Message as audio recording:
Opening Selection: Give Me Faith
I Still Believe
Inspirational and Closing Selection: Tear Down the Walls
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:8-15, NKJV)
Today is Doctrinal Sunday here at The Essential Church, a time for us to examine the Word of God in a teaching context, though the Word of God can lead me to preach at times without thinking about it.
The Lord prepared me for this doctrinal time this past week, as I encountered someone on Twitter who believes that women should remain silent in the church and not speak at all: teaching, preaching, pastoral ministry, nothing. Most conservatives I know would at least let women teach women’s ministry and children’s ministry, and some would allow a woman to preach an occasion sermon here and there, but this guy was so “masculine” that he thinks his masculinity is threatened if a woman speaks for God in the church.
I know, I find his view hard to believe in 2017 (and I imagine you do, too), but he pointed out a verse regarding women in ministry from 1 Corinthians 14. We’re not going to study that today, but we are getting into the topic of women in ministry today by examining 1 Timothy chapters 1-3. 1 Timothy 2 contains the prohibition against women, but context is king: “a text means what it means in its context,” I was told in my hermeneutics class at seminary. Well, the same goes for the issue of women in ministry. The so-called prohibition passages are passages not allowing certain things, but the question becomes “why are women prohibited in these situations?”
If you listen to complementarians, you’ll discover that they’re reading the text in certain ways that stretch the texts pass their intended meaning. That’s usually the case when someone has an agenda: they misinterpret the texts, making them sound more sinister, giving them a meaning that Paul would’ve never encouraged or said. As the Pharisees made the Word of God of none effect through their tradition (Mark 7:13), complementarians do the same today.
So, we’re going to take a look at the context of 1 Timothy 2, that is, 1 Timothy 1. Then, we’ll read 1 Timothy 2 in light of 1 Timothy 1 and then read 1 Timothy 3 in light of 1 Timothy chapters 1 and 2 and see how it sits in light of Paul’s other letters in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament and the Scriptures at large.
First, let’s examine our immediate context: 1 Timothy 1.
1 Timothy 1
1 Timothy 1 sets the stage for 1 Timothy chapter 2, and it is in the first chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the church at Ephesus that we find the issue in Ephesus:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope,
2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:1-11)
The context of the situation in Ephesus is that Timothy is to stay there to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” 1 Timothy 1:3 is an indication that false doctrine (“other doctrine”) is at bay. The word for “teach other doctrine” in the Greek, the original language of the NT, is “heterodidaskalein.” The word is a compound word consisting of two words, “hetero” and “didaskalein.” The word “didaskalein” means “to teach.” The prefix “hetero” is “another.” We’re familiar with this prefix because the word “heterosexual” today means “other sex,” someone attracted to the opposite sex.
In verse 4, we read the specifics of some false doctrine being propagated in Ephesus: “nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies.” We know that these fables were “old wives’ fables,” seeing that Paul mentions this in 1 Timothy 4:7. We don’t know more information about these things in Scripture, but we know that fables are made up, nothing true or valid, and that some believers in Ephesus were giving themselves over to discussions of mere speculation, nothing concrete, and thus, fables and endless genealogies are part of that “other doctrine” that can’t be true (something true can be verified; fables and endless genealogies cannot). The words “godly edification” are in opposition to the “other doctrine,” showing that the false doctrine is not godly.
Verses 6, 7, and 8 are the heart of the context. Some had strayed in Ephesus from godly teaching, “turned aside to idle talk,” meaning that they were leaving the true Word of God and turning aside to things that profit nothing spiritually. In verse 7, oddly enough, it is these same ones who’ve “turned aside to idle talk” that are “desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” What this means is that they desire to teach in the church, to teach the law (remember, the early church only had the Old Testament, and all early church Christians were saved by way of the Old Testament), but they didn’t understand two things: 1) what they were saying, which means that they were talking about things that they didn’t know, and 2) they were agreeing to things that they didn’t fully comprehend.
In other words, they were propagating false doctrine and didn’t know it was false doctrine. Their ignorance is demonstrated in that these desiring to teach in the church had good intentions but improper knowledge. They’d given themselves over to “idle talk,” doctrine that was unprofitable, doctrine that isn’t godly, doctrine that was coming from terrible sources. Those propagating it believed it to be right doctrine, but it wasn’t. The fact that they were saying such things is an indication of their lack of a “doctrine radar” regarding the truth. Good intentions aren’t enough; teachers with good intentions but a lack of knowledge will damage not only the office of teaching and its reputation, but also the church. Godly doctrine builds up; ungodly, unprofitable doctrine destroys.
In verse 8, Paul defends the Law: “But we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” There were those in the church propagating false doctrine, but that didn’t taint the Law. The law is good “if one uses it lawfully.” The key phrase, “if one uses it lawfully,” tells us that the Law can be used to wreak havoc and do damage in the Body of Christ if it’s not wielded correctly. Paul calls the Word of God, the Bible, “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17, but the sword can affect the good and the bad when it’s not used rightly.
So, the Law, that which God has given to grow believers, can stunt their growth if it’s in the hands of those who don’t know how to use it. Think of a baby who gets his hands on a firearm. There have been countless deaths because children have had easy access to guns (a weapon they know next to nothing about), and they’ve killed themselves and other children by pulling the trigger unknowingly. Babes in Christ can be just as lethal with the Word if they do not know how to use the Word and how to apply the Word. The teaching office in the church can put babes in a position to spiritually “pull the trigger,” so to speak, harming all in their path.
1 Timothy 2:8-15
When we come to 1 Timothy 2:8, then, the issue becomes about restoring order to the church. Paul wants the men (“I desire,” he says, hinting to his own wishes) to “lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting.” From this phrase alone, we know that the men were not only praying with doubt in their hearts and minds but were also wrathful, angry at one another. David says that if he regards iniquity in his heart when he prays (if he holds a grudge), the Lord would not hear his prayer (see Psalm ), so their prayers are a waste because they’re arguing with one another and doubting God’s power to grant their requests. The phrase “in like manner also” (NKJV) in 1 Timothy 2:9 refers to the women who are also to lift holy hands in prayer and worship but “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.”
The women in the Ephesians church, as was the case with the Corinthians and Thessalonians, were extremely wealthy, and they displayed their opulence by wearing extravagant, gaudy clothing, pearls, and jewelry. We know that wealth was a part of the experience at the church at Ephesus because in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul gives instructions to the rich to “not be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches” (v.17), and to “do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (v.18), which matches the same thing he says to women in 1 Timothy 2: “not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). In other words, opulence and extravagance had their place alongside of anger and doubting in the worship service. Paul is writing to restore order to a place of worship that has now gotten out of control.
But the anger and opulence were only a portion of the chaos at Ephesus: another part of it was the women in worship service, dominating their husbands and not submitting to sound teaching; they were disagreeing with their instructors and husbands and spewing toxic doctrine that said Eve was created first, not Adam, and that Adam was the one deceived in the Fall, not Eve. This is why Paul writes:
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:11-15)
This portion of the text deserves great examination, for this is the crux of the so-called complementarian position and the result of the gross mistreatment of women in the Church of Jesus Christ. Paul says that women are to learn in silence. The word “let” shows that this is advice Paul is giving to Timothy; he’s not charging Timothy to do this or commanding him to do it, but he’s given the benefit of his wisdom and experience to Timothy. After all, this is a letter, and we only have one side of it: Paul’s response. We don’t know what Timothy said to Paul that explains why Paul wrote the letter. We can surmise, however, that Timothy wrote Paul, explaining the situation, and asked the apostle, “what would you do in such a situation?” Hence, Paul writes with the word “let” to say, “you can let the women learn with submission, but they must learn in silence.” Remember, the women have given in to idle talk (see 1 Timothy 1:6-7), listening to things and saying what they heard – without any recognition as to its falsehood. This is why the women are to be quiet: they’re talking and saying all the wrong things because they’ve become gripped with false doctrine.
In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,” but this is a translation that isn’t quite accurate. The Greek text says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to “dominate” a man, the Greek infinitive verb “authentein” meaning to “be lord” or “domineer” or “dominate.” The women were talking over their husbands in church service, disagreeing with them and spewing toxic doctrine. “Have authority over a man” is a NKJV translation, but the original King James Version says “to usurp authority.” The word “usurp” implies that someone is seizing that which does not belong to them. Nowhere does this “usurping” imply that women can’t or didn’t have spiritual authority in the churches. What the women were doing here was taking away the authority of their teachers by talking over them and saying things that were wrong and false. Rather than listening to those teaching them, the women contested the doctrine the teachers were giving with false doctrine instead. We’ll get into this in a minute.
Notice that Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach.” First, let’s examine the fact that Paul says “I do not permit,” not that this is a commandment from God (it isn’t). Again, if there were a commandment from the Lord in the Old Testament, Paul would’ve given it. There is no such commandment, for Huldah (a prophetess), Deborah (a judge), and Miriam (a prophetess) all spoke and taught in the congregation of Israel as women of God who were given words of authority by the Lord Himself. Women did speak and teach in the Old Testament, so there was no commandment Paul could use; he simply had to go with his own judgment of what he believed would be the best way to handle the situation.
Paul doesn’t give a commandment from the Lord, but he uses “I” to distinguish his own view from that of the Lord. Paul does it in other places in his letters, too:
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)
25 Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. (1 Corinthians 7:25-28)
Then there are places where Paul says he has received a commandment from the Lord:
10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)
39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment—and I think I also have the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 7:39-40)
We see from these few verses in 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul was careful to distinguish when something was a commandment from the Lord and when it was his own spiritual judgment. And here in 1 Timothy 2, he says “I do not permit,” not “the Lord forbids” or “the Lord doesn’t allow.” Nowhere do we see this judgment being labeled a direct commandment from God. Paul was clear to delineate when something was a divine commandment; its absence here is worth noting. Those who believe that God doesn’t want women in ministry will struggle to explain why Paul was so clear to say “I do not permit.”
The word “permit” is also important to note. “Permit” here is in contrast to “let the women learn,” which tells us that Paul is giving his own advice for the chaotic situation at Ephesus. There is no divine commandment; in the eyes of God, if the prophetess Huldah could give a word, if Deborah could give a word as a human judge over the male Barak, then God could and did speak through women, point-blank. There’s nothing in the Old Testament that prevented a woman from serving in the teaching position. These women in the text desired to be teachers. The desire to teach is a good work, which Paul has just told them to do (be fruitful in good works, see 1 Timothy 2:10), but the issue here is what they were saying, the doctrine they were giving their assent to. How can one teach in the church of God if he or she is teaching wrong doctrine?
Remember, the purpose of the teaching ministry, as part of the five-fold ministry, was to help mature all believers so that “we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). Paul wanted the women in the church to understand that the goal of the teaching office is to prevent false doctrine, not entertain it and give in to it, and their actions weren’t becoming of godly teachers who would pass down the truth to others. Truth and falsehood can’t co-exist in the same place.
As I said earlier, “to teach or have authority over a man” has been translated “to teach, preach, and pastor,” but again, if Paul wanted to say that, he would’ve had good vocabulary by which to do so. The word “authentein” has nothing to do with preaching and pastoring. The only gift being mentioned here is teaching, and that’s the only office at stake here in 1 Timothy 2. Paul mentions only “teaching” regarding those endorsing false doctrine in 1 Timothy 1:3,7). To read anything more into this than teaching is to sin against the Word of God and the Lord Himself. It isn’t there. Women were also prophesying in the public assembly (see 1 Corinthians 11), so not all gifts are the target of Paul’s critique of women here in 1 Timothy 2 – only teaching. The fact that Paul limits his discussion to one gift and office should give us pause before we assume Paul is prohibiting women from serving in all leadership offices in the church. The limited scope of the gifts being discussed here lends credence to a particular situation – and the absence of a divine commandment is also telling, for it indicates that God does not prevent women from teaching and serving in pastoral office. Those who believe otherwise are following the commandments and traditions of men, not God.
What was the “usurp authority” going on here all about? It was the fact that these women were trying to take away the power and influence of their teachers by openly and disrespectfully disagreeing with them in the public service. Paul tells them to learn but learn in silence, meaning that they need not talk so much in worship so as to miss sound doctrine. This makes sense: one cannot talk and learn at the same time, and that goes for both male and female genders in the church.
In verses 13 and 14, Paul gets at the heart of the false doctrine, the “other doctrine” (or part of it, rather) that was making its way into the church at Ephesus. We know from Scripture that Ephesus was a place where goddesses dominated the political and religious scene:
21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.
23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”
28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions. 30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. 31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. 32 Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”
35 And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: “Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? 36 Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. 38 Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly. (Acts 19:21-41)
We know, then, that Diana was a great goddess in Ephesus, and, as is the case with the worship of goddesses, women declared their independence from men. Since many Ephesians had likely been influenced by the worship of the great Diana, it’s also likely the case that women wanted to declare themselves independent from men. These married women didn’t understand what godly marriage was meant to be, so they respond by declaring themselves “authentein andros,” the Greek phrase for “to be lord of a man.” The word “over,” as is translated by the New King James Version, is nowhere to be found or even hinted at in the Greek phrase I just provided. There are some translations that seem to favor the use of the word, but whatever the word means, it cannot mean “preaching and pastoring,” for those words are not used in the passage.
Now let’s get to the verses that entail the false doctrine. Paul has already said false doctrine is the reason why he left Timothy in Ephesus, so that appears to be the reason behind this prohibition (which is not a divine commandment, I’d like to repeat again). The heart of the false doctrine pertains to Adam and Eve. I can imagine the arguments between the women in the church and the teacher(s) goes something like this:
Teacher: “And Adam was formed first.”
Woman: “No he wasn’t.”
Teacher: “Yes he was.”
Woman: “No he wasn’t.” Eve was, because she is the mother of all living.
Teacher: “Read the events of Genesis. Eve was created second, after Adam.”
Woman: “But Eve conceived children and could bring forth life. She was a life-giver. Adam couldn’t bear new life, so Eve’s life-giving properties make her the first. How could Adam be created first if he couldn’t produce children? How else does the human family arrive if not by a woman bearing children? Eve had to be formed first.”
Teacher: “And Eve was deceived.”
Woman: “No she wasn’t; Adam was. She was giving life to Adam by enlightening him with her knowledge. The fruit was the Tree of “knowledge” of Good and Evil, so she was passing knowledge down to Adam.
Teacher: “No, she was the one deceived by the serpent because Eve’s actions disobeyed God – who told Adam not to eat of the fruit.”
Some may view this as just fanciful theory, but there’s good reason behind why Eve is called “life-giver” and is said to “give knowledge” to Adam in the above conversation. The reason pertains to the prevalent pre-Gnostic thought in the church at Ephesus. Other verses in 1 Timothy point to this seemingly Gnostic thought. Of course, Gnosticism didn’t come along until the second century (this was the first century AD, after the death of our Lord Jesus), but Gnosticism is the closest doctrinally we come to these false teachings that were in the Ephesian Church:
[Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach. (1 Timothy 4:1-11)]
Some were being taught to 1) not marry and 2) avoid foods, all doctrines that try to flee the physical and embrace the spiritual side of things – as if to say that the physical, the flesh, the body, doesn’t matter. The body matters to God, as much as the spiritual does (3 John 1). Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8 that “bodily exercise profits a little,” so there’s some value in caring for the body.
In the context of 1 Timothy 2, Paul’s statement that “for Adam was formed first, then Eve” is Paul’s way of refuting false doctrine by reinstating the events of Genesis and the teaching of Genesis. Read Genesis 1-3, and you’ll see that Adam was formed before Eve. Contrary to the false doctrine that claimed that Eve was created first (since she could bear children and perpetuate the human family line), with “Eve” being “Zoe” (Greek meaning “life-giving”), Paul says that Adam was created first. It ran counter to the Greek Gnostic teaching. Paul then says that “Adam was not deceived,” but why would he argue what Genesis says – unless Genesis was being debated and disagreed with in public worship? That’s the point: the false teaching was denying the events of the Old Testament creation account, saying that Adam was deceived instead of Eve. When he says that “the woman, being deceived, fell in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14), he’s pointing out the gender. Why? Because the false doctrine was claiming the opposite: it was the man who fell into the transgression and was deceived. The concern with “the woman being deceived” was that the female gender fell in the transgression; Paul didn’t concern himself with her name at this point.
In 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul gives another statement worth considering:
15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:15)
Who is the “she” of verse 15? Some say “the woman,” but my question is this: which woman is being discussed? Is Paul referring to the women in the congregation, or Eve? The answer here, is Eve. The false doctrine that claims Eve was formed first and that Eve wasn’t deceived was designed to protect Eve’s reputation and save her from the blame that’s been thrown on her since time immemorial. The women, being female, want to protect her reputation in Christian doctrine, but they attempt to do it by teaching false doctrine without understanding the impact false doctrine has on the church. “She shall be saved in childbearing” is Paul’s way of saying that Eve’s reputation will be salvaged through the daughters of Eve bearing children. The word here is “childbearing,” as translations have it, but the notion of childbearing indicates that these women are wives, not just females in general. Again, we’ve discussed how Paul’s constraint of women involves teaching and only teaching here, which means the situation is specific, not a statement made for the general life of the church (the specific situation is that which involves false teaching). Here again we see that wives are mentioned, since childbearing is specifically mentioned here. In other words, single women don’t fit in the discussion of bearing children, so I doubt this passage is referring to women in general. The word translated as “woman” has to be taken into contact. Paul says “I do not permit a woman,” but the reference to childbearing refers to marriage. We know from 1 Corinthians 7 that not every woman is married or will be married, but that some are single. And to the single, Paul says that he has no commandment from the Lord:
32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
36 But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. 38 So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better. (1 Corinthians 7:32-38)
“There is a difference between a wife and a virgin” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:34. The unmarried woman cares about pleasing the Lord and isn’t distracted, but the married woman is distracted and has a commitment first to her family, then the church and the things of God. The idea of Eve being saved in childbearing refers to not only current daughters of Eve bearing children, but also to the redemptive plan of God: that is, Jesus was born by way of the virgin Mary (not through Joseph), and Mary is, of course, a daughter of Eve. When the Fall happens in Genesis, the subject of the false doctrine, the Lord says that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent:
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)
The seed of the woman, “her Seed,” is said here to be a “He,” referring to One that was to come: Jesus Christ. Perhaps Mary as a daughter of Eve can be the example for these women: Mary was a righteous woman before God who gave birth to the Messiah; these women, too, can be used of God if they’ll bear children and raise the future godly generations instead of trying to spread false doctrine and rise up against their husbands in worship service.
“She shall be saved in childbearing” if “they” continue in faith, love, and holiness with self-control. The “they” here refers to the women being discussed, those who are disrupting worship services and instruction time with false doctrine whose origin these women didn’t even know. The key terms there are “holiness” and “self-control.” These women weren’t displaying self-control with their outbursts in worship service and their opposition of their teachers who were instructing them in the Law of the Lord. However, by being faithful to God and being faithful in their marriages to their husbands, bearing children, and learning the truth, they would improve Eve’s reputation and save their own souls in the process.
Paul would’ve said to these women what he says later on in 1 Timothy 5:
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, 12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. 13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. 14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some have already turned aside after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:9-15)
Paul wanted these wives to be faithful in their marriages, families, and homes, to give no place to the devil. In fact, what we see in 1 Timothy 3 is that Paul does leave a place for women who are faithful in their homes, the first ministry to which they are called:
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8-13)
For women who were “faithful in all things,” including the home, these women could serve as deacons in the church of Jesus Christ. In other words, the first ministry for these married women was the home – and they were neglecting it to have authority and power in the church. They desired to be teachers because they thought that was more coveted, more precious, more significant than being faithful in their marriages and families. Paul told these women that they couldn’t expect to have church offices and serve with gifts and abilities in the church if they neglected their marriages and families. Their faithfulness in the home would be a shining indication of their faithfulness in the church. To fail at one would indicate future failure in the other.
What we leave with after studying 1 Timothy 1 and 2 is that women were prohibited from teaching not because of some divine commandment against it, but because they were spewing false doctrine and neglecting their homes for the “coveted” position of teaching in the church because they believed that was a place of authority. They desired to be teachers, a good desire, but they were going about it all wrong. The false doctrine they were teaching would only divide the body of Christ and let Satan have a foothold in the worship service – and Paul refused to give Satan any foothold in the house of God. As he wrote to the Corinthians regarding false teaching,
Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Corinthians 11:1-4)
As the serpent deceived Eve, these women were being deceived now by Satan in that they were opposing sound doctrine and speaking contrary to it. But the Law is good if one uses it lawfully, Paul says, so doctrine is positive when used in the right way. These women needed to learn in silence with full submission to learn the nature of sound doctrine. And anyone who opposes sound doctrine should be sat down and taught proper doctrine before they can become teachers of the Law – whether male or female.
May you continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Pastor D.M. Richardson
The Essential Church
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