If we are passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman – because that is what God is passionate about (see previous two reflections below) then that will be reflected in our prayer and lives.
As we reflect on 1 Timothy 2 (probably one of the most controversial chapters in the Bible) it is important to remember the above paragraph so that we will not get unnecessarily caught up in arguments that could not be further from Paul’s mind as he pens this letter. In fact Paul writes this letter to promote unity not division. But perhaps that was easier then than now in a day when we will do seemingly anything to make the Bible say what we want it to say rather than take it for what it is saying?
Paul says that our prayer and lives must reflect God’s passion for the gospel (2: 1 – 7). God tells us to pray for all people, because of what He’s like (as we have seen in 1: 3 – 4) He wants “all people to be saved, and to come to knowledge of the truth”. We know that is why He sent Jesus to die on a cross. If our prayers are to God-honoring they’ll reflect God’s passion. That will also shape the way we live and is the great test of whether we belong to a truly God-honoring church or not. In the way we live will it focus on people being saved and then grow in their knowledge of the truth? And so in verse 2 we are not just praying for those in authority so that we can have comfortable lives… in context it means we pray for those in authority so that they will be saved, but whatever, so that we can get on with telling the gospel so that people can be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth!
Paul then turns in more practical depth to how we should pray and live by writing to the men (2: 8). His concern is what men do with their hands. And he doesn’t mean a style of singing in church but are men’s hands holy? In essence Paul is saying that with their hands men can reach out in friendship, in forgiveness and to embrace; with their hands they can express tenderness or can strike, hurt and inflict pain. So if men are to lift up their hands it must not be in ungodliness but in a way that goes with God’s passion that all be saved. Men who come to church and pray impressive prayers for the lost but have unclean hands/hearts (hypocrisy) which works against what they are praying for is what concerns Paul.
Paul then turns to how we should pray and live by writing to the women (2: 9 – 10). And as he did with men, Paul deals with the problem of outward appearance looking good but hearts that are not. It is not that Paul doesn’t want women to look pretty… it is just that their real beauty comes from a life and prayerfulness that centers on God’s passion for all people to be saved – that is what it means to worship God.
Paul then refers to how praying men and women should live their lives in relationship to each other in the family of God (2: 11 – 15). Whatever Paul means in verses 11 – 12 it doesn’t mean that women must be absolutely silent in church because that would contradict 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul says they can pray and prophecy (and whatever prophecy means here, there is some debate, it is not being silent). 1 Timothy 2 is not a command for silence in general it deals with the activity of women teaching in authority over men. And I personally don’t buy the argument that this was only applicable to a specific problem in Ephesus at the time because Paul links this command to creation (13 – 14). Although the argument as written here in my NIV looks pretty arbitrary Paul is saying that when we look back at Genesis 2 and 3, at the very way God’s made us, at our design as men and women, that ought to be reflected in our relationships in the family of God.
In other words in Genesis 2 we see that Adam and Eve have been created equal but different. Adam being first doesn’t mean that he is better than Eve, but it does give him a special responsibility as leader. Adam alone is given the command to not eat from the tree of good and evil. When in Genesis 3 we see that sin enters the world, it turns everything in God’s good creation upside down. A creature takes God’s place, saying what’s right and wrong. And Eve then takes Adam’s place and tells Adam what was said and gives him the fruit to eat. Paul’s point is not that Eve sinned and Adam didn’t. It’s about the order things were done in.
Another example of Paul’s thinking is in Ephesians 5 where the relationship between Christ and His church defines the nature of the relationship between a husband and wife… and here in 1 Timothy Paul is saying that in the household of God it is the same order.
That helps is make sense of 1 Timothy 2: 15 – it simply means that women should look at the order of things that God has ordained and follow that as a part of their faith, love and holiness.
And all of this (11 – 15) so that God can be worshipped and people come to be saved, which is God’s great passion.
So this passage is not meant to stir up controversy but to focus on God’s great passion that people be saved and grow in their knowledge of the truth. And as part of that Paul calls us to right praying and living as God intended… For modest dress, holy hands and servant leadership.