Outgoing Health, Education and Welfare Secretary David Mathews was ordered by a federal district judge yesterday to issue without delay a set of complex regulations barring discrimination against the handicapped in institutions or activities supported with federal funds.

Mathews, whose term of office will end Thursday when the presidency changes hands, intends to seek a delay of the order, aides said last night.That left the outcome nuclear.

The secretary claimed on the one hand to be content with the 183 pages of regulations that were put on his desk for signature several days ago, after months of studies, hearings, litigation and drafting.

But he said on the other hand that he did not want to sign them until Congress has a chance to look at them.

The main thing he wanted to avoid, he said, was another reaction of the sort that followed inssuance of HEW regulations barring sex discrimination in educational institutions.

HEW became almost an object-of ridicule when its enforcement office held that the sex regulations would forbid or at least cast legal doubt on - such things as father-son dinners and all-boy choirs.

Congress initially passed legislation in 1973 barring discrimination against the handicapped in federally supported institutions and activities. Additional broadening language was enacted in 1974.

But lawyers representing groups of handicapped citizens complained yesterday that HEW took no steps to publish the necessary regulations carrying out these acts of Congress until a suit demanding action was filed last year.