“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.