To continue our discussion on a biblical theology of the discipleship of women, we will now look at the Great Commission. Jesus instructs his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
While this text is often used to emphasize the evangelistic component of Christ’s exhortation, it is crucial that the component of discipleship is not overlooked. Once disciples have been made, they are to be taught to observe and obey all of the Scriptures that Jesus fulfilled and commanded. This pattern is evident throughout the Bible: orthodoxy and sound teaching must lead to orthopraxy and godly living. For example, Romans 1-11 (orthodoxy), Romans 12-16 (orthopraxy) and Ephesians 1-3 (orthodoxy), Ephesians 4-6 (orthopraxy).
The Bible provides extensive instruction on how the church ought to fulfill the Great Commission. In many instances, discipleship is gender neutral. For example, men and women share salvation in Christ, the command to love God, and the command to love others. Yet the Bible also teaches that there are gender specific applications of scriptural truths. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the letters 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus to provide instructions on how to establish a healthy church. There are many insights in the Pastoral Epistles on gender specific discipleship. In the book of Titus specifically, Paul starts by giving guidelines for the qualifications of elders. He then proceeds to describe what the overseers are called to do. In Titus 2:1-6, he writes:
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
Paul gives instructions to Titus and the elders of the churches in Crete to identify and equip three groups of people: older men, older women, and younger men. It is important to note that the younger women are not overlooked, but that it is the older women who are instructed to teach and train them in godly conduct. Furthermore, it is the elders who are responsible to equip the older women for this role by teaching them what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Paul gives a clear exhortation to the qualified male overseers in the church to identify and teach the older women in the church to prepare them to instruct younger women in godly conduct. He proceeds to emphasize seven main areas of training: to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self- controlled, to be pure, to be working at home, to be kind, and to be submissive to their own husbands.
Further study is needed to develop a biblical theology of the discipleship of women, which I hope to research and write more about in the upcoming months. There is much more that Scripture gives insight to on this issue apart from Creation before the Fall, the Great Commission, and the Titus 2 mandate given to elders. These passages do however, offer an initial framework for women’s discipleship. If the Word of God gives ample direction on this subject, how is the Body of Christ doing at putting it into practice?