Rev. denHartog is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.
We have several times used the occasion of infant baptism in our congregation to preach on the calling of young women. Probably all of our ministers have done this. Hopefully we give equal and balanced emphasis in our preaching to give instruction regarding the calling of young men.
There is urgent reason in our day to preach on the above named subject. The evil philosophy of feminism is widespread in the church at large. We need to guard against its insidious influences even in our own midst. The philosophy of family planning and birth control is also widespread. One sees fewer and fewer large families. Even though we live in an age of ease and luxury and great abundance, certainly in comparison to bygone days, children are considered to be a burden. The “perfect family” is supposed to be one with two children, hopefully a boy and a girl. Having more than two children is considered beyond the ability of many women to cope with. People in general look down their noses at large families, wondering whether couples who have them might somehow be ignorant of birth control methods, a thing certainly inexcusable in our modern day.
Furthermore, the role of mother in the home is greatly despised in our society. The career woman is glamorized. She is the liberated woman. She is the one who has insisted on her rights, which according to the spirit of our age all women must by all means do. She has made a name for herself in the world. On the other hand, the mother who stays home to give birth to and raise a family is an ignoramus. She is counted as a nothing. Her life is boring. She is wasting her time. She has submitted herself to some form of evil bondage that hopefully our world is now finally ridding itself of.
With all these ideas bombarding the Christian woman today she needs to know very clearly what her calling is before the Lord. She needs to be encouraged in our day. The godly woman who stays home to bear children and to sacrifice herself to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord needs to be praised. She needs to be told over and over of the great honor of her position and the great significance of her calling in the church. “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31:30).
For all of these reasons we ministers must often in our congregations preach on these subjects. Scripture allows us to do this. There is no shortage of texts in the Bible to base sermons on this subject.
I preached recently on the inspired words of the apostle Paul in I Timothy 5:14: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” One might summarize the teaching of this Word of God with the statement: “A woman’s place is in the home.” That statement is today considered outrageous. Any public person that would dare to make it is tarred and feathered in our day. A politician who would say such a thing would be forced to resign from office by the rabid feminists of our land. Such a statement is hopelessly out of tune with our modern society. It is not “politically correct.” It is considered terribly demeaning to women. It is a slur as serious as the racial epitaphs that are so severely condemned by modern society.
Godly women need to know that the above statement is biblical. Paul does not speak as a male chauvinist when he gives this instruction to Timothy to be taught in the church. Paul knew what he was talking about, even though he himself was never married, because he spoke by inspiration of God. But some would immediately say that Paul was speaking only to the age and culture of his day. In his day women were uneducated and were considered to have few talents. There was no such thing as “career women” in the days of the apostle. But our society has “greatly improved” the role of women, it is claimed. The modern-day woman is better educated and much more highly gifted. She has learned better things to do with her life than stay at home and care for children.
Against all of this we boldly say that Paul speaks the Word of God. Godly women must take heed to it. Paul speaks of the will of God for young women in the church. Paul outlines for godly women a most honorable and significant role. There are few occupations in the church that can compare to the role that God has given to women. Lenski, in his commentary on this passage, makes this significant statement: “To rule the house means as wife and mother in the home, to manage the household affairs. This is the domain and province of the woman, in which no man can compete with her. Its greatness and its importance should ever be held up as woman’s divinely intended sphere, in which all her womanly qualities and gifts find full play and happiest gratification.”1 That is an excellent statement. It has biblical foundation. It is thoroughly correct and relevant for our times.
In the above quoted passage Paul summarizes the role of women in three statements. I will therefore that the younger women: 1) marry, 2) bear children, and 3) guide the house. These three are of course all related, as I want to point out. Before we do that I must make two necessary balancing statements. The first is that it is not the will of God that all young women marry. The Lord does not in His providence give partners to all young women in the church. For some this is a thing very difficult to accept. We are deeply sympathetic to this. The single young women in the church however must never be made to feel that if they do not marry, the purpose of their life is not fulfilled, they have no important place in the church. To give such an impression is grievously to hurt the single godly women in the church. I Cor-inthians 7 (another good passage to preach on in our day) has much to say about the virtues and advantages of living a single Christian life. The single Christian woman can devote herself to the service of the Lord in the church in different ways than a married woman who has the great responsibility of caring for her husband and children. The faithful, godly woman who remains single all her life, and serves the Lord with grace in her heart is pleasing to the Lord and can do great things in the kingdom of her Lord.
The second balancing statement that must be made is that God does not give children to every marriage. This too is in the providence of the Lord. The childless married woman must by the grace of God also accept this. This too may be very difficult for some to accept. This difficulty must be deeply sympathized with. For some this burden involves lifelong pain and anguish. Godly women in such a situation in life must be encouraged that this too is of the Lord. They also must be told over and over again that God has a significant place in His church for the childless woman. These too must serve the Lord joyfully and thankfully and with self-sacrifice. History, including Bible history, records the lives of great heroines of faith who never had children of their own to care for. We are thankful to God even today for the outstanding examples of godly women in our churches to whom God did not give children and who devote themselves entirely to the service of the Lord in His church. It would be easy to make a list of these that many of us know very well. Some are known over the whole denomination because of the place they have in the kingdom of the Lord and because of their faithfulness.
Some would object that in I Timothy 5 Paul is speaking of young widows. This is true. Apparently there were a number of young widows in the church, maybe because so many young men had died in wars. Paul does not allow these young women to be inducted into the special order of widows that apparently existed in the church that Timothy was pastoring. The young widows should be refused. Paul gives the reason for this in the preceding verses. The young widows should instead be told to marry and bear children. The woman who divorces her husband and marries another shall be called an adulteress (see Rom. 7). But when God takes a partner out of life the marriage bond is severed by God Himself, and the man or woman who remains on earth is free to marry another.
The younger widows are by Paul even encouraged to marry if they so desire. They are to do that, however, only in the Lord, only if the Lord brings into their lives a godly man. It is better not to marry than to marry an ungodly man or anyone with whom you cannot be one in the faith. A young widow must not let the great sorrow of losing her husband drive her to marry any man that might come along and promise to fill the void in her life. An ungodly man will be a lifelong hindrance to serving the Lord and the source of great grief and sorrow over the years of married life. Though the instruction in Timothy is directed to young widows, it also very obviously applies to all young women in the church.
It is good that the young women marry. It is still necessary in our day to condemn the evil promoted in the Roman Catholic Church. I refer to the evil of encouraging young men and young women to become monks and nuns and requiring all these to make a vow of lifelong celibacy. This is contrary to nature and contrary to the purpose of God. I Timothy 5:14 is a strong statement against this practice. Paul in I Timothy 3 says that forbidding to marry is a “doctrine of devils.” The Roman Catholic Church is responsible for the floods of evil that have flowed from this doctrine of devils in her midst over the centuries.
Marriage prepares the young woman for a very significant role in the church. The young woman is full of life and energy. She has strong sexual desires. Even these sexual desires are God-given and in themselves good. The young woman must use this God-given energy not in a scandalous life of fornication that is so common in our wicked world but in holiness in the sphere of marriage. She must not practice the abominable “live-in arrangement” with a man that is common in our day, so that if she happens not to like a man she has slept with for a time they can split and each look for someone else and make another try. Such live-in arrangements are a very great evil, and God’s wrath is upon them. Those who live in such a manner are living in continual fornication and refusing to take the responsibility and calling of marriage seriously. God will judge them for this, both in this life and in the life to come. God’s Word exhorts the young woman to marry, not only for selfish pleasure and gratification, but to serve the Lord in marriage. She is encouraged to “make a career” out of being a godly wife and mother.
Marriage, lifelong, faithful marriage, is the necessary, stable, and protective sphere for the nurture of covenant children. We said above that the three exhortations of Paul in I Timothy 5:14 go hand in hand. They are beautifully related. The young woman is exhorted to marry, to bear children, and to guide the house. There are plenty of women today who might go along with the first but who despise the second and third exhortations of this passage of God’s Word. There are couples who even before marriage vow that they will not have children. Children, in their opinion, are too much of a burden. Children limit especially the freedom of a woman to go out and get her own career. The feminist movement has militantly spread the philosophy that the only way women can be truly free is to be liberated from the bondage of having to bear children in marriage and from the responsibility of having to care for and raise children.
The big push for liberalized abortion laws is exactly this philosophy. A woman must have the right to terminate any pregnancy that she does not want. She must have the right even to kill her own unborn child if this child is in any way going to stand in the way of the woman’s freely pursuing her own proud, selfish goals in life. Young godly women in the church-world must be constantly reminded of what monsters of iniquity the advocates of this philosophy really are. Recently there has been much discussion about so-called partial-birth abortions, a procedure, we understand, that involves surgical removal of the brain of an unborn child in its mother’s womb and murdering it in this way. Can anyone imagine something more evil than that!? I cannot.
While others might not go as far as this great evil, they nevertheless do not want to have children. It is considered too much of a bother. It requires too much sacrifice. It involves too great a limitation of the freedom of a couple to pursue selfish ambition. But according to God’s Word the bearing of children is one of the great purposes of marriage. When this statement is made it is often countered with a vehement defense by those who do not want to have children in their marriage, that having children is not the only purpose of marriage. This is a half-truth. Yes, it is true that having children in marriage is not the only purpose of marriage. In fact, it can even be said that having children is not the first purpose of marriage. The first purpose of marriage is that a man and woman live in love and companionship with each other, each assisting the other in the service of the Lord. If God does not give a couple any children, and they do the above, they have fulfilled the God-ordained purpose of their marriage. But this does not deny that having children is still one of the main purposes of marriage. This is obvious, is it not? Of course it is! God made it that way.
Furthermore, God has wondrously joined together the act of marriage and the bringing forth of children. The act of marriage involves the most intimate expression of love and devotion of a couple to each other. The fruit of this intimate expression of love is children. In the act of marriage a husband and wife give themselves selflessly to each other. God Himself has joined to this the wonderful fruit of the generation of children. This is a beautiful thing. The husband and wife who give themselves to each other in such a manner joyfully look for and pray that their love for one another will bring forth the fruit of children in the image and likeness of both of them. Bringing forth children also involves sacrificial love. To have children one must prepare for tremendous self-sacrifice.
But is this not the great calling of the whole Christian life, to sacrifice yourself, not to seek your own selfish ambition? Do we realize how totally antithetical the philosophy of the world is to the requirements of God in every area of life, also in the area of our calling in marriage? W.G. deVries, in his excellent book: Marriage in Honor, makes this statement about the philosophy we are discussing: “A married couple that decides not to have children has murdered its marriage from the beginning. Such a marriage comes to a sterile standstill; it perishes from egotism.”2 How true this statement is!
For young women the calling to have children is followed by the responsibility to “guide the house.” Even if the first and second exhortation are acceptable to some couples, many want nothing to do with the third exhortation to “guide the house.” The woman of the world must by all means and at all costs have the freedom to pursue her independent worldly career. Therefore there is so much militancy in our time for “good day-care centers.” But can such day-care centers raise our covenant children? The answer to that question ought to be obvious to every true, godly, Reformed, believing woman and her husband.
I have decided to expand somewhat on these subjects, beyond what I did in my sermon in church. Therefore we will continue in our next Standard Bearer article, D.V.
1 The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon, by R.D.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, MN, 1961, page 676.
2 Marriage in Honor, by W.G. deVries, Paidea Press, St. Catherines, ON, Canada, 1980. page 180.