Saturday, April 2, 2022

What Shall This Woman Do?

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine… - Titus 2:1

We have already seen here that the apostle Paul gave different groups in the congregation different responsibilities and specific roles to play in spreading the gospel of Christ.  

One of the groups Paul addresses is the older women.  He charges them to live reverently and gives them the responsibility to guide and to teach the younger women to live virtuously and in a way that will glorify God:

The aged women likewise that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not addicted to much wine but rather 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 2:3- 5

Paul lays out here in detail what it means to live a reverent, godly life as a woman.  

The older women must not be…

  • false accusers (diabolos, slanders, malicious gossips)

  • addicted to “much wine”

A lack of discipline in what we women do and say will very quickly destroy our own holiness and the spread of the Gospel.  Instead of drinking much wine and gossiping, the older women are to be teachers of “good things” to the younger women.

Why is it given to the older women to teach? 

It is the older woman that will have gone through many years of marriage and child-raising, gathering experience along the way which they can make available to the younger women. They will have had time to see how things have worked out in their lives, whether for the good or for the bad, and be able to share godly insights. With their children now grown, they have more time to share with and come alongside the younger women.

There is great wisdom in bringing the age groups together in this way to benefit from each other rather than segregating them.  That's a good combination, isn't it?  Combine the maturity and wisdom of the senior women with the vibrancy and energy of the  younger women. 

What are the older women to teach the younger women?

That they may teach the young women to be sober...

Paul specifically gives the older women of the congregation the responsibility to guide the younger women.  The Greek verb used in this passage is "sophronizo" and it literally means to train in wisdom, good judgment and self-control.  The older woman should herself be working on growing in wisdom so she can pass this on to her daughters and younger sisters in the Lord. 

The word sophronizo is related to the ancient Greek goddess Sophrosyne (in Latin Pudicitia) who was considered to be the quintessence of feminine virtue.  This Greek goddess was the personification of self-control, sobriety (seriousness), restraint, and discretion;  she was the opposite of flippancy or promiscuity;  because of these qualities and her deep self-awareness, she was able to achieve happiness and fulfillment in life.

Sophrosyne is the greatest truth and wisdom is speaking and acting the truth, paying heed to the nature of things.  - Heraclitus

So, like Sophrosyne, the older women were to be based, established and sane and it was their responsibility to encourage and help the younger women toward moral sanity. 

Paul goes on to give the essential virtues that are to be taught (Titus 2:5).  The women of the congregation are to be:

  • husband-lovers, philandros, warmly affectionate toward a husband

  • children-lovers,  philoteknos, warmly affectionate toward children

  • discreetsophron, having a sound and well-balanced mind and thus making good decisions. The Greek philosopher, Socrates, called sophron the foundation stone of virtue. 

  • chastehagnos, pure, especially in the sexual sense 

  • keepers at homeoikouros (oiko, home, ouros, guard, warden, watcher or guard.) She is domestically-inclined, staying close to and tending to the home and its concerns.

  • goodagathos, virtuous, she has a good influence on those around her. She does them good.

  • submissive to their own husbandshupotasso, the word used here, is literally a military term meaning under authority or command of another, and in a broader sense, any kind of subordination to a mission

The older women are to be teachers of excellent things and this passage gives us an outline of what those things are to be.

How are the older women to teach?

The older women must not be afraid to teach and to present to the younger women the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their homes.  Fortunately, we have three very effective and biblical teaching tools:  Example, explicit teaching and encouragement. 

Example:

According to the letter to Titus, older women should live self-controlled, reverent lives.  As older women, they have more time and experience and so Paul directs them to be teachers of good things to the younger women.  A teacher needs to gain credibility with her students and practice what she preaches. She should be more demanding of herself than of her students.

Explicit teaching  

It is through both direct teaching and example that the older women are to pass down the knowledge and skills to the next generation.  I find that the internet has provided the perfect platform for this sort of work.  We can present a great deal of information, people can access it at their own pace and in a way that is convenient for both the teacher and the students.  I can teach without ever leaving my own home.  It’s amazing and such a gift!

Paul advocates in this passage for using direct instruction. The word he uses in Titus 2 is didaskalos, to teach good things (didasko, to teach, kalos, good things). The word didaskoscarries the meaning of explicit rote teaching and passing on of information. The English word didactic comes from this word and it refers to instruction, especially moral instruction.  This kind of teaching focuses on content, with the purpose of transmitting moral truth. 

The Jews practiced this direct mode of teaching in the synagogue.  Scripture was read and explained section by section, verse by verse (Macarthur, John:  Matthew 1-7, Chicago:  Moody Press).

Paul's use of didasko in the passage at hand carries the idea of this kind of systematic instruction.  It is the word used to refer to a choir director who trains a choir line by line and repeatedly over a long period of time until they are able to perform.  It is teaching in a way that the student receives content, and then puts it into practice in his or her life (MacArthur, Spiritual Gifts).  It is teaching that is vital to the stability of one's faith and spiritual growth.  Christ was called Rabbi (teacher) more than any other name.

Encouragement

The Bible word for encouragement is parakaleoand it means coming alongside someone (para) and calling to them (kaleo) in a friendly way, cheering them on as well as giving them instruction. I have been able to do this for several years through my blog and social media and have developed some good friendships.  Several ladies I have encouraged and they have encouraged me through comments and direct messaging.  

One way to uplift young women in real life is to come alongside them with help.  Some ways I do this: teaching ladies classes on practical topics, inviting them into my home to share meals or simply a cup of tea, and taking them meals after a new baby.

The older woman’s ministry is such a rich life of service and it literally opens hearts to the Word of God. 

Why is all this important?

Paul is very clear about what the women of the congregation are to be about.  It’s not “just do what you think God is telling you in your heart” but rather very specific duties. This isn’t about what we feel good about but rather it’s about showing up for God and fulfilling His will for our lives.

To be any other way would bring dishonor on the Word of God. (Titus 2:5)

…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 2:3-5

In doing these things, women make the Gospel credible and attractive.

These are our duties, and we can learn to delight and excel in doing these things.  In fact, I’ve found the more enthusiasm I put into homemaking,  the more satisfaction I find in it and the more I do it with grace and wonder.  Loving what we do and the people we do it for is part of making the Gospel attractive.

One thing to keep in mind.  We live in a self-centered society and some will see serving one's family as being not beautiful, but oppressive and limiting.  Too many women today see service to husbands, especially, as a relinquishing of power.  They think, "Why should I serve him?....he should also serve me."  We need to be prepared to hear that from time to time as well.

But Christ teaches us that it is better to give than to receive.  We are happier and we are blessed when we engage in a life of service to others. In a world in which everyone is looking out for him or herself, a Christian woman devoted to her family will shine like a star.

In Conclusion

We all want stability and growth. And we want to do what we can for the cause of Christ.  The list of priorities in Titus 2 and the empowering Holy Spirit are the way to a beautiful, giving, productive life that glorifies Christ and His Good News.

In the next posts, we will look more closely at each of the feminine virtues mentioned in Titus 2:3-5 and specifically how to implement them in our lives.

Love,

Amy Laurie


Monday, January 3, 2022

The Letter to Titus: How to Live a Good Life


 

(A passage of scripture, Titus 2:3-5, forms the outline for this series on the core values and responsibilities of Christian women. In today’s post we will examine the context surrounding these important verses so as to more fully understand their meaning and application. The goal here is truth and the only way to get at the truth is to look at the big picture.)

Paul’s letter to Titus gives a picture of the early church of Christ at Crete and the obstacles they were facing. Thankfully it is also full of godly instruction on how to overcome these obstacles. The letter was written to meet a specific time and situation. However, human need and the human situation do not change significantly. We face similar obstacles today…and we find that if we come with open hearts, God still speaks to us through this letter and is applicable to Christians living in the modern world.

The new Christians Paul was writing would have been just one step away from a degenerate society. Old ingrained values, priorities and habits would still have been a part of their daily lives. But as born-again creatures in Christ, they had to have been wondering how to go about living day-to-day in their own world. As they awaited the return of Christ and the restoration of all things, how should they live? In this letter, Paul answers this existential question.  He says, in essence, that their response to God’s grace and salvation is to live the very best life possible. An excellent life.

This experience of alienation resonates today as well. Those being saved in non-Christian societies will recognize the difficulties that go along with being a new believer in a non-Christian culture. Those of us in the traditionally Christian West similarly find ourselves in a society with increasingly secular values and lifestyles. How should we then live in this present world?  The letter to Titus gives guidance and hope as we navigate our way through the world.


Paul, God’s Messenger

The author is Saul (65-67 AD) who was born in Tarsus in Asia Minor. He was a Jew but also a Roman citizen, and educated according to the Greek classical model.  He wrote this personal letter to his associate, Titus, around 65 A.D.  Saul’s letters are the earliest documents we have from an inspired New Testament writer, probably written even earlier than the Gospels. 

Interestingly enough, it seems that Saul had been a dedicated persecutor of the church of Christ (Acts 8 & 9).  However, God had different plans for him! Saul of Tarsus encountered the resurrected Christ and everything changed.

How did all of this unfold? 

According to the written account found in Acts Chapter 9, Saul was on the road to Damascus (in present-day Syria) to deliver letters to the Jewish synagogues authorizing them to persecute the church. All at once, he was surrounded by a “light from heaven” and heard a voice that identified Himself as Jesus Christ. He asked Saul why he was persecuting Him and then told him to go on into Damascus.  Saul was literally blinded by this light, but he obeyed and the men with him (who also heard the voice) guided him into the city.  While Saul was there, a follower of Christ named Ananias had a divine vision from God and was told to go and pray for him.  Naturally, knowing Saul's reputation for hounding Christians, Ananias objected.  But the Lord told him:  Go thy way for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel;  for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake (Acts 9:15-16).

So, in spite of his reservations, Ananias obeyed God.  He found Saul, laid hands on him and prayed. Immediately, Saul received back his sight and was filled with the Holy Spirit.  He got up right then and was baptized for the remission (pardoning) of his sins (Acts 2:38). Now Saul had a different message to deliver: instead of a message of death, he brought life….the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ.  

Saul of Tarsus went on to become one of the great apostles of Christ, traveling thousands of miles, preaching powerfully the Gospel of the Savior, performing miracles and founding congregations of disciples.  Because of his extensive work with the Roman-Greco world, Saul took on the Latinized version of his name, and became known as the Apostle Paul. 

As Paul traveled, he also kept up an active correspondence with the new Christian communities by means of written letters.

Titus, God’s Man on the Ground 

Paul was writing to his associate, Titus, and this letter is one of three written to his co-workers (along with 1 and 2 Timothy) written around AD 64-66 from Ephesus. 

Who was Titus? He was a Gentile (Galations 2:3) who was led to faith by Paul (Titus 1:4), and he might have been converted on one of Paul's missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire. His name means “protected” or “pleasing” and Paul called him his “own son after the common faith…” (1:4).  He was trusted by Paul and is mentioned in the letters to the Galatians and the Corinthians as accompanying him to a council in Jerusalem and overseeing the collection of relief funds in Corinth (Galatians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 7 and 8). Titus was a prime example of a Gentile Christian.

Titus’ assignment was to organize and give direction to the church at Crete.

Crete, a Degenerate Culture

Crete is a large and mountainous island that lies in the center of the Mediterranean Sea not far from Greece. It was at one time the center of the Minoan civilization which flourished from 3000 BC to 1450 BC. Over time, that civilization decayed. As it did, migrants came from the mainland of Greece, bringing their Greek way of life with them and eventually becoming the dominant culture of Crete.

Crete was conquered by the Romans in 69 BC and at the time Paul was writing it would have been a peaceful, prosperous and somewhat backwater province of the Roman Empire. The presence of the Romans, however, did not have a large influence on the daily habits and culture of the Cretan people. They kept their Greek language and customs. In fact, as the Romans expanded, they incorporated much of the Greek culture into their own traditions, especially male and female roles and the household structure of the home, as we will see later.

Chania, the capital city of Crete (Wikimedia Commons)

But with time, as did the Minoan, the high classical Greek culture began to decline. In fact, it was definitely on the downhill slide. William Barclay, in his commentary on the letter, describes the level of vice in Cretan society: 

Their avarice was proverbial. ‘ The Cretans,’ said Polybius, ‘ on account of their innate avarice, live in a perpetual state of private quarrel and public feud and civil strife…and you will hardly find anywhere characters more tricky and deceitful than those of Crete.’ He writes of them: ‘Money is so highly valued among them, that its possession is not only thought to be necessary, but highly creditable; and in fact greed and avarice are so native to the soil in Crete, that they are the only people in the world among whom no stigma attaches to any sort of gain whatever.’ (p. 242, The Letter to Titus)

Polybius gives us a picture of a materialistic, dishonest, immoral people. But did Paul say to just give up on the Cretans? They were toxic, after all.



Paul recognizes and calls out the corrupt culture:

For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers…One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. (1:10,12)

But I like Paul’s positivity. Even as Paul calls out the Cretans on their immorality, he doesn't give up hope for them. Instead, he makes the claim that individuals can be saved from sin through Jesus Christ. Instead of shouting into the darkness, Paul shows them how to be saved right in the middle of it:

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour…(3:4-5)

No matter what we have done, we can, through the mercy and grace of God, come clean, and we can be made new through the Holy Spirit.

Then he goes on to show us how to respond to God’s grace and how we should live:

For the grace of God hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. (2:11-12)

He tells the believers to be transformed here and now and to devote themselves to good works:

…looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all unrighteousness and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. (2:12-14)

Paul didn’t tell Christians to “go with the flow” of the culture but rather to earn its respect by a life of good works. But just what are those “good works” I should be doing to glorify God?


A Good and Holy Life

Paul gives Titus and the church great responsibilities.

He begins with his own duty and that is to preach the Gospel (1: 1-3):

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;  but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior...(1: 1-3)

Right at the beginning Paul calls himself both “a servant of God” as well as an apostle, or messenger, of Jesus Christ. The word in the Greek translated servant is doulos, meaning slave. Paul is saying that his life is totally submitted to God and to His service. This placing himself under God puts the demands he makes on the disciples in context. Paul isn’t exercising authority upon them in a tyrannical way but rather as one who is also serving God and living for Him.

And so Paul preached the gospel which drew the Christians together and it was Titus’ work to guide them into effective congregations. He tells Titus to get the church at Crete in good order by:

  • appointing good leaders

  • putting a stop to false teaching

  • exemplifying good conduct (1:5,11; 2:1-15)

Paul calls on Titus to give constant instruction in practical Christian living and to avoid arguing endlessly over the law, fruitless speculation and debates.

The appointed leaders, or elders, must also be men above reproach in their conduct and lifestyle. Paul insists that they be the husband of one wife and the father of obedient, believing, faithful children. In addition to these things…

They should not be:

  • self-willed or quick-tempered

  • given to wine

  • violent

  • greedy

But should be:

  • hospitable

  • a lover of what is good, philagathos (Strongs: “a promoter of virtue”)

  • upright, holy

  • disciplined

  • holding closely to sound doctrine

Why must the elders be men of such high character? Why must they be men who know and hold closely to the Word of God? so that they can effectively teach and defend the congregation from false teachers infiltrating the church: (1:9)

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. - Titus 1:9-11

A false teacher will turn a family and a church upside down. Paul says they must not be allowed to bring chaos to the flock of God.

Paul goes on to lay out different groups within the church and their specific responsibilities.

The older men are to be sober, grave, self-controlled and sound in faith, charity and patience (2:2). 

Older women are to be reverent, not false accusers, not addicted to much wine, teachers of good things.

Paul instructs Titus to have the older women take the younger women under their wings and teach them to be loving wives and mothers, sensible and chaste, good keepers of their homes, kind and submissive to their own husbands (2:3-5).

Paul only makes one demand here on the young men. They are to be sober-minded (2:6). The word Paul uses here is sophron and was considered to be one of the foundational virtues of Greek society. A man who is sophron is wise, self-controlled, sensible, balanced. He doesn’t go to extremes. He doesn’t act like a fool. He makes good choices in life.

And then he addresses servants. Again, Paul uses the word doulos so we can assume he is referring to slaves here. Paul tells them to be honest, loyal, respectful, and submissive to their masters (2:9-10). 

Why does Paul make a point to lay out good works for everyone?

Paul typically gives reasons for his commands and claims.  He says that these good things make the Gospel look good (2:5,10), and the life of the Christian fruitful (3:8,14).

Makes sense. Christ literally came to bring about for Himself a people “zealous of good works.” (2:14). And so this is what Christians must be about.

John Calvin comments on the length of Paul’s exhortations in this letter as compared to the letter to Timothy:

Besides the reason why he is longer in his exhortations is, that they who gave their whole attention to idle questions [the Cretans] - needed especially to be exhorted to the practice of a good and holy life; for nothing is better fitted to restrain the wandering curiosity of men than to know in what duties they ought to be employed.

The Greeks had a habit of speculating about what a good life was more than actually living the good life. In contrast, Paul tells Titus to avoid endless speculation and gives them things to get busy doing…now.

In future posts, we will focus on the priorities and responsibilities given to Christian women in this letter and other places in Scripture.

The result of faith & knowledge must be a truly religious life. Faith must always issue in life and Christian knowledge is not merely intellectual knowledge but knowledge how to live.Many people have been great scholars & yet completely inefficient in the ordinary things of life and total failures in their personal relationships. A truly religious life is one in which a man is on right terms with God, with himself & with his fellow-men. It is a life in which a man can cope alike with great moments and everyday duties. It is a life in which Jesus Christ lives again. 

- William Barclay, Commentary on Titus

Love,

Amy Laurie <3

If we stay the course, we will surely arrive at our destination.


What Shall This Woman Do?

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine… - Titus 2:1 We have already seen  here  that the apostle Paul gave different groups i...

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