When an automotive manufacturer produces a new automobile, the first vehicle in the assembly process is labeled “Job 1.” Paul the Apostle made a similar designation earlier in 1 Timothy chapter one when he identified the presence of false teachers within the church at Ephesus. For Timothy, the first order of business in Ephesus involved dealing with the heretical teaching that had found its way into the church.
Here now in 1 Timothy chapter two, Paul will instruct Timothy in the proper way to build upon Job 1…
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
The next step in that process involved prayer. In fact, the need for prayer was so critical that Paul considered it to be something of primary importance. However, Paul did not seek to limit his prayers to church-related matters. Instead, he included governmental leaders in his focus of attention.
Before we consider the elements of prayer within this passage, we should pause to consider these verses in light of the political environment of that era. The Roman Empire controlled most of the known world in the latter half of the first century and implemented several policies that impacted spiritual observances during that era…
“The Romans permitted subject peoples to worship their own gods, but they had to show their loyalty to Rome by also worshiping the goddess Roma and the spirit of the emperor. Because Jewish people worshiped one God to the exclusion of all others, Rome allowed them to pray and sacrifice for the emperor’s health without praying and sacrificing to him. Prayers were offered for him regularly in the synagogues, showing the loyalty of these Jewish institutions to the Roman state.
When the Zealots decided to throw off the Roman yoke ‘for God,’ however, they abolished the sacrifices in the temple. This act in A.D. 66 constituted a virtual declaration of war against Rome, several years after Paul wrote this letter. Christian public prayers for the emperor and provincial and local officials showed Christians as good citizens of the society in which they lived (Jer_29:7). Paul’s motive is more than keeping peace (1Ti_2:2); it is also to proclaim the gospel (Rom_2:3-4).” (1)
We’ll return to this subject again in an upcoming study. For now, we can say that 1 Timothy 2:1-2 reminds us to pray for modern-day governmental authorities, especially those who may be indifferent, averse, or openly hostile to Christianity.
(1) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary [1 Timothy 2:1-4]
Image Credit: Vyacheslav Bukharov / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IzhAuto-2019-40.jpg
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV).
If we were to paraphrase the idea behind this passage, we might say, “Let’s start with first things first.” In this instance, “first things” involved four important elements of prayer: “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.”
We can begin our look at these verses with the word “supplication.” This type of prayer arises from a specific need or urgent request. Other phrases that convey this idea include an appeal, a petition, or a plea.
One Biblical example of a supplication appears in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. When Nehemiah learned of the deplorable conditions that existed in the city of Jerusalem, he became distressed and entered a period of mourning and fasting.
However, Nehemiah also served as an attendant to the king during that period, so he approached God in prayer with the following plea…
“…Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man” (Nehemiah 1:5-10).
Therefore, in the words of one commentator, “Supplications are those expressions in prayer that relate to the deepest needs of the heart; such needs are far more personal than those expressed by ‘prayers.’” (1)
(1) Don De Welt, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, [Comment 2:1–7] College Press, Joplin, Missouri Copyright 1961 https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesTimothyAndTitus/18TimothyAndTitus_djvu.txt
“First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NET).
The next communication element given to us in 1 Timothy 2:1 is the word prayers. This represents a general form of interaction with God that should reflect an attitude of reverence and respect. Just as we would not present a friend or superior with a list of tasks to fulfill on our behalf, so it is also important to approach God in prayer with an attitude of humility, respect, and appreciation.
One commentator offers some additional insight into this subject with the following observation: “There are certain needs which only God can satisfy. There is a strength which he alone can give; a forgiveness which he alone can grant; a certainty which he alone can bestow. It may well be that our weakness haunts us because we so often take our needs to the wrong place.” (1)
Intercessions or petitions (CEB) follow next. These words are associated with the requests we make of God on behalf of others. Unlike those who are solely interested in seeking God’s help to meet their own needs, a God-honoring person is someone who is conscious of others and prays for God’s intervention on their behalf.
This corresponds to the message given to us in the Biblical book of Philippians: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
The same commentator quoted earlier provides us with some further information regarding the word “petitions”…
“Of the three words this is the most interesting. It has a most interesting history. It is the noun from the verb entugchanein (G1793). This originally meant simply to meet, or to fall in with a person; it went on to mean to hold intimate conversation with a person; then it acquired a special meaning and meant to enter into a king’s presence and to submit a petition to him. That tells us much about prayer. It tells us that the way to God stands open and that we have the right to bring our petitions to one who is a king.” (2)
(1) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, The Way Of Prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-7 continued), https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-timothy-2.html
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NASB).
The last element of prayer given to us here in 1 Timothy 2:1 is thanksgivings. We can illustrate the importance of thanksgiving with a look at the following incident from Jesus’ life…
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’ He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And Jesus said to the man, ‘Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you’” (Luke 17:11-19 NLT).
This account relates to our passage from 1 Timothy 2:1 in an important way. You see, Jesus took note of those who received the benefit of His work in their lives but failed to thank Him for it. This tells us that Jesus notices when we neglect to thank Him for what He has done. It also reminds us that it is important to acknowledge and express our appreciation for the blessings and provisions that God has given us.
This aspect of our prayer life is also summarized by two passages from the New Testament Scriptures…
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers” (Philippians 4:6 TLB).
“Always give thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 TLB).
Finally, one author provides us with a valuable reminder concerning this passage…
“Prayer does not mean only asking God for things; it also means thanking God for things. For too many of us prayer is an exercise in complaint, when it should be an exercise in thanksgiving… We have the right to bring our needs to God; but we have also the duty of bringing our thanksgivings to him.” (1)
(1) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, The Way Of Prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-7 continued), https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-timothy-2.html
“for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2 HCSB)
Having identified some of the elements of a healthy prayer life, Paul the Apostle will next move to identify some of those we should pray for: “kings and all those who are in authority.” We can gain a greater appreciation for this directive if we stop to consider the letter of 1 Timothy in the context of the political climate of that era.
You see, the Roman Emperor Nero served as head of state during this period. He initiated what has come to be known as “The Neronian Persecutions,” the first large scale governmental action against the first-century Christian community. We can trace the origin of these persecutions back to a specific date. That date was July 19th, A.D. 64, the day when a devastating fire first broke out within the city of Rome.
Ancient historians tell us that this fire destroyed large sections of the city over an extended period. While no one has ever been able to accurately determine the cause of this fire, some apparently believed that Nero had a role to play as part of a misguided attempt to initiate a large building program he had been planning.
Whatever the cause, the Great Fire Of Rome placed Nero in a politically difficult position. The Emperor responded by shifting responsibility for the fire to Jesus’ followers within the Roman Empire. In claiming that the Christian church had been responsible for this disaster, the Emperor effectively turned the general population against a minority group that was virtually defenseless.
The resulting persecutions were so horrific that one source says of Nero, “So prodigious a monster of nature of was he (more like a beast, yea, rather a devil than a man) that he seemed to be born to the destruction of man.” (1) Although the letter of 1 Timothy likely predates the Neronian Persecutions by a few years, this teaching from 1 Timothy 2:2 had undoubtedly begun to circulate among the members of the church by that time.
Therefore, the command to pray for kings and all who are in authority tells us that we should pray on behalf of bad governmental leaders as well as those who are good. Regardless of whether or not such leaders are favorably disposed to Christianity, the desired result remains the same: “…that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (AMP).
(1) John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, First Ambassador Edition 2005 All Rights Reserved.
“For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2 KJV).
There is an ancient maxim that spans many centuries and cultures: “The fish stinks from the head.” This axiomatic truth underscores an unfortunate reality; poor leadership at the top of a human organizational structure often leads to failure throughout the rest of the organization. While some leadership failures may affect a limited number of people, large-scale leadership failures on a national level might affect millions of others.
This means that 1 Timothy 2:2 is more than just a good idea; it reminds us that it is critically important to pray for governing authorities. One commentator offers some wise counsel in this regard: “Such rulers as kings can, by their mistakes, bring untold sorrow upon all their subjects, as well as rich blessings through righteous rule. Therefore, the church should never forget to pray for such leaders.” (1)
It is also important to note that this directive applies not only to national political leaders; it also encompasses “all that are in authority.” In other words, this passage applies to anyone in a position of leadership, oversight, or governance. Such individuals might include church leaders, law enforcement authorities, managers, supervisors, local officials, and others who hold similar positions of responsibility. Any institution populated by fallible human beings can benefit from those who seek to pray for them.
While it may be easy to criticize the failings of those who hold leadership positions, it seems there are far fewer who are willing to pray for God to invest those leaders with the wisdom, perception, and discernment necessary to make good decisions. As one source observes…
“Why pray for these men? Because it will effect certain changes in them and their administration that would not otherwise prevail. God is still ruling in the affairs of men. It is still God who raises up and casts down the rulers of this nation and word. God does not operate on man’s schedule—but He acts in answer to the prayers prayed like Daniel of old did (Cf. Dan_6:10).
Not only so, but the very attitude necessary to pray after this manner, would help the one praying to be able to lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and gravity. Such will be true in any society at any time. ‘Tranquil’ refers to the outward calm, ‘Quiet’ refers to the inward condition of the one praying.” (2)
(1) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:1”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. “https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-timothy-2.html“. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
(2) Don De Welt, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, [Comment 2:1–7] College Press, Joplin, Missouri Copyright 1961 https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesTimothyAndTitus/18TimothyAndTitus_djvu.txt
“You should pray for rulers and for all who have authority. Pray for these leaders so that we can live quiet and peaceful lives–lives full of devotion to God and respect for him” (1 Timothy 2:2 ERV).
1 Timothy 2:2 not only directs us to pray for those in positions of authority, it also defines the intended result: “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (NET).
A stable civil government, freedom from persecution, and the ability to live quietly and peacefully are things worth praying for. While no form of human government is ideal, the opportunity to lead quiet and peaceful lives is beneficial for anyone. We can look to the experience of Old Testament Israel to illustrate this idea.
When Israel’s continued disregard for God’s Word led to their deportment and exile to a foreign land, God sent this message through the prophet Jeremiah…
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters–that you may be increased there, and not diminished.
And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:4-7).
In one sense, God’s people are stewards and caretakers in the nations where He has placed them. Part of that responsibility involves praying for those in authority and working to honor Christ in our sphere of influence. Since there are no guarantees that life tomorrow will be the same as today, we should take advantage of the opportunities we have to pray now. As Jesus reminded us in the New Testament Gospel of John…
“All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, for there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end” (John 9:4 TLB).
If our current political environment should ever change to our detriment, we should never let it be due to the fact that we failed to follow these instructions in 1 Timothy 2:2 and neglected to pray for our leaders.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
One common misrepresentation of God is that He is a Being who capriciously seeks to punish others. While God will certainly act to punish evil, injustice, and disobedience, the Scriptures tell us that God desires to establish a state of peace and reconciliation between humanity and Himself. God demonstrated His desire for peace with His creation through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. As we’re told in the New Testament book of Romans, “…since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
1 Timothy 2:4 goes on to tell us that God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. In this context, we can associate “the truth” with Christ Himself based on Jesus’ statement from John 14:6: “…’I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”.
That leads us to another important question: “what does it mean to ‘be saved’?” We can address this question by observing that the word “salvation” is linked to the concept of “deliverance” when used in a spiritual sense. It involves God’s liberation of human beings from their state of separation from Him. This state of separation exists because “…all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT).
Unfortunately, everyone has failed to live up to the standard of perfection that God established when He created the very first human couple. As the Biblical book of James reminds us, “…the person who keeps every law of God but makes one little slip is just as guilty as the person who has broken every law there is” (James 2:10 TLB).
This is why Jesus Christ -who was perfect- accepted the death penalty on our behalf through His sinless life and atoning, sacrificial death on the cross. Those who accept Jesus by faith receive salvation (or deliverance) from an eternity of separation and punishment from their Creator. One paraphrase of John 3:17-18 summarizes this concept in the following manner…
“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him to save them. But those who don’t trust him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God” (TLB).
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV).
1 Timothy 2:3-4 presents us with a challenging question: “If God wants everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, then why do ‘unsaved’ human beings exist?” At first glance, this seems like a question with serious implications. For instance, this seems to imply that God must not be the all-powerful Being He claims to be if He desires something that He cannot (or does not) obtain.
Scholars and commentators have addressed this question by focusing upon the word “all” as it appears here in 1 Timothy 2:4…
“Here is a particular place where the word all has to be clearly understood. It does not mean ‘all without exception.’ It means ‘all without distinction,’ without bias toward anybody. All kinds of people might be saved. There are no human barriers to men and women coming to God. It does not matter what the color of your skin is, what your social class, your background, may be, your national origin or the state of your heart, how bad you have been, etc. Paul stresses that there are no distinctions. God desires all kinds of people to be saved.” (1)
“On a human level, we can certainly say that God desires all men to be saved. There is no one in such high authority that they don’t need salvation in Jesus. However, from a divine perspective, we understand there is a sense in which we can not say that God desires all men to be saved – otherwise, either all men would automatically be saved, or God would not have left an element of human response in the gospel. God’s desire for all men to be saved is conditioned by His desire to have a genuine response from human beings. He won’t fulfill His desire to save all men at the expense of making men robots that worship Him from simply being programmed to do so.” (2)
“The Good News has a universal scope; it is not directed only to people of one race, one sex, or one national background. God loves the whole world and sent his Son to save sinners. No one is outside God’s mercy or beyond the reach of his offer of salvation.” (3)
So while some may wish to exclude others from joining God’s family through faith in Christ, this passage corrects that view by informing us that God desires “…all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (ESV).
(1) Excerpted with permission from The First Thing — Prayer © 1981 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to [email protected] https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/timothy/the-first-thing–prayer
(2) Guzik, Dave, 1 Timothy 2 – Instructions For Public Worship, (3-4) The goal of prayer for all men: That they would be saved, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-timothy-2/
(3) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [1 Timothy 2:4] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV).
In considering this passage, we now come to what we might describe as a contrast of the wills. For instance, the Biblical book of 2 Peter tells us that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Yet Romans 9:18 also says, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (see also Romans 9:14-23).
We can make sense of these passages if we consider them as they relate to everyday human experience. For example, one person might express his or her will to stay in bed at the beginning of the work week. However, he or she may also possess a contrasting will that involves earning a paycheck in order to buy food, pay bills, and purchase the things that he or she enjoys. In this instance, the will to earn a living usually exceeds the will to stay in bed on Monday morning.
In a small way, this serves to illustrate the apparent dichotomy between these passages. On one hand, God wants all human beings to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Thus, there are those who serve as objects of His mercy. On the other hand, we can say that God also wills to display His justice, holiness, and righteousness. Thus, those who reject Him are objects of His wrath.
The New Testament book of Romans illustrates each of these concepts…
“In the same way, even though God has the right to show His anger and His power, He is very patient with those on whom His anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of His glory shine even brighter on those to whom He shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:22-23 NLT).
Finally, we should note the element of human volition involved in this contrast of the wills. We can turn to the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry as an illustration. For instance, Jesus made an important statement followed by an equally important question: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Yet as Jesus also said to the religious leaders of His day, “…you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40).
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 KJV).
The next two studies will feature several observations from an author who addresses an important subject: the will of God…
“…The Bible is deeply concerned about the will of God—His sovereign authority over His creation and everything in it. When we speak about God’s will we do so in at least three different ways.
The broader concept is known as God’s decretive, sovereign, or hidden will. By this, theologians refer to the will of God by which He sovereignly ordains everything that comes to pass. Because God is sovereign and His will can never be frustrated, we can be sure that nothing happens over which He is not in control. He at least must ‘permit’ whatever happens to happen.
Yet even when God passively permits things to happen, He chooses to permit them in that He always has the power and right to intervene and prevent the actions and events of this world. Insofar as He lets things happen, He has ‘willed’ them in this certain sense.
Though God’s sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to pass, there is one aspect of His will that is plain to us—His preceptive will. Here God reveals His will through His holy law.
For example, it is the will of God that we do not steal; that we love our enemies; that we repent; that we be holy. This aspect of God’s will is revealed in His Word as well as in our conscience, by which God has written His moral law upon our heart. His laws, whether they be found in the Scripture or in the heart, are binding. We have no authority to violate this will. We have the power or the ability to thwart the preceptive will of God, though never the right to do so.
Nor can we excuse ourselves for sinning by saying, ‘Que sera, sera.’ It may be God’s sovereign or hidden will that we be ‘permitted’ to sin, as He brings His sovereign will to pass even through and by means of the sinful acts of people. God ordained that Jesus be betrayed by the instrument of Judas’s treachery. Yet this makes Judas’s sin no less evil or treacherous.
When God ‘permits’ us to break His preceptive will, it is not to be understood as permission in the moral sense of His granting us a moral right. His permission gives us the power, but not the right to sin…”
(1) Sproul, R. C. (1992). Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House. Pages 42-43.
“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 RV).
We will close our look at this important passage from 1 Timothy 2:3-4 with some final observations from the following author…
“The third way the Bible speaks of the will of God is with respect to God’s will of disposition. This will describes God’s attitude. It defines what is pleasing to Him.
For example, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, yet He most surely wills or decrees the death of the wicked. God’s ultimate delight is in His own holiness and righteousness. When He judges the world, He delights in the vindication of His own righteousness and justice, yet He is not gleeful in a vindictive sense toward those who receive His judgment. God is pleased when we find our pleasure in obedience. He is sorely displeased when we are disobedient.
Many Christians become preoccupied or even obsessed with finding the ‘will’ of God for their lives. If the will we are seeking is His secret, hidden, or decretive will, then our quest is a fool’s errand. The secret counsel of God is His secret. He has not been pleased to make it known to us. Far from being a mark of spirituality, the quest for God’s secret will is an unwarranted invasion of God’s privacy. God’s secret counsel is none of our business. This is partly why the Bible takes such a negative view of fortune-telling, necromancy, and other forms of prohibited practices…
The true mark of spirituality is seen in those seeking to know the will of God that is revealed in His preceptive will. It is the godly person who meditates on God’s law day and night. While we seek to be ‘led’ by the Holy Spirit, it is vital to remember that the Holy Spirit is primarily leading us into righteousness. We are called to live our lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It is His revealed will that is our business, indeed, the chief business of our lives.
1. The three meanings of the will of God:
(a) Sovereign decretive will is the will by which God brings to pass whatsoever He decrees. This is hidden to us until it happens.
(b) Preceptive will is God’s revealed law or commandments, which we have the power but not the right to break.
(c) Will of disposition describes God’s attitude or disposition. It reveals what is pleasing to Him.
2. God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval.”(1)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (1992). Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House. Page 43.
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
The belief that “there is one God” must have seemed preposterous to the people of the ancient world, just as it does for many today. But while ancient and modern critics may reject the proposition that there is one God, they arrive at that conclusion from opposite directions.
You see, there is no shortage of those who seek to deny the existence of a Creator today. For many such individuals, the idea of “God” is an affront to rational thinking. However it was quite different in the days of the first century. In that era, people commonly worshipped a multitude of gods (see Acts 17:16-23 for an example).
In light of this, 1 Timothy 2:5 has important ramifications for everyone ranging from atheists (who deny the existence of God) to polytheists (who affirm the existence of many deities). For atheists, this passage establishes the existence of a Creator to whom we must give an account. For polytheists, it means that we do not have to seek the favor of untold numbers of divine beings who may or may not be in conflict with one another.
This has led one commentator to the following application…
“To the pagan Greeks with their pantheon of gods and goddesses, it was vital for Timothy to insist on worship of the one true God who created all things. This emphasis is urgently needed today as well. Furthermore, in contrast to all those ancient religions with their priests and priestesses—and modern ones as well—it was vital to stress that only one who was both God and man, the man Christ Jesus, could mediate between men and our Creator God. He is the only way to God (John 14:6), and our only true Advocate with the Father (I John 2:1,2).” (1)
Finally, 1 Timothy 2:5 makes an unequivocal statement: “there is… one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” This is also important for those who seek to approach God though the intercessory efforts of saints, ancestors, and/or others. For instance, many are familiar with the role of a mediator as someone who arbitrates and reconciles the differences between opponents. However, this passage tells us that Jesus’ intermediary role is exclusive and superior to that of any other purported mediator…
“Traditionally this word… is rendered ‘mediator,’ but this conveys a wrong impression in contemporary English. Jesus was not a mediator, for example, who worked for compromise between opposing parties. Instead he was the only one able to go between man and God to enable them to have a relationship, but entirely on God’s terms.” (2)
(1) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes 2 Thessalonians 3:16 https://www.icr.org/bible/1Tim/2/5/
(1) NET Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:5 https://netbible.org/bible/1+Timothy+2
“who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:6).
The movie screenplay serves as the basis for countless numbers of motion pictures from the early days of the film industry. The plot goes like this: a beautiful young woman from a wealthy family is kidnapped by a group of criminals. The gangsters take the young woman to their hideout where the crime boss informs her that she is being held hostage. The only way to secure her release is through the payment of a large monetary ransom before her time runs out.
Meanwhile, the handsome, daring young detective is hot on the trail of the gangsters. He discovers their hideout, defeats the criminals, and rescues the attractive young heroine. The audience is then left to wonder if a romantic relationship might develop for the couple as the music builds to a crescendo and the credits roll in all their black and white glory.
While this plot has a passing reference to the ransom mentioned here in 1 Timothy 2:6, there are several important differences. For instance, one scholar identifies the nature of the ransom given to us in this verse…
“The word ‘ransom’ is antilutron, made up of anti and lutron. The latter was the common word used of the ransom of a slave or prisoner. anti was the preposition signifying substitution… Thus the antilutron is a payment given instead of the slave or prisoner, that is, in substitution for the slave or prisoner. The person holding the slave or prisoner is satisfied with the payment as a substitute for the slave he owns or the prisoner he holds.” (1)
We should also note that no criminal or evildoer served as the recipient of the ransom mentioned here in 1 Timothy 2:6. Instead, God accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death as a ransom payment that atoned for humanity’s sins. The Apostle Paul expanded upon this idea in the New Testament book of Galatians…
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13).
So Jesus’ death on the cross ransomed (or recovered) us from our state of separation from God. As our judicial substitute, Jesus delivered humanity from the judgment associated with a Law we could never completely fulfill. To put it another way, “…Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law’s condemnation, by himself becoming a curse for us when he was crucified” (Phillips).
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1 Timothy 2:6-7) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle–I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying–a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:7).
As a protégée of Paul the Apostle, Timothy was undoubtedly aware that Paul had been called to serve as a preacher, apostle, and teacher. So why would Paul feel the need to assure Timothy that he was telling the truth about these things?
Well, as mentioned in an earlier study, the most likely answer is that 1 Timothy 2:7 was not written for Timothy’s benefit but for the benefit of others who would read this letter. By stating that he was “speaking the truth in Christ and not lying,” Paul affirmed his calling and authority to instruct others, especially regarding the controversial areas he will go on to discuss later in this chapter.
This passage also reminds us that no legitimate spiritual leader is self-appointed to a leadership position. The call to leadership (in any capacity) comes from one source: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11 NLT).
In this instance, Paul held three God-ordained positions as a preacher, apostle, and teacher. In general, a “preacher” is someone who exhorts others to pursue a life that honors God. For those who do not have a relationship with God in Christ, that call to action involves an exhortation to place their faith in Jesus. For those who have accepted Christ as Savior, it involves an exhortation to live out the teachings of the Scriptures.
Paul next referenced his apostolic calling. An apostle is a “commissioned representative,” much like an emissary who represents a person or nation. In his capacity as a Biblical apostle, Paul served as an ambassador of Christ who met Jesus following His resurrection and was appointed by Christ to represent Him (Acts 9:1-19, 1 Corinthians 9:1) .
Finally, Paul held the office of a teacher. “Teaching” involves the act of communicating the Word of God in a way that others can understand, remember, and apply. A good teacher is not only someone who imparts knowledge; instead, he or she will look for ways to make that knowledge “stick” in the minds of his or her listeners.
One hallmark of a good teacher involves the use of illustrations and anecdotes that help others grow in their understanding of the Scriptures. For instance, Jesus’ parables helped make complex spiritual truths more accessible to various audiences. This may also explain why Paul often made use of these rhetorical tools to illustrate his messages.
“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
After a short digression that covered verses three to seven, the Apostle Paul returned to the subject of prayer here in 1 Timothy 2:8. While the act of lifting one’s hands in prayer is a custom that dates back to the Old Testament era. it’s likely that this refers to more than just a specific posture.
For instance, let’s consider the various circumstances in which people might lift their hands. Perhaps the most common reason is acknowledgement. You see, people often lift their hands to make a request or affirm their recognition. In like manner, we can view this passage as an encouragement to lift up holy hands in acknowledgment and recognition of who God is and what He has done.
People are also known to lift their hands in a gesture of peace. This is true for groups as divergent as counter-culture non-conformists all the way to those who interact with military organizations and law enforcement personnel. From a communication standpoint, a person who lifts his or her hands is someone who signals a desire to surrender or bring an end to hostilities. In this respect, this passage encourages us to acknowledge our surrender to God through faith in Christ and cease hostilities against Him.
Finally, we can say that people also raise their hands as a gesture of friendship. An upraised or outstretched hand that clasps or makes contact with another is a universal expression of goodwill, acceptance, and camaraderie. Therefore, raising one’s hands in prayer can signify the friendship and acceptance with God that we experience in Christ.
As Jesus reminded His disciples in the Gospel of John…
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15).
So a person who lifts “holy hands” is someone who acknowledges his or her Creator in a manner that reflects His holy character. This may also explain the short addendum to this directive: “…without wrath and doubting.” When those characteristics are present, it is often difficult to find fellowship with God and others.
Image Credit: lam_chihang, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Novak_Djokovic_Giving_a_High_Five.jpg
“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.
“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10 ESV).
On one level, this passage offers some valuable counsel regarding our personal appearance. On another level, these verses address some potentially uncomfortable realities that go far beyond clothing and hairstyles.
You see, one of the strongest emotional motivations for most human beings involves the need to secure the approval and acceptance of others. This often leads us to make choices that are consistent with the standards of a peer group. If that peer group draws its standards from God’s Word, then our personal standards are likely to follow. If those standards are drawn from some other source, the same is likely to be true as well.
There are others who facilitate their need for attention by dressing in a manner that is subtly or overtly intended to draw attention to themselves. When people take notice as a result, it thus fulfils their inner need for validation.
This brings us to the type of hairstyle mentioned here in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. These were not the simple braids of an athlete or someone on a weekend errand. Instead, it describes a kind of hairstyle that featured extravagant braids that were piled above the wearer’s head. These braids were sometimes adorned with golden bands and accessorized with pearls or other forms of jewelry.
With this in mind, these verses should prompt us to ask how our outward appearance reflects our internal attitude. The following commentator identifies two extremes to avoid in this area…
“Propriety means avoiding anything that would cause shame. It carries the thought of being modest and discreet. Moderation means that a woman will be moderate in her dress. On the one hand, she will not seek to attract attention to herself by expensive, conspicuous fashions. These might tend to provoke admiration or even jealousy from those who should be worshiping God. On the other hand, she should avoid attracting attention to herself by wearing clothes that are drab or old-fashioned. The Scriptures seem to teach a moderate, middle-of-the-road policy in regard to clothing.” (1)
Some might object to this application by appealing to the Biblical admonition from John 7:24: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” However, this objection misses an important point- while external appearances do not tell us everything about a person, they often tell us something.
What is inside us often finds its way outside in different ways. One of those ways involves our appearance. Therefore, we should take care to ensure that our clothes and hairstyles reflect our internal respect for God.
(1) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary [1 Timothy 2:8-15]
“Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10 NET).
In addition to what we read here in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, the New Testament Epistle of 1 Peter echoes a similar theme regarding our personal appearance…
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
One commentary makes an important observation regarding these concepts, one that is especially relevant for many modern-day cultures…
“These terms stress not so much the absence of sexual suggestiveness, though it is included, but rather an appearance that is simple, moderate, judicious, and free from ostentation. The specifics Paul mentioned (braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes) are not wrong in themselves, but become inappropriate when they indicate misplaced values (cf. 1Pe_3:3). In the Ephesian church these styles may have been associated with the local temple prostitutes. Christians must be careful about letting a pagan culture set their fashions.” (1 emphasis added)
This admonition serves to remind us of the need to be wise, perceptive, and discerning in our choice of attire. In the words of another source, “A carefully groomed and well-decorated exterior is artificial and cold unless inner beauty is present. The general rule for both women and men emphasizes that both behavior and dress must express submission to and respect for Jesus Christ.” (2)
The following author adds some important closing thoughts…
“Clothes reveal the heart and mind. Believers need to dress appropriately, not only at church but in all places and at all times because they are Christians. The emphasis of this passage is not on outward appearance only, but also on godliness (cf. 1 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:3,4). In every area of life believers are the light of the world and the salt of the earth (cf. Matt. 5:13-16). We must remember who we represent! However, this does not imply that believers should wear drab clothing. We should dress so as not to stand out in whatever society the believer lives. Be neat, be clean, be in fashion, but most of all be Christian.” (3)
(1) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary p. 735
(2) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [1 Timothy 2:9-10] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
(3) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, [1 Timothy 2:8] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL09/VOL09_02.html
“Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10 HCSB).
We will complete our review of this passage with a look at an important principle that can help us interpret and apply God’s Word in a changing world. We can begin by noting that there are certain Biblical standards that are immutable (or unchanging). However, the way we apply those standards can vary from age to age or culture to culture.
This leads us to an oft-referenced quote from the following scholar…
“…there is a difference between command and culture. The commands of Scripture are absolute—culture is relative. For example, few believe that Jesus’ command to His disciples not to have an extra pair of sandals with them while on an evangelistic tour applies today. And most Christians do not literally ‘Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss’ anymore (1 Thes. 5:26). Nor do they believe that ‘lifting up holy hands in prayer’ is essential to public prayer (1 Tim. 2:8).
There is a principle behind all these commands that is absolute, but the practice is not. What Christians must do is absolute, but how they do it is culturally relative. For example, Christians must greet one another (the what), but how they greet each other will be relative to their respective cultures. In some cultures, as in the NT, it will be with a kiss, in others with a hug, and in still others with a handshake.” (1)
We can identify one such standard here in 1 Timothy 2:9-10: a Godly attitude should govern our personal appearance. This idea was just as true for those who lived in the Biblical era as it is for us today. With this in mind, we can draw several practical applications from this passage…
- Wherever possible, we should seek to dress in an appropriate manner that reflects well upon our relationship with God.
- We should avoid dressing in a way that intentionally seeks to draw the attention of others. Instead, our inner need for approval, acceptance, and attention should derive from our relationship with Christ.
- If God has blessed us financially or materially, we should guard against the tendency to flaunt such things in our appearance.
- We should make ourselves “…attractive by doing good, which is appropriate for women who claim to honor God” (CEB).
Finally, we should remember Jesus’ message from Matthew 6:31-33…
“So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (HCSB).
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 459–460). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
These statements from 1 Timothy 2:11-12 have been fiercely debated over the years but perhaps this is to be expected. You see, the same Holy Spirit who inspired Paul the Apostle to write these words also inspired the Apostle Peter to author the following message…
“…our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-16 HCSB).
Since God has forewarned us regarding the challenging nature of some of Paul’s Biblical writings, our look at this passage should be guided by a helpful principle from Acts 20:27: “…I did not keep from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (MEV).
As we’ll see, a person who reflexively insists that these verses promote sexism and inequality is someone who fails to take the entire counsel of God into account. We might also say the same of those who attempt to use this passage to justify the exclusion of women from every leadership position within the church. With these things in mind, we can seek to obtain an accurate perspective on these verses using the whole counsel of God.
We can begin by observing that there are no legitimately self-appointed leaders within the church. The call to church leadership (in any form) originates from one source: “Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11 CEV). This tells us that God is ultimately responsible to place men and women in leadership positions as He sees fit.
The following verse goes on to explain God’s intended purpose in establishing these leaders: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). These job responsibilities have one ultimate purpose- to build up God’s people and prepare them to complete the work He has given to them.
While it may be easy for 21st century readers to focus upon the directive to “learn in silence with all submission,” we should not overlook the first portion of this message: “Let a woman learn…” That edict served as a radical departure from the societal norms of Paul’s era and we’ll take a closer look at it next.
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 ESV).
While some might look upon these verses and immediately leap to the conclusion that Paul the Apostle held a misogynistic viewpoint, that response overlooks the initial focus of this passage: education. In light of this, we should remember that the command to “Let a woman learn…” serves as the foundation for what follows. To put it another way, “instruction” is the operative idea- “humility” (GNT), and “submissiveness” (Mounce) characterize the way to receive that instruction.
While the word “submission” tends to receive the most attention among modern-day audiences, it was this reference to instruction that likely produced a similar response among some ancient recipients of this letter. You see, many women of that era did not have access to the educational opportunities that were available to men during that time.
This may be difficult to understand, especially in modern societies where female participation in collegiate and post-graduate studies may sometimes exceed male participation. We can attribute the explanation to the fact that some ancient appraisals of human female value were shockingly inappropriate…
“Within Greco-Roman first-century culture there was much diversity. Older Greeks viewed women as inferior, and useful only for labor, pleasure, or childbearing. Among the wealthier Romans and Greeks, women often received education, they could inherit, and they enjoyed social acceptability. Lower-class Romans and Greeks did not educate their women, and regarded them as more servile.” (1)
Because of this, we should recognize this directive for what it is: a progressive educational model that challenged many of the cultural norms of its time. Therefore, we would do well to recognize the “what” of this passage (“Let a woman learn…”) as well as the how the “how” (“…with all submissiveness”). One commentary expands upon this idea with the following insight…
“The proper way for any novice to learn was submissively and ‘quietly’ (a closely related Greek term appears in 1Ti_2:2 for all believers). Women were less likely to be literate than men, were trained in philosophy far less often than men, were trained in rhetoric almost never, and in Judaism were far less likely to be educated in the law. Given the bias against instructing women in the law, it is Paul’s advocacy of their learning the law, not his recognition that they started as novices and so had to learn quietly, that was radical and countercultural.” (2)
(1) See James B. Hurley, Man and Women in Biblical Perspective, condensed and quoted in Notes on 1 Timothy 2020 Edition, Appendix 1 Women and Ministry Dr. Thomas L. Constable https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
(2) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary [1 Timothy 2:8-15]
“A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 NASB).
As we consider the proper way to apply the teachings of this passage, we should note what it says as well as what it doesn’t say. For instance, a closer look at this reference to quietness reveals that it does not refer to an absence of speech. Instead, we can obtain a better definition of this word by examining its meaning in the original language…
“The word, hēsychia, translated ‘quietness’ in 1Ti_2:11 and silent in 1Ti_2:12, does not mean complete silence or no talking. It is clearly used elsewhere (Act_22:2; 2Th_3:12) to mean ‘settled down, undisturbed, not unruly.’ A different word (sigaō) means ‘to be silent, to say nothing’ (cf. Luk_18:39; 1Co_14:34).” (1)
We can also look to the meeting practices of the ancient church for additional insight into these verses. For instance, seating arrangements were likely segregated by gender during that time. This meant that a husband and wife typically sat apart from one another whenever the church gathered for worship. This arrangement undoubtedly led to issues for women who sought to learn and grow in their faith.
The liberty that Christianity offered women who had previously been denied the opportunity to learn would surely lead to many questions. If a wife wished to communicate with her husband on a point raised during a sermon, she would have to do so by raising her voice and disrupting the teacher’s message. This may account for a similar admonition from Paul the Apostle in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians…
“the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 NET).
So we can view “they are not allowed to speak” (NIV) as a prohibition on the distracting and disrespectful practice of interrupting a teacher’s message. In keeping with the requirement that everything is to be done decently and in order within the church (1 Corinthians 14:40), Paul instructed that such discussions should take place at home and not during the church service. This aligns with the definition of the word translated “quiet” or “silent” in this passage, a word that references a state of “…tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others.” (2)
(1) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary [1 Timothy 2:11-12]
(2) G2272 hesuchios Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers
“A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 HCSB).
The word “submission” is highly unpopular in many respects. For some, this word is indelibly linked to the idea of a weakling. For others like wrestlers or those who participate in the mixed martial arts, the concept of submission is associated with a maneuver that renders an opponent helpless and leads to his or her defeat. Then there are those who view the word submission with the same disdain reserved for other words like timidity, cowardice, or inferiority.
While these word associations are common among modern-day cultures, they overlook an important point: everyone submits to someone or something at various points in life. For example, young children are typically responsible to submit to their parents. Later when those parents grow old, that situation is often reversed as elderly parents submit to their children as caregivers.
Then there are employees who must submit to the rules of an employer while that same employer must submit to the ordinances that govern his or her business. The same holds true even for those who fancy themselves as anarchists or libertines, for even the most rebellious and lawless among us must eventually submit to death.
Many of us are also involved in relationships where we are required to lead those with lesser authority while simultaneously submitting to others with greater authority. Finally, those who serve in subordinate positions now may assume leadership positions later. Much like the parent-child relationship mentioned above, students may become teachers, soldiers may become officers, and hourly employees may ascend to management positions.
With these things in mind, we can say that the concept of “submission” is far more complex than it may appear. As used here in 1 Timothy 2:11, “submission” carries the idea of bringing something under order. (1) Unlike some of the negative concepts of submission mentioned earlier, this has nothing to do with human value or status. Instead, it refers to a person who defers to and obeys a legitimate authority.
One source expands on the universal nature of such relationships with the following insight…
“Submission does not mean that one is inferior in being to another. Elsewhere, Paul applies the concept to wives (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; cf. 1 Cor. 14:34), husbands and wives (Eph. 5:21), children (3:4), slaves (Titus 2:9), prophets (1 Cor. 14:32), Christians (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Cor. 16:16; Titus 3:1), the church (Eph. 5:24), and even Christ Himself (1 Cor. 15:28).” (2)
(1) G5292 hupotage, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/dictionary/viewtopic.cfm?topic=VT0001953
(2) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2157). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
“A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 NET).
We are now approaching a point where we must choose a direction concerning the leadership roles and responsibilities afforded to men and women within the church. As we consider our response to these verses, we can draw upon the principle mentioned earlier in Acts 20:27 and seek to employ the entire counsel of God.
For instance, there are other portions of Scripture that lead us to conclude that the statement, “…I do not permit a woman to teach” cannot be used to universally exclude a woman from a teaching ministry or a similar role. One such example is found in Acts 18:24-26 where we find that a woman named Priscilla (along with her husband Aquila) taught a man named Apollos the way of God “more accurately.”
We can also turn to the recipient of this letter to support this idea: Timothy. Timothy’s introduction to the things of God undoubtedly came through the ministries of two women. Their identities are given to us in 2 Timothy 1:3-5 and 2 Timothy 3:14-15: his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
The late Biblical scholar Norman Geisler also provides some additional insight on this passage…
“…whatever Paul may have meant by the ‘women be silent’ passages, he certainly did not mean that they should have no ministry in the church. This is clear for several reasons. For one thing, in the same book (of 1 Corinthians), Paul instructed women on how they should pray and prophesy in the church, namely, in a decent and orderly way (cf. 11:5).
Further, there were also times when all the men were to be ‘silent’ as well, namely, when someone else was giving an utterance from God (cf. 14:28). Finally, Paul did not hesitate to use women to assist him in the ministry, as is indicated by the crucial role he gave to Phoebe in delivering to its destination the great epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16:1).” (1)
To universally exclude women from any teaching position would also preclude the valuable contributions made by contemporary teachers such as Mary Jo Sharpe, Natasha Crain, and many others. So how should we approach this passage in an appropriate and God-honoring manner? Well, we find a clue to the context of this directive within the passage itself and we’ll consider that aspect of this verse next.
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 496–499). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
“Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
In considering a challenging passage like 1 Timothy 2:11-12, we should carefully note the words that are used and what those words mean. This is especially true of phrases like dominion or authority (NIV) within these verses. We can gain a better understanding of these words if we take time to consider their definitions…
- “to exercise authority on one’s own account, to domineer over.” (1)
- “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to.” (2)
- “one who acts on his own authority, autocratic.” (3)
One Biblical scholar builds upon these definitions with the following observation: “This Gk. word appears only here in the NT and is used by Paul to refer to some level of judicial or governing authority.” (4) With these things in mind, we can ask the following question: “What position allows someone to teach and/or exercise this level of authority over men and women within a church?”
When presented in this manner, the most reasonable answer would be a Bishop or the Pastors who lead a local congregation. These titles find their origin in the word “episkopos” in the original language of the New Testament and refer to someone who is an overseer or superintendent. Paul the Apostle will detail the qualifications for this position later in 1 Timothy chapter three but for now, we can turn to the following commentator for additional insight into this term…
“The context here has to do with church order, and the position of the man and woman in the church worship and work. The kind of teacher Paul has in mind is spoken of in Act_13:1, 1Co_12:28-29, and Eph_4:11, God-called, and God-equipped teachers, recognized by the Church as those having authority in the Church in matters of doctrine and interpretation.” (5)
Once again, it’s important to reiterate that this passage does not universally prohibit women from engaging in a teaching ministry. In fact, Paul will later go on to instruct women to engage in that very practice (see Titus 2:3-5). Nor do these verses necessarily preclude women from holding positions of subordinate oversight within the church. (6)
However, it also seems clear from this passage that men who are called of God should fill the role of a primary congregational leader. While this is a controversial position in certain circles of the church, we’ll examine the Biblical argument for that position over the next two studies.
(1) G831 authenteo Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(2) NET Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:12 https://netbible.org/bible/1+Timothy+2
(3) G831 authenteo Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g831
(4) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2158). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(5) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1 Timothy 2:11-12) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(6) However, this view is open to debate in a mixed group setting given the injunction against a woman “having authority over a man” in 1 Timothy 2:12.
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:13-14 ESV).
In light of this reference to Adam and Eve here in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, let’s take a moment to revisit the events mentioned in this passage…
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’
Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate…” (Genesis 3:1-6).
Those choices led to the following exchange…
- “[the Lord God said] ‘…Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman You gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it’” (Genesis 3:11-12 NLT).
- “Then the LORD God asked the woman, ‘What have you done?’ ‘The serpent deceived me,’ she replied. ‘That’s why I ate it’” (Genesis 3:13 NLT).
- “And to the man He said, ‘Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you…’” (Genesis 3:17 NLT).
So this decision to listen to his wife led to ruinous consequences for Adam. However, those consequences were not related to anything Eve may have said. The problem was related to how Adam acted upon what he heard.
Remember that God spoke to Adam and issued a direct prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When the serpent suggested to Eve that she ought to do something else, Adam should have acted to ensure that she followed God’s directive. Instead of listening to Eve (or following her lead in this instance), he should have taken responsibility and made certain that he and his wife honored God’s instruction. His failure to do so led to repercussions that continue to this day.
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
The statement “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” from 1 Timothy 2:12 indicates that the lead Pastoral office in a church congregation should be held by men who are called of God to fulfill that office. Paul the Apostle will now go on to provide the justification for that position here in the verses quoted above.
To begin, we should note that the argument given to us in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 is not derived from society or culture. It is not built upon the opinions, ideas, interpretations, assessments, or reassessments of earlier teachings. It does not reflect a targeted response to a local situation within a particular church at a specific point in history. Instead, this teaching reaches back to the Garden of Eden and the very first human beings to inhabit this planet.
These things carry important ramifications. Remember that Paul the Apostle based this directive upon the very first male-female relationship as recorded in the book of Genesis. Therefore, it must transcend every subsequent human culture. This passage also references a point in history prior to the entry of sin into the world. Because of this, we cannot attribute this mandate to a mistaken human interpretation of God’s intent.
One theologian continues by explaining the significance of this passage in light of subsequent Old Testament teaching…
“As ‘firstborn,’ Adam had the rights of primogeniture, which, according to passages about firstborn sons in the OT, entailed not only inheritance rights but authority over the household. The fact that the apostle appeals to the created order is strong evidence against seeing this teaching about the role of women in the church as limited only to the particular circumstances in Ephesus.” (1)
Another pastoral commentator identifies the difference between human responsibility and human value as it relates to this passage…
“The difference Paul is referring to is the difference between a knife and a fork. They do not perform the same functions, yet we use them at the same time while we are eating. But we do not insist that they be employed the same way… we do not get upset because people use their knives and forks in distinctive ways. We do not claim the knife is inferior to the fork or the fork is inferior to the knife. Neither should we with men and women. They are made to do different things.” (2)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2158). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(2) Excerpted with permission from Adam’s Rib or Women’s Lib? © 1981 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to [email protected] https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/timothy/adams-rib-or-womens-lib
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
While some may dismiss 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as an archaic remnant of a patriarchal culture, one commentator directs our attention to an important point…
“The reason for the distinction between men and women in the matter of leadership in the church and in the home is then grounded on the relationship between man and women established at the very beginning (vv. 13–14): ‘For Adam was created first, afterwards [eita] Eve.’” (1)
It is also worth noting that Adam made a conscious decision to violate God’s directive while Eve was “completely deceived” in the words of one source. (2) Finally, the phrase “fell into transgression” may be more accurately translated “has come to be in transgression” in the passage quoted above. This places an emphasis on the continuing consequences of the fall. (3)
These ancient realities have an impact upon leadership roles under discussion here in the closing verses of 1 Timothy chapter two. Therefore, we might associate these verses with the cost of falling into deception and the price of acting in a manner that disregards our Creator’s intent. If we choose to do so, it may lead to far-reaching implications that result in lost opportunities.
So as we close our look at these verses, it is important to emphasize once again that this passage does not reflect upon human value. It also does not prohibit women from pursuing various avenues of service as God directs. It simply means that men who are called of God should fill the role of a primary congregational leader.
Dr. Norman Geisler points out that Paul is not negating the ministry of women but limiting the authority of women. Of course, men are also under authority as well. Even Christ is under authority according to 1 Corinthians 11:3. While a woman might be gifted with an ability to teach God’s Word, Paul seems to be saying that it is inappropriate for her to exercise that gift in the position of a Bishop or Pastor over a general assembly.
Geisler summarizes this thought in the following manner…
“This, however, in no way demeans or diminishes the role of women… The fact that men cannot have babies is not demeaning to their humanity or their role in the family. It is simply that God has not granted them this function, but a different one.” (4)
(1) Archer, G. L. (1982). New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. Page 45
(2) “fully deceived” NET Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:14 https://netbible.org/bible/1+Timothy+2
(3) “fell into transgression” NET Bible notes on 1 Timothy 2:14 https://netbible.org/bible/1+Timothy+2
(4) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 496–499). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
“Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:15).
The closing verse of 1 Timothy chapter two has presented a formidable challenge to students, teachers, and commentators throughout the centuries. While the preceding verses may be challenging to accept and apply, the final verse of this chapter may be more challenging to interpret.
We can begin by noting that there are two consequences associated with the fall of humanity that are unique to each gender. Those consequences are detailed for us in Genesis 3:16-19…
“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.’
Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
Three commentators offer the following observations which serve to represent a cross-section of opinion on this passage…
“‘Saved through her childbearing’ (15), probably refers to the birth of Jesus, who was born of a woman without the agency of man. Even if sin did come into the world through woman (14), so did the Saviour.” (1)
“The most acceptable meaning of this passage is that it refers to the incarnation of Christ as promised to Eve (Gen 3:15) and the woman who believes in this One, the Lord Jesus, shall be saved.” (2)
“Eve and her daughters would bring forth children, begotten of the husband’s seed, in sorrow (a word implying labor and suffering), but there would be one particular birth one day, uniquely born of ‘her seed,’ rather than of her husband’s seed, and He (the virgin-born God/man) would finally inflict a mortal wound on the old Serpent. It was by this ‘childbearing’ that ‘she shall be saved.’” (3)
Perhaps the easiest way to understand this somewhat enigmatic verse is offered by the following paraphrase of 1 Timothy 2:15…
“So God sent pain and suffering to women when their children are born, but he will save their souls if they trust in him, living quiet, good, and loving lives” (1 Timothy 2:15 TLB).
(1) Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1 Timothy Chapter 2. Prayer. The Place of Women [pg. 633] Copyright © 2000, 2007 by Halley’s Bible Handbook, Inc.
(2) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2499). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
(3) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes 1 Timothy 2:15 https://www.icr.org/bible/1Tim/2/15/