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
discreet, sophron, having a sound and well-balanced mind and thus making good decisions. The Greek philosopher, Socrates, called sophron the foundation stone of virtue.
chaste, hagnos, pure, especially in the sexual sense
keepers at home, oikouros (oiko, home, ouros, guard, warden, watcher or guard.) She is domestically-inclined, staying close to and tending to the home and its concerns.
good, agathos, virtuous, she has a good influence on those around her. She does them good.
submissive to their own husbands, hupotasso, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.