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Leadership #9 - 1 Timothy 2

1 TIMOTHY 2:1-2, 8-15

Teaching Moments

1. 1 Timothy is an epistle that is concerned about leadership issues. The primary reason for this concern is the presence of false teaching and incessant quarrels in the Ephesian church. The epistle has two bookends (beginning and end) and the topic in both is "false teaching" (1 Tim. 1:3-11 and 6:3-10).

2. In this context of dangerous false teaching and quarrelling, Paul is concerned about appropriate leadership. He addresses (1) gender issues in 1 Tim. 2:8-15; (2) elders/deacons in 1 Tim. 3:1-13; (3) evangelists -- instructions to Timothy himself -- in 1 Tim. 4:6-16; (4) instructions to widows who serve the church and about which widows should be permitted to function that way in 1 Tim. 5:3-16; and (5) the relationship of elders and evangelists in 1 Tim. 5:17-22. Leadership serves an important function in providing unity for the church and guiding it in appropriate directions.

3. The specific context of 1 Timothy 2 is prayer and worship. The first half of chapter 2 is about prayer (2:1-7) and the second half is about gender relationships in the context of worship. While it is uncertain whether this text is primarily concerned about corporate worship, I think it is best to understand it in this manner. It appears to involve (1) a mixed assembly; (2) prayer and teaching are involved; and (3) public issues of dress and quarreling.

4. Specifically, I think the context of 2:8-15 is the worship of the assembled church. Apparently, quarreling was part of these assemblies, women were dressing ostentatiously and there was some problem related as to who does the teaching.

5. Verses 8-10 are contextualized by prayer and worship. Men must not quarrel and women must dress modestly. In the prayer meeting, there was a tendency for men to fight and women to overdress. Paul says neither is appropriate for the assembly of believers.

6. I don't think 2:8 means the only men should pray any more than verse 9-10 means that only women should dress modestly. [Paul does not object to women praying, as we saw in 1 Corinthians 11 in a previous study.] Paul address the men and women in the way he does because that is the problem that the Ephesian church faces. Women should not quarrel when they pray and men should not dress immodestly, but in Ephesus the problem with the men was quarreling and the problem with the women was ostentatious dress.

7. The crux of the text is the meaning of 2:11-12. Clearly this text calls for submissives on the part of women. She is to have a quiet demeanor in the context of the assembled church. The word "silent" here does not mean "absence of sound" but to an attitude of demeanor. The same word is used in 1 Timothy 2:2 in reference to "quiet lives." This text does not forbid women from talking, but it does call upon them to be submissive in this context.

8. The problem line is the prohibition of women "teaching and having authority over men" in 1 Tim. 2:12. What does this mean? We must be careful not to define "teaching" in our context and then import that meaning back into the text. Women teach through the songs they write and we sing. Women teach through books and articles and we read them. Mothers still teach their adult sons in many ways. Women teach through singing. So the question is "what kind of teaching does Paul prohibit here?"

9. "Teaching" must be defined in the context of 1 Timothy. What does Paul mean by "teaching" in this epistle? If we can define that, then we know what Paul is prohibiting for women. Some in Ephesus wanted to be "teachers of the law" (1 Tim. 1:7), Paul says he is a "teacher of the true faith" (1 Tim. 2:7), elders are to be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2), Timothy as an evangelist is to teach (1 Tim. 4:13), elders who teach and direct the church are worthy of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17), and Timothy is told to "teach" the truths of this epistle (1 Tim. 6:2). It is important to note who is not told to "teach"--deacons and widows are not told to do so. Elders and evangelists are told to teach. I think Paul's prohibition against teaching by women is the kind of teaching that elders and evangelists do in directing the church and shaping the vision of the church. This is the kind of authority they are not to assume.

10. Why are women not to assume this kind of function in the church? Paul roots his prohibition in the order of creation (1 Tim. 2:13-14). This the same reasoning he used in 1 Cor. 11:7-9 where he teaches that man is the "head" of woman just as God is the "head" of Christ. Just as the husband is the head of the family, so God has entrusted "headship" functions in the church to men. Thus, women are prohibited from functioning as teachers and leaders in ways that assume the "headship" function of the church.

11. I think this is the point of 1 Timothy 2:15. Paul directs women away from "headship" functions in the church to the ministry of the home, just as he did the younger widows in 1 Timothy 5:11ff. The contrast between 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 2:15 is the contrast between the church and the home. Women should not assume headship functions in the church (such as "teaching"), but rather they should find their primary responsibility in the home. This does not exclude women from performing functions and ministries outside of the home, but it does prioritize their responsibilities and it excludes them from certain kinds of functions within the church ("teaching and having authority").

Group Discussion Questions

This may be a difficult text to discuss since it is possible to go in so many different directions with this one. Use your best judgment, but try to keep focused on the meaning of this particular text. We do not want to engage a discussion of vaious scenarios, but we are simply attempting to understand Paul's meaning in this text. What is Paul prohibiting? I think he is fundamentally prohibiting women from assuming the functions of elders and evangelists (in the sense that Timothy was an evangelist; cf. 2 Tim. 4:6).

1. Why is this such a "hot" topic today? Why does this particular text "scandalize" many people in our culture? Why do many find it inherently objectionable?

2. What is Paul's rationale for his prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:11-12? What reason does he give in 1 Timothy 2:13? What is the connection between the prohibition and the reason? [I think the connection is that God created Adam as the head of his family and one in whom God invested headship functions, and this applies to the church as the family of God.]

3. Do you think Paul prohibits women from praying in the assembly, according to this text? What are the options in the light of 1 Timothy 2:8-10?

4. What kind of dress does Paul prohibit here? [It is interesting that the only place where Paul discusses the modesty of dress he is concerned about overdressing not underdressing.]

5. In what ways do women "teach" men that we do not find objectionable or have been traditionally received in the church?

6. What does Paul mean by "teach" here? Where does he use "teach" elsewhere in 1 Timothy? [Read some of the texts listed above in question #9.] What sense do you get from reading the usages of "teaching" in these texts? What do you think is the context of this "teaching"?

7. If this prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is primarily about prohibiting women from the role of elders and evangelists, what areas of teaching does that open up for women and what areas does that prohibit? Since our situation is not exactly like the first century ["bible classes", "group leaders," "committee chairpersons," etc.], how do we assess what is appropriate and what is inappropriate for women in a church? [I would use "headship" functions (taking on the "overseeing" function of elders and the responsibility for the teaching of the church) as the principle of discrimination. As long as women are not functioning as elders or evangelists, then I believe it is permitted and should be encouraged where the gifts are present.] What does that look like in the Cordova Community Church?

8. If you feel comfortable you might offer this analogy [or I may introduce and then you can discuss it in group]: We might parallel the problem here with the issue of modesty. There are some things that we believe are clearly forbidden in terms of modesty (e.g., nudity for the purpose of sexual arousal) and there are some things we believe are clearly permissible (e.g., showing ankles in a dress). However, there are some gray areas in-between that are matters of judgment and where culture would have a significant impact. I think this gender discussion is similar. There are some things which I believe are clearly wrong (e.g., women serving as elders) and some things are clearly permissible (e.g., women serving on ministry committees or women teaching through singing). However, there are some gray areas in-between that are matters of judgment and where culture would have a significant impact (e.g., women passing the communion trays, or women directing a women's ministry, or women facilitating a group discussion). What do you think about these gray areas?

9. You probably won't have time for this one, but if you run out of things to discuss (which I doubt), you might want to raise this discussion (which will not end, I assure you): what is the contrast between 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 2:15? What is the difference between the function of women in church and their function in the home? Does this text limit women to only serving in the home? Does it prohibit them from working outside of the home?


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