Pastor Scott Andrews | September 26, 2021
I Timothy 2:11-15
Turn in your Bibles this morning to I Timothy 2. Yes, we are in a study of Titus where we have just finished two weeks on the qualifications of Elders in 1:5-9. Paul told Titus to appoint elders in every city – every church. If he was going to do that, he needed to know their qualifications. I suggested over those two weeks that the Scripture calls godly men to lead – actually both in their homes and in the church. I also suggested that is our biblical position at Alliance, called complementarianism. So, I said we would take some time to discuss that. That time is today. You should know the Elders just completed writing a position paper on the topic. It is available to you – in hard copy at the Welcome Center and also on our website.
But as we begin, I want you to know this position, although biblical, is radically counter-cultural. Perhaps even you squirmed a little in your seat to hear me say that one of the qualifications is that elders be men. After all, in both Titus and Timothy where Paul spells out the qualifications, one is that he be the husband of one wife – literally, a one-woman man. Every example of elders in the NT is male. And in our society today, that is seen as patriarchal, outdated, chauvinistic, perhaps even misogynistic. How can this be – how can the Bible be so anti-woman? Isn’t it time to update the material, to catch up with the times? Some think so – as if God’s Word needs updating.
And so, I want to look at a very challenging, yet clear text. Perhaps not difficult to understand, but difficult to accept. Many would like to skip it, change it, rewrite it, ignore it, or reinterpret it. Consider what some have said about this passage:
William Mounce says in his commentary on I Timothy, “This is the most discussed passage in the Pastoral Epistles today. Interpretations range from seeing Paul as a liberator and champion of women’s rights to dismissing Paul as wrong and irrelevant in today’s culture.”
George Bernard Shaw called Paul the “eternal enemy of women.”
Alexander Strauch writes, (Men and Women, Equal Yet Different) – “If Ephesians 5 is the crowning passage on Christian marriage, then 1 Timothy 2 is the crowning passage for gender roles in the local church family…. 1 Timothy 2 is a strategic battleground passage in the gender controversy…. Every word, phrase, and sentence has been disputed….”
John Stott says, “These are probably the most controversial verses (especially verses 11-15) in the Pastoral Letters.…Several unsuccessful attempts have been made, exegetical and linguistic, to soften the apparent harshness of these apostolic instructions, by limiting their application.”
Pastor Philip Ryken writes, “…there is the danger of letting culture overrule Scripture…. To the postmodern ear, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 sounds like gender discrimination.”
I could go on. I’ve read much on the issue. I counted – including my Bible, I have about 20 books in my office which I’ve consulted. I’ve actually studied and taught this text before, when we studied I Timothy. I labored over it – you say, why? Oh, I think you’ll see why in a moment.
Entire books have been written on the topic. There are other issues which incite the passion and ire of people – I don’t know any that incites more. Entire denominations have divided over it. I have dear friends whom I deeply love and respect who disagree with me on the passage and its application. I want you to know I approach it with deep humility today. I love God’s Word, and I’m not fearful to preach it – but I don’t ever want to sound arrogant or condescending – less than loving and humble. With that, why don’t we read the text, and you can join me in my trepidation. I Timothy 2:11-15.
There you go – that certainly can’t mean what it says, right? Maybe Shaw is right – Paul is the eternal enemy of women. You should know there are two basic approaches to this text – the egalitarian and the complementarian. Let me define those for you:
From the Christians for Biblical Equality website, egalitarians “affirm and promote that all believers—without regard to gender, ethnicity or class—must exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in church, home and world.” There is much of that statement with which I agree – until you understand what they mean. One book sums it up, “…there are no distinctions between the roles of men and women in ministry; all functions and positions in church ministry are equally open to both genders.” (Robert Saucy and Judith TenElshof, Men and Women in Ministry)
Conversely, a complementarian, from the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, says: “Men and women are complementary, possessing equal dignity and worth as the image of God, and called to different roles that each glorify Him.” Again, quoting the previous book, “On the other side are those who see the biblical teaching of a distinction in roles between man and woman in the church (or in the home), who are known as complementarians.”
So what it boils down to is this – egalitarians say men and women can serve in any way in the church – there are to be no gender distinctions. So, women can serve as pastors and elders with equal authority and teach in the gathered assembly. Complementarians say that while men and women are equally created in the image of God and have been equally gifted, they nonetheless serve within God’s designed complementary roles and functions.
So, there are deep divisions over this text. At the outset, let me tell you that I follow the historic approach, which has been held for most of church history – largely until the end of the 20th Century. That is, I follow complementarianism. I know that some call that the traditional or patriarchal position, or more unkindly, misogynistic. Time does not permit to deal with the egalitarian position and answer all their arguments. One of those books I have does just that – it deals with refutations of the primary egalitarian positions. However, let me summarize their handling of this text with the following thoughts:
- Some extreme egalitarians suggest that Paul was just flat wrong – that he was a product of his patriarchal society, and we have now grown in our understanding of gender equality, and what he wrote here is to be dismissed. Of course, as evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, this is not acceptable.
- Other egalitarians say the Pastoral Epistles, to include I Timothy, were not written by Paul but by a pseudonymous writer – someone who wrote later and claimed to be Paul. And therefore, while helpful, at times this writer inaccurately reflects Paul’s teaching and should be, at times, rejected. I’m not going to refute each of these positions – simply stating them on the basis of academic fairness – but I will point out that all conservative, evangelical scholars accept Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles.
- Third, some suggest we need to look at the language or grammar of I Timothy 2 more closely – that the translations are lacking and insufficient. And so, as was suggested earlier – every word, phrase, and every has been questioned and debated. Let me give some examples. When Paul says, “I do not allow [permit] a woman to teach,” he’s just expressing his opinion. I don’t prefer it – I wish you wouldn’t do it. Others point out that the tense of the Greek means, I don’t at this time allow it – meaning it only applied to the Ephesian church, and not to today. Others say, the Greek word for exercise authority, found only here in the New Testament, should be translated exercise domineering authority. As long as women are humble and gentle, not dominating others, especially men, then they can teach.
- Fourth, going beyond the grammar of the Greek text, many point to the circumstances or the culture at Ephesus. So, since we know the big challenge was false teaching, when Paul says, I don’t permit a woman to teach, he means, I don’t want them to teach heresy. Or, they notice Paul says, I want women to learn – because, they were uneducated, so they shouldn’t teach, until they were educated. Or…on and on it goes.
Now true, the Bible is a book written within a certain time and culture. And as much as possible, we should try to ascertain the circumstances of the original text. But, we should not use the original circumstances to suggest the text doesn’t apply to us today – as many try to do. Again, I’m not going to try to refute all the arguments other than to say that scholars much smarter than I have done so. As I’ve read much – it seems to me what happens, through the last few decades, is this. We don’t like what the text seems to say, so it can’t say what it says, so let’s suggest alternate understandings. How about this? Nope – that won’t work grammatically. How about this? Nope, that’s not historically accurate. How about this? Nope – won’t work. And one by one, as egalitarians have desperately tried to dismiss the teaching of the text, their arguments ultimately fall short.
So I’m going to tell you my understanding of the text, and I’m not alone. I’m simply going to try to teach the passage as it appears and try not to explain it away just because it’s counter-cultural. Let me also say this. The Scripture is abundantly clear that men and women were equally and fully created in the image of God – with equal dignity, honor and worth. Men and women have been equally gifted to serve in the church. They both share in salvation made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s what Galatians 3:28 means when it says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” If in any way you hear me say something demeaning to women, that is absolutely not my intent. I believe God, as seen in the Bible, designed our roles to be best for us, to bring us joy, and bring Him greatest glory.
Let me sum up our position this way. The New Testament clearly teaches that God has structured the home in certain functional ways. Paul records what is called the household code in several of his letters, which says, husbands lovingly lead, wives respectfully submit, children obey with honor. I know that’s counter-cultural. But, the husband’s leadership has nothing to do with inferiority and superiority – it has everything to do with functional structure. And God has designed male and female genders to be suited to their respective responsibilities. So, God says, men, I want you to lovingly and humbly lead your homes.
So also, in the church, which Paul calls the household of God – men, I want you to lovingly, humbly and graciously lead. God has set up function within the church – and He expects godly and qualified men to lead. You see, Paul will go from this passage to teach about the qualifications of elders in the church in I Timothy 3 – what we just spent two weeks looking at in Titus 1 – and we saw they are to be godly men. I actually think the chapter division between chapters 2 and 3 is one of the worst in the Bible – the texts – the subject goes together. So, I don’t want to unnecessarily offend you – nor do I want to shy away from the truth of Scripture. With all that as intro, let’s look quickly at the text. Here’s an outline:
- How Women Learn in the Gathered Assembly (11)
- How Women Act in the Gathered Assembly (12)
- The Biblical Basis for the Teaching (13-14)
- The Hope Offered to Women (15)
Four points – we’ll work through them quickly. Now, Paul tells us in chapter 3 the purpose for writing this letter – so that we would know how we ought to conduct ourselves in the church. After telling Timothy in chapter 1, I want you to deal with false teachers, he turns his attention to the church gathered in chapters 2-3. You see, apparently these false teachers had disrupted the worship gatherings of the church. So, Paul started in chapter 2 – I want the church to be a place of prayer – for all people – namely, that people would be saved. Pray that people come to know they’re sinners and need a Savior to represent them – to mediate for them – before God. And we have such a Savior, a Mediator – His name is Jesus. He came to die on the cross for His people and their sins. So, pray for people to be saved.
And men, I want you to pray without fighting. Apparently, the worship gatherings of the church had degenerated into debates and dissensions – Paul says stop doing that. And then he turned his attention to women. I want men to stop fighting, and I want women to dress appropriately – modestly and discreetly so as not be a distraction in church. Instead, I want you to dress with good works. That’s an important lesson – in order to be a godly woman, what matters is not good looks, but good works.
Next, he makes a subtle shift from disruption to leadership – although, those were likely interrelated. I want men to pray and stop disrupting by fighting. I want women to stop disrupting by dressing inappropriately – and not trying to teach or lead. Now, much of this had come from poor leadership – so now he talks about good leadership. Starting with women – he expects a woman to learn in the gathered assembly. The first thing you should notice is he expected women to learn. I expect them to receive instruction. While there were some educated women in Ephesus at this time – women learning was a not a high value. Within Judaism, it was discouraged. So I want you to catch that – Paul’s teaching in this verse then was somewhat counter-cultural – only for the opposite reason. He wants women to learn.
But the focus is not on the fact that women should learn as followers of Christ, but how they learn. So, why does Paul instruct them to learn quietly and with entire submission? Well, it seems they were not doing that. There are indications they, particularly, had fallen prey to the false teachers, and were perhaps disrupting the worship gatherings with those teachings.
So, Paul says I want you to learn quietly and in full submissions. What do those words mean? Let’s start with quietly – does that mean, as some have taught, a woman cannot open her mouth –she is to be silent from the moment she walks in the door? No – the word for quiet is used in verse 2 of this chapter – pray for our governing leaders so that we can lead tranquil and quiet lives. That speaks of an attitude of appropriate gentleness and peace, of a quiet spirit.
What about this full submission – to whom does she submit – every man in the church? Again, no – the context seems to demand she submits to the governing authority in the church – to the elders and to those who do teach. And this is no different than what is expected of all people in a church – male and female. Hebrews 13 tells us to obey our leaders – so this is not an unusual sexist demand leveled at women only.
I want you to learn, with a quiet spirit, while submitting to those in authority over you – the elders of the church – given their responsibility to lead and teach. Further, point two, verse 12 – I do not allow or permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but again, to remain with that quiet spirit. Notice verse 11 begins with quietness and verse 12 ends with quietness – it’s called an inclusio – it’s the main idea. But, he says, this is how I want you to act – which includes not teaching and not exercising authority over a man.
Again, in the function of the gathered church, this has nothing to do with superiority and inferiority – I want men to lead – and I want them to be teachers and elders – that is, those exercising authority. You see – verses 11 and 12 go together. I want you to receive instruction quietly – the opposite of that would be to teach – don’t want you to do that. I want you to be in full submission – the opposite of that is to exercise authority – don’t want you to do that. Very simply, in the household of God, I expect men to assume the role or the function of teaching and leadership.
Again, does that mean that a woman never speaks? No – Paul talks about woman praying and singing and prophesying in I Corinthians 14 and Colossian 3. Does that mean she never teaches? No – older women are commanded to teach younger women in Titus 2. Plus, we have the example of Priscilla and Aquila, while in Ephesus, who pulled another teacher aside – Apollos, and taught him. But that was not in the gathered church. Further, the text says not to teach men – so women are both allowed and expected to teach other women and children. But, in obedience to this text, we only have men who serve as pastors and elders and teachers in the gathered assembly.
Does that mean women can’t teach or exercise authority over men in other contexts – in schools, at work, in government? Of course not. That’s not what Paul is talking about. In his letters, he simply encourages godly wives to submit to their husbands in their homes and godly women to submit to godly leadership in the church, which is the household of God. He wants men to do the authoritative biblical, doctrinal and gospel teaching of the church.
Now, point three, what is the biblical basis for this? Paul gives it in verses 13 and 14 – and complementarians are quick to point out he does not point to a cultural issue at Ephesus. He doesn’t say, I don’t want you to teach because you’re uneducated or you’re teaching heresy. He goes back to the creation account in Genesis 2 and 3 – which is trans-cultural – meaning this teaching applies in all places at all times.
For, he says in verse 13, this is the reason – for it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. He points to the priority of Adam’s creation for the responsibility for men to lead. He makes a similar statement in I Corinthians 11, where, by the way, he is dealing with this same issue of women submitting to men – in the appropriate context – wives to husbands, women to male leadership – where he says, “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have this symbol of authority on her head…”
Here’s the point – the order of creation points to – not the supremacy or superiority of man – but simply the functional authority and headship of man. That’s it. So in our text – Adam was created first, then Eve. This is why men lead by teaching and exercising authority – and women should learn quietly in full submission.
He goes further – verse 14 – and it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. We go back to Genesis 3, and we find Satan, through the serpent, tempted and deceived Eve. Paul cites this as an example of what happens when a woman leaves her God-given responsibility to submit – and what happens when a man abdicates his God-given responsibility to lead. She ate the forbidden fruit, and gave to her husband Adam, who also ate. The point is, Eve was deceived, Adam ate willfully. They both sinned – they were both culpable. But it was Adam’s sin, as the head, who plunged humanity into sin. And it serves as a perfect picture of what happens when we neglect our God-given roles.
Finally, our last point and conclusion. Lest we leave women in transgression, Paul gives hope for women in verse 15. Having just cited the example of what happens when women usurp authority and leave their God-given place of submitting to their responsible heads, Paul says, but women will be preserved – bad translation – the word is saved. And the word in the Pastoral Epistles always talks about spiritual salvation. So, women, who have fallen into transgression will be saved through the bearing of children. Whoa – what did he just say?
This has caused lots of problems – seems like Paul is saying, hey, women messed up, but they’ll be saved by their works – namely – the work of having children. That’s a problem, for a number of reasons. Some have thought this is speaking specifically about Eve – hey, you fell into transgression, but you’ll be saved by bearing children – through whom will come the Child, Jesus, who will save you and all transgressors.
That’s possible, but most think he’s saying, a woman will be saved – notice the end of the verse, if they continue in faith and love and sanctity or holiness with self-restraint. But there’s still this child-bearing thing. I think what he means is, you’ll be saved through faith like everyone else, and proof of that faith is assuming the good and right role that God has given women – which can be summed up in bearing children. You see, the false teachers were forbidding marriage – Paul says, no – that goes against God’s plan for the planet. Men and women marry, and women have children to propagate the human race. This is a symbol of her submission to God’s plan for them. And they will prove their salvation by being godly woman, fulfilling their roles, in love and holiness with self-restraint, which seemed to be a problem in Ephesus – they had thrown off self-restraint as evidenced by their immodest and indiscreet dress and usurping roles of teaching and authority given to men.
The point is this – God expects godly men to lead – that’s what we’ll talked about over the past couple of weeks (I Timothy, qualifications follow). And He expects woman to fulfill their complementary functions as wives and women who respectfully submit to appropriate governing authority.
I know that is challenging. So let me close by drawing attention to the statement on complementarianism I mentioned the Elders just recently approved. You see, we can really focus, if we’re not careful, on what women cannot do – and make it sound quite limiting, even demeaning to women. I want you to know, we would rather focus on the glorious way God has uniquely created us to give us greatest fulfillment and joy, and bring Him greatest glory. So allow me to read a little from the statement that I think highlights the great value God, His Word, and this His church place on women.
The Statement actually begins with a strong affirmation of women. It starts with a quote from Genesis 1:27, and then comments on the verse:
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
In the very first chapter of Genesis, God declared that males and females were made in the image and likeness of God (Imago Dei). Both men and women were identified as image bearers with equal worth, value, and purpose in exercising dominion in God’s name over the living creatures of the earth. Historically, the Imago Dei value of women countered the spirit of the pagan world where women were viewed as weak, unintelligent, and of low status. Under Judaism instead, we see the great worth and importance of women as image bearers. Exodus and Leviticus commanded that both father and mother be honored. This equality in value, worth and purpose did not mean sameness. Yet, value before God was definitively and pointedly equal. Further, we know God’s design required both man and woman to produce life and fulfill the instruction of Genesis 1 to be fruitful and multiply. Women held a prominent role throughout Scripture, dramatically elevating the view of women compared to pagan culture.
The Statement continues:
Complementarians believe that men and women are equally created in dignity, honor, and worth in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and have been equally gifted (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12). We also believe men and women should seek to serve within God’s designed complementary roles and functions. When pursued within the framework of Scripture, we believe such complementary roles bring God-glorifying, joy-filled purpose and fulfillment. As author and Pastor Kevin DeYoung writes, “As a complementarian, I believe that God’s design is for men to lead, serve, and protect, and that, in the church, women can thrive under this leadership as they too labor with biblical faithfulness and fidelity according to the wisdom and beauty of God’s created order.” (Men and Women in the Church, p. 19)
Finally, the Statement ends with these words:
So, in what ways can women serve at ABF within their giftings (e.g. leadership, teaching, etc.)? As noted above, we long for the women of Alliance Bible Fellowship to serve alongside men in a complementary way. Moreover, it is absolutely essential for women to serve, following their passions, calling, gifts and skills to build the church, under Scriptural direction, to disciple, teach, train, lead, encourage, serve, give, host, pray and worship. The very word complementarian requires a faithful partnership of men and woman serving together, without which, the church suffers. DeYoung concludes, “In other words, there are ten thousand things women can be doing in ministry. Pastors especially need to make this point abundantly and repetitively clear.”
In summary, we want the men and women of ABF, as coheirs of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to serve at every level of ministry in the local church, except those prohibited by Scripture. It is our desire to equip and encourage gifted women for ministry to fulfill the Great Commission, for the glory of God.
I hope you see from this sermon and this statement – we want to faithfully celebrate and promote God’s creation in its glorious diversity and equality, under biblically mandated direction.