1 Timothy 2:8-15
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety, (vv. 8-15)
In the first part of this chapter we considered the exhortation to pray for kings, for all who are in authority, and for all men everywhere. We noticed that the exhortation was based on the fact that it is the will of God that all men be saved. All men will not be saved, but that is because they set their desires against God’s desire. He desires them to be saved. They desire to fulfill the lusts of the flesh and to live in opposition to the will of God. But if people repent and turn to God, no matter what the record may have been, no matter how sinful and vile, there is forgiveness, abundant grace in the heart of God and sufficient merit in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ whereby all may be saved.
Having dealt with the theme of plenteous redemption, the Apostle goes back to the subject of prayer and stresses the importance of holiness of life if one would pray aright. God has never promised to answer a prayer that comes through unclean lips. True prayer must be backed up by a holy life.
We read, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” There are three things to note here. First, prayer, in order to be effectual, must come from those who are seeking to walk in holiness before God. All men are entitled to approach God, but they must be careful that they are living such lives as will commend their prayers to God. If people are living in unholiness and uncleanness, they have no right to pray. They have no title to pray. God has never promised to hear the prayers of people who are not walking righteously before Him. So many people neglect prayer until some great crisis comes. They drift along, toying with their consciences, putting away a good conscience, and allowing themselves to do things which at first conscience condemns and to which afterward it becomes indifferent because of repeated offenses. And then comes the time when they want to pray. They feel the need of prayer. Perhaps some loved one is seriously ill, and they try to pray for his recovery, and then they find that their prayers are hindered because of unjudged sin in the heart. We can pray with confidence only when our prayer is backed up by a godly life. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
Second, we are to pray without indignation or malice, but with love to all mankind. God will not answer a prayer calling down punishment on someone else. If we, in our childish, fretful way, should come to God asking Him to deal in judgment with another whom we feel has offended us, we cannot expect God to hear such a prayer. We are to love our enemies and pray for them that persecute us. We are to “lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
Third, the doubter is like one tossed by the waves of the sea. Our Lord Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). When we pray in faith we are sure that we pray according to the will of God as He makes that known to us through His holy Word. It is important then that the Christian should back up his prayer with a holy life and implicit confidence in God.
Having said this, the Apostle turns to the subject of our sisters in Christ, and brings before us certain things which Christian women need to remember if they would live consistent lives to the glory of God. First he says, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” Shamefacedness is really “shamefastness”—standing fast in modesty, not bold or self-assertive, nor flaunting personal charms in a way that careless, godless women of the world do.
“But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” I would rather listen to some fine Christian woman expound these verses than stand up here, a man, and talk to my sisters in Christ regarding them. I would rather that one of their own was giving them this message, but it is incumbent on me as Christ’s servant to bring before you just what is in His Word. Remember this, no matter how such Scripture verses as these are spurned by the worldly and backslidden, they are just as truly a part of God’s Word as John 3:16.
I remember years ago at a special series of meetings a servant of God was opening up many precious truths in connection with our calling in grace, our place in the body of Christ, our inheritance in Him, and other spiritual themes. One lady who attended the meetings was so stirred that she told how these truths had meant much to her and that she had received great blessing from them. Then in the course of the series of messages the preacher came to a certain passage in 1 Corinthians 14 that had to do with women’s behavior in the church of God. As he was reading—it was an open Bible class where people were free to ask questions—this same lady who had testified to having found such blessing through the precious Word spoke up and said, “I do not believe that. I think this is all nonsense. Paul was an old bachelor who hated women, and that is why he writes the way he does. We can’t depend upon what he says.”
The preacher said, “My dear sister, you have been rejoicing in the truth that nothing ‘shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8:39), haven’t you?”
“Yes,” she said, “I do rejoice in that.”
“Well,” said the preacher, “I am pained to have to inform you that Paul said that, and Paul was an old bachelor, so you can’t depend upon what he says! I understand you have been rejoicing in the truth that there is ‘one body of which Christ is the head.’“
“Yes,” she said, “I rejoice in that too.”
“Well, I am sorry to have to tell you that that is something made known to us by Paul, and Paul was an old bachelor, so you can’t depend upon what he says.”
He went from one Scripture to another, pointing out the truths which were given to us by Paul, until that dear lady burst into tears and said, “May God forgive me. I see now that I have been trifling with the Word of God.”
One part of the Word is as truly inspired as another part. When you come across some things in God’s Word that you may think are perhaps questionable, remember that the Holy Spirit who presented Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit who showed how the way into the Holiest has been opened, is the same Holy Spirit of God who tells our sisters how they ought to behave, and how careful they ought to be to maintain feminine modesty.
Let me read it once again: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety,” not depending on outward things for their charm or glamour, as it is called today. “Not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” Oh, how we all appreciate a woman whose adornment consists of the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, manifested by patient consideration for others and seeking to do the will of God in grace and humility, so that Christ may be magnified in all her ways! Many of us who were brought up in Christian homes can thank God for examples such as we have seen in our own mothers. Many times as I see how some girls and women of today behave, I thank God my dear mother was not one of these painted, bleached-hair, cigarette-smoking, immodestly dressed women, but a sweet, quiet, godly, Christian woman—a mother who brought her children up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Women, God has given you a wonderful privilege. It is true, as we have heard it said so often, “The hand that rocks the cradle [though we may not have cradles any longer] is the hand that rules the world.” It is given to mothers to set such examples before their children that they can count on God to save them in their early days, and where mothers obey what we have here they can expect God to honor their faithful testimony.
Do not misunderstand and think of this passage as absolutely forbidding women to wear comely ornaments. Compare the passage in 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Now notice that if we were to understand that the Spirit of God is forbidding women to do up their hair neatly or forbidding them to wear an occasional ornament of gold, then He is also forbidding the putting on of apparel—and the unfortunate thing is that too many women seem inclined to take that latter part literally! But women are not to depend on these things for their judgment. A woman might have her hair put up ever so beautifully; be arrayed in the loveliest, costliest kind of gown; and decorated with the most beautiful ornaments but have a hard, cold, unforgiving, vain, unchristian spirit. And so her outward adornment would count for nothing. The real adornment is that which springs from a heart in subjection to the Holy Spirit of God.
Then as we pass on we come to a Scripture against which some of our sisters rebel: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” What is the Apostle insisting on here? We note from other Scripture passages that women are permitted to teach in certain circumstances. But here she is forbidden to teach, or to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence. Here and in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul is speaking of the regular meeting of the assembly when the whole church comes together to worship God, and at that time the man, we are told in Scripture, is to stand before the people as the representative of the Lord Himself who chooses to speak in that way through His servant. Whereas the woman pictures the church itself in subjection to Christ, receiving her instruction from Him. She is not to take a public place as teacher nor usurp authority over the man. This does not mean that she is not to teach at all. The question of women having Bible classes, teaching boys and girls, conducting women’s meetings, or even evangelizing—going out and proclaiming Christ to the general public—is not brought up here.
Let me give an illustration which will perhaps make clear what the Apostle is telling us here. I had a rather unusual experience some years ago. I went to a certain summer Bible conference for the first time. On this occasion I was invited by Dr. Torrey. A lady Bible teacher was present whom I had not met before. I think out of mischief Dr. Torrey seated me at the table with that lady, because he knew how I felt as to women preachers. I had the privilege of eating with this gracious lady twice a day, and we became quite well acquainted. As I was coming out of the tabernacle after my address at eleven o’clock one day I noticed a blackboard sign that read, “At four o’clock Miss So-and-so will give an exposition of the book of Acts.” I decided I would go and hear her, which I did. At dinner I was in my place ahead of her. When she came in, she shook her finger at me and said, “You should not have attended my meeting. You were there only to embarrass me.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“You do not believe in women preachers,” she said. “You believe in taking literally those passages of Paul’s.”
I asked her, “How do you believe in taking them?”
She replied, “Well, I do not know. They have troubled me during most of my ministry. I do know God has given me a gift to teach His Word, and I feel responsible to do that. But I have never understood what Paul meant when he said, ‘I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.’”
I said, “I do not have any trouble about it. When we gathered on Sunday for the regular service where Dr. Torrey was to preach, if you had gotten up and walked up to him and said, ‘Dr. Torrey, I understand that passage. I’ll do the preaching this morning.’ Then I believe you would have been definitely disobeying this command. But when I saw the sign that at four o’clock this afternoon you were going to give an exposition of the book of Acts, I said to myself, ‘If Sister Priscilla is going to expound the book of Acts, I can be like Apollos and can sk at her feet, and I’ll be glad to do it.’ So I went to hear you, and I enjoyed what you said. I got a great deal of help from your address. You did not usurp any authority over me. I went voluntarily to hear you.” Everything seemed clear to her then, and she thanked me for what I put before her.
What the Apostle is saying here is that the woman has her place, and the man has his place. We each have our place in nature, and just as the one cannot change places with the other in nature, so we must not attempt to change places in the order of the church of God here on earth. This has nothing whatsoever to do with our place in the new creation. In the new creation before God there is neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus. When we get Home all differences will be gone forever, and we will be manifestly one in Christ in that day. But here on earth we have different responsibilities.
What would you think of a home where the wife said to her husband, “From now on I am going to be the wage earner. Husband, you look after the children, wash the dishes, clean the house, and I shall go out and earn the money?” That home would be topsy-turvy. God has ordained that the husband should provide the support for the family, and that the wife should care for the home and bring up the children. There may be times when the husband is unfit for employment, perhaps an illness which prevents his going out and working, and the dear, devoted wife will work and support the family. In that case they have to change places. If the husband has enough strength to do the dishes and clean the house and does not do it, he ought to be ashamed. “Husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). A friend once said to me, “Just what does that mean: ‘Giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel?’“ I said, “It means washing the dishes for her when her head aches.” God has put each in his place. Mark, it is not that God is discounting the woman and her capabilities, but she has her sphere and the man has his.
The man is more or less dominated by his head—if he has any head; whereas the woman is likely to be controlled by the heart. I have often heard my wife say, “I don’t like that man.” I would ask, “Why?” “I don’t know,” she would say. “I just don’t like him.” “Well, why don’t you like him?” I would ask. “Is he not a good man?” “I can’t tell you why, but I just don’t like him,” she would say. And it would not be long before we would find out he was a rascal. Women sometimes have certain premonitions, and it is a good thing, because it often saves them from being misled.
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” Adam was not deluded. It was not to Adam that the Devil said, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Satan said that to the woman. Her trouble was that she dilly-dallied with the Devil. She should have said, “It is not for me to say what I heard the Lord say to my husband. Go to him, and he will tell you.” But she did not do that. She undertook to act for herself. Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived. I take it that Adam got into the transgression out of love for Eve. His heart was with her, and he determined that he would rather be with her in the place of disapproval than to be alone without her in a wonderful place of blessing. Adam went into it with his eyes open, and so he had to leave the garden of delight and go into the cold world.
After the fall God put upon Eve the curse of pain in travail: “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). But we read here in 1 Timothy, “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” The Greek has “the childbearing.” Many have taken it that this means as the woman brought sin into the world she shall be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ who was born of a woman. It is a rather difficult passage. On the other hand, there seems to be a great deal of comfort here for prospective parents. I cannot help but believe that this has reference to the hour of her trial, when she shall be preserved in childbearing, “If they continue in the faith [with love] and holiness with sobriety.” I cannot quite fit the last part of this verse with salvation by grace if we think of it only as the incarnation. I think it has reference to the bringing of children into the world and the preservation of the mother at such a time, provided the husband and wife together continue in the faith with godliness and sobriety.
In this passage God puts before us the consistent Christian woman—and what a testimony for God is such a woman in the world today! I do not know of anyone whose influence counts more than that of a godly woman. It counts with her husband, the children, and with all those with whom she has to do. I do not know of anything that puts a greater reflection on Christianity than a careless, slothful, vain, carnal woman professing to be a Christian.