1 Timothy 2:1-15.
Minister with Reverent Worship
American Journal of Biblical Theology Copyright © 2004, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
We find in the first chapter of Paul's first letter to Timothy that the Christian church in Ephesus was in grave need of correction. After starting the Ephesian church, Paul left it in the hands of its leaders. Those leaders and other influential people who joined the congregations took the congregations away from the simple truth of the gospel and added many of the pagan and Jewish ideas of the day to their religious order. If we were to visit one of those house congregations, we might have difficulty recognizing any part of their doctrine as Christian, particularly since the Christian church today is built on centuries of New Testament study. Without that resource, the first-century church depended on the Old Testament for its foundation, and the continual communication between congregations and apostolic leadership. The church, like the church today, was totally immersed in the pagan worldly culture and without the New Testament documents found itself continually trying to assimilate back into that culture, much like the nation of Israel did many years before. Just like the nation of Israel required continual reminding of their doctrine and purpose, the first-century church needed to hear the truths of the gospel from the apostles in order to keep their doctrine pure.
Paul, upon visiting the Ephesian church, recognized their immediate need for apostolic leadership, and asked Timothy to stay behind and fill that need. We have in our Bible two letters that were written to Timothy to guide him in that task, one written shortly after Timothy started the work, and one shortly before the end of Paul's recorded ministry, presumably by Roman execution. In this first letter Paul opened with a quick salutation and jumped quickly into a discourse of his concerns about the condition of the congregation. In the second chapter, Paul takes a look at a formula for appropriate worship.
1 Timothy 2:1.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
Though Paul does not specifically list the problems that he sees in the Ephesian church, those problem are quite evident by the nature of the issues he addresses in the letter. In this chapter, Paul specifically addresses the appropriate manner of prayer and worship. We can surmise by Paul's adamant presentation that the nature of prayer and the order of worship that was taking place in the Ephesian church had, like their doctrine, wandered far from its origins. The people and their leadership included in their worship any forms that they thought appropriate according to their own world view. Paul begins with a statement about the appropriate order of prayer.
Paul's "exhort" is more than just a gentle suggestion. It is the kind of urging that one receives when one stands beside you and takes you to a correct place. It is an urging that expects compliance without question with the intent of benefit to the one who is being urged. Paul outlines the plan for church order by specifying some priorities, the first of which is prayer. As we look at this statement as a whole, we see that the focal words are the last two: "all men." The first thing the church needs to do to get itself back on track is to pray for all people. What does this imply about the situation in the church? From this and from other statements in the letter, it is apparent that the congregations were divided into clique groups, critical of others, critical of the pagan world around them, and critical of their government authorities. So, Paul first prescribes prayer as a medium to get people to properly consider their relationship with the people around them.
Paul lists several forms of prayer that are to be lifted up before all men. Of the seven Greek nouns that are used for prayer, four are listed here. The first, "supplications" or "requests" carries the idea of the addressing of one's needs. Surely, it was easy for the Ephesian people, as it is for Christians today, to pray for the things they want. However, the concept here goes much further. Supplications are lifted as requests more to the meeting of needs than wants. Furthermore, those supplications are to be lifted not just for the one praying but for "all men." Paul is literally commanding them to pray, not only for their own needs, but for the needs of those who they are currently neglecting: everyone else.
The second word, most commonly translated as the simple and more broadly defined, "prayer," simply refers to talking to God. Much of the church today has gotten away from the concept of prayer that Paul understands. Much of the church today practices a form of prayer that is more liturgical repetition than actual prayer. Christian churches often practice prayer by the recitation of written words, led corporately by a priest or pastor. Though this can be a meaningful form of prayer, this is not what Paul thinks of when he thinks of this form of prayer. Prayer with God is more like an open communication that is informal and spontaneous, more like the way we communicate with a dear loved one. Since God knows our thoughts and hears our voice, we have the opportunity to communicate with God continually through the course of the day as we encounter each of its varied events. Paul is urging the church membership to open up that avenue of personal, spontaneous, and continual communication with God.
The third word for prayer is found only in this letter, and is often translated, "intercession." Though the English word carries more of a call to pray for others, this is not the best meaning of the Greek word. Certainly as prayers are lifted for one's self, they are lifted up for others, and the context of praying for the needs of others is clearly indicated here both in the first word used and in the command that these prayers be lifted up for "all men." The word used here carries the additional and clear statement of boldness as one approaches the throne. The ascetic teaching that was infiltrating the church taught that holiness was obtained by self denial. Part of that self-denial was self-abasement, a philosophy that teaches one to diminish their own self-respect and self-worth. As a result of this teaching, people were practicing a religion whereby they believed that they did not deserve to go to God directly, but needed the intercession of a more "holy" person. Here is where the word "intercession " comes in. Christians serve as their own intercessor, approaching the throne of God directly and boldly. Though we understand Jesus' Lordship as The Intercessor, our access to God the Father is still direct and open because of what Jesus has done, and who Jesus is as our Lord. This is why many prayers end with "in Jesus name ...": This is not a tag of holiness for the prayer, but rather a recognition of who Jesus is as Lord, and how by His authority and His authority alone we are able to approach God directly. We are not to pray through a Christian leader, nor are we to pray through "the saints.", but we are to approach the throne of grace boldly and confidently knowing that Jesus, and Jesus alone, gives us that opportunity as he is our paraklete, the one who stands by us in our prayer. (Note the word, paraklete and its similarity to parakleo, the word translated "exhort" at the beginning of this verse.) .
The last word, euchaistia, is the word that we transliterate, Eucharist, referring to the Lord's Supper, or communion ordinance. It simply means to give thanks, recognizing what God has done for us, what He has provided for us, and what He will do for us. We recognize that all we are and all we have comes from Him and from Him alone, and for this we give thanks.
Finally, these prayers are not to be lifted for the one praying alone, but for all people. We may recall Jesus' command to "pray for your enemies" and those who "persecute you." It is evident that the people in the churches of Ephesus had wandered far in their prayers, replacing supplication, prayer, intercession, and thanksgiving with pagan rites and chants. That may sound dramatic to us, but it may be instructive for us to look at our own prayer life. Is it spontaneous and personal, a communication with a God who is close to us, a communication that in praise and thanksgiving addresses issues concerning both ourselves and others? Or is our prayer life mostly silent, comprised mostly of listening to others pray and/or reciting written prayers in corporate worship.
1 Timothy 2:2-4.
For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
This statement is a continuation of the last, where "all men" includes those who are in political authority. Paul often spoke of the necessity of both prayer for and obedience to the governing authorities (e.g. Rom. 13). Many of us live in countries and cultures where we have a basic respect for our political leadership, though we might not agree with their decisions. One can expect that as a Christian, we will not always be in agreement with governments that hold no real responsibility to Christian issues. Still, we often do not see our government officials as mortal enemies. Those in the Ephesian church often did. Our world governments range from those that are socialistic and democratic to those that are dictatorial and oppressive towards their people. The Ephesians were part of the latter culture where the Roman government was oppressive towards the people, and particularly so towards those who would not bow to Caesar as Lord God. Consequently, we can probably see how the Ephesians would tend to curse their government officials rather than pray for them. Curing and rebelling against the government will not serve to accomplish God's purpose. However, prayer for those officials and obedience to them will. By serving in obedience to a pagan dictator, the person or agency can see the nature of Christ in the Christian, and the cause of Christ is given testimony. However, when a Christian reacts in an unChristian manner, that testimony is not only lost, but can be irrevocably damaged.
How do we pray for our government officials and for those in authority? We can certainly pray for their welfare and for their salvation. Paul also notes the advantage that comes from abstaining from rebellion: living a quiet and peaceable life where we are free to be honest to our faith. The Romans did not concern themselves with the people unless they either rebelled or refused to pay the taxes. The Romans had to always maintain a significant presence in Jerusalem in order to suppress rebellion. One of the largest Roman military facilities was placed near the Temple in Jerusalem. The Romans would have no need for such a presence among those who lead quite and peaceful lives.
Finally, Paul notes that not only is it advantageous to pray for those in authority and live peaceably, it is the manner of conduct that is acceptable in the sight of God. Do we need any more convincing? The Ephesian church needed to establish a proper relationship with God, with the worldly authorities, and with the people around them. It is God's will that all people be saved, without regard to their worldly state of position or authority. Imagine the profound changes that would take place around the world if there was a sudden movement towards faith in God by those oppressive and ungodly governments. Christians should be uniting in prayer for God's grace to befall those in positions of authority, particularly those who are the most ungodly. The peace that would be experienced under a truly Christian leadership is impossible to imagine, and most likely would never be experienced this side of Heaven. Note that God's Word never ascribes to the disassembly of any governmental order. Christians are simply commanded to pray for those in authority, because the order of government is ordained by God, and any order can be godly if its leaders come to know and love God. Government, good or bad, still serves to protect its people from the unbridled sin that abounds in anarchy.
1 Timothy 2:5.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Contrary to the polytheistic philosophies of the day, Paul affirms that there is only one God. It is possible that cultural polytheism had infiltrated the church. The reverence for the Greek gods was prevalent in their culture, and it is evident that many in the early church still revered them. Paul's statement clearly eliminates the deity of the Greek gods, exposing them merely as myths that were formed out of the writings of ancient fiction.
Paul then goes on to state that Jesus is the only mediator between man and God. Note that the word used here is not intercessor, but mediator. The Greek word used here describes a person who stands between two opponents with the charge to negotiate peace. Without the mediation of Jesus Christ, there is no reconciliation between sinful man an the Holy God. Jesus' purpose was to be the way that God would reach down to man and provide a way for salvation. Jesus, as the Messiah, is a person of the triune God, holding the full measure of deity that is attributable only to God. Jesus, as a man, stands as mediator. Many simply do not understand this, and cannot reconcile the concept that a man could also be God. However, there is only one Messiah, the eternal deliverer, creator, and judge, and that Messiah who was prophesied in exacting detail, is the incarnated (presented in the form of man) Son of God, Jesus. By His nature as fully man and fully deity, Jesus forms a bridge between temporal creation and eternal heaven, providing man with a way to pass from one to the other. This is the form of the mediation of Jesus. However, that bridge can be crossed only by those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. To reject Jesus is to reject the mediator, and to reject God's plan for the salvation of man. This is simply why Jesus is the only way to salvation. No other human being is or ever was the prophesied Messiah. Those who still await the coming of the Messiah have misunderstood the prophesies. The One Messiah has come, and He is Jesus.
1 Timothy 2:6.
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
This is the only place where the Greek word that is herein translated ransom is used. It is a clearly understood Greek word that refers to the payment made to a slave owner to purchase the slave's freedom. This ransom metaphor is frequently used by Paul to describe Jesus' atoning passion. Jesus gave his life willingly as the final blood sacrifice for the sins of men. He is the Lamb of God, the spotless lamb that provides forgiveness for the sins that separated man from God. However, though the offer of forgiveness is extended to all people, that offer is accepted by few. Others insist upon finding a bridge to God on their own terms, by their "good works," or through the rites and dogma of man-designed religion.
The testimony of the ransom is one that was brought to man a point on God's time table. Many theologians have argued that the state of the known world was uniquely prepared for the coming of the Messiah. The world was at relative peace, a peace maintained by the Roman government and the threat of their domination over their neighbors. The Romans had built roadways to encourage commerce, making the spread of the gospel possible in a way that was never before realized. God's plan always works out on God's timetable, not man's. Jesus testified to His own purpose, as did Paul and the Apostles. Finally, again on God's timetable, Jesus will give final testimony to the truth of the gospel when he returns at the close of the age. The Greek phrase is literally "... as opportunity presents itself." The testimony of the gospel was shared at the opportune moments in the first century and is to be shared at equally opportune moments now so that more people can come to a saving knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 2:7.
Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
Paul's teaching is part of that testimony which is now being shared at an opportune moment. "Ordained" is the rendering of a Greek word that means to firmly put in place, only slightly different in its sense than the "setting apart" that we attribute to the ordinance of ordination. Paul is literally saying that he has been placed here by God as a messenger of the truth of the gospel, the holy Word of God. Paul also described himself as a missionary: an individual who has been set out on a specific mission, one who carries not only the message, but the authority of the one from whom the message originated.
Apparently, some in the church doubted Paul's integrity. Some were challenging the authority by which Paul presented his message. Paul makes a succinct, parenthetical, statement that challenges those who opposed him. He is drawing a line in the sand and inviting his opponents to cross over that line and take him on in personal battle. The folly of his opponents is exposed by their inability to do so, making his statement not so much one of defense, but one of simple fact. Paul reminds them that God called him to teach the gospel to the Gentiles, and his life is a testimony to his faithfulness in doing so. Furthermore, his presentation of the gospel message is true, accurate, and reliable..
1 Timothy 2:8.
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Having established himself, Paul presents some imperatives to both men and women on appropriate and referent conduct in worship. We do not know the specific nature of the errors that had been demonstrated in the worship practices of the Ephesian church, but if we look at the specific directions of Paul, we can infer that the opposite of those directions was characteristic of their worship. If this were not the case, there would be no need for such correction. His command to the men involves the nature of their prayers: without anger and without doubts. We can presume that worship was conducted in a manner that invited conflict and argument. Some people wanted to worship one way, and others another. Some people wanted to give all authority to Jesus and some wanted authority shared by other Greek gods. There is no clear record of the conflicts in the church, but there were indeed conflicts. Paul in his "I will therefore," literally states that "I desire that ...". Worship would be done by the raising of holy hands. That is, the focus of their worship is to be on God, not on each other. When one lifts his hands and eyes to the Lord, he is turning his focus away from the world and those around him as he turns to a one-on-one relationship with God. This is practice that is not often shared in modern churches today, but if the nature, purpose, and power of the lifting of hands was understood, there would be more taking place. Some will distain the practice thinking it to be showy, or thinking that it is distracting to the worship of others. Actually, there is no showiness or distraction engaged if all of the people are engaged in personal worship. Paul is encouraging the people to take their eyes off of each other and affix them on God. By so doing, they can see the real purpose of their worship, forgive one another, end the strife between themselves, and fully recognize the truth of the gospel as they receive back from God the blessing that comes from true heart-felt worship.
1 Timothy 2:9-10.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
As Paul moves his attention to the nature of worship by women, he continues the same sentence with, "likewise," meaning that his statement concerning men also apply to women. Just as the men were participating in worship in an inappropriate manner, women were also. Furthermore, Paul adds another important facet to the behavior that was evident by the women in the body: they were dressing themselves and acting like the pagan women of the world.
Like some other verses in 1 Timothy, this is one that is often misunderstood and misapplied. Often it is used to subjugate women and deprive them of spiritual freedom, placing them in a form of bondage that is entirely opposed to the context of the gospel message that states that all can come boldly to the throne of grace. Consider for a moment the culture of ancient Greece, the culture that the church was immersed in. Pagan worship was, as it had been for centuries, sensual in nature. Temple prostitution was the norm for many cults, groups from which these members were drawn. The position of women in Greek culture was widely applied with some groups considering women entirely equal with men, while others practicing brutal subjugation. It is in the middle of this culture that the Ephesian church is placed. When Christians gather together they find a new freedom that they never before experienced, because they are freed of the bondage to the condemnation for their sin. When one loves the Lord, that relationship is empowered by the faith one has in God, not by the clothes one wears. Free from the law, people are free from the rules of dress and demeanor that so many cults and religions professed. However, with freedom comes responsibility. The immodesty that is practiced in the sensual cult setting is not appropriate within the context of the church fellowship. One may be legally free to wear sensual clothing, but one is also responsible to maintain a testimony of their faith in God, shunning both the appearance of pagan worship, and showing that there is a better, more godly way to dress and act.
This is also true today. One does not have to look far in our churches to see men and women, young and old, dressing in sensual attire, clothes that draw attention to themselves and away from the purity of the gospel. The list of verse 9 is not a law passed down by Paul to the people in the church, but is rather a description of the sensual dress of the day. Treated as law, some Christians have forbade women from braiding their hair. However, braded hair is not an image of paganism in modern culture, so such a law does not make sense. However, the principle behind the statement applies. With the Law of God in the hearts of Christians, they can listen to the Holy Spirit who will clearly show them what behavior is appropriate.
When one observes the women in the church, (and the men also, of course,) one should see people who are a testimony to godliness and good works.
1 Timothy 2:11.
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
Paul's admonition also reveals another state of the behavior in the Ephesian church: the women in the church, enjoying their freedom and equality, were simply not demonstrating respect to the teaching. One could probably argue that the false teaching they were receiving probably deserved little respect, but such an argument is not really relevant. Paul has presented the church with Timothy and his correct teaching. It is time for all to show respect and reverence towards the Lord, the church and the gospel that they so badly need to learn.
Paul is not stating here that women are never to speak, nor is he stating that women are to be subject to men. The subjection to which Paul refers is to the teaching of the gospel. The women, like the men, are to subject themselves to the authority of the truth of the gospel, listening to its teaching with submission. The silence that Paul refers to is "without outburst." Once, in the middle of a worship service is was leading, a rather irascible woman shouted out "I don't think that we should ... (fill in the blank)" to the shock of everyone in the congregation. This extremely inappropriate behavior is the form of outburst that Paul refers to. Her behavior was inappropriate because is did not give testimony to godliness and good works. It was simply an offensive and selfish demonstration of her own opinion that was not in agreement with the church leadership, one that was expressed in the wrong venue when she felt no reverence (subjection) for worship.
Is this issue true for men also? This is not a gender issue. Paul is simply responding to a specific situation in the Ephesian church, a situation that needed addressing. Certainly it can also be a situation common to the church today as people need to re-learn and live respect and reverence towards the gospel, the church, and the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:12.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
As Paul continues in his qualifications of reverent behavior, he homes in on the issue of authority. Again, this verse is often misquoted and misused. Some use this verse to hold to the position that "women should not have authority over men." Paul states that women should not usurp authority over men. There is a tremendous difference in meaning, and to hold to the former is a grievous error, but one that is defended by generations of those who still seek to withhold authority from women. (I may lose many readers at this point, but I feel I must stay with the scriptural position, not with traditional dogma.)
It is still a general practice in many congregations, even in my own denomination, that a women should never teach a Bible study when men are present. This is both a legalistic and unscriptural position that men (and some women) will still argue with "wrath and doubting." (vs. 8). Also, I must confess that my own doctrinal upbringing within the church predisposes me to question the authority of female pastors. God forgive me. The prohibition of women from places of ministry simply cannot be supported by this statement by Paul. The issue here is not that women should not teach or preach. As a matter of fact we see examples of Paul showing great respect for women leaders such as Priscilla and Phoebe, and commends Timothy's mother for teaching him. The issue here is wrapped around the word that is translated "usurp." When we recognize that the new-found freedom that the women experienced was in appropriately applied in the church, we can get a better picture of how this word describes the situation.
Maternal dominance in the home was also common in their culture. Once accepted as an equally valued member in the congregation, it was simply natural for those same women to express dominance in the congregation. It is not appropriate for a man to express dominance, and neither is it for the woman, and so the admonition of Paul applies to both genders, but his application is pointed towards the behavior of the women in the congregation who were vying for power along with the men.
The translation of the word, silence, is unfortunate, as the Greek word carries a much broader thought. The word, hyschia, refers to a quiet reverence that comes from true humility. One can speak in quiet reverence. However, an emotional outburst that ignores such reverence and attacks the authority of the pastor (who in this age was usually male) is inappropriate. Against this few would disagree.
1 Timothy 2:13-15.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
Paul goes on to remind his readers of God's plan for order in the society of family. Just as Paul prescribes an order of mutual submission in the home (Eph. 5:21) where each submits to the other for the betterment of both, such submission is also appropriate in the family of the body of the church. I am not one to quote Mathew Henry very much because I am not in agreement with many of his legalistic holdings, but he makes a wonderful statement concerning the creation of Eve when he states that Eve was taken from the rib of the man, not from the head to rule over him, and not from the feet to be trampled by him, but from his side to be his equal to him, and near to his heart to be loved by him. This is not an exact quote, but it certainly carries the thought.
So, as equals (again, Eph. 5:21), the man and woman carry roles that are ordained by God, roles that each chooses to accept, roles that honor God and serve to form the manner of order that God wills for the betterment of our understanding of our relationship to Him. The man is responsible for the spiritual welfare of his household. Likewise men carry the responsibility for the spiritual welfare in the church. Therefore, is it inappropriate for women to hold that responsibility? I have seen congregations where it was necessary for women to take on this responsibility simply because the men chose not to, and in that case the order was turned upside down, not by the women, but by the men who were not interested in spiritual leadership either in the church or in their own homes.
Paul points out that Eve was easily deceived, and uses that example as a parallel to the situation in the early church, and this example is appropriate. Certainly, Adam knew of the deception as the scripture reveals that Adam was present with Eve when the deception took place. However, Eve did not have the original call or relationship with God that Adam had, and that made her more susceptible to false teaching. Likewise, in the culture of the early church, society systematically disallowed the education of females. The women of the church were largely uneducated, and though of equal intelligence and value to the men, they were environmentally suppressed in their education and were largely ignorant. Like Eve, this left the women more susceptible to the false teaching that was rampant in the church. Paul was trying to address this situation in a radical way: TEACH THE WOMEN! This entire passage is a formula for dealing with the ignorance that the lack of education engendered.
Today, many of the women in our congregations are more educated than the men, particularly in the area of Christian doctrine, as many men work outside of the home in jobs that they give more time and authority to than they should. When the men neglect their call to be spiritual leaders in their homes and churches it is usually out of their holding to a position that their job is more important than this God-ordained call. Also, modern pagan western culture teaches that is not manly for a male to subject himself to another authority. The macho man does not study the Bible, pray, and worship God. In this way, Satan has managed to deceive the man.
Verse 15 is a very difficult verse to address without some critical and contextual study. Several opinions are held by respected theologians that pull this verse out, put it at the top of a page, and pontificate on its meaning. However, this is not the way scripture should be interpreted. Scripture must always be considered within the context of the message within which it lies. Paul has been talking about the restoration of God's order to the system of authority in the church, a system that shows reverence and respect for the Lord. Paul reminds Timothy that the woman has a unique role that no man can fill: that of childbearing. It is such a unique role that she and she alone deserves the title of "mother" and all of the honor and responsibility that goes with it. She should not forget that this honor is greater than that which can be held by any man. The word used here for "save" can be rendered in a variety of ways, and hence, some confusion might enter our doctrine. The word can refer to both physical and spiritual healing or strengthening. A woman is already honored by her position as a mother, and when she lives a life that is characterized by faith, charity, holiness, and temperance, she is indeed a woman to be fully honored, and her faithfulness is a testimony to her love for God. This model is quite different from that which the women of the Ephesian church were forming when they were trying to usurp authority from the male church leadership.
In this chapter we find many imperatives that Paul wrote to Timothy in an effort to guide him in bringing this church that was torn by chaos and false teaching back to the truth. He addressed many issues that were specific to the issue of the day, but at the same time, addressed issues that we still deal with today. Where the church in Ephesus was characterized by irreverence and strife, Paul called for a change in the direction of the congregation, a change that was charged under Timothy's capable leadership, a change that would return the church to a respect and reverence for God, for His Word, and for His truth.
There are lessons here for many of our churches today. Let us not get caught up in the nit-picking of the legalistic interpretations of these verses that some hold to. Rather, let us look into our own hearts and see if we are, indeed, worshiping in respect and reverence, giving full authority for the gospel to God, and holding to the model and order for worship both in church and in the home that God ordained.