1 TIMOTHY – SERIES NR 4
1 Timothy 2 : 8 – 15
Theme : God-given roles for men and women in the church
In chapters 2-3 the Apostle Paul is giving some instructions about how the worship gatherings of churches should be conducted, and about how the church administration should operate.
The true church of Christ may not and cannot just go ahead at will to gratify people’s whims and follow the vagaries of the times. The Lord’s will must be obeyed and the Lord has given everlasting instructions through His apostles. It is recorded in the NT. Such as here for example.
In respect to the church gatherings as well as how the church should be administered, the roles of men and women are important, because at the creation the Lord God already gave to both men and women an own unique identity and role – something that must not be placed on an equal footing – as if the two genders are the same or can be changed – as the Apostle clearly explains in passages such as 1 Cor 11: 1-16.
And because these are APOSTOLIC instructions, we must pay extra careful attention, because it comes from the Lord!
When the Apostle talks about “men” and “women”, it is specifically about their different roles in the places of worship. At the start of the chapter, he said that intercession should be done THERE. There where the church is gathered, praying should be done. And those who lead the prayers are the men. In every place where the true church of Christ is gathered, it must be done in that way, says the Apostle here in verse 8.
Wherever Christ’s church is gathered, men must lead in prayer. Verse 8 connects therefore with verses 1-2.
It does not mean that only men may pray and women are not allowed to pray. In 1 Cor 11:5 Paul clearly says that the female members in Corinth prayed. But the leaders, those who take the lead with spiritual authority, must be men. And surely he must be thinking of the elders here.
But there is further instruction. And that is important for ALL Christians who are praying – not only in the worship services – and that is: The condition of the inner heart as well as the everyday walk of life, is important before God.
With “lift up holy hands of prayer” the Apostle does not mean the literal physical gesture of lifting of hands – although it does appear in the OT such as in 1 Kings 8:22, Psalms 28:2, 63:4, 134:2 – and the Jews still did it.
But that Paul means the lifting of hands symbolically is evident from the fact that he is saying that the hands must be free from sins of the heart. The hands must be clean. It must be holy hands – set aside for the Lord. They can therefore not be literal hands. Rather it is something symbolic such as a walk of life.
An important point is what Psalm 66:18 is saying and which is emphasized in James 5:16, namely that prayer must be free from a life in conscious unconfessed sin. A life in discord, strife, disagreement, hate, bitterness, revenge. These sins prevent prayer. It blocks the pipeline.
That is why ongoing repentance is so imperative in the daily life of a Christian believer. Also for leaders in the church. Known, unconfessed sin is often the cause of spiritual blockages. But the promise in 1 John 1:9 is standing solid: If we confess our sins, the Lord will forgive and purify us from all unrighteousness. That is certain.
In James 4 is the instruction to Christians – already-saved people – who are indulging themselves in known unconfessed sins: “Submit yourselves, then, to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (verses 8-10).
Yes, Christians too must repent and God’s promise is that they will receive forgiveness and be purified.
That concerns the teaching of verse 8. Now we move on to verses 9-10…
When the church is gathered in worship services, the women are also involved. How they lift holy hands in prayer, is namely in how they appear, their clothing, behavior and, attitude – the inner heart.
According to 1 Cor 11:7, the woman is the glory of the man and has, therefore, an inner inclination to dress herself to please the man. That is good and proper, but it has to be within bounds, says the Apostle.
Particularly during the worship gatherings, the women’s dress and accessories should be modest and decent. The natural God-given inclination of the woman to adorn herself must not be suppressed but must be in the control of the Holy Spirit. So that it does not lead to sin against the Lord.
The word that we translate with “modest” is the Greek word “aidos” which means self-control with regards to sexual desires. The same applies to the word “propriety” also used in verse 15.
The Greek word shows us that the Apostle with “modest clothing” specifically refers to clothing that does not tempt men to look at the women lustfully – as Jesus says in Matt 5:28.
The focus and emphasis of the Christian woman in the church services should not be on the outward appearance. The Apostle is not talking AGAINST hairdos, jewelry and, fine clothes. What the Holy Spirit does say, is that the outward appearance is not the Christian-woman’s ACTUAL adornment. Exterior things should complement the INNER things.
Verse 10 says what the inner adornment is – which is of great worth in God’s sight, as 1 Peter 3:4 also says. God looks at the inner person – the attitude of your inner self. Good works are the outward fruit of an inner life which is an ornament before God.
A woman who openly profess in the worship service that she serves the Lord and testify that she submits to the Lord and not to people will know how to dress and adorn herself. Women who are present in the worship service with ulterior motives are sinning against the Lord. For the world, everything is about the outward appearance, but for the Lord, it is about the inner heart and, THAT influences the outward to be in keeping with the apostolic instructions here in 1 Timothy 2.
Now verses 11-12:
The new life in Christ has delivered the Christian women from a position of being a non-entity in the Jewish and Greek cultures of that time. In the heathendom of that time, it was unthinkable that women should receive teaching and instruction and that they could freely participate in religious gatherings. But, in the earliest Christian church women were actively involved in the teaching of the Word in several ways as is evident in passages like Titus 2:3,4 (women teach and train other women); Roman’s 16:3-5 (workers in the church); Phil 4:3 (women who contended side by side with the Apostles) and 1 Cor 11:5 (pray and prophesy).
In 1 Tim 2-3 though it is about the church service – where the congregation gathers for worship. Although Christian men- and ladies in Christ Jesus have the same worth before God (Gal 3:28) they have, according to God’s creation-ordination, different roles to fulfill for example in marriage (Eph 5) and also in the administration of the church and the church’s worship services.
According to 8-9, there are differences between men and women when hands are lifted in prayer during the worship services: the man takes the lead, etc.
Verses 11-12 is about formal preaching – the teaching from the Word. And there too men and women have different roles to fulfill, which has to do with positions of spiritual authority.
The Apostle does not allow women to preach in the worship service where men are present – in particular, he is referring to the elders who are responsible for the church administration. And we know from chapter 3 and Titus 1 that the elders were men. Women could therefore not be elders or pastors. That is a role that God gave to man at the creation already. And it is not abolished or changed with the coming of Christ, because here the Apostle upholds it for the NT-church!
With “quietness” and “submission” Paul does not mean that women must take an inferior position, but it means specifically refraining to claim spiritual authority – which God allocated to the man/elders. “Quietness” does not mean that not a word should come from a woman’s mouth! Women can indeed be heard from and must be heard. That means however that the Lord has not given her the role and task of the official preaching of the Word. Concerning THAT she must be quiet and subject herself to the Lord’s instructions.
That is most probably what happened in the Church at Ephesus (where Timothy was): Women overruled the elders by insisting to preach – not with bad intentions but because they were so inspired by the Good News of the salvation in Christ! And because they felt an inner urge and imagined that it is the Holy Spirit who is calling them to do it! The Holy Spirit will however never call a lady to do something contrary to His own Word. It is not people’s emotions or feelings or convictions or frame of mind that is the deciding factor, but the Word of God. The Word is above everything.
The Apostle is therefore telling Timothy to restore order and to keep the women from preaching, and for them to refrain from dominating the men because it is contrary to God’s creation-ordination.
We find the same instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 – that women should not cause disorder in the worship services by interrupting or asking all sorts of questions so that it seems as if they want to dominate, and that while there are elders who have the task to lead and the task to deliver the official message from the Word.
Accordingly, the Apostle is consequent and clear in his mind about this. These instructions have nothing to do with the culture at that time, or with the changing cultures of all time. It was founded when God created man and woman BEFORE the Fall took place.
Within today’s post-modern culture, the apostolic teaching and these instructions sound out of place and politically incorrect and perhaps even ridiculous, and are indeed laughed at by progressive-thinking preachers – and unfortunately church members who are only slightly informed about what the Scriptures teach about this, can therefore not differentiate very well and blindly follow what their preachers tell them. We know however from John 8:32 that it is only the truth that sets free – for the individual and the church as a whole.
Thus: All Christian-believing men and women have the same status in Christ. They have however received different identities and roles concerning marriage and leadership in the Lord’s church. The same as all the members of a sports team are equal, but someone has the role of captain. And as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal, but the Son subject Himself to the Father (1 Cor 15:28), in that way God has already willed at the creation that the man will take the leading role. The woman has a different role to fulfill that the man is not able to do.
The Apostle base therefore his instructions for the worship service in the creation-ordination of God, men, and women must reflect His glory in their various roles.
The Fall corroborated God’s original (pre-Fall) intention with the sexes because when the woman pushed aside her husband’s protection and listened to the snake, she suddenly became vulnerable and fell for satan’s lies.
Upon which, the man disdained his role as leader and followed the woman in the Fall, and in that way plunged the entire humanity into a state of lostness.
The deliverance that the Lord Jesus brought, was indeed to sanctify the original God-given roles of man and woman so that the in-Christ-saved man can once more be the captain of the team, and the in-Christ-saved woman – equal in status with the man – respect the role of the man and subject herself to his spiritual authority – just the same as Christ to His Father.
It is based on this creation-ordination of God’s – which is restored and sanctified in Christ – that the Apostle arranges the order within the church – as he is doing it here in verses 1-10, and also in Eph 5 concerning marriage.
It may clash with the present order of the day, but it is the Biblical truth that will stand forever. That is the reason why the regulation within the true church of Christ throughout the centuries always was that ladies not serve as an elder or pastor. The church has understood this point very clearly. That women these days serve as elders or pastors in some churches, is a recent tendency that is connected to the order of the day and the pressure from feminism. But the church of all the centuries did not know it.
The uniqueness of being a believing woman – which the man does not have – is that the woman finds salvation in motherhood. Verse 15: “Saved” in the sense of set free from the stigma that SHE was the cause of the Fall.
The Apostle jumps here from Eve to the Christian-believer woman in general.
The woman who perseveres in love and faith for the Lord and pursues a holy and self-controlled life – SUCH a woman have no part in the stigma of that which happened at the Fall because she can have children and raise them in the ways of the Lord. Yes, she CAN now guide some OUT OF the Fall INTO salvation in Christ – particularly through her unique connection with her children – which the man does not have.
Translated by Marthie Wilson