Matthew Henry on Titus 2:3

You might wonder why I’m so concerned with Titus 2:3 here of late. Since I published my post, Protecting the Weaker Vessel, I’ve received quite a bit of heat over at Daughters of the Reformation, a blog by Rachel Miller.

It is not very often that I’m attacked on other blogs, so I must have hit a nerve. I’m responding for two reasons: to refute the attack, and, more importantly, to clarify what the Scripture teaches for the edification of the saints. Some might say that I should not respond, but the Apostle Paul set the precedent by responding to his attackers, and I feel that it is important to declare what Scripture says concerning this topic. To remain silent would be to acquiesce to error, and we are never to do so. I also enjoy the challenge of showing what Scripture says in the face of so much opposition. Let God be true but every man a liar (Romans 3:4).

I lean toward the position of Biblical patriarchy and believe it is a better representation of what the Bible teaches concerning male headship than the complementarian position (a position that even complementarians argue about). I believe in biblical male headship. Husbands are the head of the household and family, just as Christ is the head of the church. In fact, this is exactly what the Apostle Paul presents to us in Ephesians 5:21ff. He tells us to submit to one another, and then details who is to submit to whom. Wives are to submit to their husbands. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Children are to obey their parents and bondservants are to obey their earthly masters.

Complementarians love to point to Ephesians 5:21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, implying that we are to mutually submit to one another whether we be male or female. But the text does not say that. Husbands are not to submit to their wives, just as parents are not to submit to their children, masters are not to submit to the slave, and Christ does not submit to the church, the very church that He redeems. There is a clear order, a hierarchy, given by Paul, showing that there is order in the family given by God, and order in the church. This truth is being rejected in our day by some complementarians.

In the world of Ms. Miller, this is the Shibboleth of our day. If you don’t subscribe to her “complementarian” view you become anathema. Just ask the Bayly Brothers over at the Bayly Blog. They have clashed over this very issue as well. You can follow this link here and see the number of posts that the Bayly Brothers have written concerning Ms. Miller.

In Ms. Miller’s rebuttal of my earlier post, she made the claim that John Calvin and Matthew Henry supported her view and discounted mine. She didn’t actually quote Calvin, or Henry. This prompted me to post John Calvin on Titus 2:3, showing what Calvin actually did have to say on the subject. Since that time, the followers of Ms. Miller, in the comments section of her blog, have declared my (and Calvin’s) exegesis horrible and declared me to be an embarrassment to the PCA. (Given the missional creep of the PCA, I’m not sure this latter declaration is a bad thing.)

We also find that Matthew Henry also has a lot to say about Titus 2:3, but contrary to Ms. Miller’s claim, he is not advocating the complementarian/feminist position. Here is Henry:

Of what evil example and tendency, unfitting for the thing, which is a positive duty of aged matrons, namely, to be teachers of good things! Not public preachers, that is forbidden (1 Cor. 14:34; I permit not a woman to speak in the church), but otherwise teach they may and should, that is, by example and good life. Hence observe, Those whose actions and behaviour become holiness are thereby teachers of good things; and, besides this, they may and should also teach by doctrinal instruction at home, and in a private way [emphasis added].

Notice what he says: “they may and should also teach by doctrinal instruction at home, and in a private way.” I am in complete agreement. Henry is calling for older, godly women, teaching younger women, privately, in the home.

We can see that Henry is opposed to women preaching in public, and should primarily teach by example and good life. Again, this is what I have called for. We don’t need large women’s programs for the church to be faithful in its calling. We don’t need conference speakers to replace older women coming alongside younger women and instructing them on how to love their husbands. In fact, what we need is older, godly women to do what Titus calls for them to do. It’s not flashy, but very simple. Show the younger women their need to serve their husbands in loving submission, just as Sarah was obeyed Abraham, even when he lied about their marriage. Peter puts it this way:

[B]ut let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:1-7).

Peter is also calling for women to submit to their husbands. The woman who does so is given the honor of being considered a daughter of Sarah, the wife of the patriarch Abraham. Women who submit to their husbands, just as Sarah did toward Abraham, are seen as very precious to the LORD. Submission to their own husbands is how a woman adorns herself with the beauty that is pleasing to God. This remains as true in our day as it was in  Sarah’s.

Notice that nothing is said about Abraham’s submission to Sarah.  In other words, he was not to submit to her and look to her for leadership. Abraham was to look to the LORD for leadership and guidance. He did submit to Sarah’s leading one time and thus fell into the same sin that Adam did in the garden. That led to Ishmael and a 17-year wait for the coming of the promised seed through the couple.

Remember that submission is a military term. Paul and Peter use the term to remind us that there is to be order in the family and the church, just as there is  order in the military. In the military, privates submit to sergeants, sergeants submit to lieutenants, lieutenants submit to colonels, and so on up the line. The military could not function if sergeants were required to submit to privates. The same is true in the biblical household. There is an order given by Peter and Paul (who speak with authority, inspired by the Holy Spirit). When people chafe against God’s word, sin is quick to follow.

Are the modern-day women’s ministries producing women like Sarah, with gentle and quiet spirits, adorning themselves with submission to their husbands? Or do we see women who bristle at God’s word, pouncing on and silencing those who dare to share what His word actually says? It would seem the latter, particularly when it concerns what Scripture says about the woman’s role in the home and in the church.

Just to be clear, here is what I have been arguing for:

  • The primary teaching for all in the church comes under the proclamation of the word of God by faithful preachers. This is the primary means of grace, whereby we are fed, spiritually speaking, from the word of God. This is why Jesus admonished Peter “to feed My sheep” in John 21. This is sufficient for our spiritual growth, and the church was comfortably fed this way for 1800 years. It’s only since the addition of feminist beliefs in the church that suddenly the normal means of grace are not enough. I know I’m in the minority here, since so much of what passes for women’s ministry makes so much darn money. Nevermind that the women being taught are not being grounded doctrinally, nor men in men’s ministries, given the latest surveys on the beliefs of evangelicals.
  • The secondary form of teaching is to be by that of the heads of households in the home. Yes, this may be done by a woman when a godly father or husband are not present. We see this with Timothy, who was initially taught by his mother and grandmother. But primarily, this teaching is to be done by husbands and fathers with those under their authority and “dominion” (a word used by Calvin.)
  • Next, I’m not saying that women cannot share their faith, or discuss theological issues with others. There is a difference between stating one’s understanding of Scripture, and setting one’s self up as an authority. This is probably the biggest problem I have with women in ministry, and on blogs where they are claim to declare biblical truth. They are setting themselves up as authorities and in positions of authority. This authority is not granted to them by Scripture or the church. I know that I’m about to be charged with being so narrow-minded that women cannot even blog. Women can blog. But not in such manner that they pose as authorities on Scripture. Let’s ask another question: where in history have we ever had women standing up in the public forum, declaring God’s truth? It’s not the fact that women blog, but that women blog in positions of authority, declaring right and wrong according to their own exegetical powers. Yet, who’s authority are they under? We already know from some of the books that have been published by women over the past 20 years that women can say and write anything. They are under no one’s authority (though they may claim to be). This is what has led to Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, and Ann Voskamp’s A Thousand Gifts. I’m sure these women would say they are under their husband’s authority, but are they really? If they are out there on the front line making a name for themselves, are they really under anyone’s authority?

Again, I know my views may be too narrow for some. However, I come to these conclusions from studying the Scriptures. I don’t see women being given the green light for all the “ministries” that are put forth in Christ’s name in our day, since the woman’s primary role is to serve her husband (Eve was created as a helper for Adam, not the other way around). Women are not to have authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12). They are to remain silent in the church (1 Cor. 14:34), and look to their husbands, fathers, and elders for spiritual guidance and instruction (1 Cor. 14:35). They are, when proven over time to be godly, to teach younger women, at home and in a private way, how to love their husbands and children. They are not to be on the front-lines of public ministry, but are to serve their husbands as Sarah did, in humility and grace.

This is opposed to the complementarian view, which is man-centered as opposed to being God-centered. We see this in the fact that complementarians are not looking at what Scripture says, but are looking toward themselves to see what they can do in the body of Christ. Instead of heeding the restrictions placed upon them by God, they seek to cast off those fetters in declaring their own righteousness. Instead of trusting in God’s ordained positions for their lives, they seek fulfillment in testing the boundaries. They don’t wish to accept what God has given them, but wish to rebel and look for weak-willed men to support them in their decisions.

The Truth is hard for all of us. That is why we move toward Him with pain, trials, and struggles. That is all I am attempting to do here, along with encouraging others to cast off the feminist and egalitarian mindset that has so captured our culture and the church. Let us look to God’s word and see that He has ordained order in the family. God has given us the structure, which is plain to see, if only we are willing to look and see what it really says.


2 thoughts on “Matthew Henry on Titus 2:3

  1. I guess I need to go back to the drawing board. I thought I was a complementarian, yet I agree with you, and you have stated my position nicely.

    But a quick thought on the matter as to how this has come about. It has to do with a growing worldview that’s based on individualism. We can see this creeping into our thinking in all sorts of ways. It’s prominent, for example, in the current scuffle involving the electoral college. I’ll hope that you’ll be able to make the connection by the end of this comment. The particular battle you discuss, as it involves households however, was won, at least in a sense, many years ago by man in his war against his Creator. That’s why you and I are currently in the minority in our view, which is where we ought to be. (Not that being in the minority is an automatic sign that we’re right, but to the contrary, being in the majority in a social conflict involving God and scripture could well mean that we’re wrong) The predominate view in this day is that all people, not just women, are autonomous individuals.

    So here’s my thinking as I attempt to dissect the issue and get to the root of the matter. (I’ve been working on a post for several months now, as I have time, which is rarely, that addresses this subject.) As I read the scriptures, I see God deal with man on many different levels. We see him refer to nations, cities, clans and households. We also see him interact with individuals when they are prophets, patriarchs, or leaders. Jesus begins to interact, at least on some level, with individuals, but it seems to be with an understanding that each individual is a part of a whole. We see him cry over Jerusalem, for example. And we see him ask the woman at the well to go get her husband. Note, for example, how Jesus starts his sermons. Sometimes it’s to the people. Sometimes it’s to his 12, who are no longer individuals but are, as future apostles, leaders. Even as it pertains to “the Church”, Paul, speaking on the subject of unity in 1st Corinthians, painted a picture of the individuals that make up the body of Christ as parts of a whole, and not wholes in and of themselves. Of course one can only take this thinking so far. Each of us, as individuals, are ultimately accountable to God. But so are nations, cities, and even Churches. (Rev 3)

    The particular subject that you’re addressing involves households. And in a sense, just as we surrender our individuality to the Body, we also surrender it to the household. And yes, even the leader of the household surrenders his individual will to the household. The household and the local Body also surrender to the Kingdom of God. Of course, I’m being very general here, and there may be exceptions. If you can think of any passages that undermines my thinking I’d appreciate you sharing.

    So if you think about it, the problem involves a conflict between the individual, who wants to shed the perceived negatives involved in becoming the least in order to become great, (Luke 9:48) and a “whole”. Man is in a renewed love affair with himself. He doesn’t want to stand in any shadows of any groups. He wants to be sovereign and seen. This is expressed in a lot of ways. Feminism is but one.

    Of course, I can anticipate the argument that not all women are in a household. But that’s a static argument that freezes the present and isolates it from history. It ignores that this individualism is to blame for the growth in singles, and the reduction of households, just as it’s to blame for the skyrocketing divorce rates and out of wedlock births, which create ever more individuals void of households. It’s never wise to point to the consequences of man’s sinful nature as a reason to accommodate that sinful nature, as we moderns are apt to do.

    Anyway, just a thought. I’d be interested in yours. Especially if you disagree.

    A quick PS. The destruction wrought by feminism is difficult to confront. Women, for whatever reason, have an innate need to be loved in a way that men do not. It’s but one of the fundamental differences between men and women. That view is supported by Paul’s command to men to love their wives. I think that that love involves a cherishing, though I can’t think of a passage that supports this view off the top fo my head. So this feminism has introduced that same sentiment to our relationship with God as it pertains to his love for us, in the context of individualism. But that’s what’s so difficult about it. It’s like a virus that’s so intertwined with its host that it’s difficult to kill one without killing both. We get sayings like, God loves us unconditionally, just as we are. Gone in the that sentiment is the beauty so prevalent in, “…while we were yet sinners”. No, in the modern mind, God looks at us, and He’s able to see the beauty in us that our mere mortal contemporaries have to the present been unable to see. He loves us because it’s the only right course of action for God to take, since I am so awesome and wonderful. God gets it, even when my fellow man doesn’t. How does one combat that? Nowhere is this mindset more neon bright and flashing than in what passes as today’s “worship” music.

    Here’s a video that I’ve seen shared, yes, by women, on FB. The woman in this video does a great job of exemplifying exactly what I’m talking about. The entire video glorifies the woman. And then, in her salvation invitation, she invites others to be glorified by God. The repentance so prominent in Jesus’ sermons is conspicuously missing. I think you’ll see what I mean. Watch the first thirty seconds or so, then jump to the 3:20 mark.

    I think she sums up the core issue with feminism and individualism better than I could ever. Is this woman saved? I have no idea. But what does one say in response? Would she be open to hearing a challenge to her views? And what about the women who hear this a fawn. God has become her husband. What man could possibly fill those shoes?

    Anyway, I’ve written a blog post in your comment section. LOL. Sorry about that. Here is the video:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Danny,
      Yes, thank you for blog post. We love it! You might want to cut and paste it to your blog. It’s well worth the read.

      Yes, we see what you mean in the video. It’s about the beauty in her (BTW, she is a Mormon). However, the gospel isn’t about discovering the beauty in us, but about the fact the Christ died for sinners, of which, we are the worst and there is nothing beautiful in us that He would redeem us at all. Hence… it’s called grace. I know you know all this, but write so that others see it as well.

      Just to be clear, Jesus didn’t come to die on the cross so we could see the beauty in us. He came to save sinners, who have no beauty at all. WE need to remind everyone of this truth. Not the false gospel the Mormons present.

      Thanks for your thoughts Danny. Hope you move to the area soon. 🙂


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