In the Epistle of Paul to Titus, the apostle Paul writes to his disciple and young pastor Titus, giving him directions that deal directly with a pastor’s work in a local congregation. Having first explained the qualifications of elders in chapter 1 and contrasted the differences between good religious leaders (vv. 5–9) and bad religious leaders (vv. 10–16), the apostle then switches to a paraenesis in Titus 2:1-15 on ethical commands and their theological foundation–namely, how the gospel demands believers to live rightly in this world.
As can be clearly delineated in Titus 2:1-10, we see Paul exhorting Titus to call his church to proper Christian living by age and gender. Older men are first addressed, then older women, then younger men, and then slaves in general. In light of the recent uproar of discussions in evangelicalism about gender roles, I took some time recently to examine Titus 2:3-5 to see what the Bible says about biblical womanhood. Let’s read what the text says:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
What the Bible does not say
What is most heart-piercing to many women today are probably the biblical commands to be “submissive to their own husbands” and “working at home”. The value and equality of women to men are often touted as the reasons why they needed to be afforded the same opportunities for educational and career advancement; after all, many argue that it would be a waste to forgo using all these gifts, talents that are useful in the workplace, add to the fact that it’d be a waste to not use all that education that they have spent their money on.
But notice that Paul does not prohibit women/wives working outside of the home (cf. Proverbs 31:16, 18, 24). I know of many wives who carry jobs outside of the home, many even seminary wives, and even some being the primary money-earner while the husband is loving sacrificially by studying hard in seminary. To say that Paul does not permit wives to be in a career that earns money is to put into Paul’s mouth something he clearly does not say at all.
What the Bible does say
What the text does say is that the apostle “Paul expects wives to carry the primary responsibility of the day-to-day care of their homes and children” [[ Ray Van Neste, ESV Study Bible ]] . This is what the command to be “working at home” (2:4) implies practically. Further, this of course is to be done in joyful support of their husbands’ leadership role in the family (hence, “submissive to their husbands”; cf. Eph 5:22-24) [[ Ray Van Neste, ESV Study Bible ]] . The emphasis is on older women helping younger women learn about being godly wives and mothers, viz., displaying a portrait of biblical womanhood.
The reason that women should know, exercise and pass on to the next generation this portrait of biblical womanhood is clear from the subsequent verse: so that “they will not bring shame on the word of God” (2:5, NLT).
Now many have argued that hermeneutically speaking, this is not a universal principle, that this command is culturally bound to the first century and therefore does not apply to us today. (They would even argue that such commands are only given in response to the gospel being shamed by a few extant, misbehaving women in that area, in that time, and thus Paul commanded Titus to avoid causing offense to the gospel.) However, when this section is exegeted properly, one will see that Titus 2:1 roots all of 2:3-5 in “sound doctrine”:
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine
(Titus 2:1, NASB)
Paul’s primary command is to the type of living that corresponds with the gospel–viz., to “sound doctrine”, and not just cultural or localized opinions about how men and women should live. Just as false teachers were prevalent back in Titus’ time, so it is also false teachers are prevalent in our times when evangelical feminism is promoted along with wholly egalitarian views of gender roles. However, the Scriptures clearly remind us that wholesome teaching was especially urgent on account of these false teachers who have wreaked havoc on whole families. And oh how evangelical egalitarianism has wrecked havoc on whole families!
From the beginning, the role and purpose of man and woman have been clearly defined. In Genesis 2:18, we see that Eve was to assist and help Adam in carrying out God’s order to rule and subdue the earth. However, she sinned and failed God when she led Adam to join her in submitting to Satan. Satan deliberately tempted Eve first, not because she was necessarily the weaker of the two, but knowing that God has created a certain kind of order in the home and family–an order in which the man leads, guides, protects, lovingly and sacrificially, and the wife compliments him by lovingly, joyfully, helps, assists, supports, and submits to her husbands work of biblical leadership.
I will close with a quote from Dorothy Patterson, wife of Dr. Paige Patterson (President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary). In chapter 22 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, she writes about the high calling of wife and mother in biblical perspective:
Few women realize what great service they are doing for mankind and for the kingdom of Christ when they provide a shelter for the family and good mothering—the foundation on which all else is built. A mother builds something far more magnificent than any cathedral—the dwelling place for an immortal soul (both her child’s fleshly tabernacle and his earthly abode). No professional pursuit so uniquely combines the most menial tasks with the most meaningful opportunities. …
Many people are surprised to discover how much time it actually takes to run a household and care for a family. Having a career was far easier for me than being a homemaker! None of my former positions required my being on the job twenty-four hours every day. None of my varied professional pursuits demanded such a variety of skills and abilities as I have exercised in homemaking. Automatic, labor-saving devices save much physical work, but increased mobility and multiplied outside activities add to the overall time demands so that the preparation and care of the family shelter are important enough for God Himself to assign that responsibility. Of course, much of the world would agree that being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you are not caring for your own home; treating men with attentive devotion would also be right as long as the man is the boss in the office and not your husband; caring for children would even be deemed heroic service for which presidential awards could be given as long as the children are someone else’s and not your own. We must not be overcome by the surrogacy of this age, which offers even a substitute womb for those so encumbered by lofty pursuits that they cannot accept God-given roles and assignments.
This portrait of biblical manhood and womanhood is not just a matter of personal opinion; this is the God-created and God-given roles. Man and woman both equally valued, both made in the image of God, but with different roles. When it is exercised appropriately in the home and in the family, it is a the beautiful portrait of the gospel–of the covenant love relationship between Christ and His church.