John Calvin on Titus 2:3

In my recent post, Protecting the Weaker Vessel, I made the assertion that Titus 2:3-5 was not an open invitation for women to lead in Bible studies for other women, but an admonition for older women to actually teach younger women that the focus of their lives is to be loving their husbands and children, in making the home a godly place. It is not to lead women’s ministries and a host of other things that is put forth in the name of this verse.

Here is what Paul writes:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

My point here is that this passage is not a license for women to start having Bible studies in their homes, which seems to be the common understanding of the day. Women use this passage as an open invitation to teach and preach God’s word in women’s ministries on a regular basis. What seems to be happening is that those women who use this verse to become preachers and teachers of God’s word, end up teaching everything except what the verse is telling them to teach.

Women are to teach in the home. I grant that women should be teaching their children the things of God. Their mouths and lives should be filled with Scripture and they should be using Scripture on a regular basis to help point their children to Christ. I even believe that women can share the gospel with non-believers, or answer theological questions when asked by other people. My contention is that the current form of Bible study by women, and women’s ministries, and men’s ministries for that matter, that are not led by those called to do so, and ordained to do so, are superfluous to what we are truly called to be, which is being fed by in the local congregation. If the pastor of the local congregation is doing his job, preaching the full-counsel of God’s word, then this is sufficient for all of us. Yes, we should read the Bible in our homes, and teach the truths to our children, and share the gospel with our neighbors. But God’s declared word in the congregation on the LORD’s day is quite sufficient for our needs.

But lest I am misunderstanding this passage, allow me to quote John Calvin, from his commentaries on Titus 2:3-5. Calvin writes concerning the phrase, that they may teach young women temperance:

That they may be more attentive to duty, he shows that it is not enough if their own life be decent, if they do not also train young women, by their instructions, to a decent and chaste life. He therefore adds, that by their example they should train to temperance and gravity those younger women whom the warmth of youth might otherwise lead into imprudence.

Notice, there is a real need for older, godly women to train the younger women. They are to train these women to have decent and chaste lives. The idea is morally pure and innocent, modest and not extravagant. Hardly anything we see in our modern church. But maybe I’m too judgmental.

But so far, we have not seen the use of the Bible brought up in this training. This is because the purpose of this training is spelled out by Paul:

…Paul goes on in explaining the duties of women, which apply equally to those who are older… In short, he wishes women to be restrained, by conjugal love and affection for their children, from giving themselves up to licentious attachments, he wishes them to rule their own house in a sober and orderly manner, forbids them to wander about in public places, bids them to be chaste, and at the same time modest, so as to be subject to the dominion of their husbands; for those who excel in other virtues sometimes take occasion from them to act haughtily, so as to be disobedient to their husbands.

There is a lot said there. Paul seems to be under the impression that women should be focused on raising their children, modest in their actions and subject to the dominion of their husbands. They are not to be trying to have it all, as the modern woman would have it. In fact, for the godly woman, her focus is on her home so much that it is the center of her universe. She is not confused by trying to serve the two-masters of the modern day. The first master being the calling the LORD has placed on the Christian woman, the second master is the lure of the world to have all the material wealth and prosperity she can obtain.

But what we don’t see, is a call to having great women’s ministries so they can  be told how to have it all, like Beth Moore and company so often promise. The role of the older woman is not to lure the younger woman away from the home, but help her in the calling of being in the home, serving the LORD by loving her children and her husband. After all, she was made to be a helper to her husband, not the world, not some secular boss.

One final note: what is the fruit of all these sub-ministries that the church is so busy putting forth? How are we doing as evangelicals? How deep is our understanding when it comes to the real issues of the faith?

According to the latest poll from LifeWay Research, not very good.

According to a September study by LifeWay Research, Americans don’t know much about theology. While most Americans identify as Christians, they seem confused about the details of their faith.

“Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are OK for most people,” explained Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. Even those who identify as evangelicals often fell into some of the worst theological errors.

It’s obvious that the teaching and preaching that has been taken place in the church, and all the sub-ministries, is quite ineffective when it comes to helping Christians understand the faith. Read about here.

5 thoughts on “John Calvin on Titus 2:3

  1. While I agree with some of what you write , especially for clarity of the gospel, knowing that it is in Christ alone that we receive salvation, there seems to be a distain towards women that comes across in disrespect and void of love. Calvin, while he was right about many things was sinful in his words towards woman and Jews. I see many, if not most men in the church sending their wives out to work. How many men take seriously the Scripture that says, older women are to teach younger women… and to work at home. So many men have no problem sending their wives out to work and then want submission in every way. I take Scripture very seriously and am under a church that is strong in the gospel. I have been married for 30 years and never have my husband and I had to talk about submission or the need for his word to be the last and final. We both love Jesus and submit to the Wird of God and by his grace live obedient lives. We have raised 3 children who also love Jesus. We have grown in grace and love and understand that the most loving thing you can do is continue to hold onto the doctrine Paul instructs us in and to share the truth of the gospel. My husband lives out the gospel in his life as do I and we deeply respect one another. I am so thankful for the man of God he is and for the the amazing father and husband and provider he is. All glory to God. We are created in the image of God and we reflect his image when we are kind and loving. When we love well and live out the gospel in our lives and never compromise the truth of the gospel we flourish and glorify God.


    • Cynthia,

      You assert that Calvin was sinful in his words towards women. Can you please explain what you mean by that?
      I don’t believe the admonition to be keepers of the home prohibits a woman from working outside the home as well, although her primary focus should be her husband and home. Submission to the authority of her husband doesn’t hinge on whether or not she is helping the family financially, it hinges on the fact that God created her to be her husband’s helper and that God requires her to submit to her husband, as Paul clearly states in Ephesians 5:
      22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
      While you say that you and your husband have never had to talk about submission or his authority over you, you also attest that we must hold on to the “doctrine that Paul instructs us in.” Does that include the doctrine found in the preceding verses of Ephesians?
      I am thankful that you and your husband are growing in grace, sharing the gospel, raising children who love Jesus. Your faithfulness in these things brings glory to God.


  2. If the pastor of the local congregation is doing his job, preaching the full-counsel of God’s word, then this is sufficient for all of us.

    Thanks for this, Timothy. Several people in our group at church have asked me to start teaching a Bible study during the week. I will tell them that they should be satisfied with the pastor’s preaching.


    • Well, that is a big “if” in most cases.

      Do you feel called to teach? Is that the Spirit’s leading? Are you not already teaching your family from the word? Could you not include other families?

      All things to consider.


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