There are few theological convictions more controversial than Complementarianism. For sake of clarity, I should define what I mean by Complementarianism. Complementarianism, as opposed to Egalitarianism, says that men and women have equal value as humans made in the image of God but have been made in a way that their roles complement each other. Men are to lead and women are to joyfully submit to male leadership and in so doing glorify God by rejoicing in God’s design in creation. Women and men are equally sinful, equally justified by imputed righteousness and often equally competent. I am constantly around women who are smarter than I am. The question though is not competency but God-given roles and responsibility. Male domineering is a farce of Complementarianism and is just as bad as Egalitarianism. Men lead humbly, sacrificing for his wife as Christ loved the church. Not all women are subject to all men. But husbands are under the humble authority of their husbands, daughters under their loving fathers. Female congregation members are to be subject to the authority of the elders (just as men are). Caricatures are endless and very few actually understand the positions posited by Complementarianism. The goal is obedience, no oppression. Complementarianism serves our joy in God, it does not lessen it. The best apologetic for this position is that it is biblical. I’d like to look briefly at a passage in Titus 2 and point out some things Paul says about gender roles.

Here is the passage:

[1] But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. [2] Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. [3] Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, [4] and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, [5] to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

(Titus 2:1-5 ESV)

According with Sound Doctrine

You will notice in v.1 where Paul finds his basis for differing gender roles. Paul has been exhorting Titus to appoint elders and teach sound doctrine. Many came who were not preaching the truth but instead aimed to spy out freedom in Christ and add to the gospel. Paul says teach sound doctrine. Much of this sound doctrine has to do with “the doctrine of God, our Savior” (v.10). These great truths about who God is and what He has done leads to holiness of life. Inevitably the twin grace of justification, namely sanctification, flows naturally from a heart changed by the power of the gospel. So then, we are to live in gospel-driven obedience.

To Paul (and the Holy Spirit) differing roles for men and women accord with sound doctrine. Paul is not simply trapped in his 1st century context. Many today try to undermine the biblical teaching on what it means to be a man and a women by saying that Paul’s teaching only applied then but has no weight in a more modern, progressive society. But we see here that Paul is not drawing from his surroundings but rather from the mandate of God. His apostolic witness is what is driving his theology here. God told him this way is true, to put it plainly. That this teaching accords with sound doctrine is the reason Paul finds it important to tell Titus to remember.

A quick word on sound doctrine before we move on. “Sound” could also be rendered “healthy.” Good theology is for our souls. These are not semantics. This is not a male agenda to be superior. God has designed things this way and so it stands to reasons that things would go best when we are obedient to it. This is not mere white-knuckle obedience. There is a role for obedience even when we don’t want to be obedient. But we must see obedience as a path to joy. These doctrines of Complementarianism seek to magnify the worth of Christ by the joyful submitting of men and women to what God has designed them to do. Our joy in these things so contrary to our nature shows the sufficiency of God.

Older Men

Paul first addresses the older men of the church. I think of pillars when I think of these men. Paul tells Timothy that these older men are to lead by being sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness. Such men that can teach are to be the elders of the church, those who lead by the ministry of the Word and prayer. These older men are to be rooted deep in the gospel. There is a steadiness that comes with age in the faith. These are to be those who everyone looks to for example and exhortation. Far from just being nice old guys, these older men are to be “sound in faith.” These men are guardians of doctrine who pass  on the teachings of Christ from generation to generation.

Older Women

Paul moves then to older women. Women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much win. I am not sure if the women Paul had in mind had a propensity to such sins. There is no doubt that men and women have a larger propensity to different sins. Regardless, women are exhorted to be reverent. This is not blind reverence but a reverence towards sound faith. This is a reverence towards the holiness of God.

Then you get to the end of v. 3. It says women teach. Ah ha! Is this the nail in our coffin? Far from it. No real Complementarian would ever say that women have no teaching role in congregational life. Women are also to teach the sound gospel doctrines that the men have been charged to stand in. Women are to teach what is good. But look at the beginning of v.4. Women are to teach what is good, “and so train the young women.” Women have an invaluable role in the life of the church. But Paul says that a women’s role in teaching is teaching younger women, discipling them in the ways of a godly woman. This is not a subservient task. Just because women should not teach men does not make the task of an older woman any less honorable. Again, the issue here is role and authority. There is no hierarchy of worth. But when we see that women and men have been created to fulfill different roles and glorify God by delighting in and not rejecting His good plan.

What are these women to teach? “Things that accord with sound doctrine.” This sound doctrine and its implications are what older women are to teach to the younger women in the church. The teaching helps to train younger women to fufill their God-given, beautiful roles in the home and church. These roles include: training to love their husbands and children, self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive. I can feel my friends with more Egalitarian leanings shifting uncomfortably in their seats. This is the Bible, though. Far from being oppressive, many women have found that these God-given roles bring unspeakable joy and health in their lives of seeing and savoring God. Joy in obedience, remember! Women’s primary ministry is in the home. What a job! This is no easy task, helping to shepherd a dead heart to the foot of the cross! Women have been gifted to do so. Women are to love their husbands, support him and submit to his humble, heart-broken leadership as to the Lord. These principles are not coming from a primitive culture but from sound doctrine and from the creation account itself (1 Timothy 2:13).

Why? So that the Word of God is not Reviled 

Why are these things important? A throw away answer may be, “for the glory of God.” That answer is never a throw-away one if you really mean it. It is easy to say God has said and so you do it. That is true. But it is more compelling put when we say that the worth of God is magnified in these gender and age distinction. When we joyfully submit to God’s revealed will, we show that His word and His way is much greater than ours. God has designed things for our good (Romans 8:28). God’s good design for man and women serves to promote the most joy in God so that God is most glorified/magnified in the lives of individuals in the local body.

These things come from justification. God has freely justified us by His grace, on the basis of the imputed righteousness. We are free. But we are free to obey. God’s commands are not burdensome. We love them because we are a new creation. May we pursue these biblical roles for men and women. It will work out better and God will be glorified in our baby steps of sanctification.