Roles of Men and Women (1 Timothy 2:8-15)
Wilmina M. Rowland became the first woman to offer prayer at the opening session of the U.S. Senate in 1971. She said, “I’m pleased not for myself but for the fact the Senate has reached the point where they felt it is normal to invite a woman to do this.” Indeed, it is becoming normal to invite women to lead prayers in public gatherings. Many churches have hired women preachers—I’ve known many folks who attended churches with regular female “pastors.”
Today the religious world struggles with the role distinctions between men and women. There is a large movement to place women in church leadership. Others claim that this violates the Scriptures.
We need to examine what Scripture says to settle the issue. What groups deem “up-to-date” cannot settle the issue. What groups deem “traditional” cannot settle the issue. Tradition cannot be more important than the word of God (Matt 15:6).
Role of Men, v 8
We need men to pray.
Paul encourages men throughout the world to pray—he wants men everywhere to pray. Men, this is a ministry we need to fulfill. We need to be a praying people. We need to be a praying people because prayer does much good (Js 5:14-18). We need to be a praying people because whatever things we ask in prayer we shall receive (Matt 21:22). We need to be a praying people because we have serious responsibilities in the home—to be the head of our wife and to teach our children—we need God’s help fulfilling these divine responsibilities.
We need to pray “lifting up holy hands without anger or quarreling.”
“Holy hands” refers to hands which are pure. The emphasis is not on the lifting of hands but on the “holy” hands. We need to pray with clean and pure consciences.
Part of that clean conscience involves not being angry and not quarreling. Anger and quarreling hinder our prayers. We need to guard against anything that would hinder our prayers. Matthew 5:23-24. Jesus here teaches we need to ask forgiveness from those we’ve wronged before we worship. Here’s a principle for us—we need to correct what’s wrong in our life before we worship. We need to get rid of anger and quarreling before we worship.
Men are you fulfilling your role as a praying person? Are you praying without anger and quarreling?
Role of Women, vv 9-15
Women need to dress themselves appropriately.
Preachers often use this text to say that women should not dress in a revealing manner, but that’s not the point Paul is making. He telling women not to wear too much!
Women need to dress in seemly apparel, not in “showy” apparel—that showy apparel is described as braided hair, gold, pearls, and costly clothing. This may have been because prostitutes commonly dressed in this manner. This may have been cause women dressed to show a superior social standing. Because 1 Timothy discussed money at length, we surmise that money was a real problem in Ephesus. Paul may have given this prohibition because wealthy women were dressing in a fancy way and embarrassing those women who did not have as much.
Instead of adorning themselves with “showy” apparel, women need to adorn themselves with good deeds.
Good deeds are more important than good dress. This is right for those who claim to be Christians, those who profess godliness.
We need women who are more concerned with how they behave than how nice their clothes are. The point being made here is that we ought to be more concerned with our lives—how we behave—than about how nice our clothes are. People should notice a woman’s good works, not her clothes.
Women need to learn in submission. Women cannot teach a man, rather they are to learn in silence. Women cannot hold a position of authority over men, rather they are to be submissive.
The principle of male spiritual leadership runs throughout the New Testament. The head of woman is man (1 Cor 11:3). Women are to be silent in the churches (1 Cor 14:34). Wives are to be subject to their husbands (Eph 5:22).
Women are to be silent. Silence is the opposite of teaching men. Silence is the opposite of holding authority over men.
We need women who are silent and who submit. But what does this text require of women? A woman may not teach when men are present-she cannot teach a man—this would prohibit her from being a preacher or teaching a Bible class where men are present. A woman may not have authority over men—this denies her leadership positions in the church—she could not be an elder or deacon. A woman needs to be silent in the assembly—she may not lead the singing; she may not lead the prayers.
Whenever we discuss a topic like this, the question is always asked, “What if the men won’t fulfill their responsibility?” If men will not fill their responsibilities, God will hold them accountable. But none of that changes what the Bible teaches. We need to change to meet the standards of Scripture and not expect God to change to meet our needs.
Paul states why this is in verses 13 and 14.
Many scholars have their own ideas as to why Paul wrote as he did. Some say Paul prohibited women from teaching because the women were teaching false doctrine. According to them, as long as women do not teach false doctrine, they may teach publicly. Some say Paul prohibited women from teaching because that was the societal standard of his day. According to them, as long as the standard has changed, women may teach publicly.
But Paul says that his prohibition is based upon the Creation. Adam was created before Eve. Paul also says that Eve fell into sin through deception. Satan deceived Eve, and she fell into sin; Eve sinned before Adam. When God cursed Eve, he told her that her husband would rule over her (Gen 3:16). Adam listened to Eve and he fell into transgression (Gen 3:17). Paul’s point is that the principle of male spiritual leadership is as old as mankind.
Yet, women have hope, for she shall be saved through childbirth. This cannot mean that a woman has to bear children to be saved Not every woman can have children. This would make salvation dependent upon a physical act—such simply does not fit the teaching of Scripture.
“Childbirth” stands for a woman’s proper role in the home. We do the same thing when we say, “Give us our daily bread.” “Bread” stands for “food.” A part of something stans for the whole.
Paul’s point is that women will be saved in they fulfill their role in the home as a mother and a wife. We need women who fulfill their role in the home—who are in submission to their husbands, who are helps to him, who are loving and supportive mothers.
Women will be saved if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. Fulfilling her proper role in the home is only half a woman’s responsibility. We also need women who possess Christian virtues. Are you a woman who possess Christian virtues?
We need men and women who assume their proper role in the church. We need men who assume a praying role in the church. We need women who assume a submissive role in the church.
Even this passage speaks of salvation. Salvation comes to those who assume their proper role in the church. Salvation comes to those who possess Christian virtues.
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Main Street church of Christ in Pikeville, Kentucky.