"...Speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: ...the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things--that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:1,3-5).
Here is a positive, well-defined place for women to have an active ministry. In our modern western culture, there is little respect or any particular notice given to the older man or woman, unlike the eastern cultures in which this is still important. As we mature, we begin to perceive the value of maturity and experience in a way that our youthful confidence may have prevented earlier. But for those with a heart desiring to hear God, the direction has always been clear in the scriptures. When one begins to walk in obedience to these admonitions, the wisdom and blessings which unfold are remarkable.
To be able to function properly, the older woman's life must be above reproach and an example in every way. She is qualified to admonish the younger women because she has "been there" in the areas she speaks about. She must be "reverent in behavior"--that is, it should be obvious that her life is consecrated to God in every action and attitude she manifests. "Not slanderers" means that she does not find fault with the conduct of others, or spread criticism and innuendos in the church. "Not given to much wine" indicates that she does not indulge herself in excess drink, food, or other physical things. These are all outward expressions by which a younger woman can evaluate the lives of those God gives to encourage her.
The areas in which the older woman is to "teach good things" to the younger are carefully defined and should be kept in mind. Notice some of the things that are not included. Doctrine is conspicuously absent, for that is an area in which a woman "asks her own husband at home," and is the responsibility of the man as head. (This does not excuse a woman for following wrong doctrine if her husband is deceived, for she is still a responsible member of Christ, and He has given her safeguards.) All of what the older woman teaches is to focus the younger woman upon her relationship with her own husband, never to replace or undermine him in any area, lest the "word of God be blasphemed" (spoken evil of) because of her inconsistent behavior.
An older woman who has had a strong marriage and raised godly children is uniquely qualified to come alongside a younger wife and mother and encourage her desire for a deeper love relationship toward husband and children, by sharing the fruits that have come in her own life. Her wisdom should be available to the younger sister who faces struggles in her home, and her experience gives her perception regarding the ways to work out being "discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands..." She is an excellent resource and support for the younger sisters who want to be the "crown" of their husbands (Proverbs 12:4), for her own life sets the pattern.
The older woman is also in the position to encourage unmarried sisters, for she can recognize the needs they have and the concerns they face. They need to be especially aware of being discreet and chaste in all their attitudes and behavior. Much joy can be shared while encouraging them to give their affections and time to loving and serving the Lord.
Being a "Priscilla"
One fascinating woman mentioned several times in the New Testament is Priscilla, the wife of Aquila. Both were probably prominent Roman Jews. Their names are always mentioned together, which can be an indication of their being no longer two, but one in the truest sense. They may have been childless, for no mention is made of their children in the various references to them over the years, and Priscilla worked along with her husband in their tent-making trade. They were well esteemed by Paul, and he spent considerable time in their home, where they seemed to be of one heart and mind with him. They hosted the church "in their house" and served in many ways. At one point they took the bold young preacher Apollos aside "and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:24-28). Read about them in Acts 18:2,18,26; Romans 16:3; I Corinthians 16:19; II Timothy 4:19. Some interesting observations can be made from what is said about Priscilla and the ministry she shared with her husband for many years.
First of all, her ministry was always in conjunction with her husband. Aquila did not seem to be a preacher or unusually strong leader, although his reputation as a Christian is spotless. We see that Priscilla did not outshine him in any way or make a place for herself in Christian service apart from him. She was simply beside him in every area of endeavor, whether having fellowship with Paul, sewing tents, or instructing Apollos. Priscilla probably had a part in the many discussions that took place with Paul, Apollos, and others, but we sense that she was aware of her proper place as a woman and did not lead in the discussions. Paul was used of the Lord to give many instructions to women, and he would certainly not have commended Priscilla and Aquila so highly had Priscilla been insensitive in her conduct. Priscilla gave no indication of having authority over Apollos when she and her husband took him aside, although she likely shared in the "more accurate explanation of the way of God." The Holy Spirit within will be faithful to guide the godly woman in her conversation, giving her many opportunities to encourage others in an appropriate way.
Priscilla had an accurate understanding of spiritual matters and was an active witness. Every believer should be "ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (I Peter 3:15). Every believing woman must have her own personal revelation of the body of Christ, and be able to recognize spiritual authority as it flows within the church. Priscilla and her husband give us a good example of those who are ready and active at all times and in many circumstances to serve and witness for their Lord.
Women have shared in the spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit from the very beginning. Acts 1:14 reads: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." Acts 2:1,4 tells us: "Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place... And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." When the Spirit was given to the Gentiles, there were surely women present and included. Acts 10:24,44,46: "...Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends... While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word... For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God..." Also, throughout the book of Acts we see that women were actively involved in all that God was doing, contributing their physical means and support as well as their presence.
As we look at these accounts, however, we note that women were not the leaders in any public matters. In Philippi, Paul and his companions sought out fellowship and found a group of women who customarily prayed by the river (Acts 16:13). One of them, Lydia, who was baptized with her household, constrained Paul's company to stay in her home. She seemed to be the head of her household and to have her own business, yet we do not sense that she put herself into public prominence. Many women are mentioned and commended by Paul and other writers for many good things, but no mention is made of their being used by God in the public use of spiritual gifts.
In Acts 21:8-14 we see a very significant incident. Paul's company comes to stay in the home of Philip the evangelist, and specific mention is made that he "had four virgin daughters who prophesied." Yet the next verse tells us a certain prophet named Agabus came all the way from Judea with a message for Paul from the Holy Spirit. One might wonder why the Holy Spirit did not use one of the daughters to bring the message, since they also prophesied and they were right there. Would not that have put them into a place of authority and public prominence that we have seen is not in keeping with the special place of the woman? It is very clear that women can prophesy (and exercise other spiritual gifts as well), but they should be very mindful of the place and company in which it is done.
There are many opportunities for women to use spiritual gifts privately, with their families and possibly with other women in limited situations. To some it would seem very natural for a woman who is gifted, attractive, and well qualified to lead to be put into the spotlight because of her abilities, but are our natural abilities ever to be our qualification to serve the Lord publicly? One must know the calling of God to do this, and scripture gives no precedent for a woman being called by Him into public leadership in His church. It is a place of great danger if a woman is drawn out of her place of "modesty and purity" and becomes lifted up into a place of giving spiritual direction to others. She has a full calling from Him, however, to cultivate what He regards as true beauty, "...the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (I Peter 3:4). This is indeed a great trust and a great challenge.