Women of Excellence
Scripture: Titus 2:4–5
Women of ExcellenceTitus 2:4-5
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith
What is the model for young ladies today? What type of women should they seek to become? What is their role in society? What makes them successful? Where should their priorities be?
Up until this generation, most young ladies had answers to these questions. But with so many social changes taking place in the past few decades (not all of them being bad) more than ever young women are adrift, lost in a crisis of identity.
Does beauty have greater value on the outside or the inside? Where does marriage and childbearing come in? Is sex before marriage and the termination of a pregnancy to be encouraged? Are women's roles from yesteryear outdated? How should a lady dress? Is it important for a woman to be feminine? Should a woman pursue a career? What were the pros and cons of the women's liberation movement?
Millions of girls are asking these and many more questions often seeking answers in all the wrong places. Whether it is in the classroom or the boardroom or the chatroom or the courtroom, solutions are being proposed that are leaving women confused, depressed and unsatisfied. And the pain continues as these dear young ladies march through life programmed by the world, forced into a mold of deception.
Is there an ideal standard? Is there a right way to go? Whose approval matters most? How can a young lady be a woman of excellence?
I have specifically chosen that terminology because it described the character of a young woman praised in the Bible by the name of Ruth. She catches our attention as a model of womanhood. Many noble women are mentioned in the Bible, but only Ruth is specifically said to be virtuous. People took notice of her character. It was said to her, "Now, my daughter, do not fear…for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence" (Ru. 3:11). What made her so special?
If we study the life of Ruth, we see a direct correlation when we compare her with the well-known picture of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31. Both were diligent and delightful in their work. Both were dedicated to godly speech. Both dressed with great care and were discreet with men. Both were dependent on God. Both delivered blessings to all with whom they came into contact, starting first with their own families.
Now that does not sound like too many ladies today! For a woman of excellence as seen through the eyes of God and others who appreciate true beauty is extremely rare. That is why Proverbs 31 reads, "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels" (Pr. 31:10).
Such women who pattern their lives following the principles of Scripture are praised by their families (Pr. 31:28-31) and found stunning in the eyes of God. Their virtue contributes to their beauty and to their value. As Woodrow Kroll once said, "A life without virtue is a life without value" - A value far above jewels!
We must return to developing women of excellence and rediscovering God's high calling for ladies.
So with young women looking everywhere for answers, maybe it is time we direct them to the Word of God. And if we choose to turn to one place for these answers, there is no greater place to turn than Titus chapter 2. As one woman said, "This passage cuts through all the clutter and shows women how they are to achieve success."
So this morning I would like to present God's definition of a beautiful woman, a woman of excellence. And while this sermon is specifically addressed to young ladies, it has application for all of us. Older women must know this material as it is their responsibility to instruct the younger women in this regard. Married men should recognize these traits in their wives and praise them accordingly. And single men should only pursue single women that manifest these characteristics. This material has implications for all of us. Therefore I encourage all of you to pay close attention this morning.
Before we examine the seven traits for a godly young woman, I would like once again establish the context. Titus was left on the island of Crete to appoint elders. The elders were to invest much of their energy instructing the older men and older women in the church. Because of their spiritual maturity and life experience the older folks have a PhD in discipleship. Therefore they were to teach the younger folks of like gender, issues pertaining to character and biblical roles. And much of this discipleship was to be done through informal interactions and example - Life on life we could say.
Last week we discussed the value of our senior saints. We talked about six character traits that should identify an older man and four that should identify an older woman. The final trait in verse 3 for women was that they were to be "teaching what is good." The purpose for their teaching what is good is found in the beginning of verse 4 "so that they may encourage the young women."
So it is the older woman's responsibility to come along side, to train, to admonish, to spur on, literally, to make sound-minded these younger women. In the context (verse 3) the older woman is not to waste her time gossiping or deadening the pain of loneliness through alcohol, but rather to be involved in the lives of the younger, teaching them good. Specifically, the content of this good teaching is outlined in verses 4-5. With the assistance of the older women, these are the character traits that young women should seek to develop. This is what gives a young woman purpose and joy. This is what makes a young woman beautiful in the sight of God and others who have their senses trained to appreciate true beauty.
A strong disclaimer before we begin. While much of this material is sensitive, it is not my intention to be confrontational. I only wish as your pastor to faithfully present the whole counsel of God as it is found in the Scriptures. Additionally, my goal this morning is to primarily address the young ladies. That does not mean that the young men are exempt from any responsibilities themselves. I just wish to cover the young ladies alone this week and then the young men alone next week.
So as we begin the seven specific characteristics, I want you to immediately see where this list both starts and ends. A virtuous woman first and foremost, second in her relationship to the Lord, is to nurture her relationship with her spouse. Functioning as bookends to this list, she is to love her husband (middle of verse 4) and (middle of verse 5) she is to be submissive to her husband.
Please allow me to be clear. While so many ladies are looking all over the world to attain success, her greatest achievement is a successful marriage. While so many ladies are serving in the church, her greatest ministry is the one toward her own husband. Though it is not politically correct - beyond her career, beyond her friends, beyond her church, beyond her children and even beyond herself - Her highest priority should be her relationship with her spouse.
First, Paul says that women are "to love their husbands." When I first read this I thought how sad it is that women must be commanded to love their husbands. It was obviously a problem when this letter was written 2,000 years ago, and it is still a problem today. What should come naturally and instinctively needs to be relegated in the Word of God to a command.
As you know, divorce is at an all-time high. Many current marriages are just two adults cohabitating, wishing they could split, but painfully holding things together, simply existing for the children or financial, social and/or religious reasons.
But Scripture is clear. Marriage is a lifetime obligation that is vowed before God. And love is not merely feelings or emotions, but a determined effort to sacrificially place the needs of someone else above one's own regardless of the actions or response of that individual. You will recall we covered this concept as we slowly worked our way through 1 Corinthians 13.
Women, you are to love your husbands. No caveats are provided. So ladies, even if you husband is uncaring, ungrateful, unfaithful or unlovable, you have a responsibility to love your husband. Your actions are not reactive to his worthiness, but in obedience to the Lord's command moved solely by His grace to do what at times will appear impossible.
Ladies, God has poured His love into your hearts. From Him you have received love that is undeserved, unconditional and unmerited. God wants you to love your husband in the same way. In doing so, you will show the world that you have received God's love, you appreciate God's love, and you are able to extend God's love to others. Ladies, this must begin with your husband!
In addition to loving their husbands, women are also called in verse 5 to be "subject to their own husbands."
This is a delicate issue and difficult to briefly unfold this morning without confusion. I encourage you to join our adult Sunday school class as we are discussing this very topic in further detail.
The command, though abbreviated here, is mentioned five times in the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). Submission literally means, "to arrange under" (hupotasso). Submission reveals God's desire to have order in the home. Submission flows from the biblical reason for marriage that our marriages would be a mirror to reflect Christ's marriage with His bride, the church (Eph. 5:32). That is why we read in Ephesians 5:24, "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything."
Possibly a few comments of clarification will be of assistance:
Submission is not a bad thing. The Bible commands children to submit to parents (Eph. 6:1; cf. Lk. 2:51), employees to employers (Tit. 2:9), churches to elders and deacons (Heb. 13:17) and citizens to the government (Rom. 13:1). Even Christ submitted Himself to the Father (1 Cor. 11:3).
Submission does not imply inferiority. We are not talking about essence, but function - not value, but responsibility. For "there is neither…male nor female; for…are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).
Submission does not suggest a woman is less talented, less spiritual or less educated. In my experience (especially in my own home) oftentimes the woman exceeds her husband in all these categories! Submission is simply God's design to provide responsibility and order and direction within the home.
Submission does not mean a woman cannot make suggestions, give advice, correct opinions, share fears or disagree with her husband.
Submission does not mean a wife is unable to use her gifts and abilities.
Submission does not mean a woman should submit to her husband in anything that violates the Lord's will (Col. 3:18).
What is submission? It is the voluntary act of the woman whereby she places herself under her husband's headship in an act of obedience to God (Eph. 5:22). The goal of submission is that a wife would not compete with her husband (Gen. 2:18), but rather complement him as a teammate so she can better focus her energies to fulfill her high calling.
I know these biblical roles for marriage have been abused. But when a woman submits to her husband with cheer and respect and a man loves his wife as Christ loves the church, you will always witness a fulfilling, unified and God-honoring marriage. It is a marriage that produces joy for both partners, peace for the children and a tremendous testimony for the gospel.
Next in verse 4, Paul says that women are "to love their children." Again as before, loving one's children is a command. It is not based on the attitude or response of the child.
And as any mother can tell you, this responsibility, though very rewarding, is very challenging and very exhausting. From personal testimony, the extended times I have watched my children alone, especially when they were little, have been far more demanding than anything I do at the church. Whether in the workforce or not, every Christian mother is a working mother. Praise God that He places in a mother's heart a nurturing and tender love for her little ones. We need hard working moms that shower us with love. I can't imagine where we would be without them!
The hardest thing for me in the recent death of my mother was the thought that she wouldn't be around anymore. It was hard to imagine a day without the woman that was with me everyday of my life. Through action and word she always affirmed the fact that even if the whole world turned against me, mom would always be in my corner. An advocate, an instructor, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on - Where would we be if it weren't for loving mothers? Praise God that He places a special love for children in the heart of a woman.
We should be thankful for the women at the Grace Tabernacle who make their husbands and their children their top two priorities.
Next in verse 5 we read that young ladies are to be sensible. This character trait has been completely lost, obviously deemed unimportant in today's society. Is it important in the Lord's mind? In 1:8 we find it as a requirement for elders. In 2:2 older men are called to be sensible. In 2:3 it is implied that older women are to be sensible. Here it is addressed to younger women (2:5) and in 2:6, Titus is to urge the young men to be sensible.
Last week we said that being sensible is to manifest a prudent and self-controlled spirit. Sensible people demonstrate wisdom and discernment. They are people led by the Holy Spirit and not by the flesh.
Specifically, a sensible young woman is one who makes wise commitments, manages her finances well and brings reason and peace to personal conflict. She avoids living by her feelings and emotions. She restrains her passions. She acts and thinks based upon biblical principles.
In addition to being sensible, a mental responsibility, young women have a moral responsibility to be pure. The King James Version translates this word "chaste." That is the same word we read in 1 Peter 3:2 that calls women to demonstrate "chaste and respectful behavior."
Young women are to be morally innocent. They should be pure in their speech - A tone that is gentle, words that are wholesome. They should be pure in their conduct with men - Boundaries established that show utter devotion to their husband. They should be pure in their thought life - Peaceful thoughts about others, clean thoughts about men. They should be pure in their dress - Is it too high, too low or too tight that attention is drawn to oneself and not their Lord?
Now this is the extent of my instruction on this subject. If you think I plan to analyze a woman's dress and then speak to her about purity, you have another thing coming! I am called to be pure as well (cf. 1 Tim. 5:2) and I can live just fine without this added temptation! So who is responsible to help the younger ladies in this area? Remember our context? The mature older women who are to be teaching what is good! And might I add, the more these young ladies are taught to love their husbands the more success they will have in this area of purity.
Next, women have a domestic responsibility (I couldn't think of another "m" word!) to be "workers at home" (cf. 1 Tin. 5:14). Other versions say, "busy at home" (NIV) or "keepers at home" (KJV). Basically the command here is for a woman to make her home her priority. As opposed to the false teachers who were ruining whole families (Tit. 1:11), a woman's prime responsibility is to cultivate a healthy home. Proverbs 14:1, "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands."
And though often done unwittingly, the clear violation of this principle by women is destroying the American family. Through the neglect of Scripture, women are destroying their own home. The statistics I read this week clearly support this conclusion. But more persuasive is just a quick glance at the health of the typical family in our culture.
The unknown poet rightly said:
I do not ask for mighty words
To leave them all impressed,
But grant my life may ring so true
My family will be blessed.
The Bible calls young ladies to be "workers at home." Now I am sure that some of you would like me to establish certain concrete parameters. I do not intend to do that this morning. This is ultimately a heart issue, and I care not to be the Holy Sprit in your life. Though we may wish to make this a black and white debate, it is not because many factors need to be considered.
Some Christian women in the Bible worked (Pr. 31:24; Ac. 16:24). The presence and age of your children is a consideration. The financial needs of your family come into play as well. Bottom line women: Are the needs of your home being met? Are strangers spending more time than you raising your little ones? Is your standard of living too high? Does your career take precedence over your home?
And lest I only pick on working moms, I have heard of ladies so devoted to helping others outside of the workforce (much of it even good) that they violate this principle as well. Likewise I have heard of women who are always home, but their family is not their highest goal because their heart is elsewhere.
Overall, I hope you see by now how much God cares for the family! And God puts such a high value on the family that He has assigned someone to make the home their number one priority. Ladies, you should be honored that God has chosen you! Young women please do not listen to the world. There is no substitute for a mother's time and investment in her children. This is your sacred calling from God. The next generation is counting on you. Men win the bread, but you ladies have a far greater responsibility and a far greater opportunity to make a difference.
They say that man is mighty; He governs land and sea,
He wields a might scepter on lower parts than He.
But mightier power and stronger, Man from his throne is hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world!"
While instructing other women on this passage, one woman said, "Our culture thinks that the victims are those whose priority is their home. Don't they? But the true victims are those who've been mislead about being set free from God and the home" (Pennington, Home is Where the Heart is, 2003 Shepherd's Conference).
According to Greg Laurie, "Tragically, in today's self-centered, 'anything goes' culture, these family dynamics are sorely missing. Instead of being seen as a gift, children are seen more as an inconvenience. Parenting is often perceived as burden instead of a blessing. Now more of the secular press is picking up on the failure of the Great 'social experiment' of the 60's to the present day, where society sough to do away with the family as we know it - even questioning the wisdom of both parents working and leaving the children in daycare. This culture is to see what the Bible has said all along: children need their parents. They need their constant input, encouragement, discipline and leadership. They may resist it at the time, but they will thank you for it later."
John MacArthur said, "The home is where a wife can provide the best expressions of love for her husband. It is where she teaches and guides and sets a godly example for her children. It's where she's protected from abusive and immoral relationships with other men and where, especially in our day, she still has greater protection from worldly influences… The home is where she has special opportunity to show hospitality and devote herself to good works. The home is where she can find authentic and satisfying fulfillment as a Christian and as a woman" (MacArthur, Titus, p. 87).
One lady sought to take out an ad in the local newspaper to seek childcare. Eventually she drew the following conclusion: "My carefully worded advertisements for childcare literally came back to haunt me. I wanted someone who would encourage my children's creativity, take them on interesting outings, answer all their little questions and rock them to sleep. I wanted someone who would be part of the family. Painfully after really thinking about what I wanted for my children and rewriting advertisement after advertisement I came to the stunning realization that the person I was looking for was right under my nose. I had desperately been trying to hire me" (source unknown).
Finally, the text says that women are to be kind. In the context this especially applies to their attitude with their husband and children. In addition to being productive workers in the home (Pr. 31:27), they are to clothe their actions with kindness (Pr. 31:26). In showing this fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), young women should be gentle, sympathetic and considerate. In 1 Timothy 2 the Bible elevates a woman's true beauty when she excels in kind deeds over external appearance (1 Tim. 2:9-10).
So much of this teaching from Titus 2 is lost today. What are the consequences if we choose to ignore this instruction?
Harvard University sociologists developed a test (which proved to be 90% accurate) to determine whether five and six year olds would become delinquent. They concluded that four primary factors are necessary to prevent delinquency: #1. The father's firm, fair and consistent discipline. #2. The mother's supervision and companionship during the day. #3. The parent's demonstrated affection for each other and for the children. #4. The family's spending time together in activities where all participated.
Wow, that sounds like our sermon this morning! We don't need these secularists to tell us what has been in the Bible for 2,000 years. We already learned from Titus 1:9 that the Word of God is "faithful." As a loving Father, God only wants our best and provides that instruction in the Scriptures. When we follow God's Word we have blessings. When we foolishly ignore it, we bring heartache and failure into our own lives.
But moreover, when we ignore God's Word, we bring more than our own destruction. The Scripture says at the end of verse 5 that young women are to love their husbands and children, be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind and subject to their own husbands "so that the word of God will not be dishonored (blasphemeo)."
Please understand, what happens in the home as a result of a woman's obedience to this text is a powerful tool to either hinder or help the progress of the gospel. No wonder Satan has attacked the role of woman since the time of Creation. And I would say that he is currently shooting his fiery darts today in all the right places.
Did you ever wonder why younger women have the longest list of the four groups mentioned in Titus 2? I believe it is because they have the greatest responsibility, the greatest influence on the next generation, and the greatest potential to bring glory to the Word of God.
So for your own joy and the honor of Scripture, I encourage you young women to carefully follow these seven instructions. Don't settle for tin when God wants to provide you with gold! Be a woman of excellence!