The Beauty of Godly Womanhood
Men and women are different. Would you agree with that statement? For most of human history, up until just a few decades ago, this was the most common of common sense.
Today, depending on who you are talking to, this common sense just might get you in trouble. Some people get really offended at the suggestion that men and women are different— despite the fact that all kinds of scientific research has shown that men and women have significant differences all the way down to the ways that our brains are wired.1https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html
The Bible shows us that these differences are not accidental nor incidental. God made Adam and Eve different on purpose. He intended for them to play different roles in the mandate He gave to them.
And again, it can be really controversial to say things like this these days. We’ve all heard so often that men and women are equal in every way. Not just equal in worth and value, but equal in role and function and areas of strength and so on. And then Titus chapter 2 comes into the room and makes everyone uncomfortable.
When I was a Young Adults pastor in Regina, our Bible studies were well attended by U of R students—many of whom were being forced to drink deeply from the fountains of feminism every day. And we did a series on the book of Titus. And when we got to chapter 2, the closest thing I can compare it to was that part in Jurassic Park when the power goes off and all of the dinosaurs come out and everybody is running around screaming. Those were some tense weeks for us.
But through that experience, and since that time, I’ve become a little less scared of this territory. I’m not quite as worried about speaking these things openly. I’ve seen that as people move out of university classrooms and into the real world, it doesn’t take long to figure out that there are major differences between men and women, and this is not a bad thing.
So we don’t need to defend Paul this morning for looking at the church and seeing not just a mass of people, but men and women. And for having different instructions for the men and the women. And for recognizing that it wasn’t Titus’ place to be discipling the younger women in the church on how to fulfill their God-given roles, but that he was to enlist and equip the older women in the church to do that work.
So we’re going to take up this passage this morning, as God’s word, without apology.
If you haven’t been with us one of the previous weeks, we’re glad you’re here, and want to explain that we’re in the middle of what’s really a three-week sermon on Titus chapter 2. We started with the end of the chapter, which told us about the grace of God which appeared and brought salvation for all kinds of people and is training us to say no to sin and to live a godly life as we wait for the return of Jesus—the same Jesus who died to make us His own and make us zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).
Then we went back to the first part of the chapter, which tells us what it actually looks like to say no to sin and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. The end of the chapter tells us why we should live this way, and these earlier verses tell us what it looks like. Last week we saw what it meant for older and younger men as well as bondservants or slaves. Today, we find out what gospel living looks like for God’s women.
Our passage begins with the older age group. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good” (Titus 2:3).
Who are the older women? Last week we heard that many scholars to a ballpark this age group around 40 or 50 or older. But it’s not a precise word. The least we can say, based on verse 4, is that this group of women were those old enough to have experience with being wives and mothers.
And Titus was supposed to speak to these older women about four ways that they were to live in response to the gospel.
Reverent in Behaviour
First, they were to be “reverent in behaviour.” In the original language, this word for “reverent” is really interesting—it comes from a word that refers to a holy place, like a temple. And so the literal sense of the word might be something like “priestly.” Acting like a priest or a priestess going about their duties at the temple. And so more generally, the word speaks about being holy or godly. Acting in a way that is appropriate for someone who is holy and devoted to God.
Ladies, if you belong to Christ, do you know that you have been consecrated to God, and that you are priestesses? “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
This is just as true for you as it is for the men. And Titus 2:3 is simply saying that you need to act like that. You need to acts in a way that is fitting for someone who has been devoted to God.
Try for a moment to remember a woman you’ve known, and one thing that you knew for sure about her is that she knew God. How could you tell? One of the ways you could probably tell was because of the way that she acted in every area of life. It was just who she was. Her life glowed with holiness and godliness.
And ladies, that’s what this word is calling you to be. Not just to act in a certain way, but to be this way. Because you can’t put this on. You can’t fake this. You can’t act like you’ve been devoted to God unless you really have been devoted to God through faith in Jesus, and have come to understand that deeply.
This is who older women are to be. Reverent. The whole flavour of their life is fitting for someone who has been devoted to God.
Next, we read that the older women are not to be slanderers. In the ancient world, older women were commonly featured in comedies where they were mocked and ridiculed for being gossips.
And so you can see that Titus is to teach them to swim upstream against this stereotype.
And yet, there is more going on here. Because Paul does not just use the word for “gossip.” The word he uses here, in the original Greek language, is διάβολος. That’s the word for devil. And the word for “devil” means “slander” because that’s what the devil is known for. That’s what the devil does.
The devil slandered God when he was talking to Eve in the Garden. He slandered Job to God (Job 1:9-11). Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is “the accuser of our brothers… who accuses them day and night before our God.” And when we slander, when we say things to hurt others or damage their reputations or cause people to think more poorly about them, we are acting like Satan.
And let me give you a warning here. Like most satanic activity, slander is sneaky. Most people who slander wouldn’t say that they are slandering. How much slander happens among Christians under the guise of a “prayer request”?
So, ladies and men, we must reject slander. We can’t act like Satan. If we have a problem with someone, we need to talk to them about it instead of everybody else. We need to use your words to build up, not tear down.
Thirdly, older women must not be slaves to much wine. The language here reminds us that drinking alcohol is not in-and-of-itself a sin. We know from other Scripture that drinking to the point of drunkenness is wrong (Ephesians 5:18). This verse tells us that being enslaved to alcohol, being dependant on it, is also something that can’t be true for us.
This points to a bigger pattern of not being enslaved to anything. Not being dependant on anything, being free from all vices. Because being hooked on anything would not be fitting for a woman who has been devoted to God.
Teachers of Good
Fourthly, older women are to be teachers of good. That’s how the King James translates this phrase here at the end of verse 3—“ teachers of good things”—and that gets a little closer to the original sense here. The idea is not so much that older women need to do something—“teach what is good”—as much as they need to be something—“teachers of what is good.”
Older ladies, this is who you need to be. A teacher of what is good. This is a key element of living like you’re been devoted to God.
Does that sound like a strange idea for you? Like, “I get the slander and the wine piece, but whoever said that being godly meant you had to teach other people anything?” Well, Jesus did. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” he said (Matthew 28:19). Every single one of us has a role to play in this.
Remember what Ephesians 4 says? That the work of ministry is not just for pastors but is for each one of us? That we’re the ones who build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12)? “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15–16).
One more example—do you remember what Hebrews 5 says to a group of people who had been followers of Jesus for a time? “For though by this time you ought to be teachers…” (Hebrews 5:12).
Ladies, if you are have known the Lord for any length of time, then you should be playing an active role in this ministry which has been given to each one of us. Following Jesus means getting knee-deep in the work of teaching and discipling others.
Now maybe as you hear this and you have some objectives. “I’m not good at teaching. Even one-on-one.” Or, “I don’t have anything to teach. I don’t know enough about the Bible or doctrine or godly living.”
If those are the kinds of thoughts you have on your mind this morning, then please hear, on the authority of God’s word, that you have a very simple path in front of you. You need to learn how to do this. If you don’t know how to teach at all, then obeying this passage means that you learn how. If you don’t know much about the Bible, then obeying this passage means that you learn. If you don’t have a good understanding of godliness and how to pass that on to others, then obeying this passage means learning how to do that. Find someone who is doing it well and ask them to help you.
Please hear this morning—not from me, but from God Himself in His word—that this is not optional. There are no sidelines to sit down on. “Older women are to teach what is good.” That’s what God is saying to you this morning. Obedience is the only option.
The Purpose: Training the Younger
Now, what’s the purpose here? What’s the goal of older women being reverent, not slanderers or slaves to much wine, and being teachers of good? The purpose is found in verse 4: that they might “train the young women.”
This word for “train” here has a number of senses. It can imply urging, encouraging, or calling someone back to their senses. In Crete, just like in Canada today, there were many factors that were pulling the young women away from their God-given roles and responsibilities. The young women in the church needed training.
And Titus was not the guy for the job. It would not have been appropriate nor wise nor even possible for him to provide the young women with the level of training and discipleship that they required. The older women were the ones to train, disciple, call them back to their senses.
Loving Their Families
What were the older women to teach the younger? In what areas did they need to be called back to their senses? Look at what verse 4 says. They needed to be trained to be lovers of their husbands and children.
That’s what verse 4 is literally saying in the original language. It’s not speaking so much about what they are to do as much as who they are to be. They are to be those who love their husbands and children.
It sounds like he is assuming that the young women had husbands and children. And that was a fair assumption in that day, when 1 in 3 women would die in childbirth, and men outnumbered women by a significant number, and finding one of those many available men and getting married is just what you did.
And apparently, verse 4 would suggest that being loving towards your husband and children is not easy to do. I’m tempted to say something funny here, because the jokes almost just write themselves. But this is serious. My wife tells me how often she hears new moms complaining about their children and their husbands to others. And that’s not ok. That an example of where they need to be called back to their senses and trained on how to do this well. And older women, you’re the ones to do that.
And because this language points to being a loving person, it has application to those who don’t have husbands and children of their own. They, too, need to learn to be loving those in their life whom God has called them to serve and minister to.
Self-Controlled and Pure
Next, we hear that the older are to train the younger to be “self-controlled” and “pure.” Notice how self-controlled has shown up so much in this chapter? It’s really the key to so much of these other qualities, isn’t it?
And then this word “pure” speaks to sexual purity and modesty. Chastity for single women, marital faithfulness for married women. With all the junk in the Cretan culture, and with all of the junk in ours, this is another key area where younger women need to be called back to their senses and trained.
Working At Home
And then there’s this next phrase: “working at home.” These words have the idea of being a homemaker, a manager of the home. And this is the one that got so many of those students upset. “What do you mean, working at home? Barefoot and pregnant, too, I presume?”
I remember another time teaching through Titus to a group of high schoolers, and when we got to this verse, one of them asked me, “What is the purpose of a woman, then?” Just think about how much her thinking had been twisted by our culture, that “working at home” sounded to her like “having no purpose.” Older ladies, do you think that many young women in today’s world need to be called back to their senses on this, and trained on how do to this well?
But I think we do need to talk about this one for a bit more this morning because so many questions come up with this. In today’s world, many women are asking tough questions about this whole business of being a homemaker. Some of those tough questions are forced on us by feminists, who hate the idea that God calls men to be the primary providers, and women to be the primary homemakers like we see here. This is one of the reasons we struggle with this.
But there are other reasons. For most of human history, the home was the centre of industry. Those of you who farm are some of the last people who still get that experience: the farmhouse, with people coming at going. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that women who live on a farm don’t struggle so much with this idea of “working at home.” Of course they work, and of course it’s at home.
But in times past, that was a more common experience. Earning an income and managing your home went together more naturally. That’s what we see in Proverbs 31. That woman was fulfilling her beautiful role as the manager of her home. And if you read through Proverbs 31, you’ll see that she was active in several industries and income-earning activities.
Some women today are able to earn an income and do other work while they work at home. But often, jobs and income-related work happens outside of the home. And that causes many women to feel like they have to make a choice between work outside the home, where they can engage with other people and be a part of industry and earn an income, and work inside the home.
So what do we make of this tension, a tension that I know is felt by some of you in this room today?
First, we should recognize that Titus 2:5 does not say that women have nothing valuable to contribute outside of the home. It does not say that they must work exclusively at home for the duration of their lives. Some women, especially at certain stages of their life, are able to balance work outside of the home while still being good homemakers.
Even if work has to be full-time, in the time that is left a woman can decide to make her home and her family her priority. Because that’s really the real issue. It’s not necessarily whether you work outside of the home or not, it’s whether or not you make working at home the priority that God calls you to make it.
Second, let’s acknowledge that running and managing a home is a lot of work. And that’s what this passage says. It does not tell women to stay at home. It tells them to work at home. Homes are a lot of work. And this work is not lowly or unimportant. Especially when we consider how important hospitality is in the Christian community.
Christian homes, even if they are not centres of industry, can be centres of ministry, in the area of hospitality for example. And that ministry is a lot of work.
And we haven’t even added children to the mix. Mothering is one of the hardest things in the world, and children should not be seen as an interruption to a high-powered career. They should be a significant priority.
I was surprised to find out recently how many women in today’s world actually agree with this. A 2012 survey, reported by Forbes, suggests that 84% of mothers would love to stay at home to raise their children if they could afford it.2http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/09/12/is-opting-out-the-new-american-dream-for-working-women
I know that some women, because of circumstances they can’t control, simply can’t stay home with their children, even part-time. I wonder how many others could if they and their husbands were willing to adopt a simpler standard of living.
Now I understand that these are some big ideas I’m sketching out here. There’s a lot of nuance and detail here that needs to be sketched in. I understand that, even in a church of our size, there are so many different individual circumstances represented here.
Just in my own life, my wife is a full-time work-at-home mom who homeschools our children and makes hospitality and ministry a major priority. But I was also raised by a single mom, and some of those options were simply not available to her. In one sermon, there’s no way I can say everything that needs to be said to everybody.
But here’s the great thing. I don’t need to cover it all. Because older ladies, it’s your responsibility to train the younger women in our church in this regard. And so young women, if you have questions about this and are not sure about your situation and what it looks like for you to balance your priorities and responsibilities and obligations with what Scripture tells us here, you know who you need to talk to about that. Find an older woman who is doing this well, and ask her.
But before we move on, let’s step back and re-state the main point of this phrase here in Titus 2:5. God created us all to work. The home is a very important place. And one of the priories that God has given to women is to be good managers of the household. And we should all recognize that this is a beautiful and noble priority.
Let’s finish up with verse 5 here. The older are to teach the younger to be kind. That’s important, isn’t it, and yet also not easy. It needs to be modelled and learned.
Finally, verse 5 says that the younger women who are married need to be taught to be submissive to their own husbands. This should not surprise us. The Bible commands this in several places. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” Ephesians 5:22 says. God has called husbands to lead in a loving and sacrificial way, and He has called wives to submit to that leadership.
But here’s the important thing. He calls wives to submit. Back in Titus’ day, it was very common to tell husbands to make sure that their wives submitted to them. But in Scripture, the women are directly addressed and told to willingly offer this submission to their husbands in obedience to Jesus. This shows a respect for women that did not exist in the world in that day.
And we could spend more time there, but let’s finally look at how verse 5 finishes up. What’s the goal of this all? “That the word of God may not be reviled.” This is is similar to what we heard in verse 10 last week—that in everything we might adorn the doctrine of God our saviour. It connects up to verse 1, where we learned that our behaviour needs to fit with sound doctrine. And it reminds us of verses 11-14—that we live the way we do because of God’s appearing, saving, and training grace.
Women, living in a Titus 2 way is not just about you. It’s about God's glory. It’s about showing the world, through obedient and godly lives, just how glorious God is. And I could tell you story after story about the way that a Titus 2 life makes people stop and say “wow.” It brings God so much glory.
I want to end with one illustration of all of this. And it comes from my own life—or rather, the life of my mom. My mom came to faith in Christ at 19 years old after several years of doing everything terrible that a teenager in the late ’60s and early ’70s can do. And though she gave her life to Jesus, it was a mess. She was already a mom at that point and had little idea about being a godly woman or keeping a home.
And she was taken in by a group of older women in her church who modelled and taught her what this was all about. They included her in their lives and had her into their homes and taught her by example and with words how to be a godly woman and how to keep a home and how to be kind and pure and self-controlled. They saw that she had a lot of issues to work through, and they were patient with her. They were spiritual mothers to her.
Even though she still had many struggles, and my home as a child was often a difficult place, so many of the good things that I did enjoy came from these ladies and the way that they did Titus 2 with my mom.
I wonder if I would even be here today, serving Jesus, if those ladies had kept to themselves and ignored that young woman in their midst.
So ladies, what could the Lord do with your obedience? Who will you impact? What lives will you change?
Young women, what about you? I would encourage you that the principle of older teaching younger is one that you can start practicing at any age in your life. Even you younger girls. There are girls younger than you who look up to you, so use that influence for Jesus. Be a good example in their life. We should all have something we can pass on, and today you can start preparing to become the kind of godly older woman that you long to be someday.
Don’t wait until you think you’re old before you start to think about others, care about others, and seek to influence others around you for good.
There’s so much good happening at EBC right now in this regard. Those of you who took the ladies’ Sunday School class know that we’re working hard to help those who want to learn how to mentor or want to find a mentor. If you have questions and you want to follow up on any of this, I know that Lorenda isn’t closed to conversations just because that class is over. Please, talk to someone about this, and take your next steps.
All of us—men and women—let’s ask the Lord to help us look around and see how we can be involved with helping and serving and leading others, passing on to others what He’s given us, and helping each other live in a way that makes the gospel look as beautiful as it is.