What are the most urgent needs for Christian women today? We believe that the greatest need for Christian women today is to be women of God’s Word. And so we began our “Timely Cautions” series back in the spring by urging all of us to not neglect our pastor’s preaching.
The pastor’s preaching tops our list because God has appointed gifted men to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1, see also Acts 2:42, Heb. 13:7) and to deliver his Word to his church. If preachers are God’s messengers, called to bring his Word to us, we best pay close attention (J.I. Packer). We must also continually encourage and exhort one another to make it our “first great and primary business” to be in God’s Word on a daily basis (George Müller).
Which brings us, these many months later, to our second concern: that the Word of God “would not be reviled”—that we would not deny our doctrine with our lives, open a door to gospel-ridicule by our behavior, or give the enemies of Christ a reason to say evil about us, but that as Christian women, we would show forth the beauty and power of the gospel (Titus 2:5,8,10). How can we accomplish such a daunting task? Paul tells Titus:
“Older women…are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5).
This list of goodness, as with any list in Scripture, is not exhaustive. Discipleship of Christian women includes more than the teaching of Titus 2, but never less.
Here is an explicit agenda for a home-focused curriculum to be taught by older women to younger women that we dare not neglect if we are to remain faithful to Scripture. Paul’s instructions do not limit or restrict Christian discipleship for women, but they should shape our priorities.
If our one-on-one or church-wide discipleship for women ignores or neglects passages like Titus 2—if we (intentionally or accidentally) leave the application of sound doctrine to a woman’s life and home in the back supply closet with the broken chairs and old wedding decorations—then we need to reconsider whether our ministry priorities line up with the priorities of God’s Word.
Does this mean women must not teach beyond Titus 2 or biblical womanhood? Of course not! Christian discipleship entails a variety of topics that arise from God’s Word, and I rejoice when I see God raise up godly women who are gifted to teach other women, and who are in a season of life where they can do so while remaining faithful to their God-given responsibilities in the home.
But as we shape ministry to women and define discipleship in our local churches, a healthy church, like the one Paul is describing for Titus, needs a pastor who preaches sound doctrine, and older women who teach younger women how to live according to that sound doctrine.
The pastor cannot do our part any more than we are called to do his part in leading the church. A pastor must teach sound doctrine, “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), but there are many lessons of godly womanhood that a woman needs to learn from the example and instruction of another woman. Therefore we must not marginalize or shrug off our assignment. And what does our assignment involve? Elisabeth Elliot explains:
It is doubtful that the Apostle Paul had in mind Bible classes or seminars or books when he spoke of teaching younger women. He meant the simple things, the everyday example, the willingness to take time from one’s own concerns to pray with the anxious mother, to walk with her the way of the cross—with its tremendous demands of patience, selflessness, lovingkindness—and to show her, in the ordinariness of Monday through Saturday, how to keep a quiet heart…. Through such an example, one young woman—single or married, Christian or not—may glimpse the mystery of charity and the glory of womanhood.
To teach biblical womanhood is not shallow or frivolous. Titus 2 is not the Pinterest passage of Scripture. It is “the way of the cross.” It is a call to Christian women to help other Christian women glimpse “the mystery of charity and the glory of womanhood.”
Titus 2 calls women to a deep and profound understanding of the gospel that issues forth in a genuine and sacrificial love of family and home, a counter-cultural purity and self-control that is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a lifestyle that proclaims in a loud and joyful voice to our dying world:
[T]he grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).
This question—what do Christian women need most?—is personal and immediate before it is church-wide and global. What do you and I need most? What does the young woman sitting next to me in church need most? We all need a “Titus,” a pastor to teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. We all need to delight in and meditate on God’s Word day and night (Ps. 1:2). And we all need older women to help us apply gospel-centered teaching to our daily lives—all for the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.