“in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
We now come to the beginning of a highly controversial section of the New Testament. A careful, prayerful analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 will help us apply these verses in a manner that honors God and shows respect for men and women who have been created in His image.
The first item that merits our attention from this passage is the phrase “in like manner also.” This references the previous verse from 1 Timothy 2:8: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” So just as verse eight referenced an internal attitude along with an external response, so it is also true of the following verses as well.
While many commentators separate these verses into individual instructions for men and women, it seems appropriate to consider the universal principle behind these passages. For instance, most people would likely agree that, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere…” is something that should apply to both men and women. In like manner, we should recognize that the instructions given to us here in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 are universal in their application even though they are specifically addressed to women.
With this in mind, we can say that an honorable appearance is something that should concern God’s people. For instance, consider God’s directive to Moses as he prepared the clothing to be worn by the spiritual leaders of Old Testament Israel: “Make tunics, sashes and caps for Aaron’s sons to give them dignity and honor” (Exodus 28:40 NIV).
We should note that Aaron’s sons represented God in their capacity as Old Testament priests. Because of this, it was necessary for their clothing to express dignity and honor, two qualities that reflected well upon the God they served. Here in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, this general idea is also extended to others. Even if we do not hold leadership positions, our external appearance should similarly honor God.
This does not imply that we should set rigid or arbitrary standards for external qualities like hair length, clothing style, makeup, body art, jewelry, or other, similar things. However, we should recognize that what is inside is often expressed on the outside- and our internal respect for God should be reflected in our external appearance.
We’ll consider what that meant for the first-century church (and what it means for us today) next.