1 Timothy 2:8-15 – Difficult Commands for Christian Men, Women and Authority

Pastoral Letters - MusicaTheologica.com
John Carter – March 31, 2016 – Writings
Difficult Commands for Christian Men, Women and Authority

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Musica Theologica Bible Translation

Difficult Commands for Christian Men, Women and Authority

Well, this is always a fun piece of the Bible for trolls and heretics.

First off we must read this last half of chapter 2 with the first half in mind. Why? Because when we begin to dissect portions of scripture into unrelated entities then we end up with poor exegesis and rather inventive interpretations. So let’s start with a brief reminder that Paul was rooting all external Christian behaviors in the expansion of the Gospel message; not convenience, comfort, or general kindness. So when we read the difficult commands in chapter 2 we must read them in light of a living God who wants all men and women to come to a correct knowledge of him. However, this desire of God does not make these commands for Christian Men, Women and Authority any less difficult. Which is why as we move through these three areas (Men, Women, Authority) our attention will be consistently called back to the Gospel imperative[1].

MEN: Pray Properly

Therefore…I want men, in all places, to pray lifting up holy hands without anger and dissention.[2]

Paul seems to create a word picture of the two ways that men raise their hands. First it is in holiness for the purpose of prayer (prayer that would at the bare minimum would consist of the prayer requests listed in the earlier portion of Chapter 2). The second way that men might raise their hands would be to fight with each other. It seems appropriate that Paul was trying to say that when a Christian man raises his hands it is to be for the purpose of prayer and the Gospel, not to strike his neighbor. But even where there was no physical altercations taking place, the thought still stands that it is a contradiction to raise your hands in prayer yet to continue clinging to anger towards your Christian brother. For how can we love a God we have never seen yet so aggressively hate a man we can clearly see?[3] When prideful men gather, they fight. When humble men gather they pray.

WOMEN: Dress Yourselves Better

Likewise, (I want) women to order themselves in orderly attire with restraint and self-control; not in braids and gold, or pearls, or expensive clothing. Rather, (with) what is fitting for women professing godliness- (that is) with good works.[4]

Although I have usually heard this next section as a call for women to put clothes on, I think this is not the best passage to do that from. While many interpret this section as a call to reject sexually immorality I believe Paul is directly addressing the extravagance too often found on the Christian runway (the church aisle). First, Paul connects the basis of this command with the basis of his last command based on the word ‘likewise’. And the first command has little to do with sexual morality but much to do with the pride of boastful and arrogant men who are set on getting their own way. Which means the wearing of these types of clothing is rooted in pride.

Second, Paul spends more time telling the women to take things off as opposed to putting clothing on. I think that it is amusing, yet appropriate, how he says that women should wear what is fitting. So often women spend an inordinate amount of time to find something that fits just right but they often do this while neglecting the better fitting thing- good works.[5] It is more comfortable to use this passage to rally the troops for lower hem lines and higher neck lines. But it is more accurate, and difficult, to point this passage at the current sin of the American Church of extravagance and materialism. Just because we stopped judging people for coming to Sunday morning worship in blue jeans, it doesn’t mean we are not in sin when our wardrobe is more affluent than a 3rd world country’s fiscal budget.

The usual reason given for dressing up in church is that we need to give our best to God. But if that is the case then why do we dress so poorly other days of the week. Or why is it that when we buy a new toy, car or commodity we give the old one to the church? I believe what Paul is addressing here is the pride of women trying to dress to impress. But in all reality we are just a bunch of beggars dressing up in fleeting materialism for the sake of opposing the gospel.


Before we move forward we need to connect the last two sections more closely before the final section will make sense. So far this passage has two major sins in mind, (1) Moralism[6] and (2) Pride. Honestly, we are quick to explain away the difficulties of these commands my articulating how we are above the cultural issues that Paul and Timothy were facing. But if we read these verse at face value I think the internal evidence and the external evidence[7] proves that we in the American Church are guilty of fighting with our brothers and sisters instead of praying with them. And that both men and women in the modern church are more concerned with wearing our Sunday best rather living out a godly life. Simply put, dressing nice or acting nice is not and never will be a certain sign of spiritual maturity.

AUTHORITY: Follow the Created Order

Let(!) a woman learn in quietness[8] and in all submissiveness, but I do not permit a woman to teach nor dominate man. Rather, she is to be quiet[9].[10]

Addressing the limits of women in authority is a necessary feature of all healthy discussions related to church leadership. But if we use this passage to assert that female limitation is the starting point, then I believe we have missed the text. There are at least two things to note about the command to let women learn in quietness and submission. First, this is not a prohibition but an inclusion. Because of our modern context, we assume an equality of education among the male and female genders. But it would be anachronistic to assume this was the common belief among the early Church and the ancient world. The scandal of this passage is not that women are prohibited from having equal privileges with their male counterparts. Rather, the scandal is that Paul was allowing women, regardless of social class, to have access to education. Paul wasn’t telling the women to stop teaching, but he was addressing men who were trying to restrict women from learning.

However, Paul does enter a prohibition in the following sentence. But this prohibition makes better sense in light of the scandal of the permission to learn. I won’t go into fringe word-studies here to prove my point because this is not the best place to achieve a satisfactory resolution.[11] Instead I will communicate what I believe to be the best way to understand this discussion, which is in connection with the created order of things.

For[12] Adam was formed first then Eve, and Adam was not deceived but the woman, having been deceived, has come to be in transgression. But she will saved through child bearing[13]– if they remain in trust and love and holiness with self-control.[14]

It appears that Paul is wanting the church to avoid repeating the sin of Eve when he limits a woman’s authoritative role. So although it is appropriate to have women verbally participate in the corporate worship practices of the local church[15] it is also appropriate to identify when a women will be committing the same sin as Eve. Paul basis his two reasons, found here in 1 Timothy Chapter 2, in Genesis Chapters 2 and 3. First, man was created first and therefore has a higher authority- although not a higher worth. Second, Eve proved her inability to effectively lead in that when she tried to it resulted in sin. The argument for man’s appointment to loving-authority and woman’s appointment to willful-humble-submission is not cultural but a significant part of the creative order and the Gospel story.[16]

As far as the statement about being saved through child bearing goes I limit myself to the following statement. The Bible is clear that salvation is explicitly through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Therefore the saving spoken of here must sit in submission to that truth. The Bible is also clear that the pain of child bearing greatly increased as a result of Eve’s sin. So in light of the creation discussion found here I believe it is appropriate to say that the statement on saving is an aphorism[17] of life in the midst of excruciating pain. Meaning, although woman (Eve) sinned first, women won’t die, if they will continue in trust, love, holiness and self-control. In other words, they will be saved if they continue to wear what is fitting.


  • What disciplines are evident in your life that deter pride and encourage humility?
  • What do you consider marks of spiritual maturity that are actually reflections of moralism and materialism?
  • Can Christian unity exist when two believers disagree on Christian authority? What does that look like?

This is not an easy or comfortable passage by any means but it certainly brings a lot to the table to discuss. For those that participate in a discussion based on this discussion I would highly recommend pursing humility before knowledge.


[1] The Gospel is not simply a historical fact. Its historical reality requires a response of obedience from all who have been affected by it.

[2] MTT

[3] 1 John 4:20

[4] MTT

[5] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/challenges-of-teaching-the-bible-to-other-women

[6] The belief that being a moral person is pleasing to God, or that through behavior modiication we can replicate the work of the Holy Spirit with out the Holy Spirit or the Gospel Message.

[7] Biblical passasges Internal to 1 Timothy and Biblical passages external of 1 Timothy.

[8] 1 Timothy 2:2, 12

[9] 1 Timothy 2:2, 11

[10] MTT

[11] Women in Leadership – Position Paper

[12] Anticipating the question ‘why this order?’

[13] 1 Timothy 5:14

[14] MTT

[15] Among other verses 1 Corinthains 11:5 clearrly approves of women verbally participating in corporate worship.

[16] Because women are not to have authority over a man I think it would be wise to consider whether a congergationaly lead church allows a woman to exercise authority over a man in an unbilical way.

[17] Aphorism’s are general laws of nature/life but not promises. Like the aphorisms of Proverbs you can count on these but they should be seen as irrevocible promises. So although face many dangers in child bearing she will more than likely survive.