Today we conclude our four-week
discussion on some of the women of the Bible, and the real and
tangible contribution women have made to our faith. So today I
thought we conclude with one of the more difficult passages in
the Bible, with respect to the treatment of women throughout
Clearly today's Epistle reading is one
of the more disturbing texts, especially to women, as we
ascertain what women are to be doing in the life of the
church. It's difficult to read this passage without folks
getting upset, and unfortunately for this very reason people
avoid it all together. But the very fact it is in the Bible
means we need to confront it and understand what message Paul
is trying to convey to us.
This is another text, when interpreted
literally without understanding the historical context of the
writer, which has been misused to oppress others. To best
address the meaning of today's reading we need to unpack it
verse by verse. And to truly gain a complete understanding of
our scripture reading in First Timothy we must be aware of the
context in which Paul and Timothy lived and worked.
Ephesus was a very wealthy city
holding its pagan ways in high regard. Immorality was pretty
much a way of life for many, including the presence of Temple
prostitutes. So Paul and Timothy were dealing with a church
struggling to remain Christ-like in its teaching and witness
in the midst of inappropriate behavior.
The first issue Paul addresses is one
of adornment during a time of public prayer. Paul was so
concerned with how people prayed that in the verse just prior
to our reading today he counseled men to pray without anger,
and then as we heard he counseled women to dress modestly and
sensibly when in prayer. Some of the women during these times
were apparently flaunting their new found Christian freedom by
wearing distracting clothing, jewelry, and so on. They were
bringing attention to themselves rather than directing
attention to God.
They were also sending the wrong
message to the poor of Ephesus who came to worship with them.
The poor were beginning to feel excluded because they couldn't
meet the dress standards of the others. Christianity began to
look a lot like a religion for the wealthy with little to
offer to the poor. Clearly this was not what Jesus was about.
This still happens today
unfortunately. How many look down their nose at those who
don't have the means to "get dressed up for church," creating,
perhaps unintentionally, an uncomfortable environment for the
poor or struggling. Or how many of us, both men and women, are
so concerned about how we look that God takes a back seat to
our focus and praise.
The whole point of Paul's instructions
were to ensure that when men and women were in prayer to God
their thoughts and hearts were appropriately centered, and not
preoccupied with anger, appearance, or other things that cause
In first century Jewish culture women
were not allowed to study, which is interesting since they
were largely responsible for educating the children in the
faith. When Paul said that women should learn in quietness and
full submission, he was actually offering them a wonderful
Paul says, "learn," which is a huge
step forward from the thinking of the time. However, Paul
didn't want the Ephesian women to teach yet because they
didn't have enough experience or knowledge to be seen as
credible. It had nothing to do with ability, but rather
experience and knowledge at that place, and at that point in
You see the Ephesian church of Paul
and Timothy's time was struggling with many false teachers.
And women particularly were susceptible to false teachings
because they didn't yet have enough biblical knowledge to
discern truth from hypocrisy.
Paul was telling Timothy not to put
anyone, and in this particular case women, into positions of
leadership if they were not yet mature in the faith, and ready
to take on the important task of Christian leadership.
Unfortunately some interpret this
passage to mean that women should never teach in the assembled
church. This doesn't sound like a Christ-like interpretation
to me. The scripture is meant to be freeing and grounded in
love, not a tool for control or oppression.
Many who have studied this scripture,
and the historical context in which it was written, are quick
to point out that Paul didn't forbid women from ever teaching.
Paul was a leader in promoting and encouraging women in the
work of the Lord. Paul commended co-worker, Priscilla and
taught Apollos the great preacher.
In addition, Paul frequently mentions
women who held positions of responsibility in the church.
Phoebe worked in the church. Mary, Tryphena, and Tryphosa were
the Lord's workers, as were Euodia, and Syhtyche.
In our scripture, Paul was prohibiting
just the Ephesian women of the time of his writing from
teaching, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, not all women
Now in Paul's reference to being
silent, the word silent expresses and attitude of quietness
and composure. In Greek a different, word from the one that's
used in our scripture this morning, is usually used when the
writer wants to express silence the way we mean the word
silent in the English language.
In addition, Paul himself acknowledges
that women publicly prayed and prophesied. However, it seems
that the women in the Ephesian church were abusing their
newfound Christian freedom, believing they were now equipped
to be effective teachers. Witnesses to their faith yes, but
teachers not yet.
The same is true today for anyone (men
or women) who receive Christ and are converted to the
Christian faith. It's a wonderful experience, an experience to
share with others, but these folks have not been part of the
faith long enough to have the knowledge, experience, or
maturity to answer some of the more difficult questions, or to
help guide someone on their spiritual journey.
This is why the ministry of the church
is so important. The church is the primary means through which
God reaches the community and the world in mission. Spiritual
formation takes place within the church.
As wonderful as it is, it's not enough
to have a conversion experience, one must continue to learn
and grow in the faith, to know what being a disciple of Christ
means, so that they can live a more fulfilling life now, and
so they can go and equip others to help God grow his kingdom
for Jesus sake.
Now lets look at Paul's discussion of
the male / female role in marriage and how that relationship
equates to church leadership. Some biblical scholars see
verses 13_14 of First Timothy, and the use of Adam and Eve, as
an illustration of what was happening in the Ephesian Church.
Just as Eve had been deceived in the Garden of Eden, so false
teachers were deceiving the women in the church. And just as
Adam was the first human to be created by God, so the men in
Ephesus should be the first to speak and teach, because they
had more training at that particular time.
This particular view stresses once
again that Paul's teaching here is not universal, applying to
all churches of the biblical world, but applies to the
churches in Ephesus who were having similar problems.
If there were a church here in this
country, which was having problems with false teachings we
should do the same. In a church struggling with heretical
preaching or teaching, those who have no experience or
knowledge ought to be silent, so that those with the
appropriate experience and knowledge can convey God's truthful
word. This is true whether it be man or woman.
And just so we don't get hung up on
the century's argument of who really committed the first sin
Adam or Eve, know that the illustration Paul used here was to
make a specific point. In reality Paul in his letter to the
Romans actually places the primary blame for humanity's sinful
nature on Adam. Sorry guys.
Mathew Henry also says this about Eve.
"Eve's being made after Adam, and out of him, puts an honor
upon that sex, as the glory of man. If man is the head, she is
the crown…the man was dust refined, but the woman was dust
double-refined, once removed further from the earth. She was
not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet
to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal
with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to
As we look now at verse 15 we see the
phrase "saved through Child bearing." How are we to understand
this verse? Well there are several ways we can look at it. The
first is that man sinned so men were condemned to painful
labor. Woman sinned so women were condemned to pain in
childbearing. However, by the grace of God both men and women
can now be saved through Jesus Christ.
A second explanation of the phrase
"saved through childbearing" is that women who fulfill their
God-given roles are demonstrating true commitment and
obedience to Christ. One of the most important roles for a
wife and mother is to care for her family.
Third, it could be that the
childbearing mentioned refers to the birth of Jesus Christ.
Women, and men, are saved spiritually because of the most
important birth, Christ himself.
And a fourth explanation is that from
the lessons learned from childbearing, women can develop
qualities that teach them about love, trust, submission, and
The bottom line is men and women are
in equal partnership in all aspects of life. Yes, men and
women have different interests and are gifted differently by
God. This is all the more reason we should all work together
for the good of God's kingdom.
The issues we encounter in church
leadership, in family leadership, and in the daily activities
of our lives are not to be strictly gender defined; they are
to be gift defined. God has gifted each one of us uniquely so
that when we come together as one body we represent a complete
Each of us as individuals is one cog
in the machine of life, one small part of the body of Christ.
And all parts are needed to operate effectively. There is
absolutely no warrant in our scripture today for relegating
women to subordinate or dehumanizing roles of any kind.
As we conclude our formal look at
women of the Bible today I want to thank the women of the
church for their devotion to doing the Lord's work. If it
weren't for the women I hate to think where the church might
And as I conclude today I leave you
with this important reminder from Paul in his letter to the
Galatians, "there is neither male nor female; for you are all
one in Christ Jesus." Amen
Read other messages by Pastor Wade