“Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.” (1 Tim. 6:1-2)
The Roman economic system was built on the backs of slaves. These words were written to Timothy who was the lead elder at the church in Ephesus. Timothy was a shepherd in a community where slavery was a part of the culture and just part of the way things were done. It was estimated that up to a third of the population in Ephesus consisted of slaves. Paul is writing to a people that this is the norm of life. As the gospel goes into a culture its works slowly changes it. The gospel does not change a culture overnight, it works like leaven and slowly changes. At the church in Ephesus you certainly would have had slaves come to faith in Christ and you would have had masters come to faith in Christ. Presumably, slaves and masters would have been in the same church serving the Lord together. It is even quite probable that a slave could have become an elder and held a position of authority over masters in the church. This is what the gospel does. It turns the world right side up.
With this happening, slaves were finding new found freedom in Christ. This leads to talks of believing slaves rebelling against unbelieving masters and believing slaves disrespecting believing masters. Paul took time to carefully exhort slaves who found themselves serving in either one of these situations.
Believing Slaves and Unbelieving Masters
Paul addresses not those who are in a position of voluntary servitude but those that are in a position of involuntary servitude. They are serving as a slave against their own will. This was not their choice. This is an important point. The Old Covenant allowed and gave laws for slavery, but that system of slavery was to serve as a welfare system. It was voluntary and had term limits of six years. After six years a person could then voluntarily choose to continue to serve as a slave to that master. Rome did not practice this type of slavery. This was built on kidnapping people and forcing them into manual labor. Paul is writing to a group of people who are serving in an unjust system.
The word Greek word “doulos” (slave) could be used to say voluntary servitude. Paul wanted to make it clear that is not what he is referring to though. He adds the word “yoke,” which is an instrument owner’s use on animals to make them work for them. In saying this, Paul is making it clear that he is writing to slaves that are serving against their will. To those slaves Paul says to serve them and work for them as they are worthy of all honor. Serve them in this way so that God and His word will not be evil spoken of, so that it will not be reviled. God’s name and God’s Word seems to be more important to Paul than for these slaves to gain their freedom through leading an anarchist revolt against their masters.
Let’s be clear, Paul is not condoning the Roman system of slavery. In fact, he said to the slaves in the church in Corinth that if they can secure their freedom, they should; “Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity)” (1 Cor. 7:21). The ideal is for people to not only be spiritually free in Christ but to also be physically free.
A Choice of Weapons
What you see Paul doing here is giving an application of social theory as it relates to revolting against the unjust system of slavery. There are essentially two ways that the slaves could fight against this. The first is to pick up the sword and revolt. Nat Turner, a slave and preacher of the gospel, attempted this and his siege lasted only 48 hours and all of his men died, as well as many other women and children. This was often the result of using this weapon. Also, it gave justification to the masters for the way they have treated the slaves and for taking their lives. It made the gospel ill thought of.
The other option is to yield the sword of the spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). This is a great weapon, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Paul is instructing the slaves to use this weapon. Use it by submitting their lives to it and living out the word. The word of God works like leaven.
John Newton was a slave owner. Under his care most likely thousands upon thousands of people died. Imagine if you could go back in history and you were placed in a dark room with him and given two weapons. One was a sword and the other was the Bible. If you use the sword you know that he would stop capturing the slaves. It would end immediately. Well, for him that is. The problem is that there would always be another captain. If you use the Bible He could come to trust Christ and be part of the solution to end this unjust system. I hope you would choose the Bible because without it we would not be able to sing the song, “Amazing Grace,” nor would England have seen an end to the slave trade in their country without the war being fought. William Wilberforce and John Newton were key to seeing that end.
With our church’s involvement in ending abortion now in Genesee County I can’t help but think of a parallel in strategies. There have been those that took up arms and killed abortion doctors. What happens though? There is always another abortion doctor and the gospel is then evil spoken of. The weapon of choice needs to be the word. It needs to be the gospel. That is why I am so thankful for the ONElife for Life team that has marched to the front lines of the pit of hell yielding the weapon of the Kingdom of Christ. They are yielding the sword of the Spirit. By God’s grace may he end these evils through His word.
"The weapon of choice needs to be the Word. It needs to be the gospel."
Note to Employees
I cannot help but to see and make a parallel for the people here that may find themselves working as an employee. If Paul tells slaves to honor unbelieving masters for the sake of the gospel, should we not then honor our employers in the same way? Your boss may have graduated from the University of Idiots and Jerks as the Valedictorian, and may do everything in his or her power to make life miserable on everyone else because he or she is so miserable. And while you are tempted to think of your boss as your enemy, God sees them as one held captive by the real enemy. Your boss needs Jesus. The person who uses threats, intimidation, and anger is in bondage, even if he is in charge, while the person who chooses to honor and esteem is free, even if he is under authority. True freedom has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with your position in Christ.
"True freedom has nothing to do with your circumstances and everything to do with your position in Christ."
Christ Became a Slave
Paul’s appeal to the slaves is totally founded on the gospel of Christ. In particular to serve as a slave and to honor someone who has not honored you is the heart of the gospel. That is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are actively engaged in following Christ. What did Christ do? Christ chose to place himself into slavery. When Christ came to this earth, he chose, in essence, to sell himself to be your slave. That is what Philippians 2 tells us. “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant (bondservant), being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
"To serve as a slave and to honor someone who has not honored you is the heart of the gospel."
Christ, our Creator and King, voluntarily chose to humble himself and become a slave to us in this way. He obligated himself to serve us. He sold himself to give up his life in the ultimate service for us. He considered our salvation so important that he gave up his life in order to secure it. This was pictured by Christ when he wore the attire of a slave and washed the feet of his disciples the night before he died. That event was a picture of his entire life and ministry on earth. He left his place of honor at the table and took on the role of a servant in order to wash their feet because that is what his entire life was about. He left his place of honor in glory in order to come as our servant and serve us by dying for us even by dying in about the most inhumane manner possible. He died on a cross. If Christ considered you worthy of that honor, then you can certainly consider others worthy of honor. You cannot die for them and secure their salvation, but you can serve them in a manner that points them to the One who did. Following Christ begins with trusting in what he did for us by dying for us. Following Christ is marked by a life in which I give up my rights to him. I give up my ownership to him. I give up my authority to him. I chose to love others more than myself. I chose to honor others rather than seek the honor of others. I chose to consider the gospel of such inestimable value that I will choose to do hard work, faithfully and without complaining in order that the gospel will not have anything in my life distract from it.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:9-15)
Paul addresses the women, instructing them on some things that are to be new normals for them. On a side note, I find it interesting that both Paul and Peter took one verse to instruct the men and six verses to instruct them women. I have a theory as to why this is; we as men cannot usually handle more than one instruction at a time. Let me prove my point. Every time my wife asks me to go pick up something at the store for her (which is not very often, as it is a dangerous thing), it starts out by her saying can you go pick up this one thing. So I jump up, grab my wallet and keys, and head towards the door. Then just as I am going, she says, “oh and can you also pick up this other thing.” Sure I think I got that. Then she goes to three and four items and I am like, “hold up now, I need to get some paper and write this down.” My brain is made to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. Your brains seem to be able to do multiple things at once. So we get one verse, you get six. Within these six verses Paul urges the women to dress appropriately, be adorned with good works, and not to usurp authority.
Did He Just Say That
On the initial reading of this section there are several different responses that women have. The first response is one of, “Did he really just say that? No wonder why Paul was never married!” That is, they take great offense at what Paul said and believe that Paul is being utterly demeaning to women.
The second group comes up with some clever textual gymnastics and they say that, “Paul said that but he did not mean that for us today in the generation we live in. That was a specific culturally issue during that time Paul was addressing. If the women would have been allowed to speak and dress in that way in the culture during that time it would not have been appropriate. It does not mean the same thing to us.” Our charismatic friends then say that God’s callings are different today and he calls women to be pastors, so this does not apply today. Our liberal enemies just don’t believe the Bible and need to repent. They are not very creative.
The third group, and Lord willing the one I am writing to today, strives to maintain biblical fidelity in everything and celebrate the God given distinctions between men and women. The distinctions are to be celebrated. One reason they are to be celebrated is that God maintains distinctions within the three persons of the Godhead. The Son is submissive to the Father and the Holy Spirit to the Son and the Father. They carry out these roles in perfect harmony. When we do the same thing we are being like God. Having this worldview allows us to understand some important things about these verses.
First, as it relates to our culture today, we live in an era that places much, more value on women than in previous cultures. That is because of the biblical worldview. We must understand that the radical part of this statement to the original audience reading this was, “Let the women learn.” You see it was common that women were not to be in the public instruction. This was only for the men. Paul is saying please bring the women in! Let them learn.
"God wants us to do the unnatural so that we depend on him."
Having a good biblical worldview on God given distinctions will also allow us to see the thrust of what Paul is doing in the way He addresses men and women specifically. He is calling us both to new normals. He is calling us both to do things that are not natural for us. At the core, He is essentially saying that men you are to lead and women you are to follow. He is clearly not saying that women are not to pray or teach in public, as we see them praying publicly and prophesying in public throughout the Word of God. He is calling us to do the unnatural. Part of the curse, due to the ethical rebellion of Adam, is that women’s desire will be for the man and yet man rules over them. Women want to lead and men don’t. God wants us to do the unnatural so that we depend on him. We must understand this is the thrust of what he is saying and if we do, then we can take the appropriate application away from this.
The way we dress matters. It is important and it should have some level of thought behind it. Our clothes communicate a lot about who we are. Our dress communicates the values we espouse. We should never say dress does not matter. It does, which is why Paul is writing about it. We should think through our dress. Paul instructs the women on dress. Here is the issue. During this time women would braid their hair with gold and pearls to be noticed as a status symbol. They wanted to draw attention to themselves, that they were wealthy and worthy of being noticed according to their dress. Paul says you don’t want to be known for this but for your character and the way you adorn yourself with good works. He gets to the heart of the issue. He does not say that you need to dress plainly, he is attacking the heart saying don’t dress to be noticed by others. That is the wrong heart.
"The question to ask yourself is whether or not you are more defined by your dress or by the way that you minister to others."
For some they may dress up a bit more than others and the reason may be out of respect and reverence for God. Others may dress down, as they want to be more relatable to others. Both are good and godly reasons. The question to ask yourself is whether or not you are more defined by your dress or by the way that you minister to others. This is what Paul is getting at.
The dress was the awkward thing Paul said and now we will look at the really audacious thing that he said. Women are to remain silent in the public gathering. As was said earlier, comparing scripture with scripture makes it very plain that Paul was not saying that women could not talk; he is addressing a much bigger issue. He is addressing the way men and women faithfully perform their roles. He is saying women stay in their God given and God ordained lanes, which part of that means don’t teach over men in an authoritative way. More specifically, don’t teach over men as one operating with the authority of an elder. Women, this is not your lane. What you must do is force the men to step up by staying out of this lane. Create a leadership vacuum. Force men to lead in the public prayer and in the public teaching of the Word.
Paul is good about following up statements like this with supporting arguments. There are a few reasons that he made this statement. He appeals to the creation saying that men were formed first, essentially meaning that God placed them in charge. Then he says it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam. She was deceived when she stepped out of her position. That is when she got in trouble. The point is don’t keep doing that. Finally, he says this is not forever, as they are saved through child rearing. They are saved through the Messiah who was born of a women.
Note To Men
Men, being a pastor for over 10 years means I have met with literally hundreds of couples in counseling situations. In doing this there are some consistent patterns that are really easy to see. One pattern is that when men are providing loving leadership to their wives and men in the church are doing the same for the women in the church then they have absolutely no issues with these verses. They see what Paul is addressing because they witness a man that is leading which provides a tremendous amount of security for them. When men carry out their roles, women don’t have a problem following. When men are reluctant to lead or try to do it with unclean hands it is very difficult for them to follow. Men we must lead.
"When men carry out their roles, women don’t have a problem following."
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-7)
Paul urges the believers to live a lifestyle of prayer and for them to pray for all people without ceasing. No one is now outside of the bounds of your prayers. Paul gives general instructions about these prayers for all people. These new normal prayers should regularly consist of four different parts. First, supplications are to be made, which are specific requests for specific needs. Second, prayers are to be made, which are the general use of all requests being made before God. Third, intercessions are to be made, which means to appeal boldly to God on behalf of others. Finally, there should be prayers of Thanksgiving, which express appreciation to God for the person or persons you are praying for. Paul urges them to have prayer mark their lives.
"No one is outside of the bounds of your prayers."
After the general instructions about prayer Paul then gets more specific about who they should be praying for. Pray for kings, those exercising royal authority, and for all of those that are in high positions. Pray for all of those that are leading in the nation in which you are a citizen of. This is a very unnatural thing to do. It is even more unnatural when those leaders over you are wicked rulers. Paul wrote this to a church that was part of the Roman Empire, most likely with Nero as the ruler. He was a wicked man and his governors followed suit. When in Rome do as the Romans. Even though the rulers were wicked Paul said a new normal is to pray for them.
Why Pray for the Leaders?
Paul instructs the church on some reasons as to why they should pray for those in authority over them. The first reason he states as to why this prayer life should be the new normal is so they can live quiet and peaceable lives. In order for this to happen those in authority need to fulfill their God given role, which is to bear the sword (Rom. 13:1-7). Their role is to ensure equal justice. Essentially this is praying for them and praying that they will leave us alone and stay out of our lives. They should leave people alone until they break the law and until their is a victim of a crime. Their job is to punish criminals. Note: Paul did not instruct them to live quiet and peaceable lives. He said pray for the leaders so that you can. This is the ideal but can only really take place if the government obeys God.
Paul is urging them to pray for these wicked rulers. In essence he is urging them to pray for people that they naturally detest. Our prayers should be hopeful prayers for them. Hopeful prayers that they may actually come to the saving knowledge of the truth. Yes, even they can be saved. That is the message Paul is communicating. Pray hopefully as our God and savior desires that all types of people, even wicked rulers, would come to the knowledge of the truth. The text is saying that Christ desires all types of people from all types of places to come to faith. Don’t prejudge in your prayers. Don’t ever say that anyone is “too far gone.”
"Don’t prejudge in your prayers. Don’t ever say that anyone is “too far gone.”"
We can pray hopefully in this way because the work of reconciliation is not dependent upon any of us; if it was we would all be hopeless. This mediating work is utterly dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He accomplished. Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and man. He is the only go between. He is the only one that has lived in both realms. He tells us to repent and to the Father He presents us as an adopted child. Salvation is possible for all people everywhere, as it is dependent on this mediating work of Christ. So, pray hopefully for leaders. In fact, pray hopefully for all people.
"Salvation is possible for all people everywhere, as it is dependent on this mediating work of Christ."
We pray hopefully as this mediator gave Himself up as a ransom for us all. A ransom is a price that is paid for redemption. Jesus is the go between, paying the price of redemption. The price was His truly innocent blood. This blood price is sufficient to cover the sins of any person. Even the most vile and wicked person. If Adolf Hitler repented at the end of His life, Christ would have cleansed Him. We can be hopeful, knowing that His blood is sufficient enough to secure the redemption of anyone who believes. This is the message that drove Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles. These were wicked people without the law of God. Paul went preaching Christ and Him crucified.
"The blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of any person, even the most vile and wicked person."
Hopeful Persistent Prayer
Jesus told a parable in regards to teaching people to pray and to pray persistently. This is a great lesson for us as we pray for leaders over us. Jesus told the people about a widow who was attempting to seek out justice against her adversary. She kept going to an unjust judge in efforts to seek justice. The widow did not give up though. The squeaky wheel always gets the oil. She kept bothering this unjust judge until he eventually gave in, as he was annoyed by her, and appropriate justice was had. Jesus says that is how we are to pray. The difference is that we are praying to a just judge. Go to God in prayer persistently and pray hopefully.
I need to apologize to all of you today. All of you who are partners of ONElife Church and in particular those of you that have been here for a little while. What I love about being a Word-centered ministry is that the Word of God continues to change me and convict me as a leader. I have not done a good job in leading you all in the area of praying for those in authority over us. In addition, I want to apologize for not driving home the point that those really in authority over us will be found at the township, city, county, and state level. There was a massive debate when the constitution was being written as to whether it should say, “We the people” or “We the States.” We went with “We the people” and got it wrong. If you remember one thing about today, remember this. Forget about what is going on at the federal level and start focusing on your township, city, and county. Identify who your supervisor, mayor, sheriff, and council members are. Write their names down and pray persistently for them, that they would be saved and govern Biblically, allowing us to live quiet and peaceable lives.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Tim. 2:8)
The new normal for men is that they are to be loving leaders in the home and in the church. Men, we are to be humble spiritual leaders. One of the key areas we are to lead in is in prayer. When we pray we recognize our position under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and set the example for those that we lead. Paul gives the instruction on prayer and then he addresses the men saying that we are to be the ones that lead in offering public prayers, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” (1 Tim. 2:8). Men, we are complex when it comes to leading. Either we do not lead or when we do we abuse the God given authority that has been given to us and we lead with anger and malice. This shows up often in the way we lead in our prayer lives as well. Either we don’t lead in prayer or when we do we pray out of hypocrisy, as we lift up unholy sinful hands. This is the struggle of men. Either a sin of omission, by never stepping up to the plate and leading, or the sin of commission, by having major problems when it comes to anger and malice. We can see this pattern as we trace the lives of the disciples who were with Jesus. Right before Jesus told them to watch and pray as He went off, what did they do? They fell asleep. Jesus was taking the gospel to the Samaritans and He was met with a little bit of resistance and what did two of the disciples do? They wanted to call down fire and brimstone from heaven and have God destroy the place. Men, we must watch and guard our hearts. We are the ones addressed as to not provoke our children to anger (Eph. 6:4).
"The new normal for men is that they are to be loving leaders in the home and in the church."
Furthermore I think something else stands out about this text. That is the reluctance of men to be expressive publicly, whether in prayers or worship. Paul is urging them to lift up their holy hands. We are like those guys I see driving expensive sports cars every time I am running. I wave to every car I run by to make sure they see me. The ones that never wave back are usually driving a Mercedes or Corvette. They are too cool. We often think we are too cool. Lead by example by being expressive in your prayers and in your worship to God.
"Lead by example by being expressive in your prayers and in your worship to God."
Loving Leadership and Prayer Go Hand and Hand
Loving leadership by men and leading in public prayer really goes hand in hand. Men are to pray. Men are too lead. However, our prayers will be hindered if we lift up unholy hands. When Peter was addressing the men of the church as to how they lead their wives, he made this point, “Likewise, husbands live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the women as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). See the connection between our conduct and our prayers? As we lead in praying we must do it with holy hands that are lifted up.
Men, listen to me right now. What transgressions and sins are you habitually committing against your wife or your children? Do you have an anger problem? Do you have severe problems with pride? Do you have a problem with pornography? Do you continually lie to your wife? My friends, in love, she needs you to step up. The church needs you to. Do not go on living with these lies. Single guys in a relationship. Are you defiling your the marriage bed by habitually having sex before you are married? This affects your leadership. This affects your ability to lead in prayer. I beg you for the sake of the women in your lives, the children in your lives, and this church to stop. Seek help. We need to raise up a generation of loving leaders and that will not happen until we can lift up holy hands.
A Note to the Women
Ladies, let me make a few things clear. This does not get you off the hook from praying nor does it mean that you can’t, or should not, pray in public. What it means is that men need to lead the charge in it. It means men are to step up and not stand behind their wives in spiritual matters.
"Behind every godly man is a godly, supportive, and encouraging wife."
Furthermore, if you can listen to one thing that I say in this blog post today, please listen to this point; your role is not to make your husband the leader when it comes to praying and leading. Your role is not to continually inform him when he makes mistakes and also continually lecture him on the right decisions to make. If you do this you will bottleneck him. Don’t leave today and say to him, “So when are you going to start leading in prayer. When are you going to start leading in general?” Do not do this. Your new number one job is to be his encourager. Don’t point out his flaws or lecture him. Just simply pick out something he is doing well and encourage him in that. This will do more to get him to lead than being a hen pecking at him all the time. Encourage him to meet with other guys. Encourage him to pursue mentoring. Let the guy work on his leadership, you work on making sure that he cannot wait to come home each and everyday because he knows that he is going home to his number one cheerleader. I have yet to meet a man that does not lead in an environment like this. Behind every godly man is a godly, supportive, and encouraging wife.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.