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Summary: Having provided instruction for establishing an order of widows, Paul proscribes enrolling younger widows and justifies his position.

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“Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.” [1]

What business has any preacher addressing issues concerning women? I’ll raise the question before someone else raises it. The question is tantamount to complaining that an elder should not address any issue with which he does not have personal experience. I am well used to such complaints, having been on the receiving end of similar criticisms for many years. Long ago, I learned that if the preacher wanted no criticism, he should say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. There are always critics prepared to tell the man of God what he should do or what he should not do. Frankly, there is but one appraisal that matters to me, and that is whether He who appointed me to this service shall at last commend me, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Almost a century ago, an American President in a speech delivered at the Sorbonne, said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” [2] My aim is to honour God through ensuring that I do not shrink from declaring to you “the whole counsel of God” [ACTS 20:27].

Should such a criterion expressing timidity in the pulpit be applied, no pastor would ever speak of a specific sin unless he has participated in and, hopefully, been delivered from said sin. Again, applying the artificial standard that seems to be bandied about so casually, no pastor should speak of any particular theological error if he has not personally perpetuated the particular error. Of course, holding such a position would insure that neither sin nor theological error would ever be addressed. Such an aberrant position would ensure that the people of God would be spiritually anemic and woefully ignorant of the will of God. Failure to speak the whole truth of God would dishonour Him Who gave us this Holy Word.

I am fully aware that there exists marked hypersensitivity about virtually all cultural issues in this day—all participants, real and imagined, tend to become dramatically polarised. Race should never enter into consideration when discussing issues that affect the churches of our Lord—but it does. It amuses me that at a time when western culture has made such great strides in race relations, race is a greater issue than ever before. Similarly, at a time when women have greater visibility than ever before in every facet of society and when women have made such great advancements in the world, there is greater sensitivity to gender issues than ever before.

So, the question remains, what gives an elder the “right” to speak on any women’s issue? The simple answer is that the issue is specifically addressed in the Word of God. Thus, it falls under the purview of the elders’ charge to preach the whole counsel of God. Speaking more broadly, women need to be saved the same as men must be saved. Women who have been redeemed by the grace of God must be instructed in righteousness and in what pleases the Lord. We appear to have forgotten that we enter Heaven as singles—sex is no consideration in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, in the congregation of the Faithful, there are no “women’s issues” or “men’s issues,” per se. Ultimately, all issues are resolved through reference to that which “adorn(s) the doctrine of God our Saviour.” Ultimately, each Christian is to seek that which honours the Master and which builds unity for the Faith.

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