Read 1 Timothy 2
I do not typically do a lot of research when it comes to these blog posts. My goal and hope for these posts when I started them was that they would be more personal reflections out of some of my education and life experiences. Today, however, I’ve done my homework.
First of all, Paul is addressing the worship of the church, particularly in Ephesus. Some of this we have talked about elsewhere, especially in the book of Ephesians. It is interesting to note, I think, that when addressing matters of worship, Paul never once addresses the issue of music. Music is a stylistic preference that the church has far too often equated with whether worship is “good” or “bad.”
Paul’s concern in worship, as always, is where the heart of the people is as they gather together to worship God. Here this motivation is found expressly through Paul’s encouragement toward unified prayer, not just for themselves, but for the world around them as well.
In doing so, Paul also encourages Timothy and the church in Ephesus to avoid distractions and put off and selfish ambition. This is the driving force behind both the plea for unity, “lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing,” as well as Paul’s comments on modesty and appropriate dress. Those who dressed in fancy clothes, jewelry, and hairstyles did so to show off their elaborate wealth, not as a way of honoring God.
All of this falls in line with what Paul has already written to the church in Ephesus, as does his comments about women being in leadership. Remember that, in Ephesians 5, Paul talks about the roles of men and women under the distinct phrase: “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” That is still true here.
The specific context here, 2000 years ago, is somewhat of a mystery. Where the women of this community particularly dominating in nature, causing trouble with the men? We do know that, because of the cultic worship of pagan gods that went on in the city, Paul desired that the Christians be set apart. This pagan worship involved showy signs of spiritual indwelling as well as temple prostitution, most of which happened by women, and which Paul obviously wanted to avoid. We find this to also be true in the context of the church in Corinth as well.
Whatever the specific issues that led to Paul’s words here, we also cannot read them in a vacuum without looking to the rest of Scripture for God’s will in this subject. One of the fundamental themes of God’s work in Jesus Christ is breaking down barriers in relationships both with each other and with him. Through the reconciliation that Jesus Christ ushered in, divisions were also broken down. Paul himself writes that there is no longer “Jews nor Greek, Slave nor Free, Male nor Female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In addition, the prophets attest to a time when God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh (not just on men). Women have been clearly gifted by God for the tasks of leadership and service in the Chuch and in the world and we must honor that gifting and God’s call on their lives by equipping and empowering all women and men to their fullest God-given potential.