1 Timothy 2 – Learning How to Be More Like Jesus through Gender and the Church

Text: 1 Tim 2:8-15


Thesis: Family and the local church – 2 tools in our sanctification

  • Sanctification = fancy term = be more like Jesus

  • 1 Tim 2 – how gender roles play out in our corporate worship

  • 1 Tim 3 (next week) – qualifications for church leadership

  • Mirroring between physical family and church family

  • Manage family well – training ground to manage the household of God

1 Tim 2 – difficult passage, land mine in our day and age

When interpreting Scripture, esp. controversial ones like 1 Tim 2, you have to take into consideration 2 things:

  • First – the biblical principle – like ethical commands – unchanging

  • Second – application of that principle in its cultural context – this can change

Key to reading the Bible is knowing one thing

  • Biblical principles and their cultural expressions are not equally normative

  • Therefore, biblical principles which are normative need to be distinguished from cultural expressions which are not normative

  • In other words, the principles of the Bible never change and we must keep them always, but the cultural form or the practical ways in which obedience to the biblical principles are followed do change from one generation and one culture to the next

2 dangers

First danger – Literalism

  • Enthrone cultural form – elevate both the Word and its cultural expression to some absolute authority

  • Upgrading of cultural expression to the level of truth

  • Adopt a rigid literalism

Second danger – Liberalism

  • Downgrade the truth to the level of its cultural expression

  • All Scripture is spoken in a particular cultural context

  • When we read Scripture, we read something and think the cultural expression like food laws is completely outdated and irrelevant

  • End up dismissing the biblical principles associated with the cultural expression

  • Authority is stripped from both the Word and its cultural expression

  • Gloss over verses

2 lens of literalism vs. liberalism

  • Let’s take a look at 1 Tim 2 and use these 2 lens.

The first issue relates to how men are to pray.

  • 1 Tim 2:8

  • What’s the biblical principle?

  • v8 – begins with “Therefore”

  • Need to read 1 Tim 2:1-7

  • Principle: God wants everyone to be saved so we are to pray for everyone including kings and those in authority

  • Why pray for those in authority?

  • They protect you and give you a tranquil and quiet life so that you can worship God

  • Ukraine – situation to worship – difficult to worship when you feel unsafe

  • The principle is that we are to pray for everyone because God wants to save everyone.

Now for the application

  • How are we to pray?

  • 1 Tim 2:8 – Men, you are to lift up holy hands without anger or argument

  • Let’s apply the 2 lens.

First, the lens of literalism

  • Prayer is important and every time you pray, brothers, you MUST raise your hands in the air.

  • Not to raise your hands would be a sin.

  • This position is pretty straightforward.

  • You take the principle as well as the cultural form as absolutely true and binding for us even in the year 2014.

Second, the lens of liberalism

  • People who read the Bible through this lens tend to work backwards

  • They start with application or the cultural form

  • It’s ridiculous to pray with lifting of hands.

  • I’m not overly emotional.  I like to be in control.  I’m the kind of guy who pays my taxes a few months before its due.  I don’t drink.  I’m moderate in my views.

  • Lifting of hands is what the crazy religious fanatics do.

  • It’s unreasonable to expect us to raise hands every single time we pray.

  • Prayer is good.  I prefer silent meditation, not loud prayers with raising of hands.

  • Lifting of hands – that’s so primitive.

  • I highly doubt if such people would throw out the principle of prayer.

  • Yet, I wonder, since they threw out the part about the lifting of hands, it’s not hard to imagine devaluing prayer

  • I can imagine people failing to pray with the regularity and intensity that is described in 1 Tim 2:1 (“I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone”)

There is a danger with both extremes of literalism and liberalism.

  • I think the answer is somewhere in the middle because God cares about the heart.

  • You can’t abandon the biblical principle.  The principle is universal.  We must pray for everyone, knowing that God indeed wants to save everyone.

  • But the cultural expression of raising hands is not mandatory.

But I will say, when praying, posture matters

  • Different types of prayer

  • Praying before a meal when you are hungry

  • Praying before you sleep

  • Prayer walks

  • Wed prayer meetings – kneeling

  • Prayer on Sunday after spending time in worship with my hands raised

  • The principle of prayer needs to be kept, but lifting up hands can’t be an absolute requirement every time we pray

  • For some, raising of hands can help and we can’t totally ignore body posture

The next issue involves women and what they wear when you gather for public worship.

Lens of literalism

  • Those who take both the principle and the cultural form literally.

  • The principle is to be modest in dress but rich in good works.

  • The cultural form is to forbid elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, expensive name brands.

  • So sisters, if you wore a gold chain with a cross on it, you are condemned.

Lens of liberalism

  • Start with the cultural form

  • I can wear what I want.  I have it so why not flaunt it

  • Or, what’s so bad about carrying around a Prada bag and getting a perm at an expensive hair salon in Beverly Hills?

  • Do I have to dress like the Amish on Little House on the Prairie?

  • Such a person has thrown out the biblical principle of modesty in dress, obviously

  • And, it’s likely that this is the kind of person who would also be quite poor in terms of good works

  • Spending an hour each morning getting ready and several hours each week shopping, just from a practical period, it’s unlikely that there is much time to be rich in good works.

What God cares about is the heart

  • Keep the biblical principle – be modest in dress and rich in good works when gathering at church.

  • You are not part of a fashion show and you are not here to try to impress others.

  • You are not here primarily to attract a spouse.

  • You are here presumably here because you want to worship God.

  • So be modest in clothing and rich in good works.

  • In terms of the cultural form, I think Paul’s list of forbidding elaborate hairstyles, and discouraging having shiny bling around your neck and Gucci bags might be pretty applicable still for us today.

  • Not a rule – gold cross around your neck – it is not a sin

  • God cares about your heart.

So far…

  • Praying always is a universal principle while hand lifting is cultural and optional

  • Decency and modesty are universal principles – ethical commands which are universally binding

  • What constitutes an elaborate hairstyle and what jewelry is considered extravagant or acceptable–these are cultural

Now it gets tricky – 1 Tim 2:11-15

What’s the biblical principle that is permanent and universal?

  • Women need to submit to men (i.e. husbands) and be under the authority of male pastor-elders in the church

  • Submission and authority are universal principles because they are based on creation order and the chronology of events surrounding the Fall

  • Adam was created first and Eve was deceived first

Lens of literalism

  • Uphold the biblical principle as well as the cultural form

  • Women need to submit to men and be under the authority of male pastor-elders in the church

  • Plus, when we gather for public worship, because there is mix of genders here, women should be literally silent when you walk through those doors

  • Sorry sisters – no teaching of Bible studies, no sharing of testimonies, no public prayers, just be silent

Lens of liberalism

  • Start at the cultural form

  • Women – being silent and under submission and never teaching

  • Of course you can’t teach because how can you teach if you can’t even open your mouth?

  • Hearing this, many would be offended

  • Esp. given your educational background, women’s rights, this just sounds wrong, like the days in this country when women couldn’t even vote–that was just plain wrong

Result in our culture: throw the baby with the bathwater

  • I can’t accept the cultural form and therefore, they throw away the biblical principle

How can you dismiss the biblical principle of women submitting to men and being under male authority?

  • Easy – you play the cultural context card

  • First century Ephesus – center of the cultic worship of the goddess Artemis

  • Artemis: goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women. She often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows.

  • Ephesus – bastion of feminine supremacy and female false teachers

  • So Paul was speaking into that kind of context

  • Those reading the Bible through a lens of liberalism would argue, that’s why Paul said to these female false teachers, be silent, submit yourself under male authority, stop teaching

  • We live in a different context, times have changed

  • 1 Cor 11 – mention women wearing head coverings as a symbols of authority on their heads

  • Because the cultural form has been dismissed, they don’t even bother reading the verses about the biblical principle of female submission and male authority

  • Thrown out the baby with the bathwater because times have changed

Danger of liberalism

  • Sounds so modern and fair and inclusive and open-minded and tolerant

  • Some of the things the Bible says is so oppressive – it doesn’t apply to us

  • Look at all the progress we have made

  • We are more enlightened than we were in the first century

  • To say that a teaching is only relevant to a particular context gives you the reader the right to dismiss it as irrelevant in all other contexts

The problem is that the entire Bible is contextual

  • Every passage is written in a particular context

  • NT – the context is the first century

  • If you start dismissing clear biblical principles because it is intermingled with cultural expressions because they had their context and we have our context, then we are opening the door to a wholesale rejection of Scripture

Am I overreacting?

  • No.  If you start picking and choosing the principles in the Bible you like or don’t like, or that you want to obey and don’t want to obey, aren’t you undermining the whole thing?

  • It’s like taking a black marker and striking out all of the uncomfortable verses

  • What are you left with?

  • God does not give us the permission to pick and choose.

Therefore, it is critical that we learn how to separate the biblical principle that is universal and binding for all generations from its cultural expression which every generation needs to struggle to figure out how to obey in its particular context

In the year 2014, we can’t abandon the biblical principle of women submitting to men and being under male authority

  • Why?  Because it’s based on creation order.  Adam was created first.

  • You can say, well, that’s not fair.

  • If you have a beef, take it up with God.  It was His idea.  It wasn’t my idea.

  • Maybe it would’ve been fair for God to create both Adam and Eve simultaneously, but he choose to create Adam first, then Eve

  • Because the order itself–Adam then Eve–reveals something about the nature of God

  • The word “submission” has such a negative connotation

  • It’s hard to submit to your husband or your pastor if they are abusive jerks

  • But if they are like Christ who came to serve, then it is quite beautiful and natural to submit

  • It’s beautiful when Jesus who is fully equal with God submits himself under the will of God the Father

  • Church – we are the bride of Christ, and we are to submit to Christ as our Head

In the way that the genders relate to each other and complement one another, when it’s done right, we are revealing something beautiful because we are tapping into the very nature of the Trinitarian God.

1 Tim 2:14

  • Mentions Eve being deceived first then Adam

  • If you take this principle too far, then you get into a weird theology that women are completely gullible and men are not as gullible

  • I know plenty of men who are deceived just as much or worse than women are deceived

  • Both genders can be deceived quite easily, maybe in somewhat different ways

  • But I think the point Paul is making here is the fact that in Gen 3, Eve took the initiative and usurped the authority of Adam

  • She became the spiritual head or leader in that moment instead of submitting herself – that was her sin

Adam’s sin was his passivity

  • He should have exercised authority, he should have led

  • Stepped in, rebuked the serpent

  • Laid down his life to protect his wife

  • Fortunately, the Second Adam – Jesus did just that – he laid down his life for the sake of His bride, the Church

If there is a danger with the literal interpretation and there is a danger with the liberal interpretation, where does that leave us?

A few questions to consider and struggle with

  • Must submission always be expressed in silence?

  • Must not exercising authority equal never teaching?

  • Could it be legitimate to see the gender roles of female submission vs male authority as permanent and universal (v13 – grounded in creation) while seeing the silence vs teaching as a first-century cultural expression of it, which is therefore not necessarily applicable to every culture?

Practical life is messy

  • Life is not so formulaic, not black and white, a lot of gray

  • Example of marriage – deciding where to go for dinner

  • Jackie many times has a suggestion – Woman, be silent, be submissive

  • Imagine a marriage where the wife has to be silent literally and never question the authority of her husband, never share her opinion

  • Because she is a woman and I am man, because she is easily deceived and I hardly ever get deceived this is not a relationship, it’s a dictatorship

  • How can you serve someone the way Christ did if she is never allowed to speak?

  • How can you learn in humility and have your blind spots checked if your wife is never permitted to challenge your decisions?

  • This is in marriage but the same applies in a church consisting of brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • Family and church mirror one another.

  • Cultural expressions are nice in theory, but they break down in practice.

You have to locate this chapter in the whole of the book of 1 Timothy, which is all about keeping our focus on Jesus in the midst of false teachers and demons and the allure of wealth

Focusing on Jesus makes all the difference

  • When we study the Bible, we are not learning intellectual principles in a vacuum

  • That’s why it’s not enough to say, here are the principles, now go do it

  • For school, you can do it that way – here is the mathematical principle, here’s the problem set, go do it

  • Christian life is not school

  • In Christian life, it’s more important to know the spirit behind the principle or the Person behind the principle – Jesus


  • When I tell my kids, I’m the best bball player in the world, they know I don’t literally mean I am better than Lebron James or Kobe or Jordan

  • They know me – they know the spirit behind those words – I’m trash talking

  • If someone outside the family hears me, they might take me seriously – that guy is seriously deluded

  • Biblical principle is one thing

  • When it comes to how the principle is to be practiced, before we go out and try to live it out, we know to know spirit behind those words by getting to know the character of Jesus.

  • Trust that the spirit behind the principle, or the Holy Spirit will give wisdom and guide us on how to practice the principles in our daily context

Many things are not black and white – A lot of gray

  • Prayer is important but it doesn’t mean that the men have to raise their hands every time they pray in public

  • Male headship is important but that doesn’t mean all the women here need to wear head coverings.

  • You can practice submission as a woman without being silent at church, in the same way that wives can be submitted under their husbands without being silent in their homes

  • Silence is not an essential ingredient in submission

Women teaching men does not necessarily symbolize that women are taking authority over them

  • Took classes at Fuller and some of my professors were women

  • Sister staff here teaching

Here are some Scripture regarding women

  • Women prophets prophesied publicly, they are not being silent

  • Priscilla taught Apollos privately in the home while Aquila the husband was present

  • Paul encourages women teaching children and older women teaching younger women

  • Difficult case of Deborah – female judge, only one out of 12 judges, she had ruling authority as well as spiritual authority over not just men and women, but over an entire nation

  • We have some biblical principles but things are not so clear cut when you try to put them into practice

More important than a hard and fast rule is getting to know Jesus

  • Spend time with Jesus and learn from Jesus directly

  • Allow time to have His character rub off on you us so that when you and I are ready to make decisions, our decisions can be born out of a Christ-like character.

Spiritual authority and order is important

  • But, it is possible as well-intentioned men who are striving to live by biblical principles to make a mess in God’s house and ruin lives by demanding absolute submission and not putting any limits on our authority.

  • To the leaders here, we should lead with fear and trembling and humility so that we don’t end up leading like tyrants rather than sacrificial servants.

A word of caution

  • Not so much about knowing the biblical principle and defining a comprehensive manual so that every conceivable situation can be accounted for in terms of our practice

  • Pharisees did just that – they came up with hundreds of rules so that they could have all their bases covered.  No wonder the list kept growing.

  • Life doesn’t work that way.

  • Things are black and white in theory, but they are not black and white in practice.

  • Life – a lot of gray.  A lot of mess.  Case by case.

  • If you want nice neat theories, go teach at a seminary but don’t go into ministry.

Get to know Jesus

  • Let His character rub off on you.

  • Empty yourself.

  • Ask the Spirit to fill you.

After all, Jesus fulfills both the male and female gender roles

  • Head of the Church

  • Though an equal with God, Jesus did not clutch onto his equality with God, but He submitted himself under the will of the Father, eventually to die on a cross

  • Jesus embodies the gospel which involved the laying down of His life AND submission

  • Brothers, especially the leaders – are you laying down your life for this church as Christ laid down His life to save you?

  • This is not conceptual.  Takes sacrifice.

  • Sisters – are you submitting yourself under the pastor-elders of this church?

  • Both genders play a role in displaying the beauty of Jesus

  • Men and women – we get to play our part in re-enacting the gospel

Brothers and sisters, if we follow this example

  • Then the local church will function in your life the way it is supposed to

  • The local church is one of the primary tools God uses in our sanctification

  • You and I will look more and more like Jesus

Gain incredible wisdom when you learn to see life from the opposite gender

  • Brothers, there is much to learn from sisters.

  • Sisters, there is much to learn from brothers.

  • The last thing we would want to do is to totally silence the sisters and give them no voice in the life of the church.

But the most important thing is not church, not ministry, not service, not even gender roles, but Jesus.

  • Spend time with Jesus.

  • Remember the end goal – it is not church.

  • The end goal – to become more and more like Jesus.

  • It is my prayer that our times of gathering as a church family would stir your passions for Jesus.

  • Church – motivate you to want to spend quality time alone with Jesus.

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