II. The Priority of Prayer and the Reality of Gender Roles (1 Timothy 2:1-15)

2:1-2 Here Paul begins the heart of his letter. And at the top of the list is the topic of prayer. He wants petitions . . . intercessions, and thanksgivings to be made by the church for everyone (2:1). In other words, we should make all kinds of prayers for all kinds of people. But he especially asks prayers for kings and all those who are in authority. Why? So that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (2:2).

2:9-10 Women in the church are called to prayer also. But just as men and women are different, so Paul’s exhortation to the women is different. They are to dress modestly. Godly character is to be reflected outwardly in godly apparel. This doesn’t mean women are to wear ugly rags. It means they aren’t to let the world determine their fashion preferences. Worldly standards are often unacceptable—and this is sometimes true when it comes to clothing choices too. Do not dress in a way that brings inappropriate attention to yourself by either underdressing or overdressing

Importantly, Paul is not forbidding women to wear nice clothes; he’s saying that nice clothes are not what Christian women should be known for. Women who profess to worship God should be known more for their decency, their good sense, and their good works than they are known for their expensive apparel. If you claim to be a Christ follower, proof should show up in your actions. So walk in godliness, dress with godliness, and be worthy of respect.

2:11-12 Having addressed men and women separately in 2:8-10, Paul continues in 2:11-15 to discuss gender role differences in the church. A woman, for instance, is to learn quietly with full submission. Paul says, I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.

Understand that Paul is not calling for an absolute silence, nor is he forbidding women from using their gifts. Indeed, Paul allows women to speak in the church when it is under the proper covering of legitimate male authority (see 1 Cor 11:2-10). So what he’s talking about here is the exercise of a role, an office. He’s talking about teaching and having authority. An overseer / elder / pastor (these terms are interchangeable in the New Testament) is expected both to teach and to govern and lead the church (3:2, 5; 5:17; Titus 1:9; see 1 Thess 5:12; Heb 13:17). Women are restricted from serving in this role of final authority in the church, where teaching and exercising authority are combined (senior pastor, elder, bishop).

2:13 Some claim Paul’s words in 2:11-12 are a mere artifact of an ancient male-chauvinist culture. But Paul gives a reason his restriction, and it has nothing to do with cultural norms: Adam was formed first, then Eve. In other words, the limitation on women serving in a role of final authority in the church is based on a creation principle. There was an order to God’s creation of humanity. He made people, male and then female. He created the man first not because the man was superior to the woman, but because he was to be the positional leader. Scripture lays out a pattern of male leadership in the home and in the church.

The married couple was to function as an inseparable team, exercising dominion together over God’s creation, with the man exhibiting godly servant leadership. The man’s role as “head” (i.e., governing authority) over the woman (Eph 5:22-23) does not make him superior to her any more than God the Father’s role as “head” makes him superior in essence to God the Son (see 1 Cor 11:3). They are co-equal members of the Trinity, though they have different functions. Likewise, the husband is to submit to Christ’s headship over him and the wife is to submit to her husband’s headship (Eph 5:24; Col 3:18; 1 Pet 3:1); nonetheless, they are unified in Christ (Gal 3:28) and “co-heirs of the grace of life” (1 Pet 3:7). There is no inferiority. Rather, there is a functional order. When this clearly defined covenantal order is breached, the door is opened for Satan to sow discord (see Gen 3:1-6) and limit the intervention of angels (see 1 Cor 11:10).

2:14 Paul provides further biblical support for the restriction on women serving as overseers / elders / pastors: Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. Satan caused their roles to be reversed, approaching Eve with his deception while Adam stood silently and watched. Though he was supposed to take an active role in watching over the garden and keeping God’s command (Gen 2:15-17), Adam became passive, allowed the devil to tempt Eve, and then knowingly followed her into sin.

Importantly, though Eve was deceived, Scripture lays responsibility for humankind’s fall into sin at the feet of Adam (see Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21). As the “head,” he should have defended both his wife and God’s garden against the lying intruder. In the same way, God-called men are to serve as spiritual guardians and overseers in the church, leading God’s people, teaching the truth, and equipping the church to guard against Satanic intrusion.

2:15 She will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense. After Adam and Eve rebelled against God, he promised that one day Eve’s offspring would strike the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). This is the first biblical prophecy pointing to Jesus Christ. A descendent of Eve would defeat Satan and his power (see Heb 2:14).

What does this have to do with women bearing children today? Every time a believing woman has a baby and raises her child “in faith, love, and holiness,” she’s preparing another offspring to help put hell on the run. Only Jesus’s work on the cross ultimately defeats the devil. But, as his body, we the church are promised that the devil will also be crushed under our feet (see Rom 16:20). Women are to influence their children to be agents of God’s kingdom, battling the enemy through the power of the Holy Spirit. Such a faithful kingdom woman will be saved—that is, “delivered”—and experience spiritual victory. Godly childbearing and childrearing is payback against the devil for his deception in the garden; it provides women opportunity to experience spiritual significance and victory. Single women and those unable to bear children can share in this victory by teaching and discipling the next generation of kingdom warriors.

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