Knowing WHY you do something makes all the difference to your ATTITUDE. Someone who gets impatient waiting 30s for traffic lights to change will QUEUE FOR AN HOUR for their favourite restaurant, or even overnight to buy the latest iPhone.
Or a child at the beach paddles in the rockpool. It’s OK! But he GRUMBLES because he REALLY wants to play in the big waves on the beach. MUCH more exciting! But his mum knows it’s too rough, and he’ll be in danger. If he could understand THE DANGER, he’d be more CONTENT in the safety of the pool.
Or a teenaged daughter impatiently wants her mum to make her new dress TODAY. But they spend the whole day measuring and setting out, and arranging. If she could understand that the right preparation will end up with a well-made dress, she’d be more PATIENT, and get more ENJOYMENT out of the process.
Knowing the reason WHY you do something makes all the difference to your ATTITUDE.
And it’s the same here in 1 Timothy 2. Our attention goes straight to v11 and 12. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be quiet.”
For many of us, we react negatively. It goes against what we think about men and women. And about the individual rights of women. Men and women are EQUAL, and it’s not fair to restrict ONE from doing something the OTHER does.
But I want to suggest that God gives us good reasons WHY men and women are to behave a certain way. And that makes all the difference to your attitude.
So, for example, look at the start of Chapter 2. V1, Paul urges Timothy to make sure people PRAY. And it begins with a “therefore” – some versions translate it as “then”. So we need to look back to Ch 1 to find out what the “therefore” is there for. (To find out WHY people are to pray.)
Chapter 1 was all about what TIMOTHY was to do. V3 Stay in Ephesus and stop false teaching. And v8, teach the truth about the law. And, v11, the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel. And then, v18, Paul gives Timothy that instruction, so he’ll fight the good fight and hold on to faith and a good conscience, so that people won’t shipwreck their faith.
Then Ch 2 begins. What the CHURCH was to do. “THEREFORE I urge you, FIRSTLY, to pray”. In other words, because some people have shipwrecked their faith, everyone should PRAY. It’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing the church can be doing. Not the ONLY thing, but of FIRST IMPORTANCE. All sorts of other good things to do. But the most useful is to pray. Because it’s GOD, ultimately, who makes people stand firm. God is at work to hold onto people.
ALL sorts of prayers, for ALL PEOPLE. Including, v2, for those who govern society. “Kings and all those in authority.” And can you see the REASON for that? that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. A stable society, ruled well, is A BLESSING. Christians are free to live godly, quiet, peaceful lives. That’s why you should pray.
And then, V3 and 4, there’s ANOTHER reason to pray for all people. 3 (A peaceful, quiet life) is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 WHO WANTS ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.
We pray for all sorts of people because God wants ALL people to be saved. To know and live the truth. His vision for salvation is BROAD. And, so, the vision of our PRAYERS should be broad, TOO. We should pray for all nations, and all classes of people. All languages. Near and far. Open to the gospel, and closed. Rich and poor. Male and female.
And then in v5 and 6, we see the reason WHY God wants all men to be saved. 5 For there is ONE God and one mediator between God and MEN, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for ALL men
There AREN’T LOTS of gods – one for each nation. That’s the way most people think. “Each to his own”. “You shouldn’t evangelise”, they say, “because they’ve got their OWN religion. (It’s cultural imperialism!)”
But the truth is there’s only ONE God. ONE God over one HUMANITY. And he wants to save ALL his people. From EVERY race. There’s no difference. No black and white, no male and female, no rich or poor. So he sent one MEDIATOR between himself and that ONE HUMANITY. And Jesus gave himself as a single ransom sufficient for ALL mankind. There’s only ONE WAY to God. There aren’t LOTS of ways.
That’s why Paul was sent to THE GENTILES (v7). So that ALL people might hear that message. That the GENTILES would be saved by Jesus, TOO.
And then we come to v8-15, about what people should do when they gather for church. And, once again, there’s a connection between the WHAT and the WHY. Unfortunately the NIV didn’t include it, but there’s another “therefore” at the beginning of v8. 8 (Therefore) I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
Can you see the logic? BECAUSE God wants people EVERYWHERE to be saved, men in EVERY place, wherever a church meets, should lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. Each church should be a life-saving outpost, where men (and women, too) are praying for the salvation of those around them.
And because there’s ONE GOD who wants one new humanity reconciled to him. (Everyone, united together). Men should pray with CLEAN, PEACEFUL hands, unpolluted by disagreements and quarrels. No power struggles, no selfish “me-first” attitudes.
There should be UNITY in the church, because there’s unity in God’s kingdom – one new humanity, united under Jesus. That’s attitude and behaviour that matches up to God’s character, and God’s purposes.
Likewise, v9, the WOMEN are to have an attitude that matches up to God’s character. (Men aren’t to argue or quarrel). Women aren’t to be SHOWY OR PROUD. Particularly in the way THEY DRESS. That just encourages competition and envy. And DISunity and divisions. Whereas HUMILITY encourages unity and peace between people. That’s what’s in keeping with God’s purposes.
What they SHOULD be known for are GOOD DEEDS, done cheerfully and humbly. Rather than the latest fashion. Because serving others matches up with the character of Jesus, who GAVE HIMSELF as a ransom for all.
We focus on the EXTERNALS – the CLOTHING. But Paul’s emphasis, I suggest, is on THE ATTITUDES. Just like the MEN, where the focus is their attitudes of anger and disputing.
And when it comes to the church meeting, here’s what that attitude of humility and service looks like – v11 and 12. (V11, about what women SHOULD do. And, v12, what they SHOULDN’T do.) They go together, and each verse helps us to understand the other. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. God wants ALL humanity to come to a knowledge of the truth (v4). And that includes WOMEN, who are to LEARN.
And the WAY they’re to learn is in quietness with all submissiveness. Quietness doesn’t mean SILENCE. It’s the same word as in v2, where Christians are to live peaceful and QUIET lives. It means learning without arguing or antagonism. Juyst like the false teachers back in chapter 1, who loved controversies and disagreements and meaningless talk.
The word for submission hupo- taxis means, literally, UNDER ORDER, or under ORDERLINESS. It’s a word used often for what Christians are called to do. Just as earthly fathers discipline us, we should submit TO THE FATHER OF OUR SPIRITS (Heb 12:9). We’re to submit TO CHRIST as our head (Eph 5:24), and to EARTHLY AUTHORITIES (Rom 13:1), and to THOSE OVER US in Christian leadership (1 Corinthians 16:16). Christian slaves are to submit to their MASTERS, and younger men to OLDER men, and children to PARENTS. And, finally, ALL things will be made to submit to Jesus in the end, as Jesus submits to God. (1 Corinthians 15:28).
John Woodhouse writes, “God has ORDERED society a certain way, and his plan is that society is redeemed, not by individual liberation from restraints and obligations to others, but by each gladly placing him or herself under the ones God has placed over us… Christians are called to recognise, acknowledge and welcome the responsibilities God has given to others for our welfare… Submission is the opposite of autonomy and independence. It is an acceptance of dependence.”
And that’s the attitude women are to have as they learn in the church gathering. They’re not to challenge or dispute what’s taught. They’re to be willing to learn, and eager to obey. The way they LEARN in church (v11) should match the way they DRESS (v9), and the way they behave GENERALLY (v10).
Verse 12 turns it around, and considers what this means they’re NOT to do in church. They’re NOT TO TEACH OR HAVE AUTHORITY OVER A MAN. Teaching everyone the knowledge of the truth is someone ELSE’S responsibility, not theirs. Accept God’s order.
That doesn’t mean women can’t teach AT ALL. Paul encourages women to teach other WOMEN, and to teach CHILDREN. Even Timothy himself, as a child, received instruction from his mother and grandmother. It’s only teaching MEN that’s someone ELSE’S responsibility.
So what about “having authority”? It’s connected to the idea of the way God’s ordered society. He’s given certain people responsibilities towards others. In this case it’s MEN who are to lead the church. The idea of AUTHORITY, then, in v12, is the mirror image of the idea of SUBMISSION in v11.
So for a woman not to be in authority over a man means to welcome, and gladly accept, the responsibility certain men have to teach and shepherd and oversee the church.
And that’s the context for the submission. It doesn’t mean women are to submit to ALL men in GENERAL. But specifically, their husband, and those God has put in charge to lead the church.
We’ll come back in a few moments to think about what all this means for how women CAN serve in church. But let’s keep moving through the passage, because, once again, v13, we get two reasons WHY women are to be in submission and not to be in authority over men.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
From CREATION, God set up an order of responsibilities. Man was given the task of ruling and subduing the earth. And then woman was given the task of being his HELPER. That’s God’s good design. But when Eve was deceived by the snake, she TURNED THAT ORDER UPSIDE DOWN. Instead of listening to, and being led by Adam, the way God designed, she listened to the SNAKE and was DECEIVED. That’s what happens when you don’t submit to God’s order.
The point is not that women can’t teach or be in authority in church BECAUSE THEY’RE EASILY DECEIVED, or not ABLE to teach. But because God’s creation design is for husbands to lead, and wives to be their helpers. That’s his creation design IN MARRIAGE. And it’s ALSO TO BE REFLECTED IN THE CHURCH.
Clare Smith writes, “The principles of God’s creation have not changed. This pattern of relationships transcends time and culture… What was ideal in the garden still applies. The pattern of male leadership and female submission that God first established/ is to be the pattern for the Ephesian church. And the DISRUPTION of that pattern seen in the Fall is not be be repeated. The women are not to usurp the male leadership God has provided.”
Which brings us to the LAST verse, which is DIFFICULT, and there’s lots of opinions about what it means. But the key, I think, is to remember the connection to the previous verses about Eve.
(13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner). 15 But (she) will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety
The reference to child-bearing is connected to Eve being deceived and SINNING. And then God’s CONSEQUENCES for her in the fallen world. Firstly, that child-bearing will be PAINFUL. But also that her desire will be for her husband, and he will rule over her. Paul’s saying that even though Eve sinned. God didn’t ABANDON her. He was still at work, and ultimately, she was SAVED, as she lived out her God-given responsibility of filling the earth. Through her child-bearing and through the damaged relationship with Adam.
What’s that got to do with the women in Timothy’s church? Paul’s been FIRM, now he’s being COMFORTING. He’s been NEGATIVE, now he’s being POSITIVE. He’s saying, “God’s design is for the man to lead and the woman to help. And that’s to be reflected in church. And even though women might have to endure the effects of the fall – the painful childbearing and the battle for who’s in charge – God will still work out his salvation purposes for them, as they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control. As they’re CONTENT in the roles God’s given them. That’s the life that conforms to the sound doctrine of the gospel.
So if that’s what women AREN’T to do? What CAN they be doing in church? What SHOULD they be doing? 1 Corinthians 12 talks about how EVERYONE is part of the body. We’ve all been given gifts to help build up the body. Which means we should USE them. What can women do? What SHOULD women do? ANYTHING men do/ that’s not teaching or having authority over men.
Ephesians 5:19 says we’re to ALL to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Colossians 3:16 says we’re to let the word of Christ dwell richly in us as we TEACH, ADMONISH ONE ANOTHER with all wisdom. Titus 2:4 talks about older women training younger women. 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 talks about both men and women PRAYING AND PROPHESYING in church. ALL SORTS of things women can and SHOULD be doing in church.
I want to finish by identifying a number of traps we fall into when it comes to men and women using their gifts in church. Firstly, a few for the MEN. One. Men can be contentious and argumentative, proud and competitive. Rather than lifting up HOLY hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. Christian community should be a place of peace and unity.
SECOND trap. Men who FAIL to step up to lead – either as husbands and fathers, or in the church. They wait for SOMEONE ELSE to do it – either through spiritual immaturity or laziness or selfishness. Or else they lead, but in a poor way. They’re unprepared or underprepared. They give the minimum effort, and settle for second best. And they don’t give the women much to learn FROM, or to submit TO.
THIRD TRAP. Men who DO rule, rule SELFISHLY AND OPPRESSIVELY, out of self-interest, rather than as servant leaders like Jesus. Male elders and teachers, make it EASY for women to learn and submit to you by putting THEIR needs before your own.
Now to the women. FOURTH trap. Women who push themselves forward from wrong motives – to prove a point, or to be in authority, or from pride because they think they know better.
Finally, FIFTH trap. When women don’t WANT to speak, or teach or train or encourage others in appropriate ways. Perhaps they’ve never known anything different. Or they’ve never really understood what the Bible teaches about how we’re all to use our gifts. Or they’re not sure they’ve got anything to contribute. If that’s you, then let me share 1 Corinthians 14:26 with you.
26 What then shall we say, brethren? When you come together, EVERYONE has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
We’re STRENGTHENED as men and women share what God’s been doing for them. As they lead us in prayer, lifting up holy hands. As they prophesy – pointing each other to God’s truth in the Bible. And as they teach and train others. The WHOLE body working together. As Ephesians 4:15 says speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK.
And we ALL do it these things/ because God wants all people to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Praise God for his mercy in Jesus, and in working out the gospel in the church!