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1 Timothy 2:8-15: Instructions for Worship and Community Conduct Print E-mail
1 Timothy
Sunday, 20 August 2006

How do we respond as a Church to the feminist movement?  Granted, the question is too broad and we will not be able to answer that in one setting, but still, what is our approach to making a response to the current trends?  We could just simply pretend that they are not there and go on with our business.  Of course, the problem with such a response is that feminism has already infiltrated our ranks.  Thus, to pretend the problem does not matter to the Church is not an option.  We could take the extreme position of trying Ďto put women in their placeí and recognize no place of service for women in the Church or even in society.  Or we could take the opposite position and just accept the feminist movement in our Churches and in society, viewing texts like ours this morning as simply culturally irrelevant or worse, just Paulís rants against women.

Obviously, your first thought should be, ĎWell, William we need to be biblical on this issue, like any other issue.í  Of course I agree, our goal is to be biblical.  Yet, both of the radical views that I have just stated claim to be biblical.  They pick and choose different texts to try and support their positions.  So, we find ourselves in a somewhat difficult spot asking this question: how do we discern what the Bible says about the role of women in Churches and society?

To answer, we must think back on some of the points we talked about during our Sunday Night series on ĎHow to Study the Bible.í  We must remember that the important question when studying the Bible is ĎWhat did the Spirit, through the particular author, mean?í  In other words, we must get back to the authorial intent of the text.  We need to consider at least three perspectives: the grammar, or what the words in the text actually say, the immediate context, or how does the verse fit in with the surrounding paragraphs and thoughts, and the context of Scripture, or what do other passages say about the particular issue.  Thus, this morning, as we consider one of the more controversial passages in the book of 1 Timothy, I want us to keep these three perspectives in mind so that by Godís grace we can better understand what the Spirit intended.  I want to break the passage into two sections: Paulís charge to men and Paulís charge to women.  Letís look first at his charge to men.

Paulís Charge to Men: Pray (v. 8).

Picking up on what we looked at last week in 2:1-7, Paul charges the men in this text to pray.  Look at verse 8.  Paul gives some qualifications for this charge.  First the men are to pray in every place.  Thus, this is not just a charge to the Ephesian men, but to all men to pray (including the believing men who are gathered here this morning).  Second, the men are to lift holy hands.  This is not Paul giving directions to our style of prayer as much as it is a call to holiness.  Should we lift hands as we pray and worship?  Yes, I think that is very appropriate, especially when you consider the Psalms (like Psalm 63 that we read this morning).  Is Paul requiring that we always lift our hands?  Not necessarily, but he is requiring that we come before God with holiness as we gather to worship, reminding us that our sin drives us from the presence of God.  Rather, we are to strive to live holy lives and we are to repent when we do not. 

Third, we are to lift holy hands without anger or quarreling.  Thus, if we have a problem with someone, we are to deal with that problem before we gather to worship.  Jesus taught the same thing (see Matthew 5:23-24).  Men, your charge from this text is to pray to God, lifting holy hands without being angry at others.  This is not Paul saying that only the men can pray, for he says different in other passages (see 1 Corinthians 11:5), but this is a clear call to men.  I simply leave you with one question: are you leading out as a man in the corporate prayers of this Church?  If not, then heed the charge of Paul this morning and labor to be faithful.

Paulís charge to women (v. 9-15).

I think Paulís charge to women can be broken into 4 parts.  First, women are to dress modestly.  Look at verses 9 and 10.  Just as the men were quarreling during their corporate gatherings, it seems that the women were dressing immodestly.  Thus, Paul wants to correct this error.  So, much could be said about this charge, but let me limit myself to just a few comments.  First, this is not Paul instructing women to be ashamed of their physical beauty.  No, God has made women beautiful and there is nothing wrong with that.  Rather, the prohibition is inappropriate dress that sinfully draws attention to physical beauty.  As a man, all I can say to the young women is that you do not want to attract men in this way.  I know it is hard, I know it is difficult, but this is not what you want.  Also, for the sake of your fellow Christian brothers, you need to dress modestly.  I will say it this way, it is difficult for men to lift up holy hands when women are dressed immodestly. 

As for Paulís charge against braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, I do think that this charge is somewhat cultural.  Due to the temple prostitutes in Ephesus, Paul instructed the women to avoid dressing and wearing their hair like them.  Thus, Paul is saying to not dress in a way that would associate you with immoral women.  Rather, and this is the important contrast, women should dress themselves with good works.  Young women, you should dress yourself with godliness, trusting that the Lord will prepare a godly man for you.  Likewise, older women should set an example of true beauty to the younger women here.  In the end ladies, it is more important to be godly than it is to be fashionable, so dress modestly.

Second, Paul charges women to learn submissively.  Look at verse 11.  At times, in the Jewish culture, women were prohibited from being taught the Law.  There is no biblical precedent for such action, but it happened.  Yet, for Paul, women were to learn, they were to be taught, just as every Christian is to learn.  As they learn, especially in the public gathering, they are to be quiet and to learn in submission.  Of course, what does this mean exactly?  Well, I think Paul is driving at the attitude of women and their approach to authority in the Church.  Women are to respect and submit to the elders, or those in authority, in the local Church.  Others are to submit as well, but Paul is specifically instructing women here.  There needs to be an attitude of submission towards the men who are teaching in our Churches, from women and men.  I should point out that Paul is not calling all women to submit to all men.  Rather, he is specifically referring in this verse to a woman learning in submission to those in authority in the Church.  We will speak more of submission in a moment. 

Third, women are to teach and have authority conditionally.  Look at verse 12.  Yes, a woman can teach in the Church and exercise authority.  Yet, she just cannot do it over men.  In other words, a woman can teach other women (see Titus 2:3-4) and children, but she cannot teach a man.  The command moves from specific to general.  In other words the command that woman cannot exercise authority over a man is general and the command that they cannot teach is specific.  So, for Paul, teaching is a form of exercising authority.  We will speak more of this as we look at the qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3).  Paulís reasons for this charge are found in verses 13-14.  Look at these with me.

Paulís first reason is that Adam was created first.  Thus, there was an order in Godís creation: men are to lead and women are to submit.  Again, this is not every woman submitting to every man, but the principle that men are to be leaders, specifically of the home (see Ephesians 5:22-33) and of the Church, is clear.  Paulís second reason is that Adam was not deceived by the Serpent.  Yes, Adam was guilty for he sinned and rebelled, but he was not deceived.  Thus, Paul is saying something about what happens when Godís pattern is disrupted.  It is important to note that Paul, and the rest of the Scriptures, are not saying that women are less important than men.  Rather, the Scriptures teach us that men and women have different roles, both of which are important and vital.

Of course, we must ask this question: how do we know that Paul is not just addressing the Ephesian women, which so many claim in our day?  Well, we should consider our three perspectives: grammar, context, and the rest of Scripture.  As for grammar, some argue that the right translation is as follows: I do not permit a woman at this time to teach or exercise authority over a man.  Yet, that is not what the text actually says.  If we take the words to say this, then we can also take many of the other commands of Paul in the same way, which would leave us with a Bible that is irrelevant for us today.  As for context, it seems clear that Paul is talking about all men and all women, since the command to men is to be applied to men in every place.  Likewise, are only the Ephesian women to dress modestly?  No, Paul is referring to all women.  Paulís reasons for this charge, which we noted above are rooted in Creation.  Thus, I take it as universal.  As for other passages, Paul says similar things in other passages as well (see 1 Corinthians 14:33-35), so that also supports seeing this passage as universal.  In the end, grammar, context, and the other Scriptures all point to applying this passage to all women.

Fourth, in general, women are to serve faithfully.  Look at verse 15.  This verse is very difficult.  I know that Paul is not saying that women earn their salvation through childbirth for this contradicts Paulís teaching on salvation (see 1 Timothy 1:12-17, 2:5-6, Galatians 2:15-16, etc.).  As for what it does mean, let me offer two suggestions.  First, Paul, in keeping with his thoughts from Genesis 2 and 3, is referring to the fact that we are all saved through the offspring of Eve, namely Jesus Christ who crushed the head of Satan at the cross (see Genesis 3:15).  Second, Paul is speaking about the importance of women maintaining their God-given role as child bearers, which was seemingly being denied by the false teachers (see 4:3).  In the end, I can only say that I do not know exactly what Paul means.  Yet, I do think the end of the verse calls women to be faithful in their service, even as Paul encouraged earlier in the passage (see 2:10).  Women are to be faithful in their continued obedience to God and his commands.

Let me ask one final question: why should we as women and men heed these charges of Paul?  First, we do it out of our desire to be obedient to God.  I cannot explain everything in this passage, but I do know that it is more blessed to be obedient than disobedient.  Thus, I entreat you to heed these commands out of a desire to be obedient to the One who saved us.  Second, we are obedient that we might faithfully display the gospel.  We have been given our roles in the home and in the Church for a purpose and our obedience should display our allegiance to the God we serve to a watching world.  As men and women who have been redeemed by Christ, may we labor to faithfully display our commitment to Him in the life of our Church.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 August 2006 )

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