Today we are continuing in 1st Timothy chapter 2. And we will see some of the beauty of the complimentary roles between men and women in the church. This passage we’ll read is also perhaps the most offensive passage in all the Bible, at least in our culture today. And before we read it, I want us to do what we can to prepare our hearts and minds. I have a series of questions I want us to ask ourselves. Think about these questions. First: do I believe this is God’s Word? Second, do I believe that God knows what is best? And then thirdly, am I willing to submit to God’s good plan and order for his church and for my life?
Those are questions we ought to have in mind every week when we come to God’s Word, yes? But I think it particularly important to ask them as we come to one of the most counter-cultural passages in all the Bible. I’m going to ask Nolan Dittmar, who is one of our deacons to come and read 1st Timothy 2:8-15. Something you may or may not know about Nolan is that he is heavily involved in jail and prison ministry. So if that’s something you may be interested in, or have a heart for, I want to encourage you to connect with Nolan. He has been going weekly to visit area jails and prisons for decades.
1st Timothy 2:8-15. Would you join me in standing for the reading of God’s Word?
8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve;14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
This is the Word of the Living God, amen? You may be seated. Today, we will have a little bit more time for the Q&A, just giving you a heads up. Feel free to text in questions as we go along. I will unlikely get to all of them today, but I will try and respond to all of them personally this week.
This passage provides some of the most crucial truths in how God’s church can flourish today. I want to remind you of why Paul wrote this letter. We’ve quoted two verses in chapter 3 I think every week since we started 1st Timothy. 1stTimothy 3:14-15, this is why Paul wrote this letter- “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
This letter is all about how God’s church is to function, not just for each of us as individual believers, but when we gather together as the household of God. There are household rules and responsibilities, if you will, that are meant for our flourishing. Most households have rules and responsibilities. You spread out the chores, different members of the family play different parts. And they all come together, hopefully, to foster a healthy flourishing family environment. That’s some of what God gives us here in 1st Timothy.
In our flesh, it might be easy to read this text today and feel as if these words are oppressive or even harmful. But again, we come to the three questions I started with. Do we believe this is God’s Word. Do we believe God knows what is best? And are we willing to submit to God’s good order and plan for His church and our lives? I hope, for every one of us in the room who knows Christ—I hope the answer to those questions is yes. With that, let’s turn to the text.
Verse 8 begins with men. Now, in today’s passage he may not have a lot to say about men specifically. But, of course, we know Paul deals with men directly in several other places. But he starts by writing, “I desire then that in every place [there’s your first hint that this is for all churches everywhere, not just in the church at Ephesus where Timothy was], in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.”
So, Paul is getting back to his main focus in this chapter. If you were here last week, Joel Edgemon taught verses 1-8, which is focused on praying for all people. And verse 8 shows us that men, in particular, should lead in regard to prayer. Instead of fighting or quarreling, which is sometimes what men can do with their hands—instead of fighting, we should be praying! We should be the ones leading out in the spiritual activity of the church. He covers this much more in depth in chapter 3, which we’ll start looking at next week.
But that’s what Paul writes about men, and then he turns to women in the household of God. In the context of the church, God’s people gathered together—how should women, in particular, conduct themselves? I have three answers to give you this morning, straight from this text. 3 Pursuits of Godly Women in the Church. Number One:
- Godly women adorn themselves with good works (9-10).
Let me read verses 9-10 again: “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” So, let’s first look at the principle Paul is giving here. The principle is not that you should never wear very specific types of clothing. That’s not his point here. His point is that Godly women don’t worry themselves so much about adorning themselves with fancy clothing and jewelry. The principle is right there: women should adorn themselves with what is proper for women who profess godliness. What’s proper? Good works.
Godly women are known and recognized by their Godly living, not by what they wear. Back in the summer we were working our way through 1st Peter, and we looked at 1st Peter 3:3-4, which read like this: “Do not let your adoring be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
Again, you can see there what makes a Godly woman beautiful has nothing to do with the external. It has everything to do with the internal. Her character, her heart, her quiet spirit—all of which lead to good works. You know, early in our marriage, before we had kids, there was a time when I was most terrified to have a boy. The thought of raising boys in this extremely sexualized culture—that scared me. But you know what’s even more terrifying in this extremely sexualized culture, if I’m honest with you—raising girls.
And I know I shouldn’t be scared, and I’m not anymore– but I do feel a strong protective responsibility over my girls. Why? Because of the exploitation and objectification of women. The expectations of what women should be and should look like—it’s outrageous. And it’s fueled by an over-sexualized and perverted culture. Not to mention $100 billion pornography industry and $150 billion human trafficking industry.
All that to say, in the church: please hear me all of you women and girls: your real beauty is not in what you wear. So don’t focus on that so much. Your real beauty is internal and results in Godly living. Make Godliness your pursuit. The 2nd pursuit of Godly women in the church:
2. Godly women learn quietly with all submissiveness (11-12).
Verses 11-12, let me read those again: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Before I dig in here, because I’m guessing I’ve never the attention of the congregation like I do right now. Two things I want to say up front: First, this text is much clearer than many want to admit. In other words, I find it increasingly common for Christians and even pastors to be embarrassed by these verses, and even doing anything they can to try and avoid what these verses clearly say. That’s the first opening thought.
The second is this: There are some difficulties with determining appropriate application of these two verses. Of course there are. There is some grey here. For example, because of texts like these, we do not have women preach or teach in the worship gathering. If that’s a new thought for you, hang with me. Don’t tune me out for the rest of our time. We’re going to talk more about why. But to have a woman preach to men and women, no matter how gifted and Godly, is a direct violation of God’s Word right here. There is no legitimate way to get around it. We also recognize that the office of pastor, or elder (those two terms are used interchangeably in the New Testament)—this office is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
As part of the household of God, these are some of the responsibilities He has given specifically to Godly men. The task of preaching and the role of elder, or pastor. That is the minimum. There is no doubt that that is what Paul is saying here, at a minimum. And I understand if you’re uncomfortable with that because I remember being uncomfortable with it at one time, even as a believer. But again, we ask, question number 2 from earlier: do we believe that God knows what is best? This is one of those moments when you might have to face that question head-on. And then question number 3: are we willing to submit ourselves to God’s good order and plan for His church and our lives? Even when we maybe don’t like it? Because if we’re not willing, listen: we have to either ignore God’s Word, or twist God’s Word in order to better fit our desires. I don’t know which is more dangerous.
The most common thing is probably just to ignore it. Most churches won’t teach this passage of Scripture, just like they may not teach Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus’ process for church discipline. Why? Because these things make us uncomfortable. So, it’s easiest to just ignore it. That’s one of the beauties of expositional preaching. Preaching books of the Bible verse by verse. I literally can’t skip over this. If I got here this morning, and we just happened to skip this text and go to the next—have of you would probably raise your hands and say, “uh-uh!”
We can’t ignore God’s Word—that’s not an option for believers. So what are some of the ways this is twisted, even by genuine Christians who really do love Jesus? Probably the most common way is to say that Paul was addressing an issue that was specific to the church in Ephesus, and therefore this command for women is not applicable today. That, by far, is the most common argument I hear. There are multiple problems with that argument, but the simplest and most devastating is Paul’s own words.
In verses 13 and 14, what reasons does Paul give for giving this command? Is it anything specific to the church in Ephesus? No. He grounds this command in the order of creation: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Do you see? The reasons he gives are reasons that are certainly still true today. To quote John Stott: “All attempts to get rid of Paul’s teaching on headship (on grounds that it is mistaken, confusing, culture-bound or culture-specific) must be pronounced unsuccessful. It remains stubbornly there. It is rooted in divine revelation, not human opinion, and in divine creation, not human culture. In essence, therefore, it must be preserved as having permanent and university authority.”
We could go a lot more into that, and I encourage you to send me your questions and thoughts this week. But suffice it to say: there is nothing in the text here that would allow us to cancel out what is written. And no major orthodox teacher throughout all of church history even tried. Why? Because it’s clear. We see no one even try until 1969, which is when? Right after the emergence of radical feminism. So, as the household of God, are we culture-bound, or are we Bible-bound? This is part of how God wants his household to function. And we believe He knows what’s best.
Listen: as a Godly woman pursuing Jesus, don’t be afraid of learning! I love that in verse 11. It’s easy to skip over it because the hard part comes after, but Paul writes, “Let a woman learn.” Don’t think that learning God’s Word, and growing in your understanding of who God is is for the men. Just because you may not ever preach to men and women together. No! Learn. But learn, not as someone who may one day be a pastor or preach in the gathered body, but as a believer in Christ. Learn quietly with all submissiveness. In other words, joyfully submitting to God’s good order and plan for His church and our lives. I know that doesn’t answer every question you may have, but hopefully that lays a foundation before we get to the Q&A in a bit. The third pursuit of Godly women in the church:
3. Godly women embrace their God-given distinctiveness (13-15).
Verse 13 might sound like an odd reason for God to limit the role of pastor and task of preaching to men. Because men came first. It reminds me of playing shotgun growing up with my siblings. If more than one of us called shotgun, we’d race to the car, and the first to touch the car got to ride in the front. Is that really all there is to this? Just a race? Adam came first, so he’s got dibs? No. We have to remember, this is God. He does everything He does for his glory and for the good of those who love him. Part of God’s created order was to create Adam first, then Eve as a helpmate. Men and women go together in complimentary roles. They are not the same, even though in our culture that’s all we hear. A constant minimization or complete denial of differences between men and women.
We’re not to be frustrated by these differences; we’re to embrace them as God’s good plan for all of us. I think that’s how verse 15 fits in here. This is actually the hardest verse to understand. It’s not the most controversial, but it’s the most difficult to interpret. Paul writes, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” Obviously, he can’t mean that giving birth is another way to be saved- “You either trust in Jesus or give birth.” That makes no sense. Probably what Paul means here is that as we “work out our salvation” (right?, Philippians 2:12), we come to embrace our God-given distinctiveness. Christ saves us. Right, at some point, we repent of our sin and trust in Jesus—that’s what it means to become a Christian. And part of growing in Christ is embracing God’s call upon our lives. And for many women, giving birth is a distinct role God has called them to. And it’s certainly distinct, right? I cannot give birth.
It is a beautiful thing for men to be men. And a beautiful thing for women to be women. And I don’t just mean biologically, even though that’s certainly part of it. I mean in the church and in the home, there are different roles for men and women that fit their God-given distinctiveness. And some theologians bring that up for why Paul mentions the woman being deceived here. It’s not at all because the woman was more gullible; that’s why we need to listen to the man. No. It’s because this was her attempt to overthrow the creation order. She wanted to be like God. Even with all the authority that God had given Adam and Eve, they wanted more! Think about that. Eve herself exercised authority over her husband by leading him to do the same thing she did. And don’t think Adam is innocent, of course. Apparently, he wasn’t leading his wife well. In Genesis 3:6, it seems that Adam is right there with her when she first ate of the fruit.
The complimentary roles of men and woman in the home and in the church; these are not a result of the fall. They are grounded in the creation order. And God’s ultimate plan to redeem creation—He gives us a picture of that plan in all of society. Perhaps even in the church with men leading and shepherding. But certainly, in the institution of marriage. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? We see a picture of the gospel in biblical marriage. That’s another example of this God-given distinctiveness. Ephesians 5:22- “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” In the creation of men and women, who are absolutely equal in God’s eyes, yes? Genesis 1:26-27 make that very clear. In the equal and yet distinct creation of men and women we ultimately see the gospel. Wives, you’re to submit to your husband’s servant leadership. Husbands, you’re to love your wives like Christ loved the church. We’re to be willing to die for our wives. That’s what that means.
This God-given distinctiveness is found not only in the home, but in the church. This doesn’t mean that all women submit to all men. No, but it does mean that the role of elder or pastor is limited to men. There is no doubt from this chapter and the next, and all the New Testament. And it does mean the responsibility of preaching and teaching in the church is given to men.
We’re going to take a few minutes after the Q&A to read a great summary of biblical manhood and womanhood. I’ll explain that after the Q&A. But for now, I just want to share personally, what I see in the church at large, at least here in the West, in this culture in 2023. Because this text is primarily a challenge for Christian women. We don’t need to be afraid to say that. Of course it is. And I hope that most of you women feel challenged and even invigorated to pursue Christ in these ways. And to learn from one another what this looks like day-to-day, in your home and in the church.
But here’s what I see is very common in the Western church today. And my goal in saying this is not to offend any of us, but I’m sharing my heart in response to God’s Word, ok? I see passive and weak-willed men and I see strong, at-times domineering women. This doesn’t describe all men and women, but this does seem to be common. In other words, the problem in the church today is not merely that women aren’t obeying these verses. The problem is much bigger than that. The problem is also that men are not stepping up to be the servant leaders of their home and their church. We must recognize this, and by God’s grace and power, fix this! At least right here, in our homes and in our church here at Lamar. And when we read this summary of biblical manhood and womanhood in a little bit, I hope each of us are humble enough to put a mirror right up to our face.
Let me close with this thought, then will get to our Q&A and reading this statement. Not one of us has any excuse to disobey God’s Word. If you’re a woman waiting for your husband to step up and lead before you can follow and respect him; you are in disobedience to God’s Word. And if you’re a man waiting for your wife to follow you around like a puppy dog and be nicer to you before you lead your family and love your wife like Christ loved the church: you are in disobedience to God’s Word. I tell my kids all the time: “delayed obedience is disobedience.” Maybe we all need to hear that today.
Do we believe this is God’s Word? Do we believe that God knows what is best? And are we willing to submit to God’s good plan and order for His church and for our lives? Let me pray.