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Timothy Series - Lesson Eight

 

Instructions for Women In The Church

 

1 Timothy Chapter 2 Verses 8 - 15

 

John Baugh
September, 2008

 

 

Note: much of the material contained in this lesson comes after hours of study of William Barclay's New Daily Study Bible, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Although my presentation probably varies somewhat from Barclay, I am grateful for his discussion of this subject in helping present this difficult material.

 

8Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

9Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

11A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

15But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
(1 Timothy 2:9-15 NASB)

 

 

Treatment of Women in the Church Regarding Prayer

 

Up to this point, all of the portion of Paul’s letter to Timothy that has been broken out into chapter two of 1 Timothy has been written concerning prayer in the church and it is possible to read verses 9-15 strictly in that context. Up to this point, Paul has listed the requirements for men praying. These included praying with “holy hands” lifted, praying with no malice and no dissention. After covering the requirements for prayer by men, he turns “Likewise” to the requirements for women.

 

9Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

 

These verses from Paul’s letter have created considerable controversy over the years, concerning the interpretation by some that they lay down rules for all participation by women in the church; with others saying that they apply only to prayer.

 

Joke Time at Paul’s Expense:

 

Perhaps our problem is that Paul did not explain himself properly! To give him some benefit, we must remember that he most likely never intended for us to be attempting to lay ground rules for church participation some 1,900 years later, based comments he made in a letter to his disciple. I am certain if he had known that, he would have mentioned basketball courts, coffee bars and exercise class ministries (just a joke).

 

Back to the Material:

 

If all of chapter 2 is viewed as addressing one subject (prayer) then the word “likewise” links the statements concerning the conduct of women to the prayer requirements for men, which are stated earlier.

One of the first things Paul mentions is dress, indicating that women should dress properly with modesty and discreetly. This does not necessarily indicate that sackcloth clothing and hair tied in a bun is the required look for women in church. What it most likely says is that while God does at look at how we dress, He may look at why we dress that way. Also, while he may not look at our jewelry or hairstyle, he may be concerned with why we adorn ourselves the way we do. Someone said that God looks right through our clothes into our heart. Understanding that, Paul indicates that what both men and women do - our good works - speaks much more to the condition of our heart than how we dress.

 

Personal Memories

 

Paul’s concern for clothing brings to mind my Grandfather Cooksey, or more specifically my mother’s father. He was a man of God, who happened to be a farmer, working his Mississippi delta farmland land 7 miles west of Isola, Mississippi and supporting his family through the depression with what he was able to grow. My memories of him are that I never saw him in anything other than overalls. He had faded work overalls, and he had Sunday overalls. The Sunday ones were less faded and included a freshly laundered white shirt, a gray Sunday hat, and he took them off as soon as church meeting and lunch were finished. In my mind he always understood that wearing a suit to church would do nothing to change his love for the Lord and so he wore his Sunday overalls on the Lord’s Day. As I remember, my Grandfather Cooksey was buried in his Sunday overalls (minus the gray hat). I am almost certain if we will be allowed to wear the clothing of our choice in heaven, Paw-Paw Cooksey would prefer his work overalls to the Sunday pair. I can’t imagine him wearing his hat in the presence of the Lord.

 

Why would Paul state different requirements for women and men?

 

To better understand this portion of Paul’s letter to Timothy, we should read it in the context of that society. To do this we need to understand the conditions both Jewish and Greek women in Ephesus and other parts of the Roman Empire lived under at that time.

 

Jewish women were given more respect in the home than any other women of their time, but in public they had very few if any rights. They were forbidden to participate in any portion of the synagogue service. In fact, their participation was limited to listening to the service from an outer court of the place of worship, separated from the priests and the male worshipers. Men came to the synagogue to learn. Women came to hear. Men were required to attend the sacred feasts and festivals. Women were exempt from attendance of these observances. A common prayer for men at morning worship would be to thank God that they were not born Gentile, slave or woman. A strict rabbi would not greet or speak to a woman on the street, not even his mother, daughter, wife or sister. Most husbands would not address their wife in public. To allow a woman to read scripture would have been unheard of. It was absolutely forbidden for women to teach in a school, even to the smallest children. It was said that the responsibility of a Jewish wife was to send her children to the synagogue, keep the house orderly, leave her husband free to study in the schools and to make certain all within the house was well kept until he came home.

 

The condition of Greek women was similar and perhaps more difficult. A respectable Greek woman typically led a very contained life. She lived in her own separate quarters, away from her husband, and to which no one other than her husband was allowed to enter. She did not even appear at meals. She was not allowed to be on the streets alone and was not allowed to attend any public assembly.

 

There were also a large number of Greek women who were associated with temple prostitution. The temple of Aphrodite in Corinth had 1,000 priestesses, who served in the Temple during the day and left the temple at night to serve as prostitutes around the streets of Corinth. It was the same with the Temple of Dianna in Ephesus.

 

Greek literature also mentions a large number of Greek women who devoted all of their time and effort to elaborate dressing, makeup and elaborate braiding of their hair. These women would have been well known in Ephesus and elsewhere around the Roman Empire. To think otherwise is to ignore the high interest given to these same (Socialite) people in today's society. There is never a social event hosted in Hollywood that does not have full press coverage of the Red Carpet arrival of the actresses and the clothing (or lack of clothing) they wear. It would have been the same in Ephesus, Corinth, Colossus or Rome.

 

This was the social standing of the women who accepted the call of the early Christian Church. It is not unreasonable to understand that if the women of the church in Ephesus had taken a large vocal role in the activity of the church it would have gained the reputation of being a place frequented by loose and immoral women. It is not unreasonable to understand that the early church did not lay down these requirements as permanent rules, but as a way to cope with the social conditions of that time.

 

Moving to Verses 11-14

 

11A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man,
but to remain quiet. 13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

 

The wording of verse 11 seems to indicate that Paul is now leaving the subject of prayer in order to address public teaching, especially as it relates to women teaching in the church. These three verses bring great controversy into church life as we attempt to resolve what part a woman should play in a church service, in its leading, speaking and teaching?"

 

According to the New American Standard translation, women should be "quiet" in church. That word occurs twice in these verses: that a woman must quietly receive instruction and, she should remain quiet.

 

There may be a translation problem here. Earlier, Paul mentions that men should pray for those in authority so that they may lead Peaceful (hesuchios) lives.  Here, he says that women should be Quiet (hesuchia) in church. The root (Hesuchia) is the same for each word, and the second may be translated to say that women should remain at peace in church. Silence and peace have very different meanings, as a person could be very silent and very much not at peace while in church. As for my relationship with God, I would prefer to be at peace and not simply quiet. Perhaps Paul wished the same for women in the church at Ephesus.

 

Paul uses this same word in 2 Thessalonians 3:12, writing about people who were busybodies.

 

11For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing
no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12Now such persons we
command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion
and eat their own bread.

 

Using the word peaceful here in place of “quiet” as used by the NASB, or silence (as in KJV) makes perfect sense, also. Paul is not telling these people to be quiet as they work, but to be peaceful, and not cause a fuss with their brothers and sisters in Thessalonica.

 

It may be that all Paul is saying is that a woman should learn in a “peaceful” way or that she is to keep herself peaceful and peaceable. In this way, just as with what he has written a few lines earlier concerning clothing, hair and jewelry, Paul is addressing attitude. Just as he has throughout chapter 2, Paul writes that the attitude of men and women speaks out tremendously through their actions. We show God our Heart in what we do.

 

Just like men, women are not to have an attitude of argumentative aggressiveness, assertiveness, or stubborn insistence on having their own way or their own view recognized. Rather, their attitude is to be one of reasonableness, patience, and a willingness to listen to others.

 

Look at The Women Mentioned in the Gospel Record, Acts and the Epistles:

 

One can gain a good understanding of the role of women in fulfillment of God's plan through the Gospel record and the records of the early church in Acts and the epistles.

Looking at this material, we see that:

 

-          God selected Mary of Nazareth and gave her a pivotal and well documented role in bringing Christ Jesus to the world. She was also apparently influential in his upbringing and childhood training.
- Women were prominent among the disciples who followed and supported Jesus during his ministry.
- The first miracle Jesus performed was done at the urging of his mother.
- Mary of Magdala was the first to see the risen Lord.
- The witnesses to the crucifixion of Christ; those who stood at the foot of the cross, were mostly women.
- Priscilla along with her husband Aquila was a valued teacher in the early church and sent by Paul to instruct Apollos to a knowledge of the truth (Acts 18:26).
- Phillip the evangelist had four daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9).
- Paul writes that older women were to teach in Titus 2:3.
- Paul held Timothy's mother and Grandmother (Lois and Eunice) in very high regard.
- Paul’s list of honor in Romans 16 contains the names of many women.
- Paul lists Phoebe as a Deaconess in the early church in Romans 16:1.

 

If (as stated above) these were temporary regulations to meet conditions encountered in Ephesus, what did Paul Say regarding women in other times and places?

 

In Paul's letter to the Galatians, he wrote this:

 

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:27-28 NASB)

 

 

Moving on to Verses 12-14

 

12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

We know what these three verses say, and we know what many want them to say. Like many other matters, there are no absolutely clear answers.

 

Within acts and the epistles, there were women deacons and prophesiers. There were many Godley, spirit filled women, who carried the burden of the expanding church. Priscilla along with her husband Aquila was sent by Paul to correct Apollos and instruct him to a knowledge of the truth.   In fact Paul never fails to mention Priscilla, usually before mentioning Aquila.

 

Some say that Jesus could have settled everything by naming Mary Magdalene as one of the Apostles. I find some significance in the fact that he didn’t. Additionally, no women were ever listed as elders in the early church.

 

The clearest way to restate what Paul writes is to say that he stipulates that the place of elder, pastor, final authority on doctrinal issues should be limited to the men of the Church. 

 

It seems that there remains a huge place of ministry within the church for women. From the beginning, God has wired women differently from men, giving them an understanding for the thoughts and understanding of other women that makes them perfect for ministry to over 50% of the population (a ministry to other women). I also believe that women possess gifts that are lacking in many men that make women especially suited to the raising of children, including providing instruction that leads to their spiritual faith and salvation.   

 

Paul ends this portion of his letter to Timothy with a strange statement:

But women will be preserved through the bearing of children
if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
(1 Timothy 2:15 NASB)

 

This statement could mean at least two things.

 

Perhaps Mary, through her actions in bringing Christ Jesus into the world, her faith in taking on this immense responsibility, her abundant love for Jesus, her self-restraint and her sanctity brought her salvation through her child bearing.

 

A more simple way to put Paul’s statement might be to indicate that for women, leading meetings of the church was not necessary. Having faith, love and sanctified self restraint along with child bearing was sufficient for their preservation and salvation.

 

Questions:

 

- Do Paul's statements indicate barriers to all of the participation of women in the church?

 

- If we believe this, why do we push so much of the work of the church onto the women of the church and why does God bless their work so abundantly?

 

- Are Paul's statements simply an illumination of the social conditions women faced in that time and his response to dealing with those conditions?

 

- What does Paul mean when he writes to the church in Galatia?

 

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:27-28 NASB)

 

 

 

 

 

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