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A Call for Spiritual Mothers

May 12, 2024|A Call for Spiritual Mothers|Titus 2:1-5

JD Cutler

Click here for the sermon audio

Our text this morning is not typical of Mother’s Day sermons, and at the same time, I am very excited to share it with each of you today. As a way of introduction, let me walk you through the context of where we will spend our time this morning. 


When the Apostle Paul planted a church, sometimes he would leave one of his disciples there to finish the work, to set the church in order. To teach, preach, and shepherd while seeking out and appointing elders from the church to carry on the work of caring for the local bodies. 

He would then write these disciples while they were carrying out their duties, either to encourage them, to answer questions that had risen in the church, or to address some false teachings that were creeping in. We have preserved, for us, three of these letters. We often refer to these as the pastoral epistles. 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. 

Timothy, who Paul had left in Ephesus, and Titus, who Paul had left in Crete. 

As a Pastor, these are some of my favorite New Testament letters, and I can imagine how encouraging they would have been to receive in the midst of these difficult situations these young men found themselves in. To hear things like, Titus 1:4 (ESV) 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Or 2 Timothy 1:2 (ESV) 2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 

As my mind was drawn to Mother’s Day it was of course drawn to my own mother, to my grandmother, but also some of the Godly, older women who had treated me like their own son. So, I am encouraged when I read Paul addressing these young men as his true and beloved children. We might say that he was their father in spirit, if not in flesh. What is interesting, is not that Paul dealt with these young men this way, but that he encouraged them to encourage others to do the same. 

Paul’s concern, especially in his letter to Titus, is not theological or doctrinal in nature. He assumes from his time with Titus that his teaching is sound, but rather practical. He gives commands and advice on how to best minister and establish the church where he was. 

It is in the midst of this letter that we find Paul encouraging Titus in the face of false teachers who are trying to creep into the church. He tells Titus how he is to conduct himself and what standards he ought to hold the men and women of the church to. As I was thinking about Mother’s day, I was drawn to a portion of Titus that specifically addresses, as Paul calls them, older women. This morning, I want to share with you from Titus 2, under the heading, A Call for Spiritual Mothers. 

My prayer for today is that whether you are a younger or older woman, whether you are physically a mother or not, whether your kids are little or grown with kids of their own, that you would hear, from the scriptures, that God has a design for you, that he has a plan that is for your good and his glory. Amen?

It is my desire this morning to show you the way you fit within the discipleship ministry of the church as well as the character and content related to the discipleship of women in the church, and at the end, I hope to paint you a picture of what this might look like in our church today. 

Open your Bibles to Titus, chapter 2, where we will begin at verse 1 this morning. 

Titus 2:1-5 (ESV) 1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

The first thing I want to show you this morning is how Paul lays out…

The Plan for the establishment and health of the church.

This appears to be the primary reason for writing Titus, as well as giving him an update on what Paul wants him to do and who to be looking for that is coming to Crete to carry on the work, freeing Titus to return to Paul. 

Titus 1:5 (ESV) 5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

As Paul builds out the plan, he begins with the establishment of elders in each town. Overseers that will hold the truth firmly, that will teach and give instruction as well as rebuke those who contradict it. They were to be examples to the flock as well as teachers of it. This model of a plurality of elders in the churches is one we see repeated again and again in the New Testament. In almost all of the references to Elders, Oversees, Pastors, in the New Testament, they are plural. One church would have multiple Elders or Pastors that would serve as overseers. We do not have time to get into that subject this morning, but I did want to point it out to you in hopes that we will be able to deal with it more fully at a later date. It is enough this morning to say that a single elder led congregation is not the Biblical norm of the New Testament. 

He then progresses into what they should teach, by reminding Titus of what he should be teaching in all the churches on Crete. He begins with older men and older women, their character as well as their lives, and then says that they should be instructing the younger men and women in the same areas. The rest of the letter is encouragement to Titus as well as what he should be keeping before the church constantly in his life and preaching. 

The first thing we see is that the establishment and health of the church is built on the word of God. 

Titus 2:1-5 (ESV) 1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Paul begins with a connective, but as for you. We can only understand why Paul begins here if we work our way back up in his letter. The word teach is the word for speak. To declare and disclose. It seems Paul is telling Titus that this is what he should be speaking in the public gathering, in house to house, from individual to individual. His whole speaking ministry is to revolve around sound doctrine. As opposed to what?

Listen to Paul’s description of what Timothy is up against.

Titus 1:10-11 (ESV) 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

Insubordinate- Unsubjected, to whom or what? To the word of God, to Christ 

Empty talkers- Senseless talkers, that is their speak has no substance, it is devoid of the truth

Deceivers- Seducers, literally deceivers of the mind in order to seduce one away from the truth

What is the result of this false teaching? They are upsetting whole families- That word really fails to capture what is happening the greek word implies that they are overthrowing, destroying, and subverting the family unit. 

We have seen the fruit of this in our own time in our own country. When the family is undermined, when the family is destroyed, the church is weakened, society is weakened, and the nation is weakened.

The family was God's first institution and must be protected, this was Paul’s call to Titus. How was he supposed to fight this false teaching? By teaching what accords with sound doctrine. 

Notice with me that he does not say, teach sound doctrine. Paul knows that Titus is doing that, rather he says, in addition, teach what accords with sound doctrine. That which fits with, that which is appropriate to healthy teaching.

What is healthy teaching, or doctrine? Paul says it this way to Timothy 1 Timothy 6:2-3 (ESV) Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,

Healthy doctrine then is rooted in what our Lord Jesus taught and that which leads to reverence and piety towards God.

This is right orthodoxy and right orthopraxy. That is, Titus, make sure to teach both what is true and how that truth affects the actions of those in the church. To say it another way, right action is grounded in right understanding of the truth. 

The second thing we see is that the establishment and health of the church is not only built on the word of God, but that it is not the ministry of the elders alone. Paul immediately starts listing the characteristics that Titus ought to be holding up in light of God’s word. First to the older men and second to the older women. He includes within this instruction, especially for the older women, the command that they would teach.

Who? The younger women in the church. What are they to teach? That which accords with sound doctrine, right? Everything Paul lists for older women to teach younger women deals with orthopraxy. They are supposed to take what is taught by the elders and help train the younger women to walk in obedience to it in the context of their lives. 

Titus and any subsequent elders that are appointed are to teach and speak right doctrine and that which accords to right doctrine, and then the older men and women are to help teach the younger how to walk this out in their lives. 

Seems pretty simple, right? You may be thinking, Pastor, what in the world does this have to do with mother’s day? I’m so glad you asked. 

This morning I want us to focus on what I am calling Spiritual Mothers in our passage today that we find in verses 3-5. First their characters and then the content of their teaching. 

The Character of these Spiritual Mothers.

Let's read verse 3 again. 

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 

Paul gives four general characteristics of older women in these verses. Two positive and two negative. 

Reverent in behavior, not slanderous, not slaves to much wine, teachers of what is good. 

We recognize that this is not a comprehensive list, but rather serves as a description of a Cretan woman who was markedly different from the culture. 

Titus 1:12 (ESV) 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.

This seems to be a problem for both Cretan men and women. 

Titus 1:10 (ESV) 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. These three characteristics we already talked about, but in brief, they resist authority, their conversation is full of senseless talk, and they lead others astray with ungodly teaching. 

It is not hard to see how these characteristics, if allowed to come unchallenged into the church, would not only ruin the church but undermine the gospel. 

So Paul begins there, the older women in the church are to be…

Reverent in behavior- the word translated reverent in the ESV is from two words meaning sacred and fitting (same word used for what Titus should speak what is ‘fitting’ or ‘accords’ with sound doctrine. 

Only time it is used in the New Testament so we do not have any cross references to draw from, but from the two words Paul puts together here it seems to mean ‘that which befits what is sacred to God’. 

How does Paul apply it? He says that their behavior is the subject of the exhortation. Older women then ought to exhibit behavior, lifestyles, demeanors, that coincide with their condition as those set apart in Christ. 

What a great summary of Paul’s whole emphasis here in this portion of Titus. Your actions ought to coincide with your condition.

Not slanderous- others translations are malicious gossips

This is someone who is prone to slander, someone who delights in sharing accusations whether verified or not. They care more about passing on information than its validity. 

Paul uses the language in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus to refer to what women must not be.

How serious is what Paul is warning against? Of the some 38 times it is used in the New Testament, it refers to the devil 35 of those times!

At the very least, Paul is indicating that malicious gossip is at best siding with the devil, and at worst, acting the part of the devil. Of course we see in scripture that the devil is a liar and slanderer from the very beginning. 

Not slaves to wine- not enslaved, given over to, in bondage to, much wine

Not a lazy glutton, given over to filling the desires of the flesh, here described as the over indulgence of wine as symptomatic of the gluttonous lifestyle. 

Don’t miss the contrast Paul paints here. The older women in the churches at Crete were to be exactly opposite of the women in Crete outside the church. Liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons, reverent, not slanderous, not slaves to wine. 

Rather than using their position as older women to spread empty gossip, slanderous lies, they were to use their position as older women to teach what is good. 

Younger women, when you are looking for an older woman to disciple you, or to connect with, according to Paul here, you should be looking for one that stands out from the culture around us. 

What if you are in a church where there are no older women or the older women do not display these characteristics. 

One, pray. Pray God would bring Godly older women into the church and into your life. Two, realize that sooner rather than later, you will be an older woman and start, through the power of the Holy Spirit striving towards these characteristics, and while you are at it, grab a younger lady and say, I don't have this all worked out, but let’s pursue it together.

Older women, are you willing to examine your lives against this short list?

Does your day to day life reflect your position in Christ? Do you use your words to build up and encourage or to backbite and gossip? Are you enslaved to a gluttonous lifestyle?My advice is the same for you. Start with prayer. Repent of the witness you have had and the things that you have been passing on to those watching you, pray for strength to live in accordance with who you are in Christ. Two, come alongside a younger woman and say, I know I should have this figured out, but I don’t, will you walk with me as we figure it out together?

Some of you older women who are spiritually immature, it is going to take humility to admit that you are in no place to disciple the younger ladies, because you haven’t taken your own spiritual growth seriously. 

Some of you younger ladies who may have lots of biblical knowledge, but lack spiritual wisdom and maturity, it is going to take humility to admit that you need an older woman who can help guide you in how you are living. 

Whether you are an older or a younger woman, God’s word, in passages like this, lays out for you what it looks like to be a Godly woman. It is counter-cultural, it is God-honoring, and it is essential to the health of any church that seeks to be obedient in making disciples who make disciples.  

I know that we have older ladies in our congregation that meet these characteristics. I see you, I am thankful for you. Some of you are already teachers, some of you know you should be, but what should you be teaching? A six week class on the holiness of God? A expositional walk through Hebrews? What does God desire of you to teach? What does Paul mean by teach what is good?

Let us turn our attention to the content of these Goldy older women’s teachings. 

The Content of their Teaching.

Let’s pick back up in the last part of verse 3. 

(ESV) They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Since Paul doesn’t spell out exactly what they are to teach, we need to take what he does say and ask some questions.

Beginning with, why do they need to teach what is good?

Vs 4- And so- in order that. That is their teaching should produce something. What? Training.

Train- restore one to his senses, to moderate, disciple, to hold one to his duty, to exhort earnestly

Only time it is used in the NT, but it is related to soundness in mind or self-control

Train- G4994 sophronizosin- present active subjunctive

Self-controlled- G4993 sophronein- present active infinitive

Older women teach what is good to younger women in order to discipline them towards what God desires of them. To say it another way they are to teach and so hold them to their duties.

Which he lists as what?

Loving their husbands

Loving their children

The primary purpose that God has given you women is to love your husbands, if you have one, and love your children, if you have them. And no this isn’t misogyny, this isn’t patriarchy trying to hold women down. 

This is God’s word. And furthermore, we could equally state that the primary purpose that God has given you men is to love your wifes and love your children. The primary and first institution God gave man was the family. 

After the command to ‘love God with all your heart, mind, and soul’, comes ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. If you are not loving those closest to you, you are not fulfilling that command. Our obedience to God begins in our homes. Children obey your parents, Husbands love your wives, wives see that she respects her husband. These are the God-given duties that each of us possess. What is a church, if not a family of families?

So whatever you teach the younger ladies around you, the purpose of that teaching is to drive them towards fulfilling their God given purpose. In addition to that, Paul gives Titus four characteristics that they should be leading the younger women towards. 

To be…

self-controlled- self controlled 

Pure- chaste, modest, 

Working at home- literally, caring for the house, keeper of the house

Does this mean that women cannot work outside of the home? Of course not. It does mean that they cannot, in working outside the home, neglect their calling to care for the household. 

Kind- good (normally translated good) not kind as in nice

Submissive to their own husbands- in a military sense of one arranged under the direction and authority of another

Again, not an exhaustive list but one in response to the situation at hand- Titus 1:11 (ESV) 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

Paul says all of this is so that the word of God may not be reviled. 

Reviled- to speak reproachfully, blaspheme, spoken evil of 

Don’t miss what Paul is saying here. If the word of God is not producing in you the things it should, if women and men in the church are not progressing in holiness, if men are not leading and loving like men and women are not loving and following like women then it is not the family that is reviled, in fact, in society, it may be celebrated. But it is the word of God that is reviled. If the word is not producing anything in our churches different from what is outside of our churches, doesn’t the world have the right to say, what’s the point?

You guys are no different than we are, so for all of your talk about the Bible, about truth, about Christ, your life looks just like ours. And so the word of God is reviled, outside the church, for sure, but practically, inside the church as well. 

What’s the answer? We take God's plan for the discipleship of women in our churches seriously. I’d like to spend the remainder of our time this morning sharing with you what that might look like in our church. 


God’s plan for the discipleship of women in the church.

Elders preach the whole counsel of God, they teach right doctrine and right practice. 

Those that are mature, take it in by faith and work it out in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, but often this is where we stop, where we fail.  

They, both men and women, but especially I want to address our women today, as mature, older women, come alongside the younger women both in age and spiritual maturity and they disciple them towards godliness, with the idea as they mature, they would then train younger women of their own. 

What might this look like in our church?

So let’s say that the Pastor preaches on I don't know, let’s say, The Necessity of Abiding, from I don’t know, say from a passage like John 15:1-8. He lays out doctrinally what Christ means when he says he is the true vine, and practically what it means to abide in the true vine. If you are a spiritually mature person, who receives that word and hears Paul’s exhortation to examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith, to test yourselves, you do. And because you are spiritually mature, because you are a little older, a little wiser, you understand what fruit you should be looking for, but you know, had you heard this ten years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, when you were in the middle of raising three kids, when you were in the middle of the stress of just managing life, you wouldn't have know where to start. 

So, you go to that younger lady you have been building a relationship with and you say, hey, can I buy you coffee this week? Can I come help you with a load of laundry? Can we grab 20 minutes this week during the kid’s naptime so we can talk through the sermon we heard on Sunday. 

And in that time together, you share what you have learned, you ask pointed and direct questions that help this young woman examine herself, that help her identify the fruit we talked about, you celebrate with her when you find it, and you pray with her about an area she is struggling in. 

And in these regular times of gathering around the word of God, you look at where she is vs where God wants her to be and you intentionally encourage her towards that wonderful calling that God has placed on her to be self-controlled, pure, keeper of the house, good, voluntarily arranging herself under the headship of her husband, loving her family well. 

It seems almost too simple, right? Don’t we need elaborate programs for discipleship? And yet, this is what Paul tells Titus to do in the church Paul planted and Titus is organizing. 

If this is God’s plan for discipleship, why don’t we see it happening more than we do?

One of the reasons is that we have structured ourselves in ways that make this harder, not easier. 

On Sunday mornings, in what is often referred to as our education hour or our discipleship arm of the church, Sunday School, we have separated the older and younger women into different classes. Then on Wednesday nights we group together with those that we know well, which means we end up sitting with those like us, those in our sunday school classes, and then we end up fellowshipping together outside of the gathering with those who we spend time in Sunday School and those we eat with on Wednesday nights, which makes sense, right? And so our older women and our younger women exist in the same orbits but never interact with one another in any meaningful way. The same goes for our men. 

So what do we do? Listen, I’m saying this because I love you and I love our church, but we don’t need more women’s luncheons, man churches, and gender specific bible studies, although all of those can be beneficial in their own ways, we need the women and men of our church to take seriously the command to discipline the younger generation and then get busy doing it. 

This is not a condemnation, this is a call, this is a plea to our older men and women, our church needs you, our people need you.

We need spiritual mother’s to rise up and minister to the younger generation. 

What would our church look like, if we stopped gathering around age divisions and preferences, and started gathering around our shared calling as men and as women? 

What would it look like for our spiritually mature men to disciple our younger men towards loving their wives well, leading their families well, working as unto the Lord, and for our women to disciple our younger women towards loving their husbands well, caring for their families well, working as unto the Lord?

If all we had to organize our church’s discipleship ministry was Paul’s letter to Titus, what would we come away with? 

I know what it would not be, we would not come away with the Sunday School model we have right now. 

Now, hear me. I’m not saying we need to get rid of what we have right now. I’m not saying that Sunday school is bad. Community groups, lifegroups, whatever you replace it with has potentially the same foundationally weak predispositions. What I am saying is, regardless of how we are organized, we have to change the way we interact with one another if we are going to see a healthy culture of discipleship emerge in our church.  

This mother’s day we celebrate our earthly mother’s but what if by this time next year, in addition to our earthly mothers, we had a church full of Spiritual mother’s to celebrate as well? This is my prayer, this is my hope, and this is the call. 

Let us pray. 

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