Manhood, Womanhood & Ministry
2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to his friend, traveling companion and partner-in-mission, Timothy. Today, we call this ancient letter First Timothy. The reason that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy is that the church(es) in Ephesus were in a bit of a mess. In fact, it seems they were wandering from the gospel of Jesus Christ and, instead, following their own personal preferences and self-made ideas about God, which Paul refers to as “myths and genealogies, which promote speculations”. (1:4) In other words, they were getting biblically creative and speculative, rather than remaining biblically faithful. Paul loves the church in Ephesus, as he spent three years there helping to plant it, and it is breaking his heart to hear they are wandering from the truth of the gospel. For this reason, Paul is sending Timothy to address these issues and help re-align the church.
Today we’re going to unpack 1 Timothy 2:11-15. This is one of the most debated sections of all of the Apostle Paul’s writings – even New Testament. Quite literally, the interpretation of every word is debated. But, the good news is that you don’t have to be a New Testament scholar to understand what’s here. Yes, we must pray earnestly, we must think deeply, we must carefully search the Scripture, but in the end, the plain meaning of the text is the plain meaning of the text. This section, in particular, has significant implications on how we understand manhood, womanhood and ministry. For us, as a newly forming church, it is crucial to grasp and apply what God has here. If we love what God loves, want to be what God wants us to be, we must humbly seek to understand God’s design for men, women and the leadership of his people.
There are certain sxns of Bible that get Seattle riled up and this is one of them. One of the things I often hear is that “Paul is patriarchal woman-hater, who treats women like 2nd class citizens, so men can run the show”..and that, from those who claim to follow Jesus. This morning I ask you to consider the text innocent until proven guilty. Let’s assume God has something for us here. Just because you don’t immediately see what that might be, doesn’t mean it is not there. However, I can guarantee you that if assume there’s nothing here for you, you’ll never see anything that is.
Often we approach Bible and dismiss and/or explain away what we don’t like or doesn’t immediately make sense. The reality is that If you do that enough to your Bible, you don’t end up with God’s Word, but with your word. In the end, its not ultimately God you’re believing but yourself. When it comes to the Scripture, you have to take all of it, or none of it. One challenge of church culture today is that we don’t ever have to deal with or be confronted by difficult texts. Why? Because there’s likely a church down street that holds your view or will never deal with the these texts to begin with. That’s particularly true in Seattle. So, I enter into this knowing that there is much room for misunderstanding. I just don’t have the time to address every objection and alternate interpretation. So, let me know if you have further questions.
For those of you that are not followers of Jesus. The issues that we’re going to deal with in this text this morning are important, but not most important. The big question you have to wrestle with is “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” If not, nothing in this text today matters. But, if Jesus did rise from teh dead, there might be something to it. First things first.
Give God the benefit of the doubt this morning. He is good and never requires anything of us that’s not good for us. You may say, “Well, I don’t think that men and women, or gender or ministry should be this way.” OK, but did you come to conclusion because you were wrestling with the Bible or because that’s how you want it to be? Let’s dive into this and think deeply and prayerfully with me as we walk this out together. We will deal w/ objections along the way. Our view of this text is minority view in Seattle, but its majority view throughout the 2,000+ year history of the church. It feels alien because of our cultural context, but its not within our historical context. Paul is unfolding an argument this morning beginning in vs11 so that’s where we’ll start…
Q: WHAT DOES PAUL SAY? (vs11-12)
2:11-12 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.
“Let a woman learn” (v11)
This is easy to miss. It’s not the whole sentence, but it is part ot if. The reason that this is significant is that in first century cultural judaism, women were not supposed to learn. They definitely weren’t encouraged to learn. Women were not held in high esteem. Rabbis often wouldn’t teach women. Now, to be clear, none of this came from the Old Testament, but from the culture. From the start, Paul is saying “Not that way!” Women are supposed to learn (!) and benefit by being among God’s people, but that learning should happen in a certain way.
Some translations say “silence” but “quietly” or “silently” is better. See also vs 12 “she is to be quiet”. Now does this refer to absolute silence or quietness? No. How do we know that? Well, 1Cor 11 speaks of women prophesying when church gathers. So, Paul must have a specific type of quietness in mind. If you read vs12, that’s what we find. He’s not talking about quietness in general, but quietness that is the opposite of teaching and exercising authority. In other words “to learn quietly” is to not teach or exercise authority, but rather humbly learn within public worship (remember that propriety in public worship is the subject of this entire section) Some will object and say that “He’s really just concerned about noisy disturbances.” But the context makes it clear that something more is going on here. If that were the case, Paul could have just said. What about “submissiveness”? We’ll come back to that. We must first rightly understand authority before we can rightly understand what Paul is getting at with the use of submission here.
So, when Paul says “I do not permit a woman to teach” what kind of teaching is he talking about? No teaching ever, to anyone, anywhere? To answer that we need to look at other places where Paul talks about women teaching others.
Titus 2:3 “Older women… teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands & their children.”
2 Tim 3:14 Paul tells Timothy to remember from whom learned Scriptures, which we know was Grandma and mother
Acts 18:26 “Priscilla and Aquila heard [Apollos], they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
In other words, Paul is not restricting every kind of teaching because in these cases (and others) we have examples of women teaching women, children and teaming up with husbands to privately teach. So, what is Paul saying? Clearly its not all teaching he has in mind, but a certain type of teaching that he has in view here, namely authoritative teaching. Notice how we positions both “teach” and “exercise authority” together. Paul is restricting this authoritative teaching to men. “Ok, what is this authority he is referring to?”
This is where all the commentators get riled up because this word is only used one time in the NT – right here. So, if its only used once, how do we determine its meaning? Again, context must be our guide. To exercise authority means to rule, govern and lead. So, let’s step back for a minute and ask a simple question: Does Paul use these two terms together anywhere else? Is there anyone else within 1 Timothy or the rest of his writings that are said to “teach” and “to exercise authority”? Answer: Yes. Pastors.
3:1 “the office of overseer” » leadership
3:2 “must be able to teach” » teaching [Amidst all of the character qualifications, Paul inserts one non-character qualification – able to teach – which is telling]
5:17 “Let the elders who rule [or lead] well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. [teaching]”
In other words, pastors are called by God to lead/govern/rule (i.e. exercise authority) and teach/preach. So, if we put all of these together it seems that what he is most naturally saying is this, “I do not permit a woman to fill office of pastor within church.” This is further highlighted and strengthened by the immediate context. What is very next thing Paul talks about? Qualifications for pastors/elders.
Let’s take a minute to clarify what that authority looks like because many of us have negative connotations of it. How is this authority exercised? What is its purpose?
Lk 22:26 “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”
2 Cor 10:8; 13:10 “for building up, not for tearing down”
Eph 4:12 “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
1 Pe 5:3 “Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
When you put these together you get a very different view of authority than is present in our culture. Pastoral authority is an equipping-serving-example-making-authority. Or, you could sum it up as Christ-like servant leadership.
Given all of this, let’s define these terms. I crafted the following based upon similar definitions by John Piper.
“Authority” refers to the divine calling of qualified and gifted men to take primary responsibility as elders for Christ-like servant-leadership and teaching in the church.
“Submission” then refers to the divine calling of the rest of the church, both men and women, to honor and affirm the leadership of those elders and to be equipped to serve Jesus and his people in hundreds of ways.
God intends the entire church to be mobilized in his service, men and women. He does that equiping and mobilizing
God intends to equip and mobilize his people through a company of called/tested/gifted male elders. These elders take primary responsibility for leadership and teaching in the church. Therefore, to learn “quietly w/ all submissiveness” is to honor the leadership of men who God set as overseers by remaining quiet (vs11) and not attempting to teach or exercise authority in way that would compromise/confuse church. (vs12)
Objection #1: “Not all women are in view here, just wives.” This argument is based on the fact that same word can be translated “woman” or “wife”. But, translating it as “wife” is a stretch as contextually it is not marriage that is in view but public worship.
Objection #2: “Paul is just forbidding a woman to domineer or abuse authority, but exercising healthy authority is OK.” Some commentators turn “authority” into a negative word like “domineer”or “abuse”. But, a survey of the usage of this word in other Greek writings, around the same time as the writing of 1 Timothy, in 80 instances shows it just means “to exercise authority”. In not a single instance does it have a negative meaning.
Objection #3: “The teaching in view here is ‘false teaching’ not just teaching.” At first this seems valid as that is clearly an issue that Paul is having Timothy address. However, there is a different word used to indicate “false teaching” in the Greek and its not used here. Here the words just means “to teach”.
Q: WHY DOES PAUL SAY IT?
Now, what is Paul rooting all of his reasoning for this in? Common reasons given: (1) Women in Ephesus were uneducated (2) Women were teaching false doctrine. Follow me here. This is really important. Paul doesn’t give cultural reasons. He goes all the way back to creation. Paul anchors his reasoning for verses 11-12 in creation, not in culture, not in lack of training, not in lack of giftedness, not in lack of ability. In other words, Paul grounds his understanding and reasoning for the office of pastor being reserved for men alone in how God set things up in the very beginning. He gives two reasons.
Reason #1 » CREATION
2:13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve
We dealt with the important topics of manhood and womanhood back in November when working through manhood, womanhood and marriage. (Nov 2012) There we dealt with the Genesis accounts in full and answered many of the common obstacles and frequently asked questions.
Let’s revisit in summary form. Our God maleness and femaleness is not an accident, nor arbitrary nor un-importatnt, but is part of the very essence of our humanity. The very first mention of gender in Bible occurs with the very first mention of humanity itself. “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). In fact, every mention of gender distinctions in Bible is tied to the creation story – not culture. This demonstrates that God did not make us into generic humanity, then later male/female; rather, from the start we are male and female. Now, if the post-modern view of gender as “social construct” is right then, yes, we could do whatever we want. Ex. Vote. But, if gender at the heart of our nature then we risk losing ourselves if we abandon our male/female distinctiveness.
Further, men and women are both created in the image of God, equal in dignity, value and worth. Men are not ranked higher. Men are not superior. Women are not second class. Rather, men and women are equal in dignity, value, worth and honor. Note this: Every single idea of gender superiority or inferiority is ruled out in Bible.
Though equal, men and women are created distinct in form (look different) and function (different role). They are equal but complementary. Both man and woman are equal in value, but different and distinct in the roles they are to play. Per Paul, one way this distinction is highlighted is that Adam and Eve were created in a different order + way. Man first (dust). Woman second (man). The sequence is not an accident or mistake. God could have made both at same time in same way, but he didn’t. Formed Adam first + Eve formed from Adam + Eve formed for Adam + God goes to him first (3:9) + God names race “Man/Adam” (5:1-2). In other words, Paul is saying that by creating man first God placed man in the position of primary leadership and responsiblity.
In other words, Paul is saying that called and gifted men should bear primary responsibility for leadership and teaching in church. This is not based on the cultural situation at Ephesus, but woven into fabric of manhood/womanhood in creation. This is not based on sin, but on the basis of how God wanted it to be before there was any sin.
Men: You are supposed to be initiating providers/protectors. Men/women different by design. Fundamental flaw in feminist position is that ”there is no difference between men and women”. They will say, “It doesn’t matter whether mom’s dad or dad’s mom. You wear pants/I wear skirt. You wear skirt/I wear pants…after all, there’s no difference.” But, good and gracious God says, “Yes there is. Equal, but complementary.” When you start with an evolutionary worldview that all that we are came about through inert sludge + time + chance that is how you end up with the confusion we find ourselves in. But if you start with a personal Creator that is good, life takes shape and has purpose, meaning and beauty.
Reason #2 » FALL
2:14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
Paul is here referring to the fall in Genesis 3, where Satan deceived Eve, w/ Adam standing by, to rebel against God.
Q: Is Paul saying woman are more prone to deception? Women are more gullible?
A: No. (1) If Paul is saying that women are not permitted to teach because they are more gullible why does he permit them to teach in other ways? That does not follow. (2) Eve may have been deceived, but Adam was in blatant rebellion. How is that any better? If Eve is disqualified from this measure of teaching because she was deceived, why would Adam not be also disqualified because his more blatant rebellion? That does not follow either.
Rather, Paul is referring to tragic consequences from Eve breaking God’s order and choosing to lead. Feel the weight of this: Sin entered the world through the reversal of God-given roles. That is what Paul is getting at. Although the woman was created second, woman sinned first. Although the woman created as helper, woman stepped out as lead. Adam failed to lead. Eve failed to follow. Roles were reversed. Sin ensued. This was all Satan’s intent.
Satan’s goal is to assault God’s pattern by seeking to subtly deceive the woman instead of the man. If God wants man to bear special responsibility for leadership, Satan will do what he can to destroy that. How? By going to the woman instead. Therefore, he goes to Eve first and puts her in position of spokesman, leader, defender (i.e. where she doesn’t belong) In so doing, he puts Adam in a position of being silent, fearful, passive, and apathetic (i.e. where he doesn’t belong). Both take bait. Pattern remains today. Gender confusion began in garden and continues today.
Aside: Surely its not insignificant that Jesus chose only 12 men to be his disciples. Only men to be apostles. There are no women pastor-teachers, evangelists or elders in the NT. None of the authors of the NT were women. The NT nowhere records a sermon or teaching of woman. Isn’t it hard to imagine God kept church in dark for so long despite fact intended for women to pastors eventually. You can believe that or direct correlation w/ (1) loss of confidence in Bible coupled with (2) the incredible pressure of cultural feminism.
Paul’s point is not that man is un-deceivable and woman is more so. No.
Paul’s point is that when God’s order of leadership is abandoned, it brings damage and error.
Let’s summarize 11-14. Gifted, qualified men should bear primary responsibility for leadership and teaching in church. (vs11-12) Why?
#1 Because God demonstrated men should take responsibility for leadership in relation to women in creation, by forming Adam first. (vs13)
#2 Because fall of Adam and Eve demonstrates damage and error that occur when pattern is abandoned in fall. (vs14)
Q: HOW DOES THE LAST VERSE FIT INTO HIS ARGUMENT?
2:15 Yet she will be saved thru childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
There’s no way around it. This is just an awkward verse, in content and grammar. There are no parallels, which should warn us when it comes to interpreting it.
First what it doesn’t mean:
#1 Clearly women are not eternally saved from consequences of sin through having kids. This does not refer to “salvation of sin” by work. Paul and rest of the Bible are emphatically clear that salvation is by grace, through faith, apart from our works.
#2 Some say that “saved” here refers to “sanctification” however that just doesn’t fit the context.
I’ll give the best two options, in my mind. First is the traditionally held view. The second is my preference:
First, “she” from vs13-14 is referring to “Eve”. Paul is alluding to the promise that God gave that the “offspring of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent” (Gen 3). One day a great savior, redeemer from sin would come. The whole hope of the OT is bound up in this person. Eve, as everyone else, will be saved through this Promised One, Jesus Christ. That is the childbearing in view. This has been traditionally held view for a long time. Personally, feels like a stretch.
Second, remember the context. Paul is talking about gender role reversals. The word for “saved” here can mean salvation from sin and its consequences but it can also mean “to rescue” or “to be kept safe”. This fits the context best, as Paul hasn’t spoken of eternal salvation in this section. So “saved” does not mean “salvation from sin” but being “kept safe” from reversing God’s created order.
She’ll kept safe from wrongly embracing men’s roles by embracing her uniquely God-given feminine role. Paul uses “childbearing”, as a function that is unique to women alone, to represent that role. If don’t have kids doesn’t mean you can’t do this, again representative of embracing God-given femininity. i.e. You will avoid reversing God’s created order by embracing and living out of your God-given femininity. And, Paul adds, if you continue in “faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” This interpretation is fair and fits the context best in my mind.
Our lives and our city are filled with broken men and women. Every single one of us have experienced the effects of distorted man/womanhood. Jesus came to take all of that brokenness on himself on cross, to forgive our sin and make us new. He wants to enhance our lives and one of the ways he does that is by calling us to biblical man/womanhood. He thoughtfully and graciously restructures our lives, our marriages and his church for his glory and our joy. As we follow suit, we get a taste of how he created things to be and serve as testimony to the goodness of our Creator
Many claim to know a better way for God’s people, but I commend the plain meaning of the text to you:
First, church flourishes most fully when qualified, gifted men take primary responsibility for leadership and teaching in church.
Second, when the rest of church, men and women, honor/affirm leadership of those elders and are equipped to serve Jesus and his people in hundreds and hundreds of ways.
This is way Scriptures teach us to order the church. God inspired the Scriptures and God is good. That must mean all of this is for out good. At the same time, it is vital to point out that we recognize genuine professing believers disagree with the position we have presented here, so we have to exercise humility, charity and invite them to join the conversation with us. My hope is Jesus would carve out DCC as a people where He is loved, our city is love and true complementarity flourishes. We get to do this together and watch Him do what only He can in our lives and city.