Ladies (Wives), we need to step it up!
God’s Pattern for Wives
It’s our privilege tonight to turn in the Word of God to a great portion of Scripture as starting point for our message to you tonight on God’s pattern for a wife…Ephesians chapter 5 verses 22 through 24. And there the Word of God says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
God designed marriage to be the very best that life has to offer, the very best. In fact, Peter rightly called it “the grace of life.” But since the fall of man, it is anything but the rest for most people. In fact, for most marriage starts in a euphoria of emotion and love, bliss and gradually descends at varying rates into war…characterized by bickering, bitterness, discontent, unforgiveness, separation and divorce, punctuated all along by moments of truce. A losing struggle and most today bail out.
God’s original design was very clear…one man, one woman together for life, the best, the very best. But since the Fall it has not been an easy road for marriage. We are reminded of Genesis 3:16 where God cursed man and woman for the sin that they committed and sin caused the curse and the curse hit marriage right at the heart. The woman, as a result of the curse, seeks to rule and not submit. She wants control. That is the fallen woman’s tendency. And God commands again in the New Testament, “I permit not a woman to usurp authority over the man,” 1 Timothy 2. And the man, also cursed, is given to overpowering the woman, crushing her, subduing her, and thus the conflict. And sin therefore left its mark and part of that mark is marital conflict on the very inside of the marriage.
You can add to that the terrible assault that Satan makes on the outside. And we are reminded that before we ever get out of the book of Genesis, marriage has been assaulted formidably from the outside. In chapter 4 of Genesis is polygamy. In chapter 9, pornography is born. In chapter 19, homosexuality. In chapter 34, fornication and unequal marriages. In chapter 38, incest. In chapter 38 also the first prostitute is mentioned. And in chapter 39 the first specific case of seduction.
Conflict entered into the relationship between a man and a woman on the inside and on the outside. And you can add to those things the fact that you have two sinners, two sinners in the flesh with strong desires for their own will and their own way, colliding. The only hope to reverse the inevitable disaster that accrues to this kind of relationship is to follow the pattern that God has revealed in Scripture. The only hope for marriage is to be obedient to God’s Word and to be empowered by God’s Spirit. Therefore we can conclude that the hope of a good marriage, the hope of a great marriage, the hope of a blessed marriage, the hope of a happy and fulfilled marriage is salvation which brings one in to right relationship to God, which minimizes the curse, which implants the Holy Spirit and brings the believer under the authority and the willing obedience to Scripture and then there is hope.
In the passage that I just read to you, there are several obvious points that are made here. But the overarching point is one about submission and we draw that from verse 21 where the general responsibility of all believers to one another is to submit. We submit mutually to each other, being more concerned about the other than we are ourselves, more concerned about the things of others than our own things, looking not on the things which concern us but the things which concern others. All of that we learned from the book of Philippians chapter 2. We are to approach all of our relationships with humility, with self- abnegation, if you will, unselfishness, self-denial, and a desire to meet the need of the other person.
So the general spirit of all relationships should be one of submission. And then in particular, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord.” You will notice that the words “be subject” or submit, in some versions, is in italics because it is not in the original…it’s not in the original, it doesn’t need to be there. He has just said, “Be subject to one another,” and then he says, “wives, to your own husbands.” And being subject is obviously implied. All of us submit at some point…wives submit to their husbands. She is to follow willingly the leadership, the headship of her husband. This and this alone can minimize the curse and reverse the conflict.
And we see then, first of all, the matter of submission there in verse 22. The matter of submission clearly introduced, be subject to your own husbands. Very specific, by the way. She is not available to all men. She is not told to be submissive to all men, only her own husband. The man she possesses, her own husband, that one that is hers. And there is in that very phrase a lovely sense of possession. He belongs to her, yet she submits to him, and there again is that magnificent mutuality.
And in the parallel passage to the Ephesian passage which is Colossians chapter 3, you can compare those two because they say the identical things. It says in Colossians 3:18, “Wives, be subject to your husbands,” and there you do have the word “be subject” because it is not in the prior verse, so can’t be implied. “Wives, be subject to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” This is fitting, this is appropriate, this is proper, this is right before the Lord. It is not a cultural preference, it is a spiritual command. “Fitting,” by the way, is a word that has significance. For example, in the little letter to Philemon and verse 8 it refers to something that is legally binding. Thus it is here indicative of a commandment from God. It is also used that way in the Old Testament Septuagint, or Greek version.
There is a limit, by the way, to what is fitting in this role of submission. It does not mean that a woman submits to her own husband in that which dishonors God. You remember, don’t you, in Acts how the apostles said when commanded not to preach, we must obey God and not men. If that comes to that, you have to choose to obey God. I think of Vashti in the book of Esther, the first wife of the king. The king came to her and asked her to dance a lewd dance before a drunken crowd and she refused and rightly so…rightly so.
But in the created order and in the proper design of God, it is legally binding by the commandment of the Almighty Himself that a wife be in submission to her husband. It is fitting, Paul says, before the Lord. His leadership is given by God and she is to recognize that and in a humble spirit of loving submission come under that leadership. And again I remind you that this should be easy to do, it should be very appropriate, well understood, except for the curse, except for our sinfulness and except for the onslaught that Satan has brought against marriage to confuse these issues.
Now as we look at Ephesians chapter 5 and consider these instructions, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord,” we find there are some supporting passages to these and we want to look at them for a moment before we go on in the text. Turn to 1 Peter chapter 3…1 Peter chapter 3, they further open this truth to us and help us to understand it. First Peer chapter 3 says, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands.” And again you have the very same issue.
What is quite interesting is that little phrase “in the same way.” Go back to verse 13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and the praise of those who do right.” In other words, all of us submit to the authority of government.
Verse 18, “Servants, submit to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are reasonable.” Now, keep this in mind, we all submit to the government, to the king, to the authorities, to the governors. Verse 15, “This is the will of God.”
“We are to fear God and honor the king,” verse 17 says. It doesn’t tell us what form of government, what kind of government, what the moral standards of that government happen to be, it says we are to submit.
And then in verse 18, the same kind of submission to your employer, whether he is good and gentle or absolutely unreasonable. “This finds favor with God if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” One of the reasons I don’t believe in a strike. No matter how difficult your employer might be, you bear up, that finds favor with God. When you suffer unjustly, you are increasing your eternal reward.
And then the most marvelous illustration of suffering unjustly, sometimes under the oppression of a government, sometimes under the oppression of an employer or a slave owner, in ancient times, but the greatest illustration is the Lord Jesus Himself. Verse 21, “Christ also suffered for us leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” He shows us how to suffer unjustly, He shows us how to bear the burdening yoke of unfair leadership. “He suffered, committed no sin,” verse 22, “was no deceit found in His mouth. While being reviled He didn’t revile in return, while suffering He uttered no threats but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. And in the process He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness for by His wounds you were healed.”
In other words, Christ suffered undeserved punishment, He suffered it without retaliation, without reviling back, He uttered no threats. He just turned Himself over to God, took His suffering and in the end it had a profoundly significant result. It redeemed souls out of the human race.
And then you come to chapter 3 verse 1…remember, there are no chapter breaks in the original text…”In the same way, you wives…” What do you mean the same way? “As someone under the authority of government, as an employee under the authority of an employer, whether the government is good, bad or indifferent, whether the employer is good and gentle or abusive and unreasonable, in the same manner that Jesus suffered unjustly and did nothing but commit Himself to God for God to bring out of that unjust suffering a glorious end, you wives be submissive to your own husbands.” The implication here is that it really doesn’t matter what kind of husband he is.
You say, “Well, I have a husband who’s disobedient to the things of God, who’s indifferent to Jesus Christ, who is not kind and loving, is not good and gentle.” All the more reason, Peter says, “In the same way you wives be submissive to your own husbands so even if any of them are disobedient to the Word they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.” Line up under them, all the more reason if they are not saved, if they do not obey the Word of God, some are unsaved implied there but it could also imply a person who had made a profession of faith in Christ and was not obedient to the Scripture, “All the more reason to be submissive.” And again I remind you, as is fitting and fitting has its limits. You’re not to be submissive if he commands you to do directly that which opposes the Word of God or commands you not to do that which the Word of God does command you to do. But apart from those things for which you are under the command of God, you must submit to your husband. Hupotassoagain, line up under him.
And the key in verses 2 and 3, “As they observe your chaste and respectful behavior,” that’s what you want them to see, you want them to see your virtue, your purity. And then in verse 3, “And let not your adornment be merely external, only external, braiding the hair or wearing gold jewelry or putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God.”
You have a husband who is a trial to you, either because he’s unsaved or he’s a disobedient believer, he fails to fulfill all of your hopes and expectations for what you would want as a husband. He comes short for what you hope for and maybe what you thought he was. And you are gravely disappointed. You chafe under his authoritarianism. He cares little for how you feel, it seems. All the more reason to be submissive, all the more reason to demonstrate to him a meekness, a purity, a respectful kind of behavior, all the more reason not only to adorn the outside and please do that, we all appreciate it, but do more than that, more than putting on a pretty dress or wearing gold jewelry or doing your hair, adorn your heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God. And I might say every man’s dream.
It doesn’t mean you have to kill your personality. It doesn’t mean you have to become a robot. It doesn’t mean you have to become boring. It doesn’t mean you never give your opinion. But there needs to be deep down in your heart gentleness, quietness, that hidden part is precious in the sight of God. God prefers a woman like that.
Like 1 Timothy 2 says, “Silent, learning in subjection, this if of great price.” Verse 5, “For in this way in former times the holy women also who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”
This has always been the standard, folks. This isn’t new. This isn’t some Pauline, Petrine bias or chauvinism. This isn’t something they just came up with. It’s always been this way. God has always desired that women have a meek and quiet spirit. God has always desired that they adorn the hidden person of the heart with those imperishable qualities. He has always desired that they are submissive to their own husbands. And again, that same phrase “their own husbands,” not to all men…women collectively are not under the control of all men, a wife is under control of her husband.
And verse 6 gives us an illustration. “Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham.” May I suggest to you here that the concept of submission comes eventually to the point of obeying? “She called him lord,” there’s a thought…Yes, my lord. No, something wrong with that, it just doesn’t sound…doesn’t sound modern, does it? “She called him lord, she obeyed him and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” And that’s, you know, that’s what comes up. You know, when you do counseling, inevitably when you’re talking to a woman about how she should respond to the leadership of her husband, whatever kind of leadership it is, she says, “Well you don’t understand, it’s very difficult and sometimes I’m afraid of where he’s going to lead me, I’m afraid of where he’s going to take me.” And that is precisely why this verse says just obey, call him lord, do what is right and don’t be frightened by any fear because you have put yourself in the place of the blessing and protection of God. As Abraham was the father of the faithful, Sarah is the mother of the submissive, she’s the prototype. Abraham is the prototype of faith, she’s the prototype of submission. No terror, the word is literally terror at the end of verse 6, great peace, great security.
It’s a tremendous passage, tremendous passage. And it cannot be argued against, it is too clear and too direct.
First Corinthians chapter 11 is another passage that demands our attention as we think about what it means to be submissive. In 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verses 3 and following is a fascinating portion of Scripture dealing with the woman. Let’s start with a brief reminder that in Corinth a woman’s liberation movement had arrived. And perhaps there were certain Christian women who were enjoying their new liberty in Christ and thinking they were now free in Christ they thought they no longer perhaps had to be under the authority of their husbands. And since they were one in Christ with them, their spiritual equality gave them complete freedom and complete equality on all fronts, and so they were overstepping their limits. And as a result, they were bringing reproach on the church and reproach on Christ. And apparently in Corinthian society a veil was the symbol of submission, the symbol of modesty, the symbol of meekness.
And in the past I’ve done some reading in the history of that period of time and I found out that there were basically two kinds of women who didn’t wear a veil…feminists, those protesting the role of women, and harlots, those prostituting the role of women. So protestors and prostitutes threw off their veils. That’s the background.
Verse 3, “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of a woman and God is the head of Christ.” And Paul is just saying this to show you that there is an authority and submission principle built in all the way from God on down. This isn’t something cultural, it isn’t something just recently invented, there has always been in God’s plan and God’s economy a place for submission and authority.
And along that line, verse 4, “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head, but every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved.” Now we’re getting a little more deeply into what was going on. The protestors in Paul’s time were shaving their heads in protest against the feminine role.
Verse 6, “If a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.”
In other words, there’s no happy medium. If you take the thing off you might as well go the whole way and shave your head because you have done as much as protest the purposes of God. God accepts the fact that that culture had certain ways to identify women. They were covered and they had long hair. And that was the sign of their femininity. When they wanted to protest that, they threw off the veil and shaved the head. He says if you’re going to throw off your covering, you might as well then go ahead and shave your head and join the prostitutes and the protestors. So he says to the Christian women, you can’t do that, your culture has an understanding of the distinction between men and women, that is a divine distinction though the particular custom is not ordained by God, the distinction is. And in whatever way your society maintains that distinction, you be sure you hold it up lest they conclude that you are fighting against that. And if you take off your covering they will conclude that, you might as well shave your head and join the march. Take off your shirt and like the bare breasted pig stickers that we talked about last time, run through town stabbing pigs to prove your macho femininity.
On the other hand, in verse 7, “A man ought not to have his head covered since he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man.” A man is not to wear anything that marks submission, he is not to wear that which identifies a woman. Back in Deuteronomy it says a woman is not to wear anything that pertains to a man or vice versa. The men were not to be covered.
By the way, even the Jews who cover their heads, still do when they pray, do so from a misinterpretation of Exodus 33. You know why they do it? They say because Moses veiled his face. Well that is a completely different issue. He was veiling his face so that they wouldn’t see the glory of God fading as 2 Corinthians 3 tells us, but it had nothing to do with what God wanted for men to do in their times of prayer.
So, men are to be uncovered since they are the image and glory of God. He says that this particular cultural thing in a sense does reflect something of God’s created purpose, that man is the image and glory of God, and the woman is the glory of man. She finds a reflected glory. It’s as if he would say the man is the sun and the woman is the moon who shines because of the brightness of the man shining on her. For man…created order supports this, verse 8 and 9, “The man does not originate from woman but woman from man, for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake but woman for the man’s sake.”
And so, the order of creation has put man in the place of headship and leadership…the woman in the place of submission. She is to sustain the mark of that submission which in that culture was long hair and a veil. That makes sense, that suits the created order. And you Christians should not violate that. If you’re going to violate that just because you think you’re free in Christ, then go ahead and shave your head and join the prostitutes and the protestors, you’ve done as much in discrediting the distinctions that God has made.
Then in verse 10 he adds another thought, “Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels.” That’s most interesting. What it’s saying is that the angels recognized the authority and submission principle. The angels, no doubt, have been told by God about how He has designed man and woman to live together. It would be a great curiosity to the angels since among the angels there is neither marrying or giving in marriage. And so it is outside their realm of experience and comprehension and consequently they’re extremely curious about the whole relationship. They understand authority and submission. They understand the authority of God and Christ and the Holy Spirit and they understand that there are even ranks of angels, there are principalities and powers and rulers, there are cherubim and seraphim and they would understand all of that. But with regard to man and woman and how they relate, they’re very concerned to see God’s order manifest in the church. No doubt God has expressed to the angels that the curse in the Fall which threw marriage into chaos can be minimized through the power of the Holy Spirit, through salvation. And you can look at the church and see at least a glimpse of what My original intention for marriage was. And so for the angels, maintain the symbol of authority on your head, women. Maintain your femininity. Whatever the symbols of your femininity are, maintain them.
In that society and in most societies, it’s long hair and a covering. Even the angels recognized that principle. And the purpose would be, of course, so that the angels in seeing this wonderful work in which God has brought about the mitigation of the curse and brought a man and a woman together without the conflict and the war and hostility in Christ and by the Spirit, this would cause the angels to give praise and glory to God. So the glory of God among the angels is the issue.
Then in verses 11 and 12, “However in the Lord,” just to make sure you don’t misunderstand it, “neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman, for as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman and all things originate from God.”
In other words, there is mutual dependence. The man leads the woman but the woman gives birth to the man. Don’t think that this means because there’s authority and submission that there is inequality spiritually, that there is inequality humanly, that there is inequality personally. There is not. There is not. A beautiful interdependence, what is distinct are the roles, not the intelligence, not the spiritual capability, not the mental capability, not the social capability, not the wisdom, but the roles. So Christian women must not think that their equality in spiritual standing before God and their great freedom in Christ has obliterated God’s created and sustained and spiritual beneficial design for them.
Another passage that we must draw to your attention is in Titus chapter 2. And I’ll only introduce it tonight and then next week come back and look at it a little more closely. But in Titus chapter 2 there is some instruction beginning in verse 3 and running down through verse 5 that supports this concept of submission. And listen very carefully to what I say now. It takes the concept of submission to your husband and extends it to the range of home duties. It starts to unfold the duties.
“Older women,” it says in verse 2, “are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, not enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good.” And obviously they teach the young women, according to verse 4, “That they may encourage the young women to love their husbands.” That comes first. Love, not purely in an emotional sense as we talk about falling in love, the bells and whistles, you know, but love in the sense of self- sacrificing devotion to the privileged duty to which you have been called under his leadership and protection…to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands. For a very important reason, “That the Word of God may not be dishonored.”
Now in verses 3 to 5 you have a series of short commands, very brief but with immense and far-reaching implications. And what is at stake? What is at stake is the Word of God not being dishonored. Wherever you see this woman’s liberation movement assaulting the church, the first point of attack is the Word of God, isn’t it? They assault the Scripture. They twist all these Scriptures. They shift them around, they reinterpret them. They’ve got all this revisionist interpretation.
And it goes from there to the worst, where they even produce Bibles where the name of God is “she” or “she/he” the political correct Bible. But always women in the framework of Christianity who want to move out of their God-ordained role must assault the Word of God. And it’s not just that direct attack which is being referred to here, but an indirect one that comes by way of the fact that when women don’t obey what the Word of God says, then those people watching that and knowing that will conclude that we don’t think the Bible is really that important, right? So the Word of God is dishonored. The Word of God is diminished as to its importance. We don’t want to do that. Ladies, you want to follow these patterns for the sake of your own joy, for the sake of the blessing of God, for the sake of making marriage the grace of life that God intended it to be and for the sake of showing the watching world that we obey the Word of God because we believe God has given it, it is binding and the source of blessing.
A lot is at stake when women want their independence. They wreck the marriage and they ruin their testimony, diminishing the Word of God which Psalm 138:2 says, “God has exalted to His name.”
Betty Freidan way back in 1963, one of the early leaders of the Feminist Movement, wrote a book. She told women in this book, “Leave home and go to work.” And it was adamant. And it was really kind of the bomb that popularized the Feminist Movement. Twenty years later, no less than Betty Freidan wrote another book. This was called The Second Stage. In it she said this, “Feminine…” she said, “Feminism has failed and I urge you working women to leave work and go home.” A twenty-year experiment failed, still failing miserably. She started something with so much feminine machismo in it, it’s almost unstoppable.
And the number one symbol of woman’s rebellion against God’s order is the independent working wife. Over 50 percent of all women are in the work force. Over 50 million working mothers, most of them with school aged or younger children, in fact nearly half of the women with children under six work. Two out of three, because the younger women lead the parade in these working trends, two out of three children, three to five years old, spend part of their day in facilities outside their home, two out of three.
Women have abandoned the home. They’re fighting for their independence. The society has come behind them with tremendous, tremendous support. I think…just came into my mind of Hannah. It says in 1 Samuel 1:21, “Her husband Elkanah went up with all his household to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and pay his vow.” He was just going to the temple to carry out his annual religious observance. And he asked Hannah to go. Hannah didn’t go, it was just a trip up and back. “She said to her husband, `I will not go up until the child is weaned.'” Literally in the Hebrew, until the child is fully dealt with. She wouldn’t even go on a trip if it would in any way hamper the attention she needed to give to that child.
The abandonment of the home, the abandonment of the children, the isolation of the woman as the independent working woman, of course, escalates the already cursed and hammered union we know as marriage.
Felice Swartz in “Working Woman” magazine writes, “By the year 2000 when the children of today’s current generation of career women are themselves emerging from their teens, the polarization of the sexes that put women in the house at the nurturing end of the spectrum and men in the office at the work end of the spectrum will have disappeared and with it all the stereo types.”
And, of course, we know that the U.S. government offers tax credits for those who hire baby sitters so they can go to work. Marriages are being abandoned, families are being abandoned, the results are absolutely devastating. These people who advocate the working independent non-submissive wife call on her pride, they appeal to her self-esteem, her pride. They appeal, if you will, to her sin, telling her to leave her slave role and gain some dignity as a real person. They appeal to her lust for material things. They appeal to her already strong desire to dominate. And sadly, sadly, sadly, working non-submissive wives and mothers contribute to lost children, delinquency, lack of understanding of God-ordained roles, rebellion, loneliness, adultery, divorce, you name it. They are not under submission to their own husbands, they are not in the home and the results are disastrous.
When you foul up God’s order, everything gets messed up, everything. And the real calling of woman is to be in the home, to be submissive to her husband, to be following his lead, caring for her children, caring for her home.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, I’ll show you just a couple of other passages, then I want to give you some interesting illustrations. First Corinthians chapter 7 verse 34. This is sort of an off-handed comment here but it’s just powerful, absolutely powerful.
In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul talks about a lot of things with regard to marriage and divorce people and virgins who have never married. But down toward the latter part of the chapter he is giving some advantages to being single, some advantages to being single. And listen, folks, being single can be a tremendous blessing. As I’ve told many young couples, the only thing worse than wishing you were married is wishing you weren’t. So you want to be sure before you do that that really is God’s purpose for you. If you can stay single, life is simpler.
Verse 34, “The woman who is unmarried,” that would be a divorced person in the context here, “and the virgin,” that would be the person who had never married, “both of them are concerned about the things of the Lord that she may be holy both in body and spirit.” In other words, now that the divorced woman is single and the virgin’s never married, the only thing they really have to concentrate on is that which is about the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.
But look at the end of the verse, “But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world,” what things? “Particularly how she may…what?..please her husband.” That’s what she lives for, that’s what she lives for. It’s not supposed to be a place of conflict, it’s supposed to be a place where the woman willingly falls submissively under the leadership of her husband and seeks how she can please him.
Now some of you women are just taking all this in and saying, “Hey, hey, what about equal time?” That will come, we…that will come, you just keep coming on Sunday night, wait till we get to those guys. You think you’re squirming, you haven’t seen anything yet.
First Timothy 2:15…1 Timothy 2:15, “Women shall be preserved, saved, delivered…any of those…through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” Incredible verse. Earlier in this passage, verse 9, women are to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not winding all their gold and pearls through their hair to show off their wealth and wearing costly garments. He’s talking here, by the way, about worship, chapter 3 verse 15, how they conduct themselves in the church. So he’s saying when you come to worship, you don’t get yourself all dolled up like you were going to a wedding or something. But you’re going to adorn yourself when you come to worship, you do so by means of good works as is fitting to women, making a claim to godliness. And then it says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.”
Well there it is again, the whole idea of the submissiveness of a woman. She comes, she hears the instruction with entire submissiveness. Verse 12, “I don’t allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet.” In the order of the church women don’t teach, women don’t preach, they sit and listen and learn. That’s not something new, that’s because Adam was first created, then Eve and it was not Adam who was deceived but the woman being quite deceived fell into transgression. Both because of…because of, are you ready for this, created order and because of vulnerability, a woman is not in the place of authority. She needs to be under the protection of her husband, lest she be deceived and that is God’s design originally in creating Adam first and Eve to be his helper.
You say, “Well then woman is a second-class citizen.” No, verse 15, “A woman shall be preserved from…what?…from some kind of stigma that she bears because she was deceived, she led the whole race into sin.” The conclusion is, she is…as Peter says…the weaker vessel, she needs covering and protection. She led the race into sin when she abandoned that covering and protection, stepped out from under husband’s authority, acted independently, led the whole race into sin. When she did that she put a stigma upon womankind. How can that stigma be removed? Here it is, verse 15, “She is preserved from that stigma through the bearing of children, if those children continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” Once a woman led the race into sin, the stigma that woman bears can be reversed when a woman raises a godly generation of children, that’s what he’s saying. That’s the marvelous balance.
You know, we’re the…the men are the ones giving the orders, but the women are the ones with all the influence. They’re the ones who press those little lives to their own heart and nurse them in those early years. They’re the ones that are there all the time, binding up their little wounds and taking them through the issues of life day in and day out. And we show up after work to pontificate around the place. We develop the theology but they…they have them in their hearts. I always laugh when I see these great athletes, and I’ve never seen one say, “Hi, Dad,” all they ever do is say, “Hi, Mom.” Great big huge monstrosities out there beheading each other, “Hi, Mom.” In fact, we always hear this…we talk to coaches and they tell us, “You don’t recruit athletes, you recruit their mothers.” If their mother likes you, you’re in.
The woman reverses the stigma of having led the race into sin when she raises godly children. That is the marvelous, marvelous calling of a woman. The domain of her home, she’s a keeper at home, a worker at home, a lover of children, a lover of husband, submissive. I can’t resist further defining the magnificence of this role in Proverbs 31. Turn back to Proverbs 31, I’m just going to refer to it briefly and then close with a couple of illustrations that are pretty powerful.
But chapter 31 talks about an excellent wife. And this is a great, great description of an excellent wife, starting in verse 10 of Proverbs 31. Guys, this is the kind of woman you dream about. This is what every woman should desire to be. “An excellent wife,” verse 10, “who can find?” Hard to find one. “For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her.” Find a woman, first of all, that you can…what?…trust. Trust her with everything. Trust her with relationships. Trust her with your children. Trust her with your money. Trust her with your possessions. Trust her with your relationships, she won’t go around undermining those.
“He’ll have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” This is an amazing woman. “She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She’s like merchant ships, she brings her food from afar.” She’ll go anywhere for a bargain. Amazing woman, works with her hands, goes everywhere with her little coupon deal.
Verse 15, “She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household.” I have so many memories of that as a kid. I have so many memories of the mornings of my life and awakening, not by an alarm but by what was coming out of the kitchen. “She gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.” This is a very enterprising woman, “She finds a field that’s for sale and she buys it. She’s got earnings and she plants a vineyard.” Somehow she’s got a cottage deal going inside the home, she’s been able to earn some money to help.
“She girds herself with strength, makes her arms strong,” probably not because she went to the gym, but because she worked. “She senses that her gain is good, her lamp doesn’t go out at night, stays up late, gets up early.” Life was tough in those days, if you wanted clothes, you did what? You made them. If you wanted food, you made it. If you wanted some food to eat, you grew it. If you wanted to grow it, you had to have a field.
So when you married a woman to provide meals, that meant she had to buy a field, plow a field, plant a field, harvest a field, make the food, while you were off doing whatever…doing business in the city. “She stretches out her hand to the distaff, her hands grasp the spindle,” she’s weaving, weaving coats. It can get cold in that part of the world in the winter. “She extends her hand to the poor, she stretches out her hands to the needy, she’s not afraid of the snow for her household for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” Not only do they have warm garments, but they’re beautiful.
“She makes coverings for herself, her clothing is fine linen and purple.” And you know what? “Her husband is known in the gates.” They know him as…”That’s So-and-so’s husband.” Oh yeah, I know that guy, that’s So-and-so’s husband. “He’s known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” They’re all a little jealous.
“She makes linen garments and sells them.” There’s how she makes a little money to buy that field. “And supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, she smiles at the future.” Why? She plans ahead. “She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Boy, what kind of model is she for her children. “She looks well to the ways of her household, doesn’t eat the bread of idleness and her children rise up and bless her. Her husband also and he praises her saying, `Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.'” You’re the best…you’re the best.
“Charm–it’s deceitful. Beauty–it’s vain, doesn’t last. But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.”
And it all works around the home, doesn’t it? And the husband and the children and the needy. That’s where a woman needs to give her life.
Some women…now they’ve been sold this whole feminist deal, you know, they grab their briefcase, put on their suit and went to the office and have done their thing. And now all of a sudden, ten, fifteen years later, there’s a terrible hollowness in their hearts. Many of the same women who in their twenties pursued career, didn’t want children intruding in their life, now find themselves in their thirties and forties with an emptiness and a terrible dissatisfaction, a hollowness, a sense of unfulfillment. And the reality that they missed the whole purpose of life and they can’t ever get it back.
Despite their worldly successes and indefinable longings sets in and some of them begin to see motherhood as the experience they want. They want to have a baby. You hear them say that all the time. This attitude perceives motherhood as some kind of feminine achievement. “I’ve had my career, I’ve made my money and now I want to make my baby. I want to show the world that I can do that. That’s my next achievement, my next personal accomplishment. I’ve been a successful lawyer and now I’m going to show you that I can be a successful mother.”
Children, however, are not a prize to win. They are not a goal to achieve. They are not a way to proclaim someone’s femininity. They are not a little doll to dress at the gymboree better than everybody’s kids are dressed. They’re not somebody to fill out your wounded ego and unfulfilled life. One lady said, “I’ve got the house, I’ve got the cars, we’ve have the vacation home, I’ve had the career, now all I need is a couple of kids.” I guess she thought that way she could go down as a monument to femininity.
Women who look at having children as a means of personal fulfillment are really mistaking the issue. First, because if all they want is an experience, and experience is very temporary, but that kid is going to be around for a long time, making a lot of demands that very little to do with one’s personal fulfillment. Have you noticed?
Secondly, this manifestation of self-centeredness undervalues the purpose and the significance of motherhood as God designs it and usually sentences that little kid to a tragic life.
This is the sentimental, romantic view of motherhood. And this sentimentalism is dangerous because any time our emotions are driving the car, we will end up in a ditch. Babies wake up in the night. Babies get sick. They make a mess. And sometimes babies die.
I admit that the tender, sweet and emotional side of motherhood is precious, but only because hard-headed reason and biblical discipline with lots and lots of hard work is steering the process. Christian women need to have their approach to mothering anchored in the Scriptures, not in their emotion. You’re not going to learn mothering anywhere but in the Bible. You’re not going to learn it from a talk-show host. You’re not going to learn it from a magazine article at the check stand in the market. You’re not going to learn motherhood from classes on self-esteem. A healthy, godly view of mothering comes out of the Word of God and it has to be learned there. And we’re going to look at that in days to come.
Motherhood is not a romanticized ideal, it is a God-given task, suited to a woman’s frame and accomplished joyfully by hard work through His grace and provision. Godly motherhood does not focus on the pretty little child, doesn’t focus on infancy and childhood. Let me tell you, godly mothering focuses on adulthood from the start. It focuses on a long-term objective which is mature godly sons and daughters who will live to bring honor and glory to God. That is the calling of scriptural spiritual motherhood. That’s what God wants. Those who don’t know Christ, they can’t even approach it right. Those who do, must.
Two weeks ago I received this letter, really a heart- breaking letter. Listen to what it says.
“I received your tape series on the family from my mother- in-law for Christmas. You were right. When you started the tape on the duty and priorities of the wife, you were right that it would upset a lot of people. I cried many tears listening to you. You have hit the nail on the head regarding the moral decay of families and children, working mothers.
“The reason for the tears, I am a working mother. I have four children ages eleven, ten, three and one and a half. I’ve worked all of their lives. I feel that I have lost a connection with my eleven-year-old daughter and that worries me as she approaches adolescence. My babies go through tremendous mommy- deprivation daily. My ten-year-old acts out his frustration on everyone. My oldest children go to a private Christian school and that requires a lot of time in the evenings with homework. I get home after being gone nine to ten hours. I have to cook dinner, deal with the crying, mischievous babies and try not to let the older ones feel left out because I’m too tired or there’s no time left in the evening to work on their needs.
“I would love to stay home and be a keeper of my house, but I have no alternative. My husband has chosen to ruin his career and our lives by selfishly indulging in drugs and alcohol. After a four-year roller coaster ride we separated when I found out that he was taking the babies to the park and drinking. I fear that he may get into an accident with them, or forget he has them with him. I have been put in the position of bread winner of this family and I deeply resent it, it is destroying my family. I am losing out on the most important part of my life, raising my children. The part of me that is raising them is not the part of me that I like. I am tired, angry and frustrated all of the time. What a wonderful role model…mom the hag.
“When we separated, I told my boss…separated from her husband…and he told me to call my pastor right away. Being somewhat new to a church body I couldn’t figure out what my pastor could do. I told my pastor a few days later, he said he was sorry and that he would pray for me.
“During the initial separation I didn’t attend church for a month. I continued to read my Bible daily and listen to tapes and radio ministry programs. During that month I didn’t receive a single call from the church or my pastor. Incidently, we fill out weekly attendance cards and several friends are in ministry positions who know of our situation.
“When I did go back to church, no one asked how things were. It was also at this time I asked my employer if I could work at home to save day-care costs. He’s a Christian and these costs were sending me financially over the edge. The answer was no. I thought I was naive thinking that my church or my Christian employer should or could help in some way. When I listened to you and your thoughts on the church’s obligation to women with children, I couldn’t stop crying. I felt so let down by my pastor and church, as well as my Christian employer.
“Well, I didn’t write this to complain, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your messages and how you really have touched me. You’ve given me incentive to pray more fervently for God to change my situation so that I can do what I’m supposed to do, be a keeper of my house and children. I also pray for my husband. Keep on teaching the Word of God. It doesn’t matter if noses get bent out of shape, it just makes us open our eyes and reexamine how we live our lives.”
Sad, isn’t it? I mean, in some ways it’s all over. And there’s no going back. The matter of submission is so clear in Scripture…to the husband, to the tasks of the home, that’s God’s call to women.
Well, that’s one verse, verse 22. And that’s not even all that verse. We talked about the matter of submission. Next time we’re going to talk about the manner of submission, the motive for submission, the model of submission and the magnitude of it.
We continue tonight in our study of the Word of God with regard to marriage and the family. You might want to open your Bible to Ephesians chapter 5 and we’ll touch base again with our text. Ephesians chapter 5 verses 22 to 24.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
God here very clearly calls the wife to submit to her husband. That is God’s design for her blessing, for his blessing of the blessing of their children, the blessing of the church.
It is imperative that women understand this crucial responsibility. But most women today do not. In a wonderful expression of understanding this, Laura Miller has written the following, “I was created to be a helpmeet, that was the stated purpose in Genesis 2:18 when God gave woman to man, to rid man of his loneliness and to be a helper to him. Just as I most perfectly fulfill my purpose as a human when I am glorifying and enjoying God, when I am being a helpmeet I am most perfectly fulfilling my purpose as a woman. By being a helper I am not a lesser person than my husband. My femaleness certainly does not hinder God in His sovereign design to call me to Himself, nor does it bind me to a lesser relationship with Him. Indeed, Scripture demonstrates that God did not consider my gender when He saved me for there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. In His placing me within the economic hierarchy of the church family, my womanhood was inherently involved in the calling. But in His choosing me to receive His call, being a woman was incidental.” Well said.
And such a clear sense of identity is frankly rejected by many women in the church today as well as being misunderstood by them. They fail to understand the difference between what they are in the Kingdom and what they are in the family. They fail to submit to the purpose of God uniquely designed for them.
Now a good place to start tonight to readdress the role of women is to begin where we ended last time. Turn in your Bibles to Proverbs 31. I made some comments on Proverbs 31 last Sunday night and a number of you came to me and asked for further comment, and I’ll do that tonight.
Have you looked through any old magazines lately? Do you ever do that? I mean, the kind you see in old bookstores or the kind for some reason or another have hanging around in a closet somewhere or in the attic? Have you noted how women used to be portrayed? A mother rocking a baby, a woman cooking dinner, a woman reading a story to her children, does that sound foreign? And when you look at women today portrayed in magazines, what do you see? A woman with a briefcase sailing down a crowded street headed to work. A woman in tights doing aerobics. A woman in a skimpy bathing suit half exposed doing nothing but generating trouble.
What kind of woman is the prototype of the nineties woman? What is the modern super-woman supposed to be? Maybe something like this, she works, builds her own career, demands equal pay, refuses to submit to her husband, demanding equality with him in everything, has an affair or two and a divorce or two. She exercises her independence, relies on her own resources, doesn’t want her husband or children to threaten her personal goals, has her own bank account. She hires a maid or a cleaning service, eats out at least fifty percent of the time with her family or without them, makes cold cereal and coffee, the standard breakfast for her family, quick-frozen meals usual dinner fare, or she calls Domino’s Pizza, expects her husband to do his share of the housework. She is tanned, coiffured, aerobicized, into body-building shape, shops to keep up with the fashion trends, makes sure she can compete in the attention-getting contest, puts the kids in a day care center, makes sure each has a TV in his room, or a radio or a CD player so they can be entertained. She is opinionated, demanding, wants to be heard, eager to fulfill all of her personal goals.
That is the modern woman of the nineties that is applauded by the culture. She can’t stay married, or for that matter happy and her kids get into trouble, and sometimes drugs. She’s far from the woman God has called the excellent woman.
Let me remind you of the excellent woman, according to God. Look at verse 10, Proverbs 31, “An excellent woman who can find her worth is far above jewels, the heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She’s like merchant ships, she brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it. From her earnings she plants a vineyard and girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good. Her lamp doesn’t go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff and her hands grasp the spindle…meaning she’s weaving. She extends her hand to the poor and stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself. Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing. She smiles at the future, she opens her mouth in wisdom. And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call bless her, her husband also, and he praises her saying, `Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.”
This is the woman that God extols. And by the way, in Proverbs earlier, there are other women described. There is described an adulteress who flatters with her lips. There is described an adulteress who forsakes her own husband and breaks her covenant. There is described an adulteress whose lips drip honey. There is described a smooth-tongued adulteress who hunts for the precious life of a man only to destroy it.
There is also described in Proverbs the noisy woman, the foolish woman, the rebellious woman, the quarrelsome woman and a few other assorted kinds. But finally when you get to Proverbs 31, you get the excellent woman.
Now this whole section, by the way, is from a Jewish mother to her son on how to pick a wife. That’s the whole section. In fact, look back at verse 1. “The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him.” Now this is all about what a mother needs to teach her son. And in verses 1 and 2, “What, O my son, and what, O son of my womb, and what, O son of my vows…” In other words, what do you want to know? “Do not give your strength to women or your ways to that which destroys kings.” What does that mean? Stay away from sexual immorality. That’s the first important lesson that this mother teaches her son. We don’t know anything about the mother of Lemuel, but she taught him to stay away from sexual immorality.
And then in verse 4, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers to desire strong drink, lest they drink and forget what is decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give him strong drink who is perishing and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.” The first thing is to stay away from sexual immorality, and the second is to stay away from alcohol.
Further, verse 8, “Open your mouth for the dumb and for the rights of all the unfortunate, open your mouth, judge righteously and defend the rights of the afflicted and the needy.”
Pretty good lessons. Stay away from sexual immorality. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Take care of hurting people. Defend those who can’t defend themselves. Stand by the oppressed. Support the needy and deal justly with everybody. That’s the…that’s the first wave of lessons.
And then in verse 10 comes the major lesson, “Most of all, son, find yourself a good wife.” Most of all… And the woman described here is a priceless value. It’s not any particular woman in mind, it’s the model woman here. She has physical, mental, moral and spiritual strength. She loves God reverently and her husband as well.
And in verses 10 through 31, the mother of Lemuel describes the perfect woman. She describes her character as a wife, her character as a homemaker, her generosity as a neighbor, her influence as a teacher, her effectiveness as a mother, and her excellence as a person. And by the way, starting in verse 10 and going down to verse 31, the song of the excellent wife is a Hebrew acrostic. Each of those 22 verses begins with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in their normal order…aleph, bet, gimel, dalet, and so forth. It is an acrostic brilliantly conceived by the mind of God to describe the perfect woman. This is, as I said, no one woman in particular but the full-length portrait of what every woman should seek to become and the wife that every man would desire to have.
This woman is for her husband a gift from God. To find this woman is to find a priceless treasure. Back in chapter 19 verse 14 Proverbs says, “A prudent wife, or a wise wife, is from the Lord.” You can get your house and your wealth as an inheritance from your father, but your wife is from the Lord.
Matthew Henry, the old commentator said, “This is the mirror for all Christian women, magnificent portrait.” And it focuses on the very things that in the New Testament portray the model woman.
With that in mind, let’s go back to Ephesians chapter 5. Now we have already discussed the matter of submission in verse 22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands.” We’ve already discussed that. Wife is to submit, that was our theme last time. So we looked at the matter of submission. Let’s turn to the manner of submission. Not only is the woman to submit, but there is a way in which she is to submit, there is a manner. “As to the Lord…as to the Lord.”
Respond to your husband submissively, listen to this, as if you were responding to Jesus Christ. This, by the way, is a devastating indictment against those who deny a woman’s submission. This is Christ’s will and when you submit to your husband, you are submitting to Him, you are responding as if to Christ. As a woman is to be subject to the Lord Himself, so she is to be subject to her own husband as if he were Christ.
And I suppose there are many women who think that they are in perfect submission to Christ but lack of submissiveness to their husband indicates that they are not. The matter of submission, very simple…be submissive to your own husbands. And we defined that last time. The manner of submission, as to the Lord. With the same level of devotion that you give the Lord, submit to your husband.
Thirdly, Paul points out the motive for this submission in verse 23, “For the husband is the head of the wife.” That’s the design of God, that’s the divine plan. Just as a body submits to the brain which is in the head by design, so the wife submits to the husband who is the head. When you see a body that does not respond to the head, you see a deformity, you see something that is not normal. You see a dysfunctional person. And the same is true in a marriage. Where a wife does not submit, there is distortion, deformity and dysfunction. God has designed that the body respond to the head. And the husband is the head of the wife.
Then fourthly, there is the model of submission. The matter of submission, the manner of submission, and then there is this very important aspect of the motive which means basically that you’re responding because that’s the created order. Then the model of submission, verse 23, “As Christ also is the head of the church.”
In other words, you are to submit to your husband as the church submits to Christ. With the same willing heart that the church has in obeying Christ, the wife is to submit to her husband. Now this is a very lofty concept, ladies, and gentlemen as well. I mean, we’re talking about a significant model here. In the same complete non-grudging, joyful way in which the church is to submit to Christ, so you are to submit to your husband.
And then it adds in verse 23, “Being the savior of the body.” We anxiously, joyfully submit to the one who saves us, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. The church gladly submits to Christ. We understand our weakness. We understand His strength. We submit our weakness to His strength in the church and we are to do the same thing in marriage. A woman is to realize that her husband is her protector, her deliverer…that’s what savior means. She is humbly to give herself to that protection, to that care.
And then fifthly, there’s one other component, and we’re going to expand on these so we’re just going through this in an introductory way. The fifth point is the magnitude of submission, the magnitude of it. Verse 24, “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands…and here’s the magnitude…in…what?…in everything, in everything.”
The matter of submission is very clearly indicated here, it’s unarguable, the wife is to submit to her husband. The manner, as unto the Lord. The motive, because it is God’s design to make the husband the head of the wife. The model is the way the church submits to Christ. And the magnitude is in everything, in everything. That’s God’s design.
Now how does that submission work out? What is the character or the nature of that submission? What does it look like?
The best answer to that is to turn in your Bible to Titus and look with me at chapter 2. And we’re going to spend some time here and also in Paul’s writing to Timothy. This is very, very significant teaching. But I want you to notice in chapter 2 of Titus, verses 3 through 5, and I’m going to read it and then we’re going to make some comment on this and some other passages, very, very important. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, not enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands that the Word of God may not be dishonored.”
Now here we come to some very specific instruction. It is given, first of all, in verse 3, to the older women. And the older women are given the responsibility, of course, to live godly lives, to be reverent in their behavior, not to gossip, not to be engaged in drinking wine, not to be a slave to it. But here’s the primary thing you want to focus on for our study, teaching what is good, because that is the transitional statement that takes you into verses 4 and 5. The older women are to conduct themselves in a godly way. After their years of family rearing are over, they then take the role of becoming teachers, mentors. The spiritual quality they maintain in their lives allows them to be the essential influence on the next generation of women. In other words, it takes a generation of godly older women to instruct a new generation of young women.
They are literally to be teachers of what is good. That’s a marvelous word, really, kalodidaskalos, one word. They are teachers of good, or that which is noble, excellent and lofty.
By their lives, by the way they conduct themselves, they are to pass virtue to the next generation of women. The first few words of verse 4 show the important relationship. “That they may encourage…that they may encourage the young women.” That they may encourage, that they may, to put it in other terms, admonish, instruct. It’s a rich word. In fact, the word “encourage” here is a somewhat unique word, sophronizo, and it literally means to train in self-control, to train in self- control. Some have said that it means to steady someone by guidance, to help them to firm up their life. This means to teach someone self-control, self-discipline, sensibility, prudence, all of that. So older women have a great responsibility to teach people, namely young women, to be soberminded, to be balanced, to be steadied by their guidance, to become sensible, to become prudent, to become self-disciplined. All of those English words could translate different forms of that Greek word.
One form of the root of this word is used in 1 Timothy 2 verses 9 and 15 and translated “discreetly and with self- restraint.” You’re teaching them discretion. You’re teaching them modesty, self-restraint. I suppose that takes us right back to where we started, to train someone in self-control. That’s the thought so that young women are sensible, disciplined, wise, discreet and restrained, self-controlled.
Now when it says “young women” we have to ask the question, what age does this refer to? Well, the simple answer is those who are with families, those still able to bear children and still in the process of raising children. Those who are mothers whose children are still under their care.
To further expand this idea of the young women and who they are, turn over to 1 Timothy chapter 5. And we’re trying to be as comprehensive as we can be in this study because of its importance. But in 1 Timothy chapter 5 and verses 9 through 15 is a very, very important section of Scripture. And let me tell you, it has great application to the point we’re making. Verse 9 of 1 Timothy 5, “Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old.”
Now let me stop you right there. We know from the early church that they had elders and deacons and deaconesses. They’re all mentioned in 1 Timothy chapter 3. But apparently here they also had another group of servants in the church, special servants who were godly widows. And apparently they were given some official status and they were put on a list, as verse 9 says, as official servants in the church. They were older women, at least sixty years of age. And they would have a primary responsibility of serving the younger women, of mentoring the younger women. And as there are qualifications for elders, and qualifications for deacons, and qualifications for deaconesses, so there are qualifications for these older women who are to be put on the official servant list for the mentoring of young women. The fact that there are qualifications given here supports the idea that they were serving in some kind of an official capacity. Apparently the early church kept lists of such women.
Their areas of service likely included visiting the church’s younger women, to provide teaching and counseling as well as perhaps visiting the sick and the afflicted and providing hospitality to travelers, such as itinerant preachers and evangelists. They probably had a ministry to children, as well, grandmothering on an extensive basis. By the way, in those days children were often left in the marketplace because their parents didn’t want them. Abandoned boys were often trained to become gladiators. Abandoned girls were taken to brothels and raised to be prostitutes. And it is very likely that widows found such abandoned children, placed them in good homes so they could receive proper care. By the way, if today’s church recognized this and had a group of godly widows with the same preoccupation, its younger women would greatly benefit. God wants those kind of widows to be active in the church, not to be retired from it.
Spiritual enrichment had to pass from one generation to the next, and this is the perfect group of folks to do that. By the way, in ancient times, and I think still today it’s a reasonable figure, the age of sixty marked sort of a period of time when one was consider to retire from activity, engage in philosophical contemplation. Why? Because for the most part child raising was done…it was done. That’s easy to understand. Basically women can bear children into their forties. And then they go through a menopausal period after which they cannot bear children any longer. If women are still able to have children in their early forties, they have by the time reached sixty raised those children, or around the age of sixty. If you are having children in your forties, you’re going to have them till you’re sixty. But after that period of time, women no longer bear children and so the parenting process is ended after they get beyond sixty and that’s when they’re now ready, having done their work as a mother, having raised their children, they’re now ready to pass on to the next generation the proper instruction. It’s unlikely also that women at that age would feel compelled to remarry and so they could give themselves totally to the responsibility of raising a generation of godly young women.
Now the only women who could go on to that list are here defined for us. They had to have been in verse 9 the wife of one man, literally that means a one-man woman. That is they were faithful to their husbands. They were pure and chaste. The qualifications there are very, very clear. It doesn’t necessarily refer to a woman who only had one husband because in this very passage women who were widowed when they were young were told to remarry. And it was not uncommon for men to die frequently in that time of history and a woman might have a number of situations where her husband died and she would be free to remarry. So it’s not talking about just having one marriage partner, but being devoted to the one who was your partner, a one-man woman.
First Timothy 5:14 says, “It’s best if younger widows marry.” And 1 Corinthians 7:39 says, “A widow may marry whom she will, only in the Lord.” So it’s not talking about someone who only had one husband, but rather one who demonstrated complete fidelity to her husband and her marriage relationship had no blemish, she is known as a virtuous and chaste wife.
Then in verse 10, she is to have had a reputation for good works. And it defines them. She is to have brought up children, shown hospitality to strangers, washed the saints’ feet, assisted those in distress, and devoted herself to every good work. This is to be a woman of great virtue who is put on the official list, who is made a teacher in the church. And there are five specifics there that are very much like what we read in Proverbs 31. First, if she has brought up children. She is to have been a godly mother. How can she instruct a generation of mothers if she has not been one? Being a mother is one of the greatest privileges, of course, a woman can have because her influence greatly affects her children’s character. That does not mean that a woman without children is less valuable to God, His plan and design for her is equally important. And in fact, in 1 Corinthians 7, a single person is exalted because he or she can be solely devoted to the Lord. But bringing up children is the norm for most women. And the mother who lives in faith and love and holiness with sobriety, as 1 Timothy 2:15 says, is a model that other women should follow. And she raises a generation of children with those same virtues.
Secondly, she is to be hospitable. She is to have lodged strangers, housed missionaries and travelers, itinerant evangelists, preachers and other Christians who were moving from place to place. She is to have an open life, an open home and open heart. And she is to be known also, verse 10 says, for having washed the saints’ feet. She is to be humble. She’s a virtuous woman. She has raised children. She has demonstrated hospitality. And she is humble. All the roads were either dusty or muddy, depending on whether it was dry or wet, people had to have their feet washed and she would stoop and do the lowliest service of all, washing people’s feet.
She is to have been unselfish, demonstrated by the fact she assisted those in distress. That means she has relieved the afflicted, as one translation says. She speaks of being one who is committed to spending her time on others and not herself and devoted to every good work. She is to be kind…kind, like Dorcas, we read about her in Acts 9, making clothes for people who had none.
Now the woman who lives these virtues becomes the teacher of good things. This is the kind of woman who can teach the young women. Now look further down in this text to verse 11. We’re still in 1 Timothy 5. “But refuse to put younger widows on the list.” This is not a list for young women. Don’t put them on the list. Why? “For when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation because they have set aside their previous pledge.”
In other words, a widow loses her husband, here’s a typical scenario, and she feels terrible. And, of course, it’s a tremendous loss. And in the moment of the loss and in the sadness of it all and in feeling like they’ll never be another man like the one she had as a husband, she says…I’m going to devote the rest of my life to Christ, I’m never going to marry, no one can ever match my husband, I’m going to give the rest of my life to Christ. And she comes and says…Please put me on the list, I’ll be a part of those who serve the church the rest of my life, I don’t want to be married. And Paul says don’t put them on the list. “For when they feel sensual desires,” which are normal for a young woman, “in disregard of Christ they want to get married.” In other words, they will turn against their vow. They will have a strong desire and they’re going to feel the impulses of normal sexual desire…by the way, it refers to a woman’s desire for a man and all that that entails. It’s the only verse in the New Testament where this word is found. It’s found outside of Scripture in an illustration that I found of an ox trying to escape from a yoke. She’ll feel like she’s put a burden on herself, she can’t get out of and she will chafe at that…a widow trying to break out of her rash vow. And then she’ll not only resent her vow but her frustration may lead her to be angry with the Lord. And that is…that is tragic. So you must not put her on the list because of that.
Secondly, don’t put her on the list because of verse 13, “At the same time they also learn to be idle as they go around from house to house.” Apparently that tells us what those widows did. They went around from house to house, mentoring, teaching, grandmothering, instructing. But when a younger widow did that, that turned into idleness, just wandering around.
It may have been motivated initially by the desire to instruct and counsel. But the young woman going around without the maturity and the wisdom of the older women was just collecting a lot of really hot news, feel for gossip. A lot of personal information about people’s lives and homes that didn’t need to be spread, but without the wisdom to know that she becomes a problem. And originally a strong commitment to the Lord becomes at best a social occasion…if not a gossip opportunity. They go around from house to house and are not merely idle, he says in verse 13, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. So don’t put them on the list.
Here’s what I want them to do, verse 14, “Therefore I want younger widows to…what?…get married, bear children, keep house.” That’s it. That’s what it says. I just want them to fulfill their god-given responsibility…get married, bear children, keep house. Can you imagine standing up in the…any university and announcing that as the pattern for women? Get married, bear children, keep house. You’d be a dead duck. But it’s true, I wish I had that platform but no one will give it to me.
Younger women need to remarry so that they don’t struggle with strong desires. They need to remarry so that they don’t just have idle time. They need to bear children, that’s God’s purpose for most women. Losing a husband doesn’t change that. And then he says keep house, or literally rule the house, manage the home. That is always the woman’s sphere if she is married. The husband provides the resources, brings them home and the wife manages them and dispenses them and applies them on behalf of her dear family.
She is also to maintain her godliness so that the enemy is never given an occasion for reproach, for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. She is to maintain a godly testimony. And younger widows who remarry, rear godly children and properly manage the household give no cause for criticism against the church. But women who violate that do. Some of these women wandering around loose without the protection of a husband, without the leadership of a husband, that listen to false teachers, acted according to their lust, spread lies, behaved as busybodies and turned from following Christ.
So, women are considered young when under sixty, isn’t that good? They’re young when they’re still raising children. The older women are given the responsibility to instruct those younger women and to teach them what is absolutely essential. Now let’s go back to Titus and see what it is these women actually teach.
First of all, Titus chapter 2, “Teach or encourage, or discipline the young women…number one…to love their husbands.” That’s one word, philandros. to be husband lovers. That’s right, to be husband lovers. It says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives,” and here it says basically teach the young wives to love their husbands. There is mutual love as mutual submission. Be husband lovers.
This is a command, folks, this is a command and a command demands obedience and assumes the possibility of obedience. In other words, if God commands this, then He assumes that you can do this. Sometimes you’ll hear a woman say, “I don’t love my husband.” And I have a standard response to that, “Well confess that sin immediately, fast and pray and ask God to show you the path of righteousness wherein you can love your husband.” That’s a sin not to love your husband.
You say, “Well I used to love him, you know, when the rockets were going off and the bells and the whistles and all that, but now it’s sort of routine with an occasional bell or whistle.” Well that isn’t what makes a marriage, what makes a marriage is a commitment to love, not to love is a sin. This love is a mature, sacrificial, purifying, caring love. It’s not the love of heated emotion. Obviously after you’ve been married a while you’re not running around like a maniac like you were when you first fell and couldn’t talk, think or control your life. It’s the love of depth and commitment that sees past the flirtatious vision of the person to the depth of their character. It’s a sacrificial love, it’s a purifying love, it’s a commanded love. We’re to teach young women to love their husbands.
That’s the responsibility of the older women, that’s the heart and soul of what enables a woman to submit. It’s so much easier if you love your husband.
Secondly, the older women are to encourage the young women to love their children, to be children lovers, philateknos, philandros, husband lovers, philateknos, children lovers. Be lovers of children, realize that your life is your husband, your life is your children. In fact, remember that 1 Timothy 2:15 says a woman is saved through childbearing. It’s a tremendous truth. Saved through childbearing. Boy, some people have really confused that.
Over in eastern Europe I was amazed to find as I was ministering in Romania at a conference in a question and answer session, I was asked that question about that verse, what does that mean? And I gave the answer, interpreting the Scripture and I found out later that was not the answer that everybody believed but rather what they believed is you could lose your salvation. And one way that a woman could lose her salvation is if she did anything to prevent having babies. In other words, she was able to maintain her salvation by childbearing, and so you had to keep having babies as fast as you were able to have them to sustain your salvation. That’s a rather bizarre theological view. And I’ll tell you one thing, to have me land in Romania and tell them the truth and show them out of the Word of God what that actually meant was a very difficult thing to deal with because you can imagine some woman saying…”What? You mean to tell me I didn’t have to have these fifteen kids to maintain my salvation? Wait till I get to my pastor who told me that.” I mean, that’s a huge thing to awaken to. I mean, I don’t think any of them could look at those wonderful children that God had given them and wish they weren’t there but it sure would cause you to stop and wonder whether there might have been an easier road.
A woman is saved from the stigma of having led the human race into sin, as Eve did. A woman is saved from the stigma of being the weaker vessel by bearing children and raising them in sobriety and virtue and godliness and righteousness. A woman led the human race into sin, and yet it is women who influence children. A mother’s godliness and a mother’s virtue has the most profound impact on the life of her children. The rearing of children through righteousness gives a mother dignity, her great contribution, the great contribution of a woman comes in motherhood. Obviously, as I noted, God doesn’t want all women to bear children but all who do find their fulfillment there.
Thirdly, in Titus, they are to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, to think right. It’s a sad thing when we think about the world in which we live today and how women don’t think right, they can’t think straight, priorities are all fouled up. They’ve lost the ability to make sound judgments. They’ve lost common sense. Something very basic, teach them to be sensible. Teach them common sense. Teach them practical wisdom, discretion, sound judgment. Boy, that’s so important. You know, just having some woman who has gone through life come back and teach you common sense to get you through the issues of life, very helpful.
Number four, teach them to be pure, hagnos, means chaste, virtuous, sexually faithful to her husband in every way. First Peter, remember, says that women are to be preoccupied with who they are not how they look…not how they appear. First Timothy 2:9 and 10 says they are to be attired when they come together modestly and discreetly, with godly fear and sobriety. And modesty carries with it a sense of shame, a healthy sense of shame, a healthy blush. Women in our culture could stand a heavy dose of blushing. So many women today have no thought but that of inciting lust or distracting someone away from pure thought to that which is impure. Women are to be pure, they are to make sure they appear in such a manner that calls attention to their virtue and their godliness and not to themselves. They are to be modest and discreet, demonstrating their godly fear.
He says that they are to be…and this is very, very important…pure. And that has the idea of without blemish. The word “discreet” in the New Testament which is used a number of places speaking of women, such as 1 Timothy 2:9 and 10 and other places, comes from that same term, as I think about it, sophron which means self-control. They are to demonstrate self-control over passion, holiness.
And then number five and now we get down to the nitty- gritty. They are to be workers at home. We’ve dealt with the attitudes of a woman, love toward husband, love toward children, wisdom and purity. Now we turn to the very important issue, the sphere of her responsibility, workers at home,oikour(g)os, literally a house worker. This is the sphere of a woman’s life. It is her domain. It is her kingdom. It is her realm. The word is derived from the word “house” and the word “work.” A house worker. It doesn’t simply refer, by the way, to scrubbing floors and cleaning bathrooms and doing that. It simply connotes the idea that the home is the sphere of her labors, whatever they might be. It is not that a woman is to keep busy all the time at home. It doesn’t mean that she can never go out the door. It doesn’t mean that she’s always to be doing menial tasks. But what it does mean is that the home is the sphere of her divine assignment.
She is to the home keeper, to take care of her husband, to provide for him and for the children, all that they need as they live in that home. Materially, she is to take the resources the husband brings home and translate them into a comfortable and blessed life for her children. She is to take the spiritual things that she knows and learns and to pass them on to her children. She is a keeper at home.
God’s standard is for the wife and mother to work inside the home and not outside. For a mother to get a job outside the home in order to send her children even to a Christian school is to misunderstand her husband’s role as a provider, as well as her own duty to the family.
The good training her children receive in the Christian school may be counteracted by her lack of full commitment to the biblical standards for motherhood. In addition to having less time to work at home and teach and care for her children, a wife working outside the home often has a boss to whom she is responsible for pleasing in the way she dresses and a lot of other matters, complicating the headship of her husband. She is in the danger of becoming enamored by the business world or whatever world she’s in and finding less and less satisfaction in her home responsibilities.
Many studies have shown that most children who grow up in homes where the mother works are less secure than in those where mother is always at home. I think that should be obvious. Her presence there even when the child is in school is an emotional anchor. Working mothers contribute so often to delinquency and a host of other problems that lead to the decline of the family. It’s not that mothers who stay at home are automatically or categorically more spiritual, many mothers who have never worked outside the home do very little in the home to strengthen their families…gossiping, watching ungodly and immoral soap operas and a host of other things can be as destructive as a working mother. But a woman’s only opportunity to fulfill God’s plan for her role as wife and mother is in the home.
Now when children are grown, there is an opportunity for some kind of endeavor outside the home. Certainly that option is viable if it doesn’t compromise her as a woman, it doesn’t compromise the headship of her husband, it doesn’t put her under undue temptation, it doesn’t put her in an environment where she is going to be subject to the actions and the words of ungodly men. It may be that when the children are grown she can work parttime, she can even work full time in an environment which is saliatory(?) to her and which increases her godliness and strengthens her as a wife.
But the home is still her domain. And even widows or women whose husbands have left them are not expected to leave their domain and children to work outside the home. Paul declared this in 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone doesn’t provide for his own and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” And this means to provide not only for his family immediately, but his extended family. If there is, for example, a widow or a woman without a husband by divorce in your family, you should care for her before you force her out to care for herself. If a woman has no husband, no financial resources of her own, the rest of her family or even her children or her grandchildren are to take care of her. They have that responsibility so that she can maintain her responsibility in the family. That’s indicated in the first part of chapter 5 of 1 Timothy. But if she has no one, no male relatives, that 1 Timothy 5 passage says, if she has no male relatives to support her, there might be a female relative who could care for her, according to verse 16. If she has no female relatives, there is nobody to care for her, then the church is obligated to care for her, 1 Timothy 5:16.
The basic premise then is that even a woman without a husband, even a woman who may not have children still has the right to be cared for. I shouldn’t say not have children, but whose children are older, still has the right to be a part of the home.
As He was hanging on the cross, Jesus, during the last moments of His life was concerned about His mother. And what He did in John 19 verses 26 and 27 was give her to John to take care of. Why? Well she was most likely a widow. Joseph had no doubt died before this, Jesus was no longer there to take care of her. His own half brothers did not believe in Him. He turns His mother over to John.
When a woman obviously still has children at home, her primary obligation is to them. If she has no children or they are grown, she has a responsibility to help teach the younger women and share the insights and wisdom she’s gained from her own walk with the Lord. She should invest her time when she’s older and her children are grown not in working in the world, hopefully sometimes that may have to happen, but investing in younger women.
Now I realize having said what I’ve said to you tonight, I’m giving you the standard of Scripture. There are a lot of cases that you could bring up. What about this…what about this…what about this? All I can tell you is what the Bible says, you have to use your own wisdom. There may be a situation where a widow has to be employed because the care of her children is not provided by anybody. And, frankly, most churches don’t come to the aid of these kinds of people. I thank the Lord that our church does in many, many cases.
There may be a situation where your children are in school and without any compromise to your children or your husband, you can do some parttime work. Many women have become very fruitful working out of their own homes and doing that, much like the Proverbs 31 woman.
But the standard is very clear in Scripture. The sphere of a woman’s influence is to be found in the home. The obvious things, of course, are when mothers go to work when they still have children young, even infants, babies, children who haven’t even gone to school yet, living in their home and they abandon them and turn them over to the care of someone else. Even churches sometimes foster that by starting day care centers for children under school age.
Many times women work because they want to maintain a certain economic standard. The sacrifice of children and family for that economic standard is a bad decision.
You say, “What about that woman who is very capable and competent and energized, who has an industrious attitude, who’s a very gifted person? She can take care of her household responsibilities because we live in a day when there’s so many great appliances and you’re not out there on a rock beating your dirty clothes out. We have all of that and she’s got time on her hands, can’t she develop some enterprise?” Of course, that’s what the Proverbs 31 woman did, of course.
The focal point, she provides for her husband expressions of love and care. She provides the same for her children. She leads and guides and teaches her children so that they can become godly children. She is in the home secure and protected and kept from the influence of evil men and potentially wicked relationships. She lodges strangers. She humbly washes saints’ feet. She shows hospitality. She devotes herself to every good work. And that’s her domain.
Obviously this is wondrously accommodated by a godly husband, right? It becomes very difficult when you don’t have a faithful husband. It is at that point the extended family steps in to help. If there’s no extended family to help, at that point the church steps in to help so that having lost a father the children don’t also lose a mother. This is the church’s responsibility.
Vivian Gornik(?), a feminist author, writes, “Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession. The choice to serve and be protected and planned toward being a family maker is a choice that shouldn’t exist. And the heart of radical feminism is to change that,” end quote. Of course. Whatever God says, they want to unsay.
In New Testament times, as in Old Testament times, a woman in a home had to grind flour, bake everything from scratch, launder, cook, nurse and care for children, make beds, spin, weave, keep house, care for guests. And in the same time and with the full energy and commitment devote herself to express her love to her husband, to her children and to God Himself. A tremendous assignment.
You say, “Why in the world does God want women to be so busy?” At the risk of sounding trite, it keeps them out of sin. Proverbs 7:11 gives a startling picture of a harlot. It says this about a harlot. “She is boisterous and rebellious and her feet do not remain at home.” She doesn’t find her home sufficiently fulfilling. She needs something else and that leads her into sin. To most of our society, this is all absolutely ridiculous stuff. And we get so engulfed in this kind of thinking because of the society around us that it may even seem a little strange to us, but this is the Word of God.
Godly women are to be content at home and to be content to love their children and love their husbands and serve their families in their homes and serve the Lord. One of the most wonderful things that the church has ever experienced is the ministry of women. All the tests and the studies and surveys indicate that about 60 percent of all church life is carried…cared for by women. Evangelical churches are populated by women. They say about 37 percent of evangelical churches are men.
The church has always benefited by godly women who work in the home and when they have time they minister on behalf of the church. And as women abandon the home for the world, they also abandon the church.
Now let’s follow along here in Titus. The older women teach the younger women to love their husbands, love their children, be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind…obvious what that means…kind, there again caring for strangers, loving those in need. And then this, “Being subject to their own husbands.” Again that is the same expression as in , “To their own husbands,” not somebody else’s, not some other men. To be subject to her own husband. Why? “So that the Word of God may not be dishonored.” Literally, blasphemeo, that it may not be blasphemed or slandered.
What is at stake here? What is at stake here is the honor of the Word of God. If we say we believe in the Word of God and we say we want to preach to you the gospel of the Word of God and that the Bible has the answers and that Christ is the answer and we stand on the revelation of Christ in the Word of God, but in our daily lives we disobey the Word of God, why should anyone believe that it’s as important as we claim it is? The honor of Scripture is at stake. Even an unbeliever can read these verses. And an unbeliever is more likely to see them at face value. How can you argue with “teach the young women, love their husbands, love their children, be workers at home, be subject to your own husband,” that’s not confusing. That’s what the Bible says. And where there is disobedience, there is a statement being made about the importance of Scripture. And that has devastating results.
Now the whole issue here is evangelistic. This is an evangelistic epistle. This whole epistle to Titus is designed to teach the church how to evangelize the lost. It’s all about that. In fact, in verse 3 of chapter 1, “God our Savior,” verse 4, “Christ Jesus our Savior,” chapter 2 verse 10, “God our Savior,” verse 13, “Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” chapter 3 verse 4, “God our Savior,” verse 6, “Jesus Christ our Savior.” Every mention of God is our Savior, every mention of Christ is our Savior, after the opening salutation. It’s about the saving work of God. And how does the saving work of God go on? It goes on by means of the testimony of godly people. Older men, in verse 2, living a certain way. Older women, in verse 3, living a certain way. Younger women, in verses 4 and 5, living the way God has designed. Young men, verses 6 and 7 and 8, living the way God has designed. Verse 9, servants living the way God has designed, masters living the way God has designed. And as the church lives according to God’s design in Scripture, what happens? The gospel goes forth. Verse 11, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men.” This lays the foundation for the gospel, how we live in the church. The Word of God is at stake. The gospel is at stake.
But down in verse 14, “We have been redeemed from every lawless deed and the Lord is purifying for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Why? So that the Scriptures will be believed. So that the gospel will be accepted.
Back in verse 8 he says, “We’re to live this way to silence the critics.” We are in verse 10, “To live this way to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” Our testimony is at stake. If we are going to reach this world, if we’re going to evangelize this world, these are the principles. And the role of the woman is crucial in this regard.
You have to take these principles and apply them in your own situation prayerfully and carefully. But the principles and the commands are straight forward and clear. If it means changing your life style, change it to obey the Word of God. As a woman, your priority is to God and that means you obey Him. And then your priority is to your husband, and that means you love him and you submit to him. Your priority is then to your children, you teach them, you instruct them, you raise them in godliness and express your love to them. Then your sphere is your home which is your haven, a place of hospitality. And then your ministry in the life of the church. Anything apart from those priorities brings dishonor on God’s Word. It’s that simple. And if we’re going to have an impact in the world, that’s the way we need to live. And may God help us to do that for His glory.
By Dr. John MacArthur