Today: [1 Timothy 2:] Woman! Use Your Powers for Good! In this chapter, Paul makes extremely incendiary remarks about women and their role in culture and the early church specifically. It is unlikely you have ever considered these passages in the light that they are examined in this study.
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[1Ti 2:1-15 KJV] 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, [and] lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
After opening remarks in 1 Tim. 1 addressing controversies in the Ephesian church Paul makes a “therefore” statement in v. 1 of the next chapter regarding the believer’s responsibility to pray for leaders and those in authority. He itemizes for us several different kinds of prayer including supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks. He is saying in effect rather than giving oneself over to controversial teachings and sins of the flesh (mentioned in the previous chapter) the believer should instead commit to prayer that all may lead a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. How is it that failure to pray for leaders and those in authority causes personal virtue to be impeded? The current political and governmental climate in our nation is a demonstration of this. Since the 1990’s the institutions and values of the faith community have been under specific and focused assault by special interest groups often with the support and cooperation of leaders in the highest levels of government. Our courts even in the most conservative times when Republicans dominated the bench of the Supreme Court 10 – 2 still handed down unconscionable rulings that legalized abortion and took prayer out of schools and expressions of faith out of the public square. How is it that these things have happened? Political figures tell us that these things happened because the opposition party was in power and the answer is to give them four more years. Historically however the conservative party while espousing the Christian political platform on the campaign trail has largely failed in spite of clear majorities in both houses at times, to deliver on a single line item of their promises. Do we point the finger at the politicians?
No. We must allow the word of God to be the discerner according to Heb. 4:12.
If, according to Paul it is the prayer life of the church that gives the assurance of living a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty then where do we look to level responsibility if our society is anything but godly, honest and peaceable? The problem is not the politicians. The problem is not the opposition party. It isn’t the courts, or Hollywood or anything other than a church that is not fulfilling the apostolic mandate of 1 Timothy 2:1. It is a fact that in the early church there was great and despotic evil ruling the known world but even the debauchery of the Roman empire was eventually brought to its knees at the foot of the cross through the prayer life of the church that took 1 Tim. 2:1 as a mandate for its existence. Likewise, if the church of today would put the energy into prayer that it does into its own narcissistic pursuits, we would live in a very different world. We need to look no further than the prayerless church to assign liability for the spiritual darkness that dominates the world scene – if we accept what Paul says and accept that the word is the discerner that exposes the dearth of prayer in our culture. Paul synthesized his mandate to prayer in v. 8 saying that our call to prayer is crystal clear – pray about what makes you mad and pray about what makes you doubt. To take any other action (including political action) in the absence of prayer is yielding to an antichrist influence. Even the voting booth is no substitute for the prayer closet. Voting is a responsibility for every citizen but make no mistake about it the prayer life of the church has far more power to shift culture than the next political messiah pandering to the Christian right for its votes.
Going on in v. 9 Paul addresses even more controversial issues. He begins scrutinizing the wardrobe choices of the women in the church. Ephesus was a wealthy cosmopolitan city with much disposable income. That was reflected in the lifestyles and dress of the members of the Christian community. Paul evidently notices that the ladies are very invested of their time and resources into their appearance. In spite of much misinterpretation of this passage, he isn’t suggesting that women are not allowed to beautify themselves for God created woman as a figure of beauty and grace. What Paul is saying is that whatever your choices are as a woman you are to hold to wardrobe decisions that reflect modesty and sober-mindedness realizing that your appearance, makeup, and perfume have (as you well know) a profound effect upon the men you encounter and you do not have permission to allow yourself to become a distraction to men seeking to devote themselves to God and to conduct themselves with all godliness and chastity toward the women in their circle including you.
Paul goes on to make incendiary statements about women learning in silence and subjection. He mandates that a woman is not allowed to teach nor to usurp authority over a man. These are fighting words in today’s culture, but let us look at just one word definition here. Paul says a woman is not allowed to usurp authority over a man. That phrase usurp authority means that a woman is not allowed to dominate a woman. Let us ask the women in our midst if they think it is appropriate for a man to dominate a woman? The answer, of course, would be no. That is the heart of what Paul is saying. Just as a man has no right to run roughshod over a woman using his character and persona likewise as a woman has no right to use her resources and persona to dominate or demand of men their submission to her will.
Almost all teachings on this passage will suggest that this is only a cultural reference to things happening in Ephesus and therefore is not applicable to us today. Is that true? What is implied is that we have permission to ignore passages of scripture and functionally redact them from our personal canon if they are culturally inconvenient to us. Remember what John the Revelator says about adding to or taking away. To make this cultural reference is to ignore what Paul says in v. 13-14 entirely.
Paul’s pretext for making these comments about women and their role in the church is none other than the example of the first couple Adam and Eve. In other words, if Paul bases his reasoning regarding these issues between men and women on the first couple from which all culture stems then we can’t say it only applies in one culture or in one time only. The reference to the Adam and even from which we all spring makes these verses incumbent upon all times and all cultures without exception including our own. Having said that let us examine just what Paul says:
Paul is contending by the reference to Adam and Eve, that his remarks are not intended to be misogynistic although they get construed that way and applied in that fashion quite often. He says that women should take care in these areas how they influence men because Adam was first formed and then Eve. Remember that Adam, before Eve was created, was neither male nor female as we know them. Whatever this being was he contained both the fullness of masculinity and the fullness of femininity in his nature. We have no frame of reference for this, but it is true nonetheless. Paul also makes the point that when the temptation takes place Eve was deceived. Is the fact that Eve was deceived a justification for keeping a man in charge (is that what Paul is saying)? Apparently not because there are far more examples mentioned in the New Testament of men being deceived than women. What is important to notice is that in this instance Eve was deceived, but Adam was not. What does this mean? That means that Adam disobeyed God with his eyes wide open according to the text. Adam understood perfectly what was at stake. He knew in defying God, he was condemning billions of souls to an eternal hell, but he disobeyed anyway.
He was not deceived as Eve was. Why did he do this horrible thing then? Because of Eve’s effect on him. Have you ever seen a woman who didn’t realize her strong personal impact upon a man? This happens often. Have you ever seen a woman without intending for it to happen to be veritably holding court surrounded by fawning men? True enough many women are entirely away of this and do these things on purpose, but many women walk into a room and render every man present senseless without realizing they are doing so. What Paul is saying here is that his strong remarks about women are something he stresses not because of a woman’s weakness but because of her strength and the fact that many times men will make wrong choices under her intentional or unintentional spell just as Adam with full knowledge was willing to condemn the human race all because of Eve’s unwitting influence upon him. What is the point? You as a woman are a powerful creature. It is said that the beauty of Helen of Troy was that of a face that launched a thousand ships. Your influence oh woman of God is no less proportional whether you realize it or not. All Paul is saying, and all the scripture is saying when thoroughly examined across the preponderance of the New Testament is that you are to be aware of this and to conduct yourselves accordingly.