When Jesus first began his ministry in Luke chapter 4, we read that he entered a synagogue in Nazareth and was handed a copy of the book of Isaiah to read from. He then finds Isaiah 61:1-3, quoted in Luke 4:18, and reads, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified” (italics added).
Christ came to “proclaim liberty to the captives,” which includes not only delivering sinners from the bondage of sin, death, and Satan, but opening the prison doors to women who are bound by the lies of this world and don’t even realize it, women who believe the lie that if they limit themselves to the role prescribed to them by God’s word, they will be relegated to a life of insignificance. They will not reach their full spiritual potential. They will not contribute much to advancing God’s kingdom. For women to believe any of that is to fall for the same lie Eve fell for: ‘You can do more and be more if you will reach beyond the purpose and role God has given you.’
God’s Word crushes those lies and is intended to help women become “oaks of righteousness…that God may be glorified.” Oaks of righteousness by believing, embracing, and pursuing the purpose for which God created woman. All people have a purpose in life, a purpose for existing, and they bring the greatest glory to God by embracing and living out that purpose. Humans bring the most glory to God by living the purpose for which they were created (Is. 43:6-7). All Christians bring the most glory to God by living the purpose for which God redeemed them (1 Pet. 2:9). And women bring God the most glory, the highest honor and praise by living the purpose for which they were created; namely, that God created woman to be a helper for man.
Understandably, when many women hear those words, it can sound like women are less significant, as if they are of secondary significance to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. We read in Genesis 1:27 that when God created man and woman, he created them both equally in His image. This means neither is more significant than the other. Thus, when we read in Genesis 2:18 that “the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,’” this does not mean that the man needed the woman because he would burn down the garden trying to make dinner without her, nor does it mean the man is more important because the woman was made a helper for him. It means the world devoid of either male or female is a world that lacks the fullest picture of God’s image. Man possesses certain masculine attributes that are found in God and woman possesses certain feminine attributes that are also found in God (Is. 40:11). Thus, man and woman complement each other to present a fuller more accurate picture of their Creator. This is why it was not good for man to be alone.
It is important to note that the man and woman’s roles of leader and helper are not post-fall. The man was created in a leadership position, and the woman was created in the role of helper. We see in Genesis 2:15-17 that the instructions to “work and keep” (abad and shamar) the garden, and to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is given to the man, not the woman. Eve is not created until much later, after Adam names all the animals (vv.19-20), implying authority. The right to name is the right to govern. So also, Adam names Eve (v.23). Thus, the man is given the responsibility to nurture and protect everything in the garden, which included the woman, and was given the responsibility to teach the woman what God had commanded. Thus, Eve is created as a helper to help Adam do what God had commanded him to do. The woman’s purpose is to help the man fulfill his purpose.
So, what does this look like post-fall? What does it look like today for women to live out the purpose for which God created them? Does this only apply to married women? What about single women? We see from scripture that today men are still given the responsibility to protect the family. Throughout the Old Testament women are never conscripted for war. Only men are. Men are given the responsibility to provide for the family (1 Tim. 5:8). “If anyone does not provide for his [masculine pronoun] relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Men are given the responsibility of teaching God’s word, just like Adam, to their wives and children. In Ephesians 5:25-26 we read, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” and in Ephesians 6:4 we read, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” And within the church, the teaching role of elder and administrative role of deacon is limited to men (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). Thus, while men strive to live out the purpose and responsibility God has placed on them, women are called by God to help men fulfill their purpose and responsibility.
But what does that look like? Namely, that looks like what we see in Titus 2:1-5, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Remember the book of Titus is written to the pastor of the church in Crete, and he reminds Pastor Titus to teach the church “what accords with sound doctrine.” In other words, teach the people, the men and women, what aligns with God’s word, what does not contradict God’s word; namely, that (v.2) “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness,” and that (v.3) “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.” That is, they are to be godly women who are examples to follow, who are submissive and respectful to their husbands (Eph. 5:33) and love their children well. The older women are also to teach the younger women “what is good” (v.3b). But what does that mean? Is Paul commanding older women to teach the younger women anything that is good? If so, “good” by whose standard? Who determines the good things which are to be taught? Biology is good. Math is good. Does scripture command the older women to teach all things which are good to the younger women?
The apostle Paul goes on to specifically list those things which are good, which older women are to be teaching the younger women. “They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to (1) love their husbands and children, (2) be self-controlled, pure, (3) [be] working at home, and (4) [be] kind, and submissive to their own husbands,…” This is what it looks like for women to be helpers to their husbands. These are the things women are to be focusing on to help their husbands fulfill the calling God has placed on their lives. While men are striving to fulfill their biblical role and responsibility of working to provide for the family, studying God’s word to be able to teach it to their family, and ministering within the church, wives are to be loving their husbands and children well, not just physically, not just cooking and cleaning for them, but also helping them spiritually and emotionally, being there for them, being a source of support and encouragement for them, being their most trusted advisor, and being their closest accountability partner.
Women are to be striving to be self-controlled, pure, and kind, i.e., sanctification, the pursuit of holiness. In fact, we are told in both 1 Peter 3:1-2 and 1 Cor. 7:13-14 that the believing spouse, as she pursues holiness in her own life, can have a sanctifying effect and be a means of grace to their husbands and children. I don’t know any wife who would not want her husband to be more holy than he is. Wives can help this by being a source of inspiration for their husbands by pursuing holiness and living out the gospel before their eyes.
They are to strive to be working at home (v.5). That is, they are the ones primarily responsible for keeping the home. Someone has to do this while the men are fulfilling their God-given role and responsibility of working, providing for the family, studying God’s word, ministering within the church, and generally pursuing whatever calling God has placed on their lives. Men cannot fulfill what God has called them to do if they are busy looking after the home as well.
Women are also to strive to be kind and submissive to their husbands (v.5). This is indicative of being a helper. A helper is unhelpful if he or she won’t do what is asked of them. If your boss hired an assistant for you who argued with every order you gave, second guessed your every decision, and murmured about everything you asked her to do, you would likely think this assistant is not very helpful. A helper must be submissive to the one she is supposed to help.
Notice, however, why Paul says this is what women are to be focused on (v.5b), “that the word of God may not be reviled.” So that Christians don’t end up looking like hypocrites. Paul is deriving Titus 2 from his understanding of Genesis 2, his understanding of the God-ordained purpose and role of men and women. When women do not live out their purpose and role and, thus, make it difficult for men to fulfill their purpose and role, in practice they are denying the sufficiency and authority of God’s word in Genesis 2 and make a mockery of Christianity.
This applies to single women as well. This is the purpose and calling of “woman” in her relation to “man,” not just married women, but woman. Single women, in many ways can help the men God has placed in their lives, fathers and brothers, men within the church, their elders and deacons, by lightening their load and ministering to other women.
What is worth noting is that this is what God says older women are to be teaching younger women, to love their husbands and children, to pursue holiness, to be working at home, and to be submissive to their own husbands. It is worth noting that the noun “teacher” never appears in the feminine form in the entire Bible. Didaskalos (male teacher). Didaskale (female teacher). This is because throughout the Bible the responsibility of teaching theology, of teaching God’s word, of teaching God’s people, and of teaching the family lies primarily with men (Titus 1:9; Eph. 5:25-27; 6:4). This is the responsibility God gave to the man in the garden.
What scripture tells women to be teaching is what we see in Titus 2:3-5. Does this mean women can never teach the Bible or teach theology? In certain conditions they certainly can. Sharing the gospel is a form of teaching theology. Mothers are to teach the Bible to their children. Lottie Moon had to teach the Bible to men she led to the Lord. But just because we can, does not mean we should. As Christians, both men and women, we tend to ask the wrong question. We tend to ask, what can we do? When we should be asking, what should we do? For example, can a married family man spend every night of the week at church caring for the church, engaged in prayer meetings and Bible studies? He certainly can. Would these be good things to do? They certainly would. But should he spend every night of the week at church? No! He cannot adequately fulfill his responsibility to shepherd and minister to his family if he is spending every night of the week at church. So also, women can work outside the home. Women can teach theology and teach the Bible. But when the question is asked, what does God say women should be doing? The answer is women should be focused on loving their husbands and children, pursuing holiness, working at home, being submissive to their own husbands, and they should be teaching other women to do the same.
To focus on these things and to teach these things well to other women is how women bring God the absolute and greatest glory. For women to think to themselves, ‘This is simply not enough. If Titus 2 is all there is for me, this is simply not enough,’ is to buy into the lie that Eve fell for—‘You can be more; you can do more if you will reach beyond the purpose and role God has given you.’ Don’t buy into the lie, ladies. You were created with an incredibly important purpose and role by your Creator. Will you be content with that purpose and role or will you murmur against your Creator and reach out your hand beyond that which God has given you? Churches, families, and communities are falling apart, largely because men and women are too busy fighting over the pecking order and our children and churches are getting caught in the crossfire. All people, women included, bring the most glory to God by embracing and living out the role and purpose for which we were created.
*This article has been adapted from a message delivered to the women of Tapestry Community Church (May 6, 2023)
**Photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash
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