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Titus 2 Women Part 1

Introduction

It can be an unnerving experience to stumble down a path you know should be leading you home, on a dark night. Not only are you afraid of danger with every step, but you are not altogether sure you will end up where you want to be. This culture is a far darker place for women today than a dark path on the most moonless of nights, and they need someone with a flashlight up ahead, someone who knows the path. They need a mentor.

“A mentor is someone farther down the path than you, who is going where you want to go, and who is willing to give you some light to help you get there.”

Two disclaimers are important as we begin this study:
  • The woman who has never given birth physically still has a God-given mothering capacity.
  • Everyone is younger than someone and older than someone, so spiritual mothering takes place on a continuum.

Women in their 20s and 30s are dialing a Spiritual 911!  This generation desperately needs help.  Why do so many young women need spiritual mothers?

First, our culture is not set up for natural mentoring.  Unlike previous generations, many are isolated from their families, so there’s a lack of mentoring and exposure to godly women. They don’t have the built-in arenas for sharing life that their grandmothers and great-grandmothers did. Many women today are fearful of rejection, so they choose not to “risk it” and simply keep to themselves.

There’s a crying need for encouragement, nurture and assurance that God is still in control.  These young women need a mentor to help them review, refresh and refocus - to recalibrate their lives.

Second, our culture is pumping out anti-biblical messages at an unprecedented rate... and young women (even Christian women) in our culture are receiving and buying into them by the millions.

What are the messages creating all the chaos we see?

  • You can, and should, have it all - passion, pleasure, respect, true love, satisfying work, money, power.
  • Put your needs first. You’ll be better able to take care of others if you take care of yourself first. Demand your rights!
  • You need’t be subject to anyone else’s opinion. In fact, all opinions are equally valid. No one has more of a grasp on truth than anyone else. Most importantly, you need to find someone to validate your opinions.
  • You don’t, ultimately, need anyone. You are self-sufficient.

In fact, Oprah once made this statement: “That’s what all spiritual teaching is about, that you’re somebody all by yourself.”

Is that what OUR spiritual teaching is about? (Yes, every woman is somebody, but not just by yourself. Followers of Jesus especially find meaning and significance in Jesus, community, family and ministry.)

A third inherent need is that many women of all ages are reeling from hurts inflicted on them (or caused by them) through the years. They live in a state of distrust, bitterness, and sarcasm because someone hurt them and they can’t let go of the pain.

"Consider one woman who is deeply hurt by the failure of another and chooses not to forgive.  In so doing, she effectively nails herself to that event and time and makes her climb (out of her circumstances) a difficult one"—Gail MacDonald.

Women who are chronically bitter are largely unable to nurture or be nurtured.

The fourth and perhaps the biggest obstacle to spiritual health in this generation is that everything compels us to serve ourselves. Susan Hunt writes, “Many women today are overwhelmed with the complexity of life. They are floundering because they have no focal point. A four-letter word causes us enormous problems: S-E-L-F.  Our self-inclination will send us reeling unless we have settled that core issue, “What is our life purpose”?

Well, the good news is that these problems are not as new as we think. They were far from unknown in the Apostle Paul’s day. In fact, the people of Crete (where Titus pastored) were known as drunken, insolent, untrustworthy, lying gluttons; tricky, deceitful, and full of strife. They were also bombarded with false teaching. (Sound like any culture we know?) In the New Testament book of Titus, we find Paul’s wonderful job description for mature women, those who would pass on godly principles to younger women. His letter to Titus dealt with individual groups in the church:

“Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge (train) the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God”—Titus 2:3-5.

Paul begins with the qualifications of mature, godly women who have the potential to build maturity into younger women’s lives.

What does that say to the pastor/Christian leader of a church? It gives him or her a very specific two-part strategy that shouldn’t be ignored. Here’s the mandate in a nutshell: Our pastors should be teaching the mature women in their churches to be prepared to train the younger. The prospect is that women of all ages in the church will have the necessary mentoring, encouragement and help to be more godly and more capable to share Christ’s love with others.  What’s involved?

First, pastors are to teach godly characteristics to the older women. Titus 2:3-5. Notice the qualifiers in this section - 2:1-5.

At the beginning of Titus 2, we see the quality qualifier: the teaching is to be sound and healthy.

(“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.”)

Notice also the age qualifier. This helps us answer a number of questions:

  • On whom is this to be focused?
  • Who is to receive this sound, doctrinal teaching?
  • What was meant by “older” in this context?

There are three options:

  • At the time Titus received this instruction, people were considered young until past the age of 30.
  • The “older and mature” person was someone whose children were grown and gone.  In our context it might mean the children are in higher education, married, or living independently.
  • “Partnering spiritually mature women with someone a life stage or more behind,” Stephanie Smith. Whatever the age, it’s giving a younger woman opportunity to process and grow their spiritual life.

Which views are right?  The second and third most likely fit best with the biblical text.

Susan Hunt points out, “Titus was not told to teach those women who were interested in signing up for the course. The command seems to be inclusive... no exceptions.”

Why is this group so significant and uniquely qualified to offer this teaching? They have experience as parents and/or in life, and are now needed as mentors. In general, they possess experience and wisdom. The hope is, their rough edges have been honed by time and the Lord’s discipline; and they model serenity (due partly to a long-term perspective.) Young women sometimes don’t see life in the long term).

Another reason God has ordained this ministry is that it will bless the older woman too, if she feels useless or stagnant.  Simply rehearsing the goodness of the Lord in her life is bound to refresh her. Here’s a Great Model: Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45). “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’”

Then Mary sang her beautiful song...and the Bible says she stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, models beautiful humility here! She could have complained because the younger woman would have the greater honor of bearing the Messiah. She didn’t. She encouraged and built Mary up. (Even beyond what is described in this passage, I’m sure Elizabeth’s wisdom, common experience and spiritual life were an enormous blessing to Mary!)

Notice the qualities desired in the older women—v. 3. Young women, if you want to know where you should be going, then this passage is also a preview. It’s never too early to start working on the priorities in this list and finding someone older to assist you.

First, Titus was instructed to remind and teach older women to be reverent in the way they live—v. 3.  Paul was concerned that the women who claimed to follow Christ should exemplify a reverent lifestyle. What does that mean? To “be reverent in the way they live” meant they were to live a life consistent with their claim to be followers of God. “Reverent” literally means fitting and sacred, like a temple would be described, fitting to God and His commands. It denotes full-time service of worship—Rom. 12:1-2. It obviously doesn’t mean they are to be dead serious all the time, but it implies they have learned to take spiritual matters seriously.  According to Romans 12, they are no longer conformed to this world, but by God’s grace, they have been transformed by the renewal of their mind.  They have engaged in spiritual health habits like worship, prayer and study of the Bible, so they are now living a reverent lifestyle.

Anna, in Luke 2:36-38, exemplified this reverent attitude when she encouraged Mary and Joseph at the temple. “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Can you imagine what an encouragement this was to the young teenager, Mary?

Why this emphasis on reverence? Paul is drawing a contrast between the false teachers in Crete and those who are true followers of Jesus. Earlier in the letter, he had described these people as those who “claim to know God, but by their actions...deny Him”—1:16. In other words, they were NOT living lives consistent with the nature of God.

How does this quality manifest itself? This can be explained both positively and negatively. Holiness/a reverent life-style can be characterized by what one chooses to do and by what one chooses not to do. “It’s not just the don’ts that you don’t, it's also the do’s that you do.”  The “don’t” is that these older women chose to avoid all moral compromise. It’s not an option for them.   The “do” is that they would concentrate on a life-style filled with all kinds of goodness because of their intimate relationship with God. That’s the kind of older woman the younger woman needs to see: “a holy woman—a model of spiritual life with no moral compromise and filled with joyful goodness.”

This attitude removes the compartments of life: things are not sacred or secular to this woman. “A woman like this will pursue her personal relationship with God with a deep passion. She will also value all of life equally, from the carpool to the corporation.” This reverence demands dying to self and spending time with Jesus. These actions produce love-filled lives that will speak volumes to younger women.

This is, in essence, what Paul meant when he wrote that older women were to “be reverent in the way they live.” This kind of consistent life-style was, of course, to characterize ALL Christians, men and women.        In fact, Paul begins this paragraph directed to women with the transitional word “likewise,” referring back to what he has just taught to older men. In essence, he reiterates to older women what he has just written to older men, but with a special emphasis for women.

Second, mature women are not to be slanderers—v. 3b. Using the tongue appropriately is a recurring problem for all human beings, and though it’s certainly an area of weakness for both men and women, now Paul zeros in on this problem for women.

James dealt with it rather extensively in his letter to New Testament believers, pointing out graphically that a Christian’s tongue serves as a precise measurement of Christian maturity (James 3:2). If we can control our tongue, he stated, we can usually control every other part of our personality.

To get his point across, James used three descriptive illustrations.  With a tiny bit we can control a large horse; with a small rudder (relatively speaking) we can direct the course of a huge ship, and with a little spark we can set a great forest on fire.  James then made the application: the “tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts...It corrupts the whole person”—James 3:5-6.

The most serious consequence of a tongue “out of control” is what it does to others. This is what Paul had in mind when he exhorted Titus to teach older women not to slander. Malicious gossip is horribly destructive, resulting in the opposite of what Christians are to do for one another: it tears others down rather than build them up. On the one hand, words can be “like a club, or sword, or a sharp arrow” when used to hurt people (Prov. 25:18). On the other hand, spoken at the right time and in the right way, words are “like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Prov. 25:11).  Women and men may excuse character assassination and the belittling of others because that’s common in our family and among our peers.

People in authority, pastors, bosses and politicians are so often the target of an out-of-control tongue, that it’s often not even noticed.  Paul’s saying we’re to pull the reins on this wild horse and slander no more.

Vickie Kraft wrote, “A woman who is rooted in a deep relationship with God will not have the overwhelming need to pass on juicy tidbits to enhance her own popularity...”

Third, they are not to be addicted to much wine—v. 3c. Persistent drinking and drunkenness were common problems in the first-century world as throughout history. Many converts to Christianity had developed this kind of life-style, women included.  No doubt many women used wine as a means of coping with the anxiety and stress caused by the way they were treated by some of the men in that culture.

It was rather common for a man to consider his wife a slave, a convenience, a bearer of children who might thereby enhance his reputation in the community. Coming to know Christ, however, radically changed women’s status. We “are all one”—Gal. 3:28. In Christ we are heirs together “of the gracious gift of life”—1 Pet. 3:7.  But having a new spiritual position does not automatically change a person’s self-image or immediately break old habits; usually this is a process. Evidently some of the older women in Crete, even as Christ followers, were still drinking too much.

The word “addicted,” as used by Paul here, actually means being “in bondage” or being a “slave” to wine. This, Paul wrote, is not a mark of maturity. Thus Paul instructed Titus to teach the older women not to be “addicted to much wine.” As people who were new creatures in Christ, they were to break away from their old hurtful habits and put on a “Spirit controlled” life-style—Ephesians 5:18-21.

Fourth, they are to teach what is good—v. 3d. In describing the qualities that should characterize the lifestyle of an older Christian woman, Paul zeroed in on two overarching positive traits.  First, they were to be “reverent in the way they live. ” Second they were “not to be slanderers." Third, they were “not to be addicted to much wine.” Fourth, they were “to teach what is good.”

Why does teaching come at this point in the list? Again we see a classic pattern in Paul’s approach to Christian communication, one obvious throughout his letter to Titus. It’s their overall lifestyle that forms the basis for effectively communicating with younger women—“Then they can urge (train) the younger women…” That is, if they’re living as they should, they will be able to communicate effectively and authentically. Not only will they know God’s Word,  but they will know how to apply biblical principles to specific situations.

What are these mature women to teach? Good things like:  1) Values, virtues and ethics; 2) Practical every day advice; 3) Verses and doctrines they have personally applied, e.g., storm verses for difficult moments; 4) Teachings that are the result of a consistent study of the Scripture on a variety of subjects;  5) The main list of good things to teach/model follows—vv. 4-5.

What if a woman doesn’t have it all together? Does this disqualify her from teaching younger women?  No!  It means the initial emphasis will be on verse 3. Then, as she begins to see progress, she will have lessons to share from her successes and failures.  Younger women can benefit from both. They just need honest listeners and authentic teachers.

Now, not every young woman will find such a mature woman.  So they should be encouraged to have mutual mentors to discuss and apply what they have learned from life and the Word, especially Titus 2:4-5. They should also pray the Lord will bring a woman described in verses 2-3 into their life.