Timothy continues to read Paul’s instructions, now his mentor has switched to woman and households;
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 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. 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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
(1 Timothy 2:8-15 ESV)
So Paul desires that men should pray, that everyone should be respectable and dignified. Living quiet lives before all men so that all men might come to the saving knowledge of the truth. But then Paul mentions women and 2000 years later we still get our feet tangled up in arguments over this passage.
Over the years many interpretations have come to light concerning this particular passage. The most popular has been that this particular passage bars women from any sort of ministry regardless of the position, the only exception to this exclusivity is teaching Sunday School, where women are even encouraged to teach. I have been to churches where the Sunday School teachers for the children’s classes were all taught by women because that was the only place they could serve.
Another interpretation is that women must be quiet, outside of the K-8 Sunday School class women have no voice what so ever. This is blatant abuse, some of the greatest lessons taught have been from women who spoke outside of the Sunday School classroom, and in the presence of men.
The Situation in Ephesus:
It is important then, to glean a full understanding of this text that we understand the situation that Timothy was facing in Ephesus. First off we must consider what the false teachers were doing. They were, going into households and gathering the women around them and empowering them to “Exercise authority” over the men in the house. While scripture clearing gives the man the role of spiritual authority in the household. The word Exercise could even imply forceful abuse, so not only were they usurping the authority of their husbands they were most likely participating in some form of abuse.
The effects of this on the church were that the family structure of the home was breaking down which in turn caused a dysfunction in the worship of the Saints. Not unlike the Corinthians who had a similar problem, the core issue in Corinth appears to be vanity or love of power and not disruption by false teachers.
As we discussed in last month’s Article the phrase “Learn Quietly” means to learn as a Jewish school boy would learn, which was sitting quietly, not asking questions, listening to the Rabbi. Paul wanted the women educated, not spouting out the false doctrines of the false teachers who were not being good stewards of the gospel and upsetting households. Just like he wants everyone to be educated (v.2) and to know the gospel of Jesus Christ, today it is the same, we need to learn to be good stewards of the gospel and the best way to do that is to know the Gospel.
When Reputations are Damaged:
But what about when ones reputation is damaged as would be the case for these women who had gone after these false teachers. This could be the purpose for the end of the passage. These women’s reputations may have been so damaged by their lack of self-control that the only way they could regain standing would be to listen quietly, grow in their relationships with Christ, tune out the false teachers, respect their husbands and bear children.
When reputations are damaged sometimes the best thing we can do is sit back and learn quietly. I almost wonder if that is what former Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll is doing during his hiatus. Just learning, not teaching or aspiring to teach, just seeking to learn and grow in our faith. Just like Paul did for the first three years after his conversion (Galatians 1:11-24) and then later going to have the gospel affirmed by the Apostles in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-10).
Finally let us remember the aim of Paul’s charge, Love (1:5). Paul is not writing to condemn these women or to command them not to be deacons or elders in the church, but to correct behavior that was far from in line with the standards set forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His goal was not to silence them, but to quietly and lovingly correct those who had fallen for false teachings. We too, but take the lead and do the same.