************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 20, 2013
1 Timothy 2:1-15
1 Timothy 2:11-15; Belgic Confession Article 30
"Women in Church Office"
At the February meeting our Consistory begins the process of making nominations for church office. What does the congregation and consistory look for in the lives of those who serve in church office?
Article 30 of the Belgic Confession of Faith informs us that those who are elected "are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy." What is this rule?
Last week, we identified two parts to this rule. First, we said those in church office must have the inner calling of the Spirit. Second, we said the inner calling must be confirmed by the outer call of the church; in this outer call the church declares that those in church office have demonstrated character in the church, the family, and the world.
I Overseers and Deacons are Men
All week long I was sort of hoping someone would tell me that I neglected to say or stress a third rule. No one took the bait. What is the third rule I am talking about? Namely, that those in church office need to be men.
Last week Sunday evening I read from 1 Timothy 3 – a passage that talks about qualifications for church office. Take note of what Paul says about men:
(1Tim 3:2) Now the overseer (that's another word for "elder" or "bishop") must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife ...Did you hear that? Overseers and deacons must be "the husband of but one wife." When I mentioned this to a friend, he said, "But Paul didn't say, 'The overseer must be a man.'" Oh, but yes he did! The Greek word for "husband" is a word that always and clearly refers to men and to men alone; it excludes women. Paul could have used other words here, but he didn't.
(1 Tim 3:12) A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.
With this in mind, don't forget what we say about Scripture: we say every single word is Spirit-inspired; therefore, the word that Paul uses is not accidental.
II The High Calling of Women
A A number of years ago the cover of TIME magazine asked the question, "Why Are Men and Women Different?" In much smaller letters the answer was given: "It isn't just upbringing. New studies show they are born that way."
Really? Someone actually needed a study to know men and women are different from each other at birth? I suppose this is news to the many who have swallowed the feminist doctrine of the last forty years. But for anyone familiar with the teachings of the Bible, this is not news at all. We all know from Genesis already that God designed men and women to be different and fulfill different roles in the home and church.
B All too often, I am afraid, the differences between men and women have resulted in mistreatment. This is true even in cultures that are considered advanced and enlightened. For instance, this past Friday the Visalia Times Delta had a sad front-page story on sexual assault. Last year the Rape Crisis Center helped 350 victims of sexual assault in Tulare County, of which 145 were children. The center’s youngest victim was an 8-month-old girl and their oldest was a 92-year- old female. It makes me sick to even think about this.
In the Ancient World, the nation of Israel broke new ground in their treatment of women when the fifth commandment told children to honor father AND mother. That was simply unheard of in most cultures back then. Yet, one of the morning prayers recorded in the Talmud to guide Jewish men at the start of the day says, "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe Who has not created me a woman." This should make every one here cringe.
The situation in Israel was still better than most of the Ancient World. Far more typical was the attitude reflected in the letter of a traveling Roman man to his pregnant wife. After admonishing her to take of the child growing within her he writes, "If you have the baby before I return, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it." Expose it. This refers to the practice of leaving a child in a public place either to die or to be claimed by someone. This should horrify us on two levels: as we think about the practice of legalized abortion and as we think about the treatment of women.
C Contrary to what most feminists say, the Christian faith elevates the worth and status of women. For instance, the Gospel record tells us that many of the original followers of Jesus were women (Lk 10:38; 23:55). Women were the first witnesses to the resurrected Christ (Lk 24:1,10). And, women were among those who gathered in prayer as they waited for the pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 1:14). In our passage Paul says "a woman should learn in quietness and full submission" (1 Tim 2:11). Most people hear only the last phrase; they miss the part that women should "learn." In the Ancient World women were not encouraged to learn but here Paul encourages their learning.
In Romans, Colossians, and 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul commends the work of specific women: Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, the mother of Rufus, Julia, Nympha, Lois, and Eunice (Rom 16:1-16; Col 4:15; 2 Tim 1:5). In Philippians Paul describes Euodia and Syntyche as "women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel" (Phil 4:3). In Galatians Paul makes a definitive statement about the spiritual equality of men and women when he writes,
(Gal 3:28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It is within this broad setting that Paul speaks about women in church office. We must keep in mind this broader context of the worth and status of women. Failure to keep this context in mind can lead casual Bible readers to dismiss Paul as a chauvinist or – to revive a phrase from the 70s – a male-chauvinist pig.
III Dress for Worship
A The immediate context of what Paul writes concerns worship. The Apostle Paul teaches Timothy what women must do and must not do in the worship gatherings of the church.
First, Paul addresses the question of appropriate dress in worship. Paul writes,
(1 Tim 2:9-10) I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, (10) but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
Scholarship has revealed the "new woman" of first-century Roman society: she enjoyed sexual liberty, made use of contraception and abortion, and rebelled against male headship in the home. She sounds very similar to the liberated women of modern Western society.
More than once ancient author noted that a woman's clothing often showed her attitude on these subjects. Women influenced by the feminism of the first century often traded the modest, many-layered garment known as the "stola" for the more revealing "toga" used by prostitutes. The "new woman" commonly had elaborate, braided hair with ribbons, tortoise-shell combs, and gold and silver pins. It appears that some of the women in the church at Ephesus adopted this new style of dress.
You might wonder what is wrong with this? Women who dressed this way dressed for men and not for God. Women who dressed this way took the attention off of God and put it on themselves.
I remember two times in worship where I did not know where to look. The first time, a teen-aged girl sat in the front row with a skirt that was too short – way too short. The second time, I was a visitor and a 40 year old woman on a praise team wore a dress that was skin-tight and way too short.I spent a lot of time preaching to and looking at the ceiling.
B According to Paul, godly women desire to point others to the Lord, not to themselves. Therefore, they dress modestly. Their first focus is not cosmetic enhancement but good works that lead people to glorify God. This is a principle that Christian parents need to teach their daughters. I repeat, this first of all is the responsibility of Christian parents.
Now, a disclaimer. The approval of jewelry elsewhere in Scripture (Song 1:10-11) means this is not an absolute prohibition of precious stones and jewelry. Rather, women are to use good judgment and modesty when they dress for worship.
Secular therapists today often try to boost self-esteem by telling patients not to care about what other people think. Scripture, on the other hand, would never have us be wholly unconcerned with how others view us. Our manner of dress as women AND men says much about our values. Modesty is one way we say "no" to the idols of physical perfection and sex that is worshiped in our culture. So let me ask, what does your clothing say about you or about your kids?
IV Behavior in Worship
A When it comes to the worship gatherings of the church, Paul not only tells the women how to dress but also how to act – with implications for church office:
(1Tim 2:11-12) A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (12) I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.The immediate implication of what the Bible says here is that women cannot be ordained to the office of elder because women are barred from preaching and teaching in worship.
B I need to talk for a moment about the sins of liberals and conservatives when it comes to the Bible. Liberals, as you know, take away from the Bible: things like miracles, resurrections, and what they consider to be old-fashioned teachings. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to add to the Bible so that it says more than it actually does. The Bible condemns both kinds of sin. We are not to take away from or add to the words of Scripture (cf Rev 22:18-19).
Liberals, of course, take away or explain away what Paul says about women being silent in worship; they do this so women can serve in all the offices of the church. Conservatives tend to add to what Paul says, ignoring what is found elsewhere in Scripture, and forbid women from doing anything in worship.
C In the Greek, the silence commanded by verses 11 & 12 is not the absolute "be quiet, sit down, and button your lips" kind. Rather, it is the silence of peacefulness, of no quarreling or arguing. Paul is calling women to be attentive, not disruptive.
Meaning what? Meaning women are not barred from every kind of speaking in worship. Paul assumes, for instance, that women will prophesy and pray in Corinth (1 Cor 11:4-5). And, throughout Scripture women engage in speech acts like singing in worship (Ex 15:20-21; Col 3:16). Furthermore, 1 Timothy 2:12 does not bar women from teaching entirely. Why else, in his letter to Titus, does Paul assume that older women will teach younger women to live lives of godliness (Titus 2:3-5)? Furthermore, Deuteronomy 6 assumes that both father and mother instruct children. Also, the New Testament informs us that Priscilla and Aquila both instructed Apollos in the faith (Acts 18:24-26). Such evidence supports the ministry of women today who speak at conferences and write books and produce videos, permits women to pray in worship, and to lead in song.
All this indicates that our Scripture reading is talking primarily about the office of elder and pastor.
V The Created Order
A Paul also explains to us why the office of elder is limited to women. He looks at the created order and writes, "Adam was formed first, then Eve" (1 Tim 2:13). This principle of firstness, says Paul, applies to the church and church office.
Among the Jews, the matter of being first was very significant. That is why to the firstborn was given authority, rank, status, and inheritance rights. Adam was formed first.
Consider also this: Adam named Eve. He said that she shall be called "woman" (Gen 2:23). In Genesis 1, it is God Who does the naming. In Genesis 2, man images God by naming the animals. To name something is to exercise authority over them. By naming Eve, Adam showed his authority over her.
Within the church, this means it is men – not women – who hold the offices.
B What happens when this created order is ignored? Paul answers this when he tells us that Eve was the one deceived (1 Cit 2:14). This doesn't prove women are gullible; rather, it reveals what happens when God's created order is not followed.
If you remember, there was fault all around in the Garden of Eden. Adam did not guard Eve. Eve did not wait for Adam's leading. The result was misery and ruin as man fell into sin.
Paul's point? Disaster is the result when we don't follow God's order. Disaster happened in the Garden. And, disaster happens in the church as well.
Don't forget, we are talking about the true church. We are talking about God's order so
true religion is preserved;
true doctrine is able to take its course;
and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in check,
so that also the poor
and all the afflicted
may be helped and comforted
according to their need.
(Belgic Confession Article 30)
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