Monday, December 28, 2009

1 Timothy 2:8-15

V8-15 – 8I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 9I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women [or she] will be saved [or restored] through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

In v8, Paul mentions “men everywhere.” After covering prayer, he’s now transitioning into corporate worship, which includes prayer, rightly done by lifting holy hands (with words and lifestyle in agreement, opposed to those described in Isaiah 1:15), “without anger or disputing” (v8), a “settled opposition,” especially in attitude, toward each other. He’s excluding the false teachers and their messengers (perhaps young widows) with these elements of proper corporate prayer. Now Paul is not limiting participation to men (Acts 2:18, quoting Joel 2:28-32; 1 Corinthians 11:5), but it may be a clue to the specific problem in Ephesus. Perhaps the men were struggling with unity in worship, instead tending to anger and disputing; perhaps the men had become angry and discontinued corporate worship and prayer altogether, which led to the problem of women taking over the leadership, which Paul will address later. In other words, maybe the men weren’t stepping up to leadership, so the women did; but that wasn’t a justifiable reason. Whatever the reason, when Paul mentions the lifting up of holy hands (Psalm 63:4; 141:2), he’s thinking, again, of attitude issues. That’s reflected in his admonitions to women as well.

In v9, Paul addresses modesty for women (1 Peter 3:3-4). Greco-Roman culture appreciated extravagant dress, but again, this exhortation has motive and attitude in mind, not just mere behavior. We may again speculate that some of the Ephesian women had gotten caught up in the women’s freedom movement that spread throughout the Roman Empire at this time in history (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). Or perhaps we could conclude that the false teachers were going after the wealthy women of the congregation whose husbands were too busy to guard their wives from these wolves. Nevertheless, women ought to dress with modesty and discretion, in order that they would be esteemed as modest and discreet women of God.

Much ado is made about Paul’s statements in v11-12, but submission is the matter at hand. Paul’s command for Christian to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) is not a matter of value or status in God’s sight, but rather a matter of God-given roles within various relationships. Interestingly the Greek word for “to have authority” in v12 more literally implies the usurping of authority, which again, was a particularly Ephesian problem of the moment, and it is used only here in all of Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 14:34). So again, maybe the men weren’t leading well, so the women took that role. It’s good for the women to want good leadership, and it’s quite a testimony to Christianity that women were encouraged in that day and age to be disciples and learn Biblical instruction; but rather than take it themselves, they ought to strive to encourage the men of the congregation to lead it. And God gave the leadership of God’s Church (the preaching and teaching eldership) to qualified men; Paul will detail those qualifications in the next chapter. Finally, it’s important to guard against the two extremes for women (and for men, for that matter) – that they can do nothing and that they can do everything. All people in the Church have God-defined roles, which are crucial for the Body of Christ to function as God intended.

V13-15 wrap up Paul’s thoughts here with an analogy. He appeals to creation for his command (see 1 Corinthians 11:8-12), and his reasoning is almost certainly situational. The Ephesian women were being deceiving by the false teachers (1 Timothy 5:11-15; 2 Timothy 3:6-7); so Paul takes a Scripture passage to show that it wasn’t the first time. But elsewhere (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22), Paul is comfortable blaming Adam for the introduction of sin into creation. Calvin comments:

“Because [Eve] had given fatal advice, it was right that she should learn that she was under the power and will of another; and because she had drawn her husband aside from the command of God, it was right that she should be deprived of all liberty and placed under the yoke. Besides, the Apostle does not rest his argument entirely or absolutely on the cause of the transgression, but founds it on the sentence which was pronounced by God. Yet it may be thought that these [following] two statements are somewhat contradictory: that the subjection of the woman is the punishment of her transgression, and yet that it was imposed on her from the creation; for thence it will follow, that she was doomed to servitude before she sinned. I reply, there is nothing to hinder that the condition of obeying should be natural from the beginning, and that afterwards the accidental condition of serving should come into existence; so that the subjection was now less voluntary and agreeable than it had formerly been.”
Paul speaks of the deceived women being saved, as in “redemption from deception” (v14). Though Paul is deemed controversial at best when he mentions childbearing as the apparent means to this salvation (v15), he is claiming that women need to return to their God-given role (Genesis 3:16), instead of seeking church leadership in sexual abstinence, which may have been encouraged by the pre-Gnostic false teachers. There is nothing to gain salvifically for women to strive for something other than for what they were created (to help their husbands). The goal should always be evangelism and discipleship, rather than pursuit of personal freedom and societal advancement; and this is true for both men and women, though they attain that by different means (roles). Paul suggests instead continuing in faith, which again points to a proper attitude of submission to God’s commands, and it was clearly especially important for these deceived women regarding their God-given role.

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