Monday, March 11, 2013

Lessons From 1 Timothy 2: What's Gender Got To Do With It? (Continued)

In the first part of our study of 1 Timothy 2, we discussed the first eight verses. We learned that what we were reading is a letter written to a leader of the Ephesian church, who had appealed to Paul for help with some problematic false teachers within the congregation. His letter is an attempt to restore and reunite the Ephesian church, which was suddenly in an uproar over these individuals.

After instructing Timothy to first of all (meaning most importantly) pray, he then gets to work in how to address those causing the problem. Many have interpreted these verses we will study as a biblical basis for asserting that women should not teach or have authority in the church. I, respectfully, disagree.

Women According to Paul

Paul, in case there is any confusion, was a Jewish Rabbi. (Philippians 3:5) So his outlook on women would have been in line with the Old Testament scriptures and the Jewish culture. And Jews, make no mistake, regard women highly. In the Talmud, a collection of ancient rabbinic writings, appears this statement: "No matter how short your wife is, lean down and take her advice." They recognized that since the beginning of time, God had created in woman a very capable helpmate for man. God speaks to husbands through their wives. God equips wives to be able to meet every challenge that cannot be met by her husband. In many ways she is like a Swiss Army Knife, a capable and necessary survival tool for the man to whom God gives her. 

Some things to note about what Paul's Bible (and ours, by the way) tells us about women:

• She could be a prophetess, as was Miriam, the sister of Moses
• She could be a judge, as was Deborah
• She could be a queen, as was Esther
• She could be an advisor to a king, as was Hulda to King Josiah
• She could be a teacher, as was Priscilla
• She could be the leader of a congregation, as was Phoebe of a Colossian church
• She could be a wealthy business owner, the funding for a church, as was Lydia

But her highest calling, and the one that most Jewish women preferred, was that of wife and mother. Why? Because, as pastor whom I respect greatly says, "A mother's love is the closest thing to God's love we encounter-it is a complete sacrificing of oneself." There was great honor in that role. For many, it was more important to them to raise up the future than to have an administrative role in a church. But make no mistake-there were women in the synagogue, and there were women who devoted their lives to the study and teaching of the Holy Scriptures.

These women took great pride in their prudence, in their modesty. It set them apart.

Conversely, in the Hellenistic societies (of which Ephesus was one), women were decorated, used as priestesses to appease the varying whims of their gods. Below is a picture of a statue of a priestess of Artemis. Look at her adornment. It's very ornate, right?

Here is a statue of the goddess Artemis:

Notice her hair and how it appears to have braids in it, and how decorated she is. 

Now with that in mind, let's read on in 1 Timothy 2, beginning in verses 9-10:

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

Based on these pictures that depict the culture of the day, you can get a pretty good idea of what the women were walking around wearing. He was simply educating them that the outward appearance, as well as the inward heart, must reflect Christ. And Artemis-wear was no longer necessary or appropriate. The fashions of the day would have to take a back seat to glorifying God. The same idea applies today.

That's not so hard to grasp, right? Well, here comes the part that requires some explanation, in verses 11-12:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 

Remember when I said in our last lesson that this word 'quiet' would surface again? Well here it is. So now I want to show you the actual meaning of this word. 

It's from the Greek root ἡσυχία 
And it means tranquil, not silent. Otherwise, Paul is instructing us all in verse 2 to live a silent life. And that is completely in contradiction to Christ's command to go and make disciples, to proclaim, to pray, to prophesy. 

So in other words, she should remain peaceable in the assembly when instruction is being given. Sounds like there were a group of women causing a stir. So no worries, ladies. You're free to 'amen,' to quiet your children, to ask a question, and to speak. You must, however, do it in a peaceable, respectful way. 

What about this word authority? We can't have authority over a man in the church?

The word is αὐθεντέω
This is the only time this word is used in the scriptures. And Paul talks a lot about authority, so that's strange, right? This word has a very specific meaning. And it's not referencing God-ordained, biblical authority. It means "to kill, to usurp, one who acts on his own authority." That's right, what is being spoken against is pushing your own agenda in the congregation and literally killing the work being done by the authority God has in place in a specific body of believers. Now you see the problem. There's no arguing that that's wrong.

It's not that women could not teach or have authority, but either one or a group of these ladies, possibly new to the faith, had other ideas about what should be taught there and were causing division in the congregations. If women were not to teach, where is Priscilla's reprimand? Why doesn't he tell Phoebe to stop? No, he praises these women for their work in his letters. There is something else at work with these Ephesian women. Maybe they were whispering their opinions into the ears of other members of the church secretly. Slandering. Gossiping. Criticizing. Creating doubt. Perhaps they were so bold as to stand openly while the leaders were giving their messages and directly challenge them. Either way, God had not authorized them to do it, and how they were handling it was inappropriate and they were wrong on the matters on which they spoke. And Paul wanted that stopped immediately.

Remember I told you at the beginning of our study that he did not require that they be removed from the assembly? That's what he means when he says she should receive instruction quietly, peaceably. He wanted them to understand the truth, so that they could be adequately equipped to teach others. Right now, they simply weren't ready for that. 

Let's look at verses 13-14:

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 

Whoa there. What does this mean? Before you let all your feathers get ruffled, ladies, let's take a minute to ponder what Paul is saying, and ask why he would choose this illustration. Here, with Adam and Eve, you have a woman who was taught the truth, she was given one instruction: don't eat of that tree over there. But she took that truth and then was deceived by the enemy. And what did she do with that false message? She went and taught it to a man, who then also fell into the deception and sinned. Now think about how that relates to the group of Ephesian women who were doing that. These women had come into the faith, received the truth, had misunderstood that truth/were deceived, and were now attempting to teach that non-truth to others in the Ephesian church, and very disruptively. It's a parallel example. Again, it's not about gender roles. He had already covered that in his letter to them years earlier. 

Now for the last verse:

But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

At face value, this appears to say that women find salvation in having babies. It kind of supports that whole "women should be bare-foot and pregnant and in the kitchen" philosophy. If that's your view, I'm sorry to tell you, that is not the message of this verse. Rather, childbirth is the means by which our Savior came into the world, and so really, it is through Christ's birth that we all are saved. What Paul is advising is that if these women have truly come to faith in Jesus, if they would just continue on in hearing and controlling their tongues, that all will be right. The congregation will be praying for them, ministering to them, educating them. They will be hearing and learning the truth. And ultimately, they will become strong members of the church. 

Paul, in the opening of the chapter, talked about God's appropriate timing. Here he asserts that in the appropriate time, after these misguided, would-be leaders have had their hearts changed and their minds educated, would grow and lead. But for now, it was important that they listen and receive that instruction. 

I asked my classes 3 questions to think through as they meditated on this chapter, so I'll share them with you:

1. How are you using your lips? Are you using them as a means to unite the body, or a means of tearing down the work the Lord is doing in others?

2. Are we as a body addressing false teaching in the appropriate way? With prayer, confrontation, and mercy? With hope for the individual?

3. Do we really know the Bible well enough to know for sure that we are not those false prophets, misusing and misguiding people? Before we make generalizations and bold statements, we better be sure that God's word backs up what we say. And it can't be loosely based off of a scripture pulled out of context. 

In another letter, Paul writes,

There  is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all  one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

AMEN TO THAT! Blessings!

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