In our former essay we called attention to Paul’s description of and criteria for a fit candidate for the work and position of a deaconess in the church of Jesus Christ.
There were two factors which are particularly singled out and set in bold relief.
The first is the matter of personal qualifications. She must have been the wife of one man, have nourished children, have lodged strangers, and have washed the saints’ feet; particularly, she must have relieved the needy! In one word: she must have diligently followed every good work!
Besides, and probably too for the foregoing reasons, she must have attained, at least, to the age of 60 years. Younger widows will surely wax wanton and enter into the marriage state, and will bring reproach upon the name of Christ.
Hence, Paul comes with his very, very sober advice. Writes he: “I will, therefore, that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already tamed aside after Satan.” Verses 14, 15.
It should be borne in mind that Paul here expresses what he “wills” for the church. This is the same verb employed by Paul in I Tim. 2:8, where he gives commandment that “men” in distinction from women lead the church in the congregational prayers and in the liturgies in general. The term refers to the deliberative will as based upon sound judgment and the eternal ordinances of God for man either in the church or in the home. Such is the import of the term “boulomai.” Compare I Tim. 2:8 and Jude 1:5.
What we have stated in our former article concerning the nature and place of women in relationship to their husbands; as was the relationship of Eve to Adam, should be here kept in mind. Paul studiously follows the principle here that Christ has not come to give excuse to sin, but that He came to take away sin and to call us unto holiness. For the ordinance of marriage is not rooted in Christ, is not an ordinance which has validity before God, simply in the church. Men and women in the world are also married before God and subject to the rule: what God hath then joined together let not man put asunder! See Matt. 19:6. And this rule no decisions of learned (1) Synods can disannul! God is not mocked! Christ came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it: not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away from the law till all be fulfilled. He came to sanctify marriage and to set the marriage state in honor and in the service of the gathering of His church and coming of His kingdom.
That we should bear in mind here.
Upon this solid basis is the “I will” of the apostle here in our test.
Concerning the “younger widows” Paul has some very pointed and wise directives.
In the first place they are “to marry.” There are circumstances when it is better for widows not to marry. However, Paul is here speaking of those widows who do not have the power of continence. He is speaking here of the general rule and not of the exceptions. It is, of course, understood that they who marry shall marry “in the Lord.” It is not enough that a young widow meet a “nice” young man. Here we cannot follow the very, very carnal and worldly advice which is sought for and received by men and women of unbelief in the world. They are blind and seek guidance from the blind, and both fall into the pit of error and superstition. The standard is and remains “in the Lord,” that is, that both parties, the young widow and the young man are believers in Christ, so that the one says to the other your God is my God and your people is my people. Young widows shall marry; they are here in their element like a fish in the water.
In this holy ordinance the young widows are to “bear children.” For a woman is saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with sobriety. They are not saved because they bear children, but they are saved because of the love and suffering of Christ on the Cross. Yet, without childbearing the woman is not saved and Eve is not the mother of the living. Only thus is the church born, and does the Son of God gather, defend and preserve to Himself a church elect unto everlasting life. Young widows have still a place in that plan and purpose of God. That is their calling of faith. And with the intention of “bearing children” they enter into the marriage state. The’ world which is “without God” and “estranged from the life of God” busies itself with contraceptives, wonder drugs to relieve the “sorrow” of conception, and argues before the face of the Almighty the right and wrong of “birth-control.” It is better to study unto godliness and have as a guiding rule: All what is not out of faith is sin! Let each be fully persuaded in her own mind that she is walking in her calling of bearing children, of walking in godliness, so that with her whole life she glorifies and praises God; there will be less neurosis in the matter of child-bearing. Also here there is room for the putting off of the old man and for the putting on of the new man in Christ Jesus.
Only those who enter into the marriage state with the resolved and dedicated purpose of “bearing children” will also truly enter into it with the purpose of managing a household. The term in Greek “oikodespotei” does not mean that Paul advocates that the woman (wife) be a veritable despot in the house; Paul is not speaking of her “authority” in the home, but rather of her calling in managing the household affairs as the help-meet of her husband. Here we can do no better than quote from Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships and bringeth her food from afar. She riseth up while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens . . . She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. . . . She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet . . . Her husband is known in the gates, when he: sitteth among the elders of the land. . . . Strength and honor are her clothing and she shall rejoice in time to come. . . . She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed: her husband also and he praiseth her. . . . Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. . . .”
Such a woman, a young widow, will develop into a fit candidate for a deaconess in later life. However, unless she has passed through these experiences and shown herself approved she must be begged off. Let it not be forgotten that the calling of “motherhood” is a first-rate calling and cannot be relegated to a secondary position.
Only thus will the enemy have none “occasion” for reviling the church of God. Paul is studiously interested that no “occasion” be “given” to the enemy. We don’t hand the Devil an occasion on a platter to revile the people of God. This calls for a very circumspect walk on the part of us Christians! And, in particular, on the part of the younger widows. A young widow is a shiny mark for gossip! And the adversary has his agents out. They are often “dame rumor.” They thrive on idleness and gossip. Idleness is the Devil’s pillow. If our lives are not filled up with constructive work, the Devil will see to it that we have destructive reviling! There is nothing so good to keep from joining the Devil’s crowd of gossipers as to be so positively busy in one’s “office and calling” as are the angels in heaven. And the only way to keep young widows from being reviled and or giving occasions for evil-speaking is that they marry and walk in a God-given calling and purpose in life.
Paul must have had definite cases in mind in the church of Ephesus when he writes: “For some already turned aside after Satan.” There must have been “some” such among the young widows whose conduct was not above reproach and who by their conduct caused the church, the community of saints, to be reviled. The unbelievers could point to the conduct of these younger widows and thus the enemy of the church had material to make sport of the church.
These things ought not so to be!
Hence, the strong and definite: I will, therefore, that they marry . . .
The apostle still has a directive also for the care of widows. Writes he in verse 16: “If any man or woman that believeth hath widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that they may relieve them that are widows indeed.”
At first glance it seems that we have here a repetition of what the Apostle wrote in verse 8. There the Apostle gave instructions for the care of the widows. Children should show godliness toward their aged parents lest they be worse than infidels and deny the faith. Here the apostle is concerned re a proper apportionment of the amount of relief that must be given by the church. The rule seems to be that the church is not to pay in such cases where relatives or anyone in a position to do so, has the first calling. There must not be a shirking of the duty on the part of children or of anyone in a position to aid the needy widows.
Here we are dealing once more with a basic principle in caring for the needy. The church must care for those who are “widows indeed,” that is, for those who have no other means of income, or financial support. The deep principle here is: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself! A parent is “nearer” than anyone else, and so is a close relative.
Thus the affairs must be handled in the household of faith, the church of the living God. All must be controlled by godliness; we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in us to will and to do according to his good-pleasure.
“PAYING OUR VOWS”
Our salvation is not really “completed” when we do not pay our vows to God. We are a bit adverse to the idea of “payment” to God for fear that it would detract from grace so that grace would not be grace. In our thinking we easily confuse or identify “payment” and “merit”! However, paying our “vows” is in the highest sense eating and drinking Christ. It means keeping our word, which we freely and spontaneously promised before the face of God and His people. We then say with Abraham: I have lifted up my hand unto the Most High!
Scripture abounds in passages which speak of “paying” our vows. In Psalm 22:25 we read: “My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.” In Psalm 50:14 we read: “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High.” Or read Psalm 66:13: “I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows.” InPsalm 76:11 we read: “Vow and pay (fulfill) unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.” And, lastly, read Psalm 116:18: “I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his saints.”
Has your vow become a cheap article; or is it a sacred trust?!