1 Timothy 2:9-15
9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
These verses are probably some of the most divisive in all of Paul’s writings. They are used many times to say that women have no place in ministry, but should be quiet in church and not even consider being a teacher or, heaven forbid, a preacher. They are used to say that a woman should be subordinate to a man in all cases. This is really sad because these verses reflected the women of that day, not the women of today. These verses served a purpose when women were uneducated and underappreciated. They still serve a purpose today, but it is vastly different in today’s world than it was in Paul’s time..
Let’s start at the top. The first verse speaks of a women’s appearance. I agree with Paul here. A women, much more than a man, can wear clothes that may reveal too much of their bodies which in turn can be a stumbling block to a man. Men typically have much stronger sex drives then women and when we see a women with a short skirt, or a blouse that is cut deeply down the front or that clings tightly to the body, we can easily get aroused. It is a natural disposition and is very hard to program out, even if we have been saved. God made us to be attracted to the women’s body for a reason, but our society has taken it way overboard. Clothing can cause us to become voyeurs in a way, and I guess that was true even in Paul’s day. Paul knew that clothing that was not modest could cause problems for the men so he said the women should not wear it. He also suggested minimal jewelry and simple hairdo’s.
In many of todays churches and youth groups these rules are not followed. I have seen skirts that are much too short and blouses that fall loosely in the front. I have seen skin tight clothes that leave little to the imagination. I agree that men should be able to control their sexual urges. I also think that woman should not wear such suggestive clothing. It is not modest and can lead to unwanted advances. We see so much emphasis put on men sexually misusing women but little is said about the fact that women just tease men with their clothing choices. I still think the men are wrong, but women should be more modest in there apparel and not invite this type of behavior on a man’s part. That is exactly what they do by wearing suggestive clothing.
Women should be more concerned with good works than appealing apparel (verse 10). It’s not that they should not strive to look nice. We should always look appropriate in our clothing, but there is no need to go overboard. It is much more important to be seen dong good works before the Lord than to have an appealing appearance outwardly. Remember the rebuke to the Pharisees? Outwardly they looked all clean and pretty, but inwardly they were full of dead men’s bones. We should never be that way as Christians. Our inward beauty should always outshine out outward appearance. This is where many in the holiness movement get it wrong. They out so much emphasis on the outward appearance that the inner man gets left behind.
Before I tackle verse 11 and 12, I want to talk about verses 13 & 14. While it is true that Eve was tempted by Satan and succumbed to the temptation, the Bible clearly tells us that Adam was with her and he ate as well (Genesis 3:6). We are never told if Adam correctly explained to Eve that she should not eat of that fruit. He may have told her not to touch it at all, thinking if she did not touch it she could not eat it. Guys tend to overstate things like this to make sure others don’t even go close to the problem. I know – I’m guilty of this quite often. Whatever Adam told her he obviously did not make the point strong enough. Then there is the question of why did Adam not stop her from eating it when he was right there with her. Do you suppose he thought to himself “Hey, I’ll watch her eat it and if she doesn’t die, I can take some?”. These questions have been on my mind forever and I blame the man just as much as the woman for what happened in the garden. But we have taken these verses in 1 Timothy and made it the whole reason man is superior to women and why women should be subservient to men. I think we have taken it all wrong myself. I may be wrong, and I know I am debating one of the greatest biblical teachers of all time, but this where I stand.
So now back to verses 11 & 12. There are many churches where they are adamant about women not being preachers because of these verses. They are strict in that belief and will not bend. Yet they have many women teaching their Sunday School classes, women’s groups and couples classes. My best friend says he will leave his church if they bring in a woman preacher yet his wife is the head of the whole Sunday school department and teaches a class there. This makes absolutely no sense to me! If they are not able to teach and preach from the pulpit, why on earth would we want them teaching our children?
These two verses were written in a time when women kept to the house. They weren’t taught in school like the boys were and they weren’t expected to speak in the way a man speaks. They were expected to be silent unless spoken to and they certainly would never be seen as someone who is smarter than the man. In many ways they were seen as property not people. A man could file for divorce for any reason he wanted, but a women would never even consider filing for divorce because she would be mocked and ridiculed and possibly stoned for bringing dishonor to her husband.
Contrast that with today’s woman who fill roles as doctors, teachers, lawyers, congresswomen and business leaders. These are not the same women as in Jesus day. They are intelligent and confident and in many cases smarter and wiser than their male counterparts. How can we possibly apply the same standards to these women as to the first century women? Yet big name preachers like John Hagie continue to perpetuate the feeling that women are inferior when it comes to their ability to study and preach the word. He may be very knowledgeable but in my book he has this wrong. I would guess Mr. Hagie has plenty of women teachers in his church.
The other factor that comes into play here is pride. Men naturally have a higher susceptibility to pride than women. They do not want to admit that women might be able to teach them anything or be better at anything then they are. They do not want to feel inferior in any way to anyone, but even more so a woman. This would be the ultimate slap in the face. “A women preacher trying to teach me about spirituality? No way!” That is pride pure and simple. God hates pride (Proverbs 6:16-19). In all accounts that we see, Jesus treated women fairly and equally. Many women, including his mother, followed his group of disciples on a regular basis. Even in the case of Paul, several women are given commendation for their work in the church of the day, including Junia, Phoebe, Syntyche and Priscilla. I am not going to go into their roles but all were esteemed by Paul.
Let’s stop beating the drum that women should not be leaders in our churches today. If they have taken the proper steps and submitted themselves to God, they can be used by God in the same way as men and in the same capacities. If you are one that has always put women in a subordinate role I ask you to really study it out with an open mind. Once you do, I think you will stop putting God in a box by thinking women cannot fill these roles. Let’s put women in their rightful place!