The first thing we think about when we hear the word “purity” is sexual impurity. Maybe that results from our sex saturated culture. Or maybe it exposes the depth of our own preoccupation with sex. Either way, it is the first thing that comes to our minds, isn’t it?
Perhaps we do need to begin with that connection when the subject of purity comes up, precisely because sex permeates so much of our consciousness. Sexual purity has fallen out of favor even among evangelicals. For the first time in history, evangelicals openly live together outside of marriage and see nothing wrong with that practice. Obviously, fewer and fewer professing Christians believe that sexual behavior should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman until death. In this regard, I agree that purity in sexual conduct can’t be emphasized too often or too strongly.
Was the apostle Paul thinking about sexual purity when he told Titus how older women should mentor younger women?
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)
Certainly, teaching women the importance of modesty and chastity would have been a key reason for women to teach other women. It would have caused incredible temptation for a man to counsel a woman on such intimate matters. Women can (and sadly do) fall into sexual sin just as easily as men do, making it necessary and crucial to address this type of impurity. Therefore, we cannot and must not neglect this area of instruction.
But in addition to encouraging purity in the realm of sexuality, older women need to encourage doctrinal purity. Actually, it’s pointless to teach other women to be sexually pure without first giving them a foundation in solid Christian doctrine. Understanding key doctrines like God’s holiness and the relationship Christ has with His Church demonstrates why the Lord calls us to reserve sexual expression to monogamous, heterosexual marriage. And on a deeper level, doctrinal purity guards us against false teaching that would lead us to be unfaithful to the Lord.
Scripture often draws a comparison between adultery and idolatry, indicating that following false teaching results in unfaithfulness to the Lord. Sometimes it helps to openly identify false teachers, especially when they’re popular and influential. In this digital age when all sorts of “Christian” teaching lies at our finger tips, women quite easily slide into deception. A good understanding of God’s Word can go a long way in inoculating younger women against the lies that so easily many popular teachers propagate.
Pastors should do more to call out false teachers, I agree, but pastors may not have the time to research every teacher that makes his or her way onto the internet. An older woman, on the other hand, usually hears about the latest teacher and has time to research them. And more importantly, older women can mentor younger women with much less risk of inappropriate relationships developing. In this manner, older women supplement the ministries of pastors and elders.
Yet naming names too frequently poses the very real danger of degenerating into gossip. If you look again at Titus 2:3, you’ll notice that older women need to avoid becoming gossips. I’ve noticed in my own blogging that I can easily justify gossiping about well-known evangelicals in the name of discernment ministry. To be honest. I had planned to write this post about a famous evangelical who has made terrible moral compromises, assuring myself that doing so would help readers discern how little deviations from God’s Word snowball into apostasy. But the Lord graciously used a blog post I read to convict me that I would have been guilty of gossip. And I would have set a bad example instead of encouraging readers toward holiness.
Therefore, naming names should be done sparingly. As I’ve said numerous times, teaching Biblical doctrine is much more effective than merely calling out false teachers. As older women, we best encourage purity in younger women by giving them a passion for doctrinal purity.
Doctrinal purity alone, however, can lead to intellectual pride. For this reason, older women must go beyond teaching theological truths — as important as those truths are — to helping younger women conform their lives to those truths. Purity in doctrine is worthless unless it results in holy living. But don’t mistake this point for mere ethical conduct, as if Christianity can be reduced to a religion based on our works. Such a moralistic approach ignores the key teaching of the Gospel — that we come to God solely on the basis of Christ’s work on the cross.
The purity here comes as we recognize His claim on us. In joyful response to the grace and mercy He has shown by dying for us, we eagerly devote ourselves to Him. This devotion gives us the desire to please Him in how we live. We genuinely want to separate ourselves from worldly and sinful practices, even to the point of keeping our thoughts free from anything that might dishonor Him. Younger women need guidance in practicing this level of devotional purity.
Sexual purity is definitely important. It has a lot to do with our devotional purity. I just don’t want you to limit your understanding of purity to that one area. Older women must teach a much broader and richer purity to our younger sisters, helping them grow into women who bring honor and glory to the Lord.