Aged Women, Holy Teachers

November 27, 2016 / No. 3856

Dear Radio Friends,
One last consideration of the virtuous woman. This one pin-points another class of women in the church: the aged women. It is easy for us to overlook the elderly women of the church, since they are finished with raising their children. These women, however, whether married or not, have yet an important function in the church that Scripture everywhere recognizes.
We have chosen to consider one such passage today, Titus 2:3-5: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” The idea that the older saints in the church teach the younger is common in Scripture. The aged psalmist writes in Psalm 71:18: “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” Proverbs 23:22 imparts this point of wisdom to younger men and women in the church: “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” You see, a godly woman who has gone through life has gained much in the way of wisdom. A younger person that is experiencing life as a single, or even as a wife and mother, may think she has a thorough knowledge of life. But she is still learning. The older women of the church have learned and now are able to pass what they have learned to the younger women. So it is necessary to consider the place of the older virtuous women of the church too.
I. Their Behavior
Immediately we must determine who these aged women of the church are. The first reaction of most women, unless they are in their 70s or 80s, is, “Well, I guess this category of women in the church excludes me!” I am not old. I am not an aged woman. Perhaps, then, the best way of understanding who these aged women are is to consider the elders who are called to rule in the church. It is striking that the Greek word that describes the elder as a presbyter is the same word used here to describe the aged women of the church. The word presbyter means elderly one, a senior, one advanced in years. Or, as we might say, an older person—not an old person, mind you—but an older person in the church. Those men appointed by the church to be elders are appointed because they have experienced much of life. At the same time, elders are not so old that they wane in strength and are unable to put much time and energy into the church. Elders are able to work actively in the church while making wise decisions. Well, this is the same term used for aged women in Titus. They are older women who have served their families and church in their youth. They are beyond middle-aged years and now entered into their senior years, yet have plenty of strength to be useful in the church. I know that women who have reached this time of their lives do not like to be called aged. The term makes them sound old. But the word “aged women” used by Paul here in Titus does not mean that such women are so old and decrepit that they have little life left in them.
The behavior of these women in the church is given us in verse 3: it becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things. The chief characteristic of older women is behavior as becomes holiness. Holiness. The term used here should be translated “sacredness.” This means that aged women must reveal behavior that is not secular or profane, but respectable and reverent. She must reveal by her walk of life that she is a woman that fears God. We have already pointed out in our past broadcasts that a virtuous woman is a godly woman—a God-fearing woman. Well, this must show itself in the way that she conducts herself in the church. She is not loud, gaudy, and profane as are the wicked women of this world. But she conducts herself in a way that gains for her respect and honor. The term sacred actually makes reference to the work of the priest and Levite in Israel. Their office entailed sacred obligation toward God, performing a duty of purity dedicated to the cause of God. So also must it be true of the saintly women in the church. They must be dedicated to the cause of the Lord. They must speak as such and conduct their lives as such. When others in the church observe their behavior they will hold such women in high esteem and respect them in their service of God. Their lives will be that of purity and holiness. They will show their own personal dedication to the cause of the church and those in it.
This will, in turn, show itself in these concrete ways: they will not be false accusers, that is, slanderers. They may not tell lies about others. But more, they may not be gossipers or backbiters. They may not spread rumors about others, whether true or untrue. This must be true of every one of us, but Paul emphasizes this especially with respect to aged women. Why this sin? Because this is a sin in the church that can destroy the church from within. Slander and gossip ruin the peace and the beauty of the church of Jesus Christ. While men may be busy in their labors, women in particular are given more of an opportunity to be busybodies in other people’s matters. They are more apt, given their particular position in the church, to sit with one another and allow the conversation to drift into the way of gossip. The older women of the church must not be given over to this sin. They must be godly examples to the younger women of the church. Indeed, if they are to behave themselves as becomes holiness, that is, in a way that demands of them the respect of others, then they must watch their tongues.
A second sin of which they ought not be guilty is that they must not be given over to much wine, or literally, they must not be enslaved to wine. This does not forbid them from drinking wine, quite obviously. There is no sin in drinking wine. Wine was and still is a common drink. But as is true in our culture, so also in that culture, there were many who drank too much wine or were enslaved to wine. They could not get together with others without the wine flowing freely. Then, when too much wine was imbibed, their tongues were loosed. When their tongues were loosed, they began to speak vainly and loudly. They said things that were unholy and inappropriate. They did things that were inappropriate because they had a buzz. They were not thinking soberly. Paul instructs the elderly women of the church that this may not characterize them because it is not that which becomes holiness. It was the opposite. Neither would they be respected and looked up too as a godly example. Surely, if the church expected the younger women to be free of this sin, so also must the aged women be free of this sin.
On the other hand, they must be teachers of good things. This was behavior that became holiness: teach good things. A teacher. Did you know that of yourselves, older women? You are teachers. Whether you want to be or not, you are teachers. The younger women, and even the younger men, look at your behavior and they learn from you. If you are loud, slanderous, given to wine, you are teaching the generation to come to be such too. You are teaching them the way of unholiness, just as well as elderly men who do this. The next generation watches you and will learn from you their behavior and will carry it one step farther. This is why you must be teachers of good things, that is, of noble and excellent things. This refers to godly behavior in the church, first of all. You must, by your very behavior, be an example of godliness. You must exhibit by your actions the fear of God, the love of God, the love you have for His church and His people. By this you will teach good and godly things to those who follow you in the next generation.
But noble and excellent things are also the outward behavior that becomes holiness. You must lead a good and orderly life. You must live a quiet and peaceable life in your home. You must show honor and respect toward your husband. You must be clean. You must be mannerly. You must be organized, in order by your very respectable example to show this to the generation to come. Then you are a teacher of good things and behave yourself in a respectable and reverent way.
II. Their Instruction
What will you teach? What is the instruction you are called to give? This is found in verses 4 and 5 of Titus 2. You must teach “the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, and obedient to their husbands.” There is a lot to teach, is there not!
But, before we get into this instruction, a word needs to be said to younger women in the church. The older women of the church are your teachers. You may not take the attitude: 1) that these women no longer are relevant to you in your lives. They have forgotten how to deal with what you are dealing with right now. Older women have not forgotten anything. They remember because they had to deal with children too. They remember because they were single women at one time too. And 2), mothers and grandmothers do not understand what life is anymore. Their generation did not have to confront what we do now. What they did to raise children then is no longer applicable to the way we raise children today. We know so much more than they did.
Solomon says there is no new thing under the sun. Older women have indeed experienced everything you have. They have been given wisdom through all of their experiences. They know a whole lot more than you do! They know, and have now been given wisdom by God, how to deal with the problems we confront. And we need to listen to them. That is our calling. Otherwise, the instruction given to aged women in our text is invalid. Within the realm of the church, where we have been given mothers and grandmothers to teach us, their instruction must be utilized. This is the place of elderly women in the church. And this is their prayer: “O God, forsake me not until I have showed thy strength unto this generation and thy power to every one that is to come!”
So then, here is what they must teach the younger. The young women in general, whether single or married, must be taught to be sober, discreet, and chaste. The word sober, as we well know, means the opposite of drunk. But here and elsewhere in Scripture it points to more than merely not given to much wine. It is true, younger women too, as must be true of their husbands, are poor witnesses of the life of Christ in His people when they are known for their “drinking.” Neither in single life nor in married life must they be given to wine or strong drink. There is nothing uglier than a woman who walks about with the smell of alcohol on her breath. By the soberness of the elderly women in the church they must be taught godliness. That must be seen in the young women of the church.
But more. They must be known for sober thinking. Those who are given to strong drink do not think straight. Their mind and their conscience is clouded, and they say and do things that are foolish and often sinful. Elderly women must teach young women of the church to think straight, that is, to use God’s Word to direct their ways in this world. Young, unmarried women must be taught this before marriage. Then married women must be taught this for the sake of their home and family. Likewise, they must be taught to be discreet. This word means self-controlled, moderate in all things, disciplined. Again, both single and married young women need to be taught this virtue, especially in today’s world that is given to instant gratification, selfishness, self-indulgence. Self-discipline is sorely lacking in today’s world, and oftentimes this is true in the church too. The aged women ought to teach younger women by example and word to be discreet. And younger women need to accept this instruction of older women. Finally, to be chaste. In speech, in actions, and in dress. We need not get into this, since we already spoke in an earlier broadcast about the adornment of a virtuous woman. But this too must be taught our younger women by the elder women of the church, specifically by mothers and grandmothers who remind the younger generation of the modesty that is befitting a virtuous woman.
Then there is also the instruction that elderly women in the church must give to young married women to love their husbands and children, to be keepers of the home, good, and obedient to their husbands. We are not going to go into each one of these in detail either, since we learned of these too in earlier broadcasts. But there is one thing that presses itself on us in all of these: aged women must by example and word teach the younger married women to throw their all into their families. We cannot stress it enough: the home and family are the most important unit in life. There is nothing better than life in the family. And the wife and mother make it such! She must devote herself to her husband and children and love them—love them more than possessions and careers. Love them more than the world around her. She must give of herself freely to home and family, sacrificing her all to make her home happy and satisfying. And mother and grandmothers in the church must teach this to the generation of women to come. A genuine love for home and family must be impressed on young women by the older women of the church. Let the daughters of the church see and hear from you, older women, your love for, and the glorious fulfillment you have found in, your homes. Show them the good you have shown to your own families. This does not leave out those women of the church who are older but unmarried. You too have so much to offer in the way of wisdom to the younger generation of women. You too have much in the way of sage advice to pass on to them. And younger women ought to learn to take heed to you too.
III. Their Honor
The honor that belongs to the aged women of the church is found in the last phrase of verse 5: that the Word of God be not blasphemed. So, so much depends on the women of the church. The world is watching the church and the way she conducts herself in this world. The wicked watch to see what kind of men and women are produced by the church. This task falls largely on the shoulders of women. The world will judge the church of Jesus Christ to a great extent by the behavior that the gospel produces in its women. If you fail in the tasks given in these verses, women of the church, the Word of God and the gospel will be blasphemed. The world will mock the church for her inconsistencies and her failure to produce members that are godly and upright. The scorn of the world will be leveled at the church.
God’s Word says here that the blame for God’s Word being blasphemed will lie on you, young women of the church. Quite the burden? No! Not at all! Quite the challenge! Work hard in the church to show yourselves approved of God. Show your godliness by your works! Live in faith and the grace of God that bringeth salvation. Then the world cannot blaspheme, but the church will shine forth in the beauty of God’s holiness! That is how honorable is this task you perform for the church.
But then, you young women must honor the aged women in the place God has given them in your lives. Do not push them aside as if they do not understand. They do. Do not dishonor them by ignoring them. Honor them by respecting their place in your lives. Listen to the wisdom they can pass on to you. That is the order God has established in the church. And, elderly women, embrace your place and do the church well. You are highly honored too. We thank God for the God-fearing women of the church. Shine for us! The world will see your witness and God’s name will be praised.