I Timothy

I Timothy 2:8-15 Men And Women In The Church.

After urging at some length on the importance of prayer, Paul says, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (v. 8). It would be a mistake to take from this one passage the idea that Paul didn’t want women praying in public. He only states in I Corinthians 11:5 that a woman who prays in public should do so with a head covering. This injunction would be meaningless if he didn’t believe that it was permissible for women to pray in public. Some believe this is an actual veil or hat of some sort, others believe that it was how a woman kept her hair. The latter seems to have some support from the context where Paul talks about how a woman might as well have her head shaved if she is going to have it so short that she looks like a man (Cf. Nu. 5:18). In any case, one passage alone should not form the exclusive basis of any practice when there are other passages, some much clearer, bearing upon the same subject.

The passage actually is somewhat of a rebuke to certain men in the congregation who were more inclined to argue over disputable points, and in fact some went so far as to teach as doctrine the mere speculations of men (Cf. 1:3-11). We also do not want to miss Paul’s point that there is no place where prayer should not be offered, including among all peoples, and including rulers as well as common folk. The use of the word ‘hands’ typically refers to one’s actions, the works one engages in. Prayer is work, but it is work that must be conducted in a holy manner, set apart for the activity Paul took some time to explain (Cf. 2:1-2). Although there are recorded instances of this particular posture (Cf. Pss. 63:4; 141:2), he is far more interested in one’s attitude, praying “without wrath and doubting.” Obviously one must have faith, for without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” Heb. 11:6).

One should also not pray out of a spirit of wrath. This does not mean that there is no place for imprecatory prayers, such as we find in the scriptures, most notable the psalms. What it does mean is that we are to leave vengeance to the LORD (Cf. Rom. 12:19; Dt. 32:35). As regards the women, the problem which seems to have prevailed among the women in Timothy’s midst was one of adornment, valuing one’s appearance above a spirit of godliness and the practice of good works (v. 10). Apparel befitting a godly woman should be modest, “with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (v. 9). Again, it would be a mistake to base one’s practice on one passage when the scriptures give us examples covering the same topics (Cf. I Pet. 3:3-4). We should not miss the contrast which Paul is making, and the issue of one’s priorities. What is “costly?” It may refer to spending beyond one’s means. Moderation is the key.

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission” (v. 11). One might draw the conclusion that this supports the idea that Paul is forbidding women to pray in public. However, the next verse in this context makes clear that Paul is referring to the activity of teaching or in having such ecclesiastical authority over men. The very use of the word ‘learn’ in verse 11 would bear this out. Nevertheless, Paul adds, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (v. 12). Clearly the silence Paul has in mind here is that of the authoritative teaching role and office over men. Paul in his defence goes all the way back to Genesis and the fall saying, “Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (vv. 13-14 Cf. Gen. 2:7; 21-22; 3:16; I Cor. 11:8-12; 14:34). Paul’s first point is an obvious one, that Eve was created as a helpmate to Adam, not the other way around.

The second part of Paul’s statement is equally clear and puts to rest the fanciful interpretation of the events of the fall which suggests that Adam was a silent partner who stood immediately beside Eve as she debated with the devil. On the contrary, Paul’s point was that Adam was not the one deceived. Adam’s fault was in not questioning Eve when she came to him with the forbidden fruit and asking where it came from etc. This also has a direct bearing on the teaching role, for in that exchange between Eve and Satan she misrepresented the Lord’s instructions. She should have run from the devil to her husband Adam, who even in the state of innocence was her head. Given his reference to the fall in Genesis, it also seems clear that whatever Paul means in verse 15, it nevertheless hearkens back to these events and the punishment but also mercy of God as a consequence. The one note of salvation in that account was the promise of a Seed (Gen. 3:15).

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