June 25, 2023 | Chad Gilbert
Passage: 1 Timothy 2:9-15
Can anyone elevate women higher than the God who perfectly designed and created women?
One verse of the Bible is more important than any other in our understanding of humanity, including the aspect of humanity called gender. If you deeply believe it, honor it, and faithfully apply it you will oppose all forms of slavery, historic, such as chattel slavery, and modern slavery, such as sex trafficking and human trafficking. You will see dignity and beauty in every human person – celebrating the diversity of skin color, hair textures, physical attributes, and languages and accents. You will celebrate the gift of gender, seeing male and female both as essential and good, equal in God-likeness, dignity, and value.
If you reject this single verse, then humanity becomes an experiment conducted by the elite. The powerful will oppress the powerless, the stronger will oppress those weaker.
Historically, the suppression and oppression of women is well documented. Today we continue to see in nations like Afghanistan, under Taliban rule, the refusal to allow girls and women access to education, jobs, certain buildings, or even being seen without fully body covering.
But with one verse God challenges the oppression of women and elevates them as equal with men in the most meaningful aspect of our existence – the very core of our identity:
27 So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. Genesis 1:27
Write this down and never, ever forget it.
God created us male and female in his own image.
No meaningful study of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 exists apart from this verse and the surrounding verses in Genesis chapter 1 and 2.
No meaningful conversation about gender can take place apart from Genesis 1 and 2.
If gender is not part of God’s intended design for humanity, then we have no reason to suggest that gender is good and a gift from God.
If gender is not part of God’s intended design for humanity, then we should join the cultural movement to rid humanity of gender all together – to echo those who assert gender is a prison from which we need to be freed.
But if Genesis 1 and 2 hold truth concerning the gift of gender, that God has ordained gender, that both genders are equally created in God’s image (meaning men do not bear more of God’s image than women nor women more than men), both created by God for His glory and our good – then we have every reason to look lovingly in the eyes of a young girl or teenager girl and say, “That God created you female is good. You are created in God’s own image. Your gender is a gift from God, given to you for His glory and your good.”
This same God who created us male and female in his own image has chosen to reveal Himself to us both generally and specifically. All of His creation reveals Him. The order of the universe reveals His power and wisdom. The tender affection of mother lion with her cubs reveals his power and yet His affections and gentleness. The power of a hurricane reveals His wrath. The pleasure of a cool breeze at the end of a summer day reveals His pleasure, His grace, His invisibility even when present, and His effectiveness. I could speak all day in such general terms, but God has shown grace for thousands and thousands of years by speaking in specific ways to make Himself known. This special revelation of who God is and His ways are revealed in Scripture.
I only know that God can be known because God’s Word declares that what can be known of God has been clearly seen since the creation of the world in Romans 1. I only understand God as the creator because His Word in Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I only know God as just because His Word reveals a system of justice in which life for life, eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” is exacted in Exodus 21. I only know God is love because His Word says, “God is love, and in Him is no darkness at all” in 1 John.
Dr. Adam Harwood writes, “Scripture is God’s word, the primary and authoritative means of special revelation today. God reveals himself by his Spirit as he illumines the hearts and minds of people as they hear and read Scripture. Scripture is both the content and the means of revelation.”
Here is the next truth I want you to write down:
Scripture is God’s Word.
But hear this caution: “Followers of Jesus do not study Scripture with the sole aim of becoming experts in Scripture. Recall Jesus’s admonition to the religious leaders in his day, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40). The goal of the Christian life is transformation into the image and likeness of Christ, or growth in the knowledge of and love for the Lord. The means for this transformation, an act of God’s grace, is encountering God’s Spirit through His Word.”
Today on the grounds of understanding that Scripture is God’s Word and that God created us male and female in His own image, we now turn to 1 Timothy 2:9.
I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word from 1 Timothy 2:9 and I will be reading down to verse 15:
9 Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman is to learn quietly with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense.
It is important to recall at this point that Paul was careful in chapter one to note that the goal of his instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Just as we considered verse 8 last week, how Paul in love was calling the men in the church in Ephesus to stop arguing and acting in anger, but instead to pray with holy hands, not hands covered in guilt from fighting with each other, so now Paul, in love, turns to the ladies in the church at Ephesus in order to provide leadership for God’s glory and their good.
These verses, along with verse 8, can be broken down into three groupings:
Verse 9 begins with “likewise women” which means that Paul anticipates that women, just like the men, will have a priority for gathering together to worship the Lord in prayer. That priority is established by Paul for the church in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, and picked back up in verse 8.
Paul identifies anger and arguments as a distraction among the men from what they are called to do – worship God in prayer. He clearly calls it out, and now he turns his attention to what he knows is causing a distraction among the women from the primary purpose of worshipping God together in prayer – concern with outward appearance.
I’ll never forget the conversation I had one Sunday morning with a women who was joining the church I served as Missions Pastor. This godly lady shared with me that a very difficult situation at the church where she had been a member over 20 years was why she was leaving that church and had been looking for a new church home. She shared that she had avoided Trinity Baptist Church during her visits because she had always believed this was a church for skinny people. With tears in her eyes she shared that she had long been overweight and every person she knew who attended our church was thin and attractive. She said, “I am so glad I was wrong – this is a place for everyone.”
I bet no one at Trinity Baptist Church had ever thought or intended that a person had to be thin and attractive to fit in at the church, but sometimes we create a culture in the church that communicates a value to those inside and outside the church that might be at odds with God’s heart.
Here in verses 9-10 Paul deals with modesty and money.
Modesty and Money
The word here translated as modest clothing could also be translated as appropriate clothing. Additionally, as Paul clarifies what is appropriate, he says, “with decency” meaning “with respect, or reverence”.
Culturally, what is considered appropriate and respectful changes. For example, when I was growing up it was considered extremely disrespectful to the Lord for a man to wear a baseball cap in church. I remember once when a deacon snatched my hat off when I was helping with VBS one summer and reprimanded me in a very harsh manner.
Has anything like that ever happened to you? Somebody in the church, claiming to be on the moral high ground and in the name of biblical faithfulness, embarrassed you, belittled you, mistreated you, or been just mean to you? Those moments leave a mark, sometimes a last wound.
Honestly, inside of my heart and mind was the immediate push-back of “God doesn’t care if I wear a hat inside the church building.” More than that, as I moved into adulthood and ministry leadership there was still part of me that, based on that very negative experience, made me want to allow and even encourage people to wear hats to church to somehow show that guy how wrong he was.
But do you see from my personal experience how a negative experience began to guide my thinking more than other influences, including God’s Word.
This passage says to women and men that God is concerned with the clothing and fashion choices we make. He is even more concerned with our hearts and the way we are living, but he does care about our clothing choices as well.
That deacon was in the wrong, not because he wanted to see a young man honor the Lord, but because of the way he went about training me. Rather than harshly ripping my hat off my head, he should have gently said, “Son, one of the ways we show honor to the Lord is in how we dress, even in how we remove our hats to honor the Lord and signal that we realize we are in His presence in a special way when we gather to worship Him as the church. The Lord is more concerned with the condition of your heart and the way you are living your life, but I also want to encourage you to remove your hat when you enter the sanctuary to join with other men in this church who do the same to show God honor.”
Now let me go ahead and tell you that it is when preaching passages like this that many pastors – good intentioned pastors who are trying to demonstrate courage and conviction – start making declarations about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. In most cases their wife and any daughters end up in the acceptable camp of modesty standards.
Instead, here is another aspect of where deep, meaningful Christian community is so important. In Titus, which is a letter much like 1 Timothy, Paul speaks about the significance of godly influence, both of men to other men and women to other women.
Hear what Paul says,” 2 Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. 3 In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered.” Titus 2:2-5
Do you see the beauty of that picture – older women who have been walking with the Lord in godliness, encouraging, teaching the younger women what is good, pure, and loving. Most of us make fashion choices by looking to people our age and essentially saying, “What are they wearing?” What if more ladies, especially the younger ladies in our church, started getting the input of a lady 10, 20, or 30 years older than she?
Some people take this passage in a direction that the passage does not – into blaming women for the sexual sins that men commit, including sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Men, you are responsible for your actions. Many in the church blame promiscuous dress when I would say the real problem is men in the church training their minds to look at women and think about women in ways that are influenced by pornography. Over 70% of men in the church today report monthly pornography usage. That sort of regular influence is conditioning you to look at girls and women in a way that God fiercely opposes.
The church is wrong every time it blames a victim. “If she would have worn more modest clothing then that pastor wouldn’t have been so tempted.” God forgive us for blaming the most vulnerable among us for what those with the greatest authority do in our positions of leadership.
It is this sort of wrong thinking and wrong actions that have resulted in a total loss of trust in the ability for so called “biblically qualified men” to alone serve as pastors. And it is important for all of us to acknowledge that such a loss of trust is understandable and has been earned. And it will take many years of faithful ministry to rebuild that trust.
But Paul not only speaks of modesty, but of money.
Chad, Paul didn’t say anything about money – he just talked about really expensive hair styles, really expensive jewelry, and really expensive clothes. Like I said, Paul not only speaks of modesty, but of money.
Money can’t by you love, but in the first century just like in the 21st century, money could buy you expensive hair styles, expensive jewelry, like gold and pearls, and expensive clothing, in rare colors or rare fabrics.
Suddenly gathering to worship as the church was becoming a to-do, one in which the culture of the gathering was quickly shifting from opening your purse to help the poor to “where did you get that purse?”
Here’s a hot take on this passage: men, this passage is just as applicable to you as verse 8 was to women in the congregation who might be stewing with anger and prone to arguments. Men, we all love a nice watch, we all love some new shoes, we all love a fresh look, so don’t think that Paul didn’t mean this admonition only applies to women.
But the real heart of the issue has to do with unity in the body of Christ. If something like really nice clothes, or certain styles, or bling or no bling start to separate a congregation or cause you to feel more including in the congregation, then there is an issue.
So Chad, should women only have straight hair? Does it just have to be straight at church or all the time? Are pearl necklaces sinful? What about silver necklaces, are those okay because the Bible just says gold? How much can I spend on a pair of shoes before I sin? How much can I spend on a suit, a dress, a shirt, a pair of pants, etc?
I get it. I often hear “Clarity is kindness.” And you know what? It’s true.
So let me be as clear as I can from this text: if you, male or female, profess to worship God, then your life should be decked out in good works – because that is what is fitting.
10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess to worship God.
If your life is naked of good works but covered in glitz and glame – you are not appropriately dressed.
If your life is naked of good works but covered in designer jeans and the latest high tops – you are not appropriately dressed.
If your life is naked of good works but covered in bling – you are not appropriately dressed.
Don’t miss the main point – our lives, as followers of Jesus Christ are to be adorned with good works, not distracted with impressing each other and trying to fit in.
Instead, the good work of removing any barrier that might cause a person to feel excluded from the body of Christ should be on our minds as we gather to worship God together.
And just as quickly as I utter those words it may seem that I need to eat those words because the text then shifts to what many today consider a barrier to half of the human population being fully embraced in the church.
Hear God’s Word in verses 11-12.
11 A woman is to learn quietly with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet.
“Certainly, this must mean something other than what it says.” That is what many of us say when we reach this passage.
What is clear in these two verses are two truths:
- A woman is not to be denied the ability to grow in knowledge of the Word
- A woman is not to provide authoritative teaching over a man from the Word
A woman is not to be denied the ability to grow in knowledge of the Word
N.T. Wright appropriately captions this section of 1 Timothy this way: “Women must be allowed to be learners.” Well documented is the first century reality that in Jewish contexts women were often excluded from learning environments.
Paul says women, as full disciples of Jesus Christ, ought not be denied the great joy of receiving and being instructed in the Word. We might quickly assume that we have no problem with a passage like this today, but in how many churches is childcare relegated to women alone in order for men to be able to gather in the sanctuary to hear instruction in the Word? I encourage you church, let us be faithful in sharing in the load of caring for our children so that women and mothers are not removed from consistent time of being instructed and taught in the Word.
The next phrase is “quietly.” Some translations read “silently.” Some through the years, in effort of biblical faithfulness, have prohibited women from speaking in the sanctuary. Women have historically been excluded from reading Scripture, voicing prayers, or sharing testimony in corporate worship in hoped-for obedience to this verse as well as one in 1 Corinthians 14.
Remember: church was happening mostly in homes at this point in Christian history. No church buildings had yet been constructed. Perhaps some synagogues were beginning to have a Christian thrust, depending on the location and priest, but overall, and certainly in Ephesus, you have house churches. Think tight space. Think cultural conditions in which the men spend time with the men and women with the women, perhaps the women in one area and the men in another.
Paul is instructing Timothy that when it comes times for authoritative instruction in the Word, everyone needs to be giving their attention to the one who is speaking, exactly like you are doing in this room today. In fact church buildings continue to be built in order to elevate the teaching and instruction that will come from a preacher of the Word. While we might be tempted to hear Paul telling women to shut their mouths, he is instead crafting an environment where women and men will be able to learn, and to learn together.
A woman is to learn quietly with “full submission”. Again, this is the same exact “full submission” that every believer is to have to the Word of God. In 2 Corinthians 9:13 Paul uses this same word in describing the sort of obedience or full submission we should have to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is saying not only is a woman to have access to the teachings of Christ, but she is also to do exactly as Christ commanded in the Great Commission “teaching them to observe [that is “obey”] all that I have commanded you”.
Ladies, the call of Christ to make disciples of all nations rests upon your life in the same way as it does men. Married couples, you are called as husband and wife to make disciples of all nations. Divorced men and women, you are called to make disciples of all nations. Single parents, you are called to make disciples of all nations. But you will not successfully do so apart from instruction in the Word. The need for all women disciples and all men disciples to know, study, understand, and apply the Scriptures is paramount in the task of making disciples of all nations.
The Bible says so right here.
But as we bring this Gospel, both men and women, to all nations in order to make disciples and plant churches, Paul provides clarity for whom God has ordained to lead His church and how he has ordained His church to be led.
12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet.
A woman is not to provide authoritative teaching over a man from the Word.
This is the point when I am going to lean into how God wired me and tell you what I am not going to do at this moment.
First, I am not going to tackle every intellectual argument about this passage. For one, they are seemingly innumerable – literally books upon books, and articles upon articles on just verse 12. Secondly, such is the content of a seminar on the subject, which may be a fitting follow up to this sermon, for those desiring a deeper dive into the matter.
Second, I am not going to throw rocks at those with whom I disagree. Smart, thoughtful believers have proposed various possibilities of this text and the historical context of Ephesus. I find many of these unconvincing, but I am not going to say that these individuals are intentionally trying to mislead believers or that they have some unbiblical agenda. I desire to extend them the same respect I hope they will extend me. I trust they sincerely come to a different conclusion, just as Presbyterians sincerely come to a different conclusion than me on infant baptism. I respect them while respectfully disagreeing.
Thirdly, I am not going to speak very long on this point because wounds are already freshly opened and I truly desire to be the kind of shepherd that binds up the wounded rather than killing the wounded, especially when the wounded are truly seeking to discern the voice of the Good Shepherd in His Word.
I want to remind us all that culture influences which part of these verses are most difficult for us to accept. Right now in the country of Morocco when believers gather for worship, the men huddle up with the men and the women huddle up with the women. There is no together time for them to learn together. The idea that men and women should learn in the same environment would be very difficult for them. But the instruction that women are not to teach or have authority over men is very easy to accept. Their entire culture is built around such gender distinctives.
But just cross the Atlantic Ocean and come to America and the notion that men and women should be able to learn together in a similar environment with equal access to the teachings of the Bible is met with “of course, what are we, in the dark ages?!?!” And the instruction that women are not to teach or have authority over a man is met with “well this obviously means something other what it says because there is no way that the same Jesus who had women disciples would ever oppress and marginalize women by limiting them in any way.”
Regardless of the culture into which the teachings of the Bible are introduced and applied, they are always difficult in one way or another when they challenge normative ways of thinking and living.
Several observations from this passage are key in this moment: Teaching and authority are closely related in the church (v.12)
- God has ordained that overseers/pastors/elders be able to teach the Church (1 Tim 3:2)
- This design is grounded in the biblical teaching of Creation and The Fall (vv.13-14)
- Jesus, not gender, is the only way to be saved (v.15)
First - Teaching and authority are closely related in the church.
While teaching and authority are listed separately, not much distinction is explainable in the absence of hierarchical structures in the first century. The ability to instruct was accomplished through teaching. Thus the danger of false teaching – a person was submitting themself to another authority than the authority found in the right teaching of God’s Word.
God continues to exercise authority over His church through the teaching of His Word. That is why this moment of proclamation is essential and supreme. We are those who submit our will to His will being done, and we discern His will by His Spirit according to His Word. In other words the preaching and teaching of God’s Word is how we come to honor and submit our lives to God’s authority.
Second – God has ordained that overseers/pastors/elders be able to teach the church.
Just a few sentences after verse 12 Paul is going to begin talking about the qualifications of an overseer. One of those qualifications, which is seen as supreme in leading God’s people, is “able to teach”, seen in 1 Timothy 3:2. This same requirement is seen again in Titus in chapter 1, verse 9, where the overseer will “encourage with sound teaching and refute those who contradict it.”
Other passages could be listed at this point that help us understand the interchangeable usage in the Bible of the titles overseer/pastor/elder. In this church we use the word pastor but could just as faithfully use the words overseer or elder.
When God’s Word says that a woman may not teach or have authority over a man, paired with the clear expectation that pastors/overseers/elders will teach in an authoritative manner the Word of God, then it is not hard to see in clear terms why the office of pastor/overseer/elder is limited to biblically qualified men. As I said before, thoughtful Christians and scholars raise objections to that conclusion, but as your pastor, I find those arguments unconvincing.
And the reason I find them unconvincing is primarily because of verses 13 and 14, which brings us to the third observation of this text:
Third – This design is grounded in the biblical teaching of Creation and The Fall.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.
Now before you think “Paul is really doing some gymnastics to use Genesis 2 to make his point,” consider Jesus, when he is questioned about divorce, being told that elsewhere in the Bible God allowed certificates of divorce to be written, so divorce on demand was somehow God-ordained, Jesus responds in Matthew 19:4-6 , “4 “Haven’t you read that he who created them in the beginning made them male and female,, 5 and he also said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?, 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Jesus is quoting from Genesis 2, reminding them that God’s intention with creation is still in effect.
Paul picks up the same hermeneutic and clearly makes the case that Adam was formed first, then Eve. What’s the point? The point is better seen in the text of Genesis 2 where God’s Word says, “16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”
The Lord had entrusted authoritative instruction to Adam which he was to both personally obey and also teach to Eve. But we all know he failed. For as the next verse reminds us: “14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.”
We are thrust back into Genesis, but not the Creation account, but the account of the Fall. Hear God’s Word from Genesis 3:1-7 “ Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “No! You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Paul is clear in the book of Romans that Adam is held responsible for sin entering the human race. Romans 5 makes an incredible argument concerning Adam, not Eve, as how sin entered, in order to contrast with Jesus, and how salvation enters. Death entered through one man, life enters through the one man that is Christ.
So what is Paul’s point in bringing up Eve in this passage. Very likely, from the context, to emphasize the point that biblically qualified men have been entrusted with the authoritative teaching of God’s Word in order to obey it, teach it and refute those who contradict it.
If this is indeed God’s intended design for His Church, then our question should be “what constitutes a biblically qualified man who can serve as an overseer/pastor/elder? And that takes us directly into chapter 3, which we will pick up in a couple of weeks.
Hold on Chad, you missed verse 15! No, I simply saved the best for last.
Verse 15 says, “15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense.”
At face value this seems to say that women will go to heaven if they have babies. The only problem with that interpretation is the rest of the Bible, especially passages that speak of the goodness of singleness (don’t ever let someone tell you that you are half a person until you find your other half. In Christ, you are 100% whole!) and passages that clearly teach we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ – not by works.
So what then, does this passage mean.
Paul is still in Genesis 3, the Fall has occurred, and now God is giving consequences of sin:
Hear Genesis 3:15 as God spoke to the serpent about his one day defeat:
15 I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.
In 1 Timothy 2:15 the “she” is singular – meaning Paul is talking about Eve. Eve would one day be saved through the birth of a child, a child who would ultimately crush the head of the serpent. Much is made of genealogies throughout the Bible, connecting one generation of Adam and Eve to the next, all the way until we read the words in Matthew and Luke that Jesus is the promised child – the baby born of a virgin, who came to save sinners, even sinners like Adam and Eve, sinners like you and me, a salvation, that when it comes and changes our hearts, should be evidenced in how we continue in faith, love and holiness, with good sense. You see the text shifts from the singular of Eve to the plural, referring to women, but truly referring to us all. This leads us to our final observation.
Jesus, not gender, is the only way to be saved (v.15)
Faith, love, holiness, good sense and so much more are available to all in Christ. Being the most powerful man or the most powerful woman will not save you from your sins and give you peace with God. Becoming another gender in order to find full identity and freedom is the cunning work of the deceiver, because full identity and freedom are only found in Christ.
Paul makes abundantly clear in Galatians 3 that men are not more saved than women, nor women more saved than men – we have equal participation in the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ we celebrate the gift of gender as God-ordained and good. We honor one another as men and women, pursuing full participation in the body of Christ within spiritual gifting and biblical parameters. And we elevate this Gospel hope for the flourishing of our neighborhoods, New Orleans, and all nations.