I’m sure one of the most challenges text with regard to the work of God’s woman in the church is found in I Timothy 2:9-16. So it makes sense to take a close look at what Paul is teaching us here. Notice, that this chapter begins with “First of all, then I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all men.” Remember Paul is giving instruction to his young preacher trainee about working with the church in Ephesus. It is a church that has been established for some time and is facing some problems of different sorts. Paul left Timothy there to deal with many of the difficulties they were facing to help them overcome them. Chapter one laid a foundation and chapter two begins to give specific instructions on how to handle the problems. It is amazing that his first charge is to pray and to pray for every person and kind of person. He told him to pray that “We may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness.” Why this? Because God “desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator also between God and man, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” So the foundation for what is coming with regard to the work of women is about prayer for all to have a quiet and peaceable life so more people may be saved.
From that foundation he declared in verse 8 “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath and dissension.” It seems obvious that there were some abuses going on with regard to prayer. This instruction should help to see the reasons for prayers, the content of the public prayers and the heart of the man leading those prayers. Here in verse 8 he changes from the word used for “Men” through the verses previous which is really about mankind or people and uses the word for “Male” and challenges him to pray everywhere but make certain he does so with HOLY hands lifted. It wasn’t a command to lift ones hands but a command to make certain the hands that were lifted were holy hands. He also demanded of him that the prayers be without wrath or dissension. What was going on? I suspect some of those leading prayers were using the prayers as a way to preach to the ones they disagreed with. Instead of talking to God they were using prayer as a means of talking to other people. Prayer from an angry and divisive heart becomes a tool for fussing and sheer meanness rather than a cry to God for help. So Paul said to stop that and pray to God in holiness.
Notice as he turns the attention to women, it is still with the main topic in mind of prayers in the church. He launched the remarks with “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with breaded hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.” Remember Paul is still dealing with problems and difficulties going on in the church. Obviously there were some women in the church who were causing problems by the way they dressed when they came to church. From the description is seems there were those who were wealthy and wanted to show off their wealth. There were also in the congregation women who were slaves as noted in chapter 6. Such dress would shame those who didn’t have the clothes or jewelry to wear and cause dissension in the church. So Paul’s challenge was for them to dress with modesty and be discreet. Let the dress demonstrate your godliness not your wealth. Since it was tied to the theme of prayer it must have been the case that such dress was actually hindering the prayers of the congregation. Perhaps the men leading were having trouble keeping their focus on their praying. The principle that is clear is that God’s woman needs to be concerned about how her dress or actions will affect the others in the church. It shouldn’t be either so skimpy that the church is having a hard time not looking at your lack of clothes instead of thinking about worshiping God, nor so elaborate that other women can’t focus on worship for thinking of how they lack the ability to wear such clothing.
From that point he turns to the women and their actions in worship. “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with respect.” First consider what may have been happening in the church at Ephesus that led to this discussion. Most likely just as they were having problems with women being ostentation in their dress there were women who were taking over in the teaching and preaching in the church. Likely they felt the men were not stepping up to do what needed to be done so they took it on themselves and so Paul responds to what is happening with them.
Look at what he told them to do. First, she should quietly and submissively receive instruction instead of taking over. Demonstrate your godliness by showing the respect for others and allowing the men to lead the worship to the Lord. Secondly, he tells them he doesn’t allow women to teach or exercise authority OVER a man, but to remain quiet. Note carefully that the point wasn’t that a woman wasn’t to teach or even have authority. The point was that she wasn’t to teach or exercise the authority in such a way as to put herself over the man. It certainly wasn’t ever wrong for a woman to teach a man. Any man who refused to be taught by his wife or mother would be a fool. God told Abraham to listen to his wife when she wanted to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Priscilla was deeply involved in teaching Apollos the right way. Every woman who sings in worship teaches men God’s word (Colossians 3:16). This text isn’t talking about a woman not teaching a boy when he reaches the age to be baptized. It absolutely has nothing to do with a mother instructing a son when he has been baptized. Baptism doesn’t make a man out of a boy. It just makes him a Christian boy.
This was correcting a problem in the church at the time and was Paul’s solution. It should be noted that he uses the words “I want” and “I do not allow” which makes me wonder if he wasn’t making it clear to Timothy that this is the way I handle things in churches when this problem arises and not laying down an eternal principle to be followed always. It is extremely important that we at least get the point that this was about the woman and her actions when the church was gathered to pray and worship the Lord and not about the woman in every circumstance.
Paul gives his reasoning as to why he makes the point as being that Adam was formed first and then Even and it was Eve who was deceived and not the man. While I see the point made it does seem that the greater sin would have been with Adam who knew full well what he was doing and did it anyway instead of with Eve who was deceived. It is also important to note that it was Adam’s sin that was said to have affected all the rest of people who came afterward in Romans 5. But priority of creation gave him ground for his point on allowing the man to lead and women to let him do so.
The final verse has caused lots of confusion for us. “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” Some have taken this to refer to the fact Jesus was born from a woman and thus brought salvation to all. I don’t see that being the point. It seems that the point he is making is that women have a unique place in the whole world of bearing children which no man can do. She should be grateful for the blessing of bearing children. It doesn’t mean a woman won’t be saved who doesn’t have children. So far as we know neither Dorcas nor Phoebe had children but were spoken of as great and godly women. Childbirth is vital but to be saved the woman, as anyone else, must continue in faith, love and sanctity.
The primary point from the whole chapter is that a church should gather to pray for all people and should do so for the purpose of living a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness so that the gospel might be spread and more people be saved. Anything that corrupts or hinders the church from that mission should be halted immediately whether it is men praying in anger and dissension or women dressing ostentatiously or women taking over in teaching and preaching in the assembly. If there had been other things causing the dissension he would have dealt with how to handle those problems but these were the ones going on at the time. Let’s learn that nothing we do ought to go on if it is hindering the church from being able to gather in prayer and worship to God peaceably and with purpose.