women a clear example for what they should do in the church.
- …be in behaviour as becometh holiness. Paul uses a form of the same word that he used in the first verse to describe godly women. The same “becoming” form of the gospel that must appear in the pulpit must also dominate the pew. A woman can live a godly life so as to leave the impression with those around her that the Christian life is one of torture and gloom. Or she can live the same life with the attitude of joyful honor and privilege. Which attitude “…becometh holiness”?
- …not false accusers. This word is defined as “A false accuser, used for the devil. One who falsely accuses and divides people without any reason. He is an accuser, a slanderer…Satan is called by that name because originally he accused or slandered God in paradise, being averse to the increase of man’s knowledge and happiness.” It is unlikely that Paul intended “not false accuser” as a gender specific reference; that he is buying into a stereotype that women are more prone to gossip than men. Rather, it is probably context specific. Since aged women teaching younger women how to love their husbands and children could result in conversations in which potentially embarrassing, or even harmful information could be exchanged. It seems likely Paul here is warning against abusing the trust that is needed when aged women instruct younger women in these subjects. Spreading rumors is as unbecoming to a serious believer’s life as a runny nose is to a child all dressed up for Sunday church. We should avoid any appearance of being gossips, not rationalize the practice. No, “We are only interested in your problem so we can pray for you” simply doesn’t fly. If that were the person’s true motive, they would spend more time praying and less time spreading the gossip to any and all who will listen. When someone starts gossiping about another person, the best response you can give is to abruptly and obviously turn and walk away.
- …not given to much wine. Excessive indulgence in anything is dangerous, but alcohol, like many sins, can be dangerously habit forming if not curbed and controlled. Here the obvious point of self-control stands out. An example from an alcoholic I know will serve to illustrate the point. Over three broken marriages and a ruined life this alcoholic has repeatedly told me about the latest “love of his life,” “She is going to turn my life around and help me avoid all the problems of my past.” He never developed the habit of self-control, but rather always relied on someone or something other than himself to curb his indulgent attitude. You would think that such a person would eventually learn that no one outside himself can apply the disciplines of life to his own appetites and self-indulgent habits. I offer that this passage requires moderation in all things, not just in the drinking of alcoholic liquids.
- …teachers of good things. Did you hear those words? Yes, Paul applied them to the older women in the church. No, he did not contradict his prohibition against women as preachers or pastors, but he distinctly sets forth a teaching responsibility for women in a sound, healthy New Testament church.
- That they may teach the young women to be sober…. Your first objective as a teacher is to know who your students are. The Biblical role that Paul here assigns to women as godly teachers in the church identifies the proper and Biblical student population for the older godly woman. Consider these wise words.
“We have bought into the notion that older people have had their day of usefulness and ought to make way for the young. But the principle here is quite the opposite. With age and experience come wisdom, and many older women have discovered secrets of godly living in relation to their husbands, children and neighbors and in the workplace that could save younger women a lot of unnecessary grief. And when the unavoidable trials come to the young woman, who better to guide her through than an older sister who has been through it before? Somehow the church must see that younger women have contact with older women.” On several occasions I have encouraged the younger members of the church I serve, men and women alike, to make a point of scheduling time with the older members. Visit them in their homes. If the conversation lulls, initiate questions to the older men and women. Ask them to describe their younger years in the faith, to talk about problems they’ve faced and how they worked through them. Learn from those wise older members. It will enrich your life and strengthen your discipleship and faith.
- …to love their husbands. Did you expect that strong other-centered word for love here? Wrong, the word translated “love” in this phrase refers to the word that means friendship, as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. The older women are to teach the younger women to befriend their husbands, not to demean them or to become their chief critics. A godly wife will be her husband’s true “best friend.”
- …to love their children. The same word appears here. The despotic home is not a healthy home. Neither is a despotic church a healthy church. There is a fine balance to be sought in this point. I have known women who not only failed to apply parental authority and wise discipline to their children, but they refused to allow anyone else to do so. Their children were de facto the supreme ruler of their home. When asked about the wisdom of such a home environment, these mothers defensively affirmed, “I want to be my child’s best friend.” Parents should indeed live with their children as respected friends, but at times they must also embrace the role of adult and authoritative parent. A friend doesn’t stand by blindly while the supposed friend destroys and dismantles anything good or worthwhile in his/her life. A true friend is kind, but bold to apply wise guidance and strong influence. A belt or beating is not the exclusive answer to a child’s errant or rebellious conduct. Neither is an indulgent “I just want to be my child’s best friend” attitude. Who better to teach this lesson to young women than an older woman who has raised a family? Yes, the older woman may need to confess that she didn’t always apply the proper balance, but she can do so in a way that instructs her young “students” wisely.
- To be discreet. The word emphasizes insight, temperance, and self-restraint. A self-indulgent older woman cannot be this teacher. She must have mastered the trait herself, and, according to Paul in this context, it is the preacher’s responsibility to preach and to teach these older women the vital role of maturing these traits.
- Chaste. Innocent, modest, free from impurities; these are the ideas behind this word. This trait strips away the sadly common attitude of women that their chief aim is to be as deceitful and subtle as possible, to be the “neck that controls the head” without the head’s awareness. The godly woman who masters this trait is transparent with her husband and with others. Not only does she not strive to practice guile, she despises it and strives to be as open and straightforward as possible. The godly older woman will model this behavior so as to teach younger women to follow her example.
- Keepers at home. Translated from one Greek word, this phrase identifies a guardian, “A keeper at home, one who looks after domestic affairs with prudence and care.” To “look after domestic affairs” does not require that the woman stay in the home twenty four hours a day. It rather requires her to make her home her top priority and to devote herself to its well-being. Habakkuk 2:5 affirms the same quality in a godly man. “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people…" (Habakkuk 2:5, emphasis added) Thus in a godly home the husband, no less than the wife, is to be a devoted “keeper.” The wise older woman should have so ordered her life that her words and example model this conduct to the younger women in the church. Both husband and wife are required by Scripture to be “keepers” at home or of the home. Often a godly woman can influence her husband to become more actively and constructively involved in the home with the children when he might be too inclined toward his career or his favorite hobbies.
- Good. The inherent idea appears in words such as good, distinguished, benevolent, and useful. Again transparency in motive and conduct is essential, and the older godly woman is to teach this trait to the younger women in the church.
- Obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. “To place under in an orderly fashion” conveys the core of meaning for this term. I offer that the impetus for the godly woman’s obedience to her husband should be God, not a despotic, superior, or demeaning attitude in the husband. Her obedience to him in no way diminishes his requirement to respectfully submit to her (Ephesians 5:21; Romans 12:10, “…in honor preferring one another….”). Her ultimate obedience is to God. As our obedience to God is required in Scripture to be joyful, willing, and whole-hearted, so her obedience or respect for her husband is to grow out of similar motives in her. A reluctant obedience, a grudging obedience, and especially a deceitful pretense of obedience while she secretly works at being the “neck” of the head fail the Biblical model and shames the woman’s superficial appearance of respect or obedience.
he godly older women in the church clearly have a grave responsibility to teach, and Paul here defines both their audience, the younger women in the church, and the content of their teaching.
will not impose a rigid stereotype as to how, when, or where the godly older women are to carry out this solemn charge. I do believe wisdom and respect for Scripture dictates that it be done so as not to contradict Paul’s warning against women filling the role, directly or indirectly, as preachers in the church. I offer that it is as contradictory to Scripture to forbid women to fulfill this role of edifying teaching as it is for a church to violate Scripture by appointing a woman to the ministry. God bless the noble women whose wise, gracious, and godly examples have enriched my faith and my life. They taught me wisely and graciously. I am in their debt, and I salute and honor them from my heart.
Little Zion Primitive Baptist Church
Worship service each Sunday 10:30 A. M.
Joseph R. Holder Pastor
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G4241.
2Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary…. G4586.
3Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary…. G1228.
4Tom Constable, Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003), Tit 2:3.
5Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary…. G3626.
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G4241.
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G4586.
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G1228.
Tom Constable, Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003), Tit 2:3.
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G3626.