1 Corinthians 13:18 & Titus 2:3-5 by Robert Dean
Some of these passages have been misapplied inside and outside the church to justify sinful behavior. When authority is motivated by love there is no abuse or suppression. Authority without love is tyranny. The relationship of husbands and wives in obedience to these principles is related to their personal response to Jesus Christ, and lived out as a testimony to men and angels. Learn about the roles God has for men and women during the different seasons of life. See the “virtuous” woman in Proverbs and how, in her industriousness and obedience, she puts to shame the feminist concept of the modern woman, preserving her femininity and eliciting trust and praise from her family.

This lesson also includes Proverbs 31:10-31.

The Competent Wife. 1 Corinthians 13:18; Titus 2:3-5; Proverbs 31:10-31


In Titus chapter two Paul addresses four different groups: older women, older men, younger women and younger men. In this we see again the fact that the areas that he focuses on are not really that distinct from general areas of behaviour, thinking, virtue, that he focuses on for every single believer. There are some distinctions because as we go through the different seasons of life there are different problems, different temptations that do present themselves. This study is the outworking of our study in Colossians chapter three, and we have been looking at the overall structure of the commands that Paul gives in 3:18 down towards the end of the third chapter and into the fourth chapter, specifically dealing with the roles and structures of those within a household. That would include in the first century a slave.

The mandates that we have here are stated rather briefly compared to how they are developed in other passages. So we will look at comparative passages so that we can have a full understanding of what the Word teaches in these areas, because we live in a world where often these verses have been taken out of context by many Christians, misused and misapplied—sometimes used to justify wrong, sinful, arrogant behaviour on the part of men or on the part of women; they have been used in anger to attack the other one who doesn't seem to be doing what one thinks they should be doing, and this has led to much

Misunderstanding. Not only that, there are those outside of the church who use this to caricature the Christian position into some sort of antiquated, antediluvian position that is hostile to equality, that seeks to keep women subservient to men, and many other things; and this is just not what the Bible teaches. So we are continuing to look at what the Bible does indeed teach.

The passage in Colossians 3:18 reads: "Wives, submit to your own husbands." It is important that in several passages we have that qualification that they are to submit to their own husbands. And that is "fitting in the Lord." That again qualifies this that if a woman is in a marriage where the husband tells her to do things that are dishonest, that are unethical, that violate the commands of Scripture, then she should not obey him because it would not be "fitting in the Lord." It has been pointed out in the past that the reason wives are addressed in terms of the issue of submission goes all the way back to the judgment of God on Eve and women in general, that they would have a desire to control in a wrong way their husbands. Husbands have a different problem and so the mandate addressed to them is that they are to love their wives and not to be bitter to them. Then children are to obey their parents in all things for this is pleasing to the Lord. Ultimately what we see in all of the mandates is that the issue in obedience and submission to someone else is never based on the character, the quality, the personality of the person we are obeying; it is always related back to our service to God. And it is always based upon the fact that within the marriage and within the home there is to be a visible testimony of the kind of relationship that we as individual believers have towards the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we have looked at the commands related to wives we've seen that wives are not commanded to love their husbands but at the end of Ephesians chapter five they are commanded to respect and to honour their husbands. This indicates, again, that there is a response on the part of women, that part of the way that God made the soul of women was to be responders to their husbands. The male was created to be the ytresponsible leader of the human race. Respect is a term that emphasises the fact that the wife should give deference to the wishes of the husband. She recognises that she is part of a team. That doesn't mean that she doesn't ever question or discuss things with the husband, and husbands, if they have any sense of humility or respect, would realise that often their wives have perspectives in things that they need to listen to that they are perhaps not aware of, not sensitive to, and often their wives can give them a good, honest appreciation for things. But this is something that builds over time in a marriage and a relationship. It is based on communication, having a good, honest open communication between the husband and the wife.

We live in an age today where, because of the modern radical feminist movement that came up in the 60s. It had its precedence in movements in the US back in the 19th century and at various times sort of reactivated itself over the last century or century and a half. In some cases there are some aspects of that where there was a justification, because there was a mentality on the part of males in society that was not biblical. Often it was abusive, even tyrannical towards women. Often it limited the role and responsibility of wives and women in a way that was not consistent with Scripture. As a result of that there were numerous breakdowns that occurred within the social structure of the US.

When we look at this concept of submission and of love and authority or leadership as has been often emphasised in relation to the role of the husband, two things should be pointed out. First of all, tyranny is really the emphasis on authority apart from love. The biblical view of love is what is meant there: that when there is not a biblical view of love which is grounded upon humility on the part of the one loving, as well as virtue and integrity, then authority without love is tyranny, and that is not what the Scripture is emphasising.

On the other side, with the husbands. Men can go in one of two directions: treating their authority in a tyrannical manner, or becoming passive. Passivity is just a pseudo love, a false concept of love that functions without authority. That creates a leadership vacuum. What has often happened when men have abdicated their leadership responsibility within the home is that women have felt that in order for the home to survive, for the children to be properly trained, for discipline to be in the home, they need to move into that vacuum and basically take over the leadership position from a passive male who is divorced from his role in the home or absent from the home. That leads to various problems in role reversal, in modelling appropriate behaviour, and role distinction to the children, and over the course of a couple of generations this leads to the collapse of the home and collapse of marriage within that particular society. The only thing that can reverse this is for men and women to come to understand God-given role and responsibility as new creatures in Christ. It is only as that sin nature trend that we have toward self-absorption and arrogance can be overcome by men and women within the marriage that we can see a true rehabilitation within a culture or a society.

One thing that has already been pointed out is that the marriage relationship—the role of the wife, the role of the husband, especially as they are identified in Ephesians—is often related to their response to the authority of Jesus Christ. So ladies, your response to men in your life often says a lot about how you respond to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life. The same thing is true of men. Men's exercise of leadership and authority in the home often says a lot about how they understand the leadership and the authority of Jesus Christ over them and how they respond to His authority. In a marriage that relationship between a husband and wife is a relationship that should mirror the gospel. It is a testimony, a witness to the gospel and the love of God the Father, as displayed through Jesus Christ, within the home. So the marriage itself is a witness, a testimony to both human beings and to the angels. This means that for women their attitude to the gospel often correlates to their relationship to men. It has an impact for young women. This should impact their relationship with young men or boys, what you send to young boys in terms of text messages, what you post of Facebook pages. Parents need to oversee and train their children in this way because as they are young and in their pre-teen years they begin to establish patterns of relationship to the opposite sex that correlate to their relationship to God and their testimony, their personal understanding of the gospel. And often that witness in the home on the part of both men and women says more about their understanding of the gospel than their ability to articulate the gospel or say the right verses, or state the right theology; because it is the implementation of the understanding of the right theology within their relationship. It is crucial, the Scripture teaches, to understand how the biblical view of the role of husbands and wives relates to the gospel and this testimony. It is not just wives and husbands; it also applies to single men and single women in their relationships with members of the opposite sex.           

In Titus chapter two the key part is from verse 2 down through verse 5. Paul is addressing Titus a protégé of Paul's. He was trained, like Timothy, to be a pastor and then was sent out on various pastoral missions to churches that Paul had founded during his missionary journeys and was assigned various tasks. Often Titus and Timothy were sent to solve problems in congregations where they were having a number of personal and relational problems within the congregation—spiritual problems, carnality problems, doctrinal problems. These were young men Paul had trained and trusted to be able to carry out these particular missions. That is why they are called the pastoral epistles. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus give us a tremendous insight into how Paul viewed the practical workings of these pastoral ministries. This strongly impacts a pastor's and a church's view of how the ministry functions on a day-to-day basis and what the priorities are; what is emphasised and what is deemphasised. This is what comes under the category of the philosophy of ministry.

This may be a new term to some. What exactly is the philosophy of ministry? It affects the kind of music you sing, the proportion of time usage in the service, how much time the pastor spends studying, how much time he spends counselling, how much time he spends doing administrative things; all of these are practical aspects of the pastoral ministry. Many things are taught in these pastoral epistles. This coming year in March this will be the focus of the Chafer Conference: the philosophy of ministry, helping pastors and congregants understand what the Bible teaches in terms of a framework for a philosophy of ministry. It doesn't mean that every church needs to be a rubber stamp of another church because every church has a different personality based on people within that congregation and they are at different places in their spiritual growth. Many churches have problems today not because they have a wrong doctrinal statement but how they do what they do on Sunday mornings and during the week is radically different. And it doesn't have to do with the doctrine, it has to do with how they understand their purpose and function and priorities in the pastoral ministry, their philosophy of ministry. So it is important for Chafer Seminary as a seminary to have a well-crafted statement and articulation of a biblically grounded philosophy of ministry related to a number of different areas. And part of that is what we see in Titus chapter two.

In Titus chapter two Paul spends ten verses talking about the role of different groups of people within the congregation: older men, older women, younger men, younger women, and is providing a framework for how they are to intersect, interconnect and relate to one another within the congregation. He is addressing Titus as the pastor of this congregation in Crete and telling him the kinds of things that he needs to focus on as a pastor.

Titus 2:1 NASB "But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine." The verb translated "speak" is a word that has to do with the articulation of the spoken word as opposed to the written word. In the context it would have to do with teaching and instruction and that is emphasised by the last word "doctrine" in this verse. It is a present imperative which means that this is to be an ongoing, continuous focus in the ministry of a pastor. It is to the standard operating procedure for Titus as a pastor to teach that which is fitting or appropriate for sound doctrine. The word translated "sound" is a Greek word that has as its literal meaning the idea of physical health, that which promotes physical health as opposed to disease. It is used metaphorically by Paul and distinctively so in the pastoral epistles to relate to that which produces spiritual health, soundness in the spiritual life. So he says that Titus is to speak the doctrine, the teaching that will produce a healthy spiritual life for the believers in the congregation and thus a congregation that has a healthy or sound spiritual life.

Then he gives four areas of application related to these four different groups of people. The first is the older men.  Titus 2:2 NASB "Older men are to be temperate …" The NKJV and the KJV use the word "sober." That is not really a good translation for the modern way in which we use the word. This is not talking about alcoholic temperance, it is talking about a mental attitude that is balanced, that is well informed, a mental attitude that has led to maturity, wisdom and self-control. The older men should exhibit self-control. They should exhibit wisdom because they have lived for several decades and gone through a number of life experiences, and they have learned a lot of biblical instruction. Objective thinking is another aspect of someone who is "sober." "… dignified …" They are to be serious about their spiritual life and are to be pursuing spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. " …sensible…" Another word that emphasises self-control and wisdom. They are not to be devoted to anything that leads them to some sort of unhealthy behaviour in any particular direction. "… sound in faith …"  This is another form of the word used for sound doctrine, hugiaino [u(giainw], and they are to be sound in three areas: their faith, what they believe, their doctrine; they are to be sound "in love," agape [a)gaph], and then in hupomone [u(pomonh], "in perseverance," endurance. One of the tests that comes to those who are maturing in their life, as they get past that point of having children in the home and they get to the point where they are perhaps less focused on building their reputation, their character, is whether or not they quit enduring and persevering in the Christian life. Failure to persevere is an area of testing that comes to those who are older. So they should be healthy or sound in endurance, in their doctrine, in their love, i.e. their application of doctrine in their relationships, and in endurance and perseverance.   

Titus 2:3 NASB "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behaviour …" This is a different word for reverence here than the word used related to men, but it has the same implication, the idea of practicing their spiritual life whereas the word related to the men has a little bit more to do with mentality, thinking in terms of their serious devotion to their spiritual life. This has to do more with the application of that to life. "Reverent in behaviour" is not talking about some sort of self-righteous behaviour or walking around with a pose or attitude, it simply means that they are still focused on their spiritual life and growth. "… not malicious gossips …" It is easy for anyone to get involved in gossip or slander or running someone down. Gossip is masked in Christian circles by, 'we need to pray for so and so in their marriage, because you know what  the husband is doing and we need to pray for them,' and they wrap their gossip in some sort of a cloak of holiness because it is a prayer request. Older women are warned against that because apparently the Scriptures see that as a particular area of weakness. "… nor enslaved to much wine …" That is an interesting addition there, that the older women might have a tendency to drink too much wine. "…to deal with whatever the problems are that may be coming their way due to the ageing factor. It doesn't say they shouldn't drink wine, it just says they need to make sure they don't drink too much wine. "… teaching what is good." As we have seen before, this is not talking about being a teacher of the Word, but older women are to help the younger women learn how to deal with issues and problems and adversities of life.

Titus 2:4 NASB "so that they may encourage …" NKJV translates it "admonish." This isn't the word noutheteo [nouteqew] that is normally translated "admonish," it has more the idea that they are to teach them positively how to live, grow and advance in the spiritual life. It is the verb form of the word mentioned earlier translated "temperate" and sometimes "sober." It has to do with training them to think a certain way. So this isn't a focus on teaching them doctrine, it is application, how to think and how to handle the issues of life. "… the young women to love their husbands," and the word there is philos [filoj], affectionate desire—philandros [filandroj], the Greek word meaning to love one's husband. The older women enable the younger women, help them and train them, to love their husbands. "… to love their children."

Titus 2:5 NASB "{to be} sensible …" SOPHRONOS [swfrowj] which has the idea of being self-controlled and leading towards wisdom. "… pure," hagnos [a(gnoj], i.e. obedient to Scripture in their moral life. This was particularly significant in a Greek culture. "… workers at home," home-makers, oikourgos [o)ikourgoj], a word that means to be involved workers at home. This is saying, wives you need to be home makers and you can't work outside the home. We will see a contrast to that shortly. But the work they are to do in the home is to be done well. It is helping them understand how to carry out those domestic responsibilities. And there is an emphasis here that they are to be working at home rather than being busybodies involved in other people's business. Apparently that was a problem in Greek culture at that time as it is even at this time. The reason for this is so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed. "…kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." Often people have an unusual or odd view of blasphemy and think of it as use of profanity or curse words, but blasphemy is anything that dishonours the Word of God, because it is disobedient to the Word of God. So they are to live this way that God will not be blasphemed, so that God will be honoured, and people will observe their life as a visible witness and testimony to the grace of God. 

Titus 2:6 NASB "Likewise urge the young men to be sensible." This is the word sophroneo [swfronew], the verb form, meaning to be in a right or objective mind and the need to think in terms of solid information and on the basis of the Word of God. [7] "in all things show yourself [Titus, the pastor] to be an example of good deeds, {with} purity in doctrine, dignified." So the pastor is exhorted here to make sure that his doctrine, his teaching is biblically sound and correct. [8] "sound {in} speech …" That relates to his teaching here in this passage. "… which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame …" So that he is accurately exegeting and explaining the Word of God and dealing with objections and opposing view points that are prevalent in the culture and in the community. That is, interacting with false ideas from the pulpit and correcting them so that people learn the truth as the truth and also learn it as it is juxtaposed to the erroneous ideas that have currency in the contemporary culture; putting down the arguments of those who are in opposition. As a result of this people will have nothing evil to say to you. "… having nothing bad to say about us." People are always going to say bad things about pastors who are teaching the truth. But it is not based on foundation, it is not based on fact, it is not based on evidence; it is just based on a desire to attack someone and that sometimes happens.

Before finishing the section dealing with women we should contradict and counter the false caricature of Christian teaching on women that is often presented by those outside of the church, and often it is believed by some Christians, that basically what the Bible says is that the women need to be door mats for their husbands, barefoot and pregnant, and always working in the home. So we need to look at Proverbs chapter thirty-one. Proverbs is a book that focuses on the practical application of the wisdom of God's Word. Wisdom in an Old Testament sense has to do with skilful living—living your life, applying the Word of God, so that what is produced is a life of beauty, a life that honours and glorifies God. Beginning in Proverbs 31:10 there is a focus on the life and the character and the quality of the competent woman. The word here in the Hebrew means strength. It has to do with spiritual strength, strength of character; sometimes it is translated "brave" and sometimes it has the idea of "competent." This is the competent, successful wife, the wife who fulfils that role of being an etzer, an assistant, a helper for her husband. She recognises her role within the team, the husband and wife team within the marriage.  

Proverbs 31:10 NASB "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels." They are rare. It is something that is developed, ladies, it is not something you have when you are twenty-five or thirty; it is the result of years of studying the Word of God and applying it and letting God the Holy Spirit build and produce character in your life. You are not just focusing on spiritual truth but learning about all the various details of life and responsibilities and activities that are involved in your life—areas where you have strengths and not trying to become strong in every area where you have no interest or no ability, but developing and maximising your strengths to the glory of God so that it enhances the home. You just can't measure her worth in dollars and cents.

Then there is the mention of the husband three times throughout this passage. Her relation to her husband is mentioned and as a result this confident woman is one who is trustworthy. Her husband can rely upon her. Sometimes that can take time to develop. In any marriage the marriage is at the beginning when they come together at the wedding, not the end, and the couple learns to grow together, to trust each other, to encourage each other, not get too frustrated with each other when the other one makes mistakes or is a little slow. That trust is something that is built over time. Proverbs 31:11 NASB "The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain." He trusts her in many different areas of the home: with the children, with the finances, with investments, with business. He trusts her because he knows that she is committed to the team, that mentality that they are working together towards a common goal.

Her industriousness. Proverbs 31:13 NASB "She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight." She has a positive and biblical view of work and labour; she is not lazy. This was written in a time of a rural, agricultural economy. It is different today because we live in the post-industrial revolution period and the post-informational revolution period. There is work outside the home, this doesn't exclude that, but this is at a time when there wasn't that much for either the husband or the wife to do outside of the home. There was some, but not a tremendous amount. [14] "She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar." She is involved in shopping and looks for good deals, good bargains, finding food in order to provide for her family.

Proverbs 31:15 NASB "She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens." If you are on the farm in an agricultural economy everyone has to get out and start working the fields very early in the morning. So the wife is up early preparing the meal to that when the husband and the children get up they have food to eat. This is giving an example, not a mandate. She realises she does what she needs to do in order to accomplish the objective.

But her work is not limited to the home. She is involved in investments, in business. She looks at real estate. Proverbs 31:16 NASB "She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard." This again brings income into the family. [17] "She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. [18] She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night." She gets up before sunrise and goes to bed after the sun goes down. She is industrious throughout the day. [19] "She stretches out her hands to the distaff [spinning wheel], And her hands grasp the spindle.

She is involved with the community. Proverbs 31:20 NASB "She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy." She has prepared her family for adversity: [21] "She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. [22] She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple." She dresses well. She is doing all this as an adjunct to her husband who is the prime leader in the home, and her career, everything she is doing, is designed to build and strengthen the family. 

Prov 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.

Prov 31:24 She makes linen garments and sells {them,} And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

Proverbs 31:25 NASB "Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future." Her character, her virtue are emphasised here. [26] "She opens her mouth in wisdom …" She has grown spiritually, learned from experience and she can give wise counsel and advise. "And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. [27] She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness." As a result, Proverbs 31:28 NASB "Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband {also,} and he praises her, {saying:} [29] 'Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.'"

Then the emphasis on the real issue. Proverbs 31:30 NASB "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, {But} a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised." What drives this woman is her fear of the Lord in her role as a wife and in her role as a mother.

Her reward. Proverbs 31:31 NASB "Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates." In other words, the evidence, the product of her life is the source of her honour and praise. But it is grounded upon her spiritual life and her fear of the Lord.