Discipleship of Women

Last week I didn't go through the chapter phrase by phrase because I wanted you to have a framework within which to understand it. Those were the fundamentals of discipleship. We saw first that discipleship must avoid two forms of legalism. The first form is to impose our opinions rather than allowing Biblical doctrine to define discipleship. The second form of legalism is to think that we can keep God's laws in our own strength.

The second thing we covered last week was the methodologies involved in discipleship. And I grouped the various methods under speaking methods and modeling methods. Then thirdly, we looked at the two goals of sound thinking and sound living.

Today, I want to go back to the beginning of the chapter and work our way through the passage verse by verse. I'm going to leave out the role that ruling elders and teaching elders have because I think we spent plenty of time on that. But let's start at verse 2.

That the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience. The first important thing to notice is that the Greek word used for older men in this verse is different from the word used for ruling elders in the previous chapter. These are not elders. These are older men. And I've got a little text box in your notes that goes into the different Greek words.

But all through the Old and New Testaments God wanted the younger to honor, respect and learn from the older. This is God's general pattern. Even though a husband and wife are to leave their parents and to cleave to their spouse, that does not mean that their parents and their grandparents no longer have a role to play. Nor does it mean that other older people do not have a role to play. The Old Testament incredibly honored the role of the elderly, and it is foolish for us to never seek their advice or input.

Now I do need to clarify, that not all older people have this position of discipleship. The Old Testament speaks of fools who though older in years, are not truly older in maturity. And it actually uses a different term for them. And that's why Paul can't assume that any older man or any older woman will be involved in discipleship. He has already ruled out several men in the previous chapter. He said that their mouths must be stopped. And in 1 Timothy 5 Paul rules out some older women and says that they too are disqualified from teaching. So we're not talking about a sentimental attitude toward the elderly where we think they are all sweet. Some older people are ornery cusses — they aren't sweet. Thus the need for qualifications. If the older people have these qualifications, then they are a resource indeed. And they should not be shuttled off to irrelevance in a nursing home. Some of the best years of our lives come after age 50 (which is what Irenaeus, an early church father, said qualified for older men). So I guess this coming May I'm going to be an older man. Although some people say, based on 1 Timothy 5, that you're not older till you are sixty.

So let's look at these qualifications: verse 2 says that they need to be sober. And the Greek word (νηφαλιους, nephalious) is often literally sober — not intoxicated with wine. But the dictionary also says, "also figuratively indicating complete clarity of mind" (NIDNTT). So there is a moral connotation of not being drunks, but there is also a mental qualification of being clear headed, and not senile. And in some cultures this was necessary to say because they so honored the elderly that even when it was embarrassing because of the lack of logic, people went along with the older person's demands. And Paul says, "No. We are not talking about blindly submitting to unsober advice simply because of the call to honor the aged." There's qualifications, and you need to make sure that the person is not so doped up with drugs or so senile that he will do more damage than good.

The next word (σεμνους, semnous) is reverent. The dictionary says "serious, grave, dignified, majestic, respectable." So if you have a grandfather who has nothing but foolishness coming out of his mouth — sure, you will want to respect him, but you're not going to be letting him influence your children or others in the church. He's not dignified enough to disciple.

The next one (σώφρων, sophron) — temperate — means to have a sound mind. It can have derivative meanings of being prudent, sensible, self-controlled, but it's basic meaning is to have a sound mind. If I get senile, I hope you will treat me with dignity. But it is time for me to drop out of discipleship and teaching. Paul is just being practical. He's very practical.

And then come three words that are modified with the word "sound." They must be sound in faith, love and patience. In other words, they must be sound in their responses to God, to people and to circumstances. In their attitude toward God, sound in faith — living by faith and walking by faith. In their relations to people, sound in love. Neither sentimental, nor cold, but having a love defined by Scripture. In their relations to circumstances, sound in patience. And let me tell you — when you are involved in discipleship you need all three. The difficulties of working with people may make you doubt God's ability to change them — they just seem hopeless. But faith gets you through those doubts. Your love may be tempted to wear thin with the tough nuts out there, but God gives an agape self-sacrificial love. And instead of giving up on people, you will endure or have patience.

Verse 3: The older women likewise. He throws in the word "likewise" to conserve on words. And he does it again down in verse 6. Both men and women will need to have similar character qualities. On the first one: that they be reverent (ἱεροπρεπης, hieroprepēs) in their behavior, Hendriksen says, "In their entire bearing (hence, not only in their dress, 1 Timothy 2:9) as well as in their deportment, aged women must be reverent, conducting themselves as if they were servants in God's temple, for such, indeed, they are!" So not goofballs.

Next, not slanderers. The Greek word (διαβόλους, diabolous) means adversarial or slanderer. A person who likes to pick fights or who is a scandal teller will not be trusted by those that need discipling because their issues will be spread all over the church. They have to have integrity of speech.

Next phrase: Not given to much wine. Again, this is not just saying "not drunk," but not given to much wine. They need to be moderate. They need to have self-control.

Then finally, teachers [or "disciplers"] of good things. Last week we saw that discipleship was a one-on-one process of imparting the life of Christ from one person to another by way of speaking and modeling.

Verses 4-5 show what kinds of things the older women will be discipling the younger women into, and there are four things that I want you to notice about these two verses. First, whether you translate the word "admonish" (NKJV), or "encourage" (NASB) or "train" (NIV), it's clear that this is one-on-one discipleship rather than lectures to a thousand women.

Second, all of the things that she is training the young women in revolve around the home. She's not teaching doctrinal Bible studies, or Walk thru the Bible, or home groups, all of which was really the responsibility of the men. She's not even teaching groups of women how to do these things. To the Jewish synagogues in Paul's day that concept would be unheard of. A Kay Arthur who lectures to large groups of women and calls them "dearly beloved" would not have been countenanced. Now don't get me wrong — I like a lot of what she says; she's a very practical, level-headed woman. My wife uses some of her books in discipleship. But this text is not talking about that kind of group teaching. The words all show that this is a person coming alongside the new believer and basically showing the new believer (one-on-one) the ropes of how to live within her sphere of responsibility in a Biblical fashion. In other words, it's discipleship, not teaching classes.

The third thing that I want you to notice is that these older women are teaching the mothers, not the children of the mothers. How in the world some people can get age-segregated Sunday School out of this passage I will never fathom. They might respond, "But it says, 'young women.'" Certainly it calls them "young women," but these young women aren't kids. They have husbands and children. So if you want to justify Sunday School from some other passage — fine, but that's not what this passage is talking about. In fact this passage upholds the Old Testament concept that it is the parent's responsibility to train their own children. And we'll look at that in a bit.

The fourth thing that I want you to notice is that these older women are training the wives, not the husbands of the wives. And how feminists can read woman pastors into this, I will never fathom. They are discipling adult married women on how to relate to their families. In fact, if they do their job with this mother well, the mother will be training her own children, and those children will be training their own children.

So it is informal discipleship, it revolves around the home, it's teaching the mothers, not their children, and its teaching the wives, not their husbands. If you keep those four caveats in mind, most modern errors on this passage can be avoided.

But having said all of that, the work of these older women teaching new believers is critically important. And it's important that these revolutionary changes occur as soon as they are saved. What happens so frequently when new believers come to Christ is that they learn some new theology, but they keep all their old habits of family life. And they are never taught how to put those off. All they learn in church is doctrine from women's bible studies, but the practical where they really need the help is ignored. So let's look at these verses:

Verse 4 says, that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children... The phrase "to love their husbands" is one Greek word meaning "husband-lovers" and "to love their children" is one Greek word meaning "children-lovers." So literally it reads, "to train the young women how to be husband-lovers, how to be children lovers." And you might think: but any pagan knows how to do that! Why do you need training in how to love your husband?! Don't you just fall in love? And the Bible says, "No. There's a lot to learn on the many dimensions of loving a husband. Husbands think different, react to circumstances differently and relate to people differently." God devoted an entire book (the Song of Solomon) just to one small slice of loving the husbands — the romantic side. But there are other sides that flow from a woman's unique position. And if families are to be the Christian families that God intended them to be, they need this discipleship. There's a great book that deals with these issues. I keep calling it the pink book because I can't think of the name or title. But Paul says that this won't come naturally. You've got to learn how to love your husbands Biblically.

Well, what about the next phrase? Do new Christians need to be taught how to be children-lovers? You might think: "Well surely every mother loves her child." But often what is interpreted as love to the child by a pagan, Proverbs says is the opposite. Scripture must define the character of our love to our children. But there's more to this word than that. Many wealthy pagans in Paul's day didn't want children. And the same is true today. A.T. Robertson says, "This exhortation is still needed where some married women prefer poodle-dogs to children." And that's sad. People feel burdened by having more than one child. Sometimes they don't want to have any children. And they need to be taught that children are a blessing from the Lord; they are the division of labor by which we multiply our dominion; they are the arrows we shoot out into the world to take the conquest. What's happening in Spain is that the Muslims are conquering Spain, and Germany and other countries simply by having babies whereas the West is having no babies. Guess who will take dominion in the next generation? And American Christians need to learn to love and value having children. In fact, in 1 Timothy 5, Paul wanted even widows who were under sixty to get remarried and bear children! Hah! Ha! Can you imagine that!! Talk about a shock to American culture. And yet that's exactly what the Bible calls for. How to be children-lovers! Yes, that is needed education on many levels.

Verse 5 goes on: to be discrete. The Greek word (σώφρονας, sophronas) means to be clear thinking. Sometimes it is translated as self-controlled — in other words, behavior driven by clear thinking rather than driven by emotions. And mature women are very clear thinking. They are not governed by their emotions.

The next word, chaste is ἁγνός (hagnos), which sometimes refers to ceremonial purity (of the body), sometimes to sexual purity and other times to moral purity in general. And perhaps all three are in view. You couldn't assume that the pagans who became Christians would know about Biblical standards of physical or spiritual purity. And so they had to be taught to be pure (as Hendriksen says) in mind, word and action. That doesn't come overnight.

The next word homemakers has a variant in the Greek text. And this variant is actually rather significant. And I hate to get into variants because it makes people wonder about God's preservation of the text. So let me just quickly tell you that I believe that God has preserved every jot and tittle of His Word in every age and to the end of the World. That's the view of the Confession, that's the view of all the Reformers and every Reformed confession. And that's the view that the New King James version is based on. Over and over in the Scripture God has promised to preserve His Word until the end of history. But it's definitely not the popular view today. The popular view reflected in the NIV, NASB, ESV and many other modern translations is that God did not preserve His Word in every generation. Instead, they believe that the word of God was partially corrupted in the second century, and that the oldest and best manuscripts were forgotten in the sands of Egypt for 1700 years, only to be discovered in the 1800's. This is the view of a lot of modern scholarship.

Just forget about the verse we are looking at right now, and let's discuss the issue of how reliable our manuscripts are. In the New Testament as a whole, how serious is the difference? If you look at all the differences, including what would be considered spelling changes and inconsequential differences such as occur in this verse, 8% of the New Testament is in question. This amounts to about 48 pages of words. Now its true, that half of those are inconsequential, but that still leaves about 4% (or about 25 pages) of material difference. That's a lot of Scripture.

Now in the NIV and in the NASB you see references to "the oldest and best manuscripts say," and there's actually been a lot of older manuscripts that have been found since then. But they are referring to a few manuscripts that those versions are based on. And here would be the breakdown of the manuscripts that they support and opppose. Keep in mind that there are 5262 Greek manuscripts and tens of thousands of early versions. But let's just stick with the Greek. Where there are textual variants, the NIV and other modern versions reject the text that is in the vast majority of manuscripts and (get these statistics):

  • 90% of time they do so based only on one Greek manuscript, named Vaticanus. Sometimes it will be represented with a B. That is their primary authority.

  • Another 7% of the time their disagreement with the Majority Text is based on a reading from Sinaiticus. That was a manuscript that was in a trash can to be burned in Egypt because it was thought to be an inferior manuscript. But scholars rescued it and love it, despite the fact that it disagrees with Vaticanus (in the Gospels alone) well over 3000 times. That makes it a false witness in my books.

  • 2.5% of the time it is based on the readings of Alexandrinus, another Greek manuscript.

  • Less than half a percent of the readings are based on the distinctive readings of a handful of other manuscripts.

The point is that they are really not appealing to a lot of other manuscripts. In 90% of the cases they are basing their conclusions solely on their favorite manuscript and rarely are any other of their handful of manuscripts determinative.

Here's another chart that is helpful. Greek manuscripts are divided up into four types. Papyri fragments, uncials, cursives and the manuscripts used officially by the churches (which I consider to be the most reliable — and the church obviously did too). Here are the total number of manuscripts in each category, and the number that support either Sinaiticus or Vaticanus (which is what the NIV is primarily based on) and then the number that support the Majority Text (which is what the King James and New King James is based on). Notice that among the papyri, 85% of all manuscripts support the New King James; among the Uncials, 97% support it; among the cursives 99% support it, and among the church lectionaries (in other words, the official text of the church down through the ages) 100% support the Majority Text. And then the total is that 99% of all manuscripts out there strongly support the Majority Text as far as text types are concerned. And I got those from a fabulous book by Floyd Nolan that would be boring to most of you, but deals with the newest textual evidence.

Total ManuscriptsSupport א & BSupport Majority
Papyri8813 (15%)75 (85%)
Uncials (all caps)2679 (3%)258 (97%)
Cursives276423 (1%)2741 (99%)
Church Lectionaries214302143 (100%)
Total526245 (1%)5217 (99%)

I won't get into all the details of the debate here, but suffice it to say that the Majority Text is truly majority, and unlike the supposedly "oldest and best" it represents every age of the church back to the 100's AD, and it represents a wide geographic distribution across Greece, Asia Minor, Constantinople, Syria, Africa, Gaul, Southern Italy, Sicily, England and Ireland. Whereas the text that the NIV is based on is found in Egypt, a place that had no letters sent to it, a place where most of the early heresies originated, and probably the reason why these so-called oldest and best manuscripts were discarded, only to be dug up in the 1800's. They were probably written by the heretics.

We can trust the preservation of the Bible. God has preserved His Word in every age so that people could live by it. And Jesus promised that till heaven and earth passes away, not one jot or one tittle will by any means pass from God's Word. Yet people who support the text underlying the NIV, NASB say that only 5% of the NT is in question. But that's a lot. God said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Well, you can't live by every word unless God preserves every word. So, don't get too concerned when you see variants in your margins. If you want more information on that, I can give it to you. But we do have a Bible that can be trusted.

So that's just by way of background as to why there are variants and why we can trust the Majority Text. But what about this text here? Certainly it's not earthshaking. But it is a practical difference. Well, the NIV, NASB and NES all translate a Greek word that occurs in only three Greek manuscripts. The word is οἰκουργούς (oikourgous). All other Greek manuscripts leave out the gamma and have οἰκουρούς (oikourous). What difference does that make?

Well, if you follow the NIV, NASB or most modern translations based on the three Greek manuscripts, then women would have to do all the housework themselves. In my footnote I have the definitions of every Greek tool that I own, and they all point to that. The first dictionary definition that I have says, "devoted to household chores,"1 and another has "busy at home carrying out household duties." That's the basic meaning. I don't know any other way of getting around the meaning of the word. They would have to be domestics; they could not delegate any of that work. And that's the way many people take it. But if the Majority Text is correct (and of course I believe that it is) then women must oversee the housework. The Greek word is made up of two parts: house (oikos) and ouros a word that means "to watch over." And so the idea is to manage the household duties, watch over the household duties or to keep on top of the household duties. In other words the woman is in charge as manager to make sure they get done.

There's a world of difference between the two approaches to life — between being busy in housework and watching over or being responsible for the housework. The person who obeys an admonition to oikourgous will probably never have the time to do all the things in Proverbs 31, whereas the woman who obeys an admonition to oikourous will be leveraging her time and her talents to get far, far more done because she will be a good delegater and manager. Some women are so busy doing all the work themselves, that they have no time to do other things that they want. I've asked some women why they don't involve their children in the housework and their response is that they don't have time to oversee the children working. It takes more time to do that than to do the work themselves. But that's shortsighted. Initially it does take more time, but you are investing in a way that will more and more leverage your time, but also train the children in the same household management. What Paul was encouraging here was not just to do, but to watch over.

Isn't that exactly what Proverbs 31 says of the virtuous woman: it says, she watches over the ways of her household (Prov. 31:27). It doesn't say that she does absolutely everything in that chapter herself. That would be a sure way to get a nervous breakdown. Instead, she leverages her time and her talents by wise administration of children and servants and money and property.

Isn't this exactly what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:14? He tells the women to manage the house. That phrase manage the house is made of two words oikos or house and despoten or lord, ruler or manager. But rather than ruling the house, some wives look like the house has got the better of them. The point is that you women have liberty to do things beyond the house (according to Proverbs 31) if you have been a good enough manager of the house through delegation that things aren't falling apart.

At the next University Fellowship meeting they all voted for us to go through what the roles of husband and wife would be. I tell you, they are trying to get me into trouble. But this is a key verse. And there is a lot that goes into training women how to watch over the ways the household so as to free up their time. And it's best explained one on one.

The next word means either good or kind. How to be a good wife, how to be a kind wife; how to be a good mother, a kind mother. In theory that may seem easy, but when the family takes you for granted or fails to be as godly as they should be, it's easy for the wife to follow suit and to be unkind and not a good wife. And that's not to excuse the family. It's just to say that this won't come naturally. It has to be worked at. Exasperation can make some women be mean to their husbands and in Ephesians Paul says that the men must not become bitter toward their wives. God wants the wife not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. He wants her to learn to be kind.

The next phrase, obedient to their own husbands shows that despite the woman's total spiritual equality there is a functional inequality. It has nothing to do with the person; it has to do with the role relationship. The family is not a democracy. Certainly a good husband will communicate and seek to be understanding of the wife's fears, concerns and needs. But the bottom line is that there is a chain of command. The word "obedient" is uJpota¿ssw which means "to be in subjection, to be subordinate, to submit, to rank under, to obey." And yes, that too needs to be taught. It doesn't come naturally. Nothing that we Christians are called to do comes naturally. Men need to fight against their natural desires in order to be the servant leaders that they need to be, and the women will need God's grace to enable them to fulfill God's blueprints in a way that is joyful and a godly testimony to all.

And that's what he ends this section with: that a woman's success or failure in all of these areas will make a good testimony or a bad testimony. He says, that the Word of God may not be blasphemed. It might have been easier if he had said: "You know, it would really be nice if you could try this." But Paul pulls out all the stops and says that these bare essentials of discipleship need to be in place in every young woman's life or the Word of God is blasphemed. It's an attack upon God's order.

Next week we'll work on the men and will look at some of the things in verses 6-10 that are similar for the young men (and that's seen in the word "likewise" in verse 6) and some of the challenges that are unique to men. But Paul's admonitions for both men and women are practical, and they are for our good. May our lives conform to them. Amen.


  1. Definition of main Accordance dictionary. Here are some other definitions: "busy at home, domestic, homemaking" (NIV), "working at home: —workers at home" (NAS) "one who works in the home — 'one who takes care of the home, homemaker.'" (Louw & Nida), "a house-steward," (Liddell and Scott), "carrying out household responsibilities, busy at home, carrying out household duties, of women" (BDAG), "caring for the house, working at home" (Thayers), "pertaining to carrying out household responsibilities, busy at home, carrying out household duties," (Bauer & Danker), "workers at home" (Vines).

Discipleship of Women is part of the Titus series published on October 24, 2004

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