Answering a Question

By Dick Blackford

Question: Where in the Bible do you find authority for a young Christian woman to teach an older Christian woman?

Answer: The subject of women teaching has long been a controversial thing. This question which we had to deal with recently indicates that it will probably continue to be. It is so controversial that when the subject arises many always take a negative approach and automatically begin thinking of ways in which she may be restricted. It rarely dawns on them to take a positive view as to what is a woman’s duty regarding teaching (and she does have a duty to teach!). It seems to be a “cart-before-the horse” situation. Many are more concerned about the exception than they are about the rule. The thing is approached backwards. They leave undone the “weightier matters” (her obligation to teach – and how weighty a matter that is!) so that the most important thing is completely overshadowed by a cloud of controversy and confusion over an exception. It becomes a matter of majoring in minors and minoring in majors. The exception gets all the attention and the rule is forgotten to such a degree that some women have even concluded that they have no obligation to teach whatsoever. That is a sad and tragic thing to me. They may ridicule the digressive, brother who says “it is better to do something wrong than to do nothing at all” but they take an equally erroneous view when they feel that “it is better to do, nothing at all than to ‘do something’ wrong.” Both views are damnable. Actually, it is better to do what is right than to do wrong or to do nothing.

So, perhaps for the . first time in your life, let’s approach it positively by talking about her obligation to teach. Notice:

1) The Great Commission obligates her to teach both saints and sinners (Mt. 28:19,20).

2) Acts 8:1-4 is an approved example of both men and women teaching.

3) Priscilla taught Apollos (Acts 18:26).

4) She should teach her children (Titus 2:4).

5) She should teach her husband (1 Pet: 3:1; Titus 2:4).

6) She should “be ready always to give an answer. . . .” (1 Pet. 3:15).

7) She is commanded to teach in singing (Col. 3:16).

8) The term “men” in 2 Tim. 2:2 authorizes her to teach as it is the Greek word anthropos, which means “without distinction of sex. A human being, whether male or female” (Thayer, p. 46).

9) 2 Tim. 2:24 says the “Lord’s servant must be apt to teach. . . .”

The New Testament has a lot to say about a woman’s responsibility to teach. In short, a woman is as much obligated to teach as is a man, unless there are passages which limit her teaching.

Now to Titus 2:4. This is not a prohibitive passage. The word prohibit means “to forbid, to refuse to permit.” This passage is not excluding (forbidding, prohibiting) the young woman from doing anything. That is not even the point of the passage (to tell us what a young woman is not to do) any more than Jn. 6:27 is telling us not to work for our groceries. Titus 2:1-9 is not the “sum total” of anyone’s responsibilities any more than Jas: 1:27 is the “sum total” of pure religion. There is grave danger in isolating one passage from all others and acting as though this were the complete revealed will of God on the subject.

To be sure, there are some things that are more becoming or befitting (Titus 2:1) when taught by the aged. But the fact that aged women are mentioned does not forbid these same things being taught by others. Both Peter and Paul (men) taught the obligations of women to their husbands and children (Eph. 5:6; 1 Pet. 3) and all Christians are to follow their example, Phil. 4:9. It is true that fathers have a special responsibility to train their children (Eph. 6:4) but that verse is by no means forbidding a mother to teach anything to her children. Titus 2 mentions some five classes of people (aged men, aged women, young women, young men, servants) and tells us some things to which each has a special responsibility. Isolating this passage from all others can really run us into trouble. For example, teaching is not specifically mentioned as one of the things that aged men are to do. Is it sinful for an aged man to teach since it is not specified in Titus 2? Does God give a qualification for elders (That they be apt to teach, 2 Tim. 3:2) that they can never fulfill – because it is forbidden by not being specified in Titus 2? Or must we use the scriptures already previously given to show that aged men also have this duty?

Now, let us pose another question that will help us arrive at the truth. What scripture authorizes a young woman to teach her own children? I cannot think of one that specifically tells her to (and that is what some are wanting regarding her teaching someone older than her – a specific word-for-word verse rather than generic authority). I believe this passage authorizes her to teach her children because she is to love them (Titus 2:4). It is unthinkable that one could love her child and not try to save it from hell. The two ideas would be incompatible. She is also authorized to teach her husband for the same reason – she is to love him? It is possible that she can do this without violating a restriction. BUT, are her children and husband the only people that she is to love? They are if Titus 2 is giving us her only responsibilities. However, she is also to love her neighbors, enemies, brethren, etc. (Rom. 13:9; Mt. 5:44; 1 Pet. 1:22). This would also include her loving the older woman and even teaching her if there was something she needed to be taught and if the younger woman had the ability to teach it. Of course she should do so with respect of age.

Some other consequences (and I do not rest my case on these but upon what has already been said) would be that it would be wrong for a 39 year old woman to convert a 50 year old woman! We could have (in fact we would have to if such were the case) a 65 year old new convert teaching a class of 45 year old women who were mature Christians and had been in the kingdom for 25 years. (This passage is presupposing that such older women have themselves learned the lessons they are to teach the younger women). The ladies would have to have a countdown (or a count-up) every time they came together to see who was the oldest woman present. (And how many do you suppose would admit to being the oldest?)

NOW, to the exception. And did it ever dawn on you that there is only one exception (singular) to a woman’s teaching? That’s right, 1 Tim. 2:12. She is not to teach over a man. Do you now see how “out of joint” we have been on this by putting the emphasis on the exception instead of the rule? Some women have felt that they had no duty to teach at all and some men have felt that they had no responsibility to teach unless they had mastered the talent of proper voice control and perfect grammar! No wonder the kingdom is not growing as it should! Let us be about our Father’s business!

Truth Magazine, XX:7, p. 7-8
February 12, 1976