“Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

April 24, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

bible-3Today’s blog is of a slightly different nature than my normal posts.  1 Timothy 2 constitutes one of the most controversial chapters in all Scripture.  Why?  First, many accuse Paul of revealing his true stripes of misogyny and unabashed chauvinism in his injunction against female pastors as outlined in this chapter.  Second, many church bodies, including our own Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, understand Paul’s words here to be transcultural.  That is, his instruction relates not only to the first century, but also to our twenty-first century.  Thus, in the LCMS, we do not ordain women as pastors.

Because of the debate and dispute surrounding this chapter, I have decided to post a brief theological study that I wrote a while back due in large part to the many questions that I perennially receive on this particular passage of Scripture.  This study represents my humble, and most probably feeble, attempt to explain Paul’s words in a way that affirms his integrity and, more importantly, the integrity of God’s Word.  I offer it below in the hope that it might be of some value to you as you struggle with these difficult words from 1 Timothy 2 in your “Word for Today” reading.  Remember, even when a text is controversial, it is well worth our time and attention.  For the words of Scripture are the very words of God.  Thus, they speak to our minds, our souls, our hearts, and our lives and transform us into precious new creations in Christ.

With that, here is the study:

In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul writes to a young pastor named Timothy: 

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

There are several things in this passage that are worth noting.

First, the context of this passage is important.  Paul begins this chapter by explaining the inclusive nature of the gospel:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

If you note, Paul consistently talks about how the gospel is for “all people.”  Thus, it is not because women are somehow lesser heirs to the gospel that they are not permitted to be pastors.  No, God gives his gospel to all because his deepest desire is that all be saved.

Second, a couple of words are worth noting in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.  First is the word “learn” in verse 11.  When we read the words of this verse, the first word that usually jumps out to us is “submission.”  But for Paul’s readers, to have learning women would have represented a radical departure from the cultural mores of his time.  In general, women were not permitted to learn theology.  Rabbi Eliezer, a prominent teacher in the first and second centuries, wrote, “He who teaches her daughter Torah teaches her obscenity.”  That is, women were not to be taught Scripture because they were not intellectually astute enough to handle it.  Conversely, Paul, encourages women to learn God’s Word, but says they also ought to learn politely.  In other words, they ought to be quiet during the sermon and submissive to the clear teachings of God’s Word (as we all are to be).  The second key word is the word “teach” in verse 12.  The context of this word refers to the preaching of the Word of God in a worship service, not to any and every kind of teaching.  That is why there is prayer and the raising of hands going on in verse 8.  This is worship!  Thus, women are precluded from being pastors who preach, not Sunday school teachers or even participants in a worship service in other ways, such as in the reading of Scripture or in the singing of songs.

Third, it is important to note that when Paul makes a distinction between men and women and what they do in a worship service, he is in no way saying that one person is better than another.  As Paul has already noted at the beginning of this chapter, we are all precious and valued in God’s sight.  Paul is saying, however, that God, in his wisdom, has chosen to give some people some roles and other people other roles in worship and in life in general.  Indeed, God has been doing this ever since creation.  Paul says in verse 13 that Adam and Eve themselves were different from their very creation.  One was made from dust, the other from a rib.  Does this make one better than the other?  No.  It just makes them different.  Sadly, even in sin men and women proved to be different (verse 14).  Eve was conned by Satan, Adam was led to sin by Eve.  Thus, differences abound.  Yet, in spite of sin, each person still has a special role to play in God’s Kingdom.  Paul says that the special role of pastor is to be given to some men who are appropriately trained for the job (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7).  That does not mean that women do not have a special role to play, however.  Paul concludes chapter 2 with these words:  “But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”  I have done quite a bit of study on this passage in Greek, and my best translation would differ from the NIV, quoted here.  I, along with many others, translate this passage:  “But women will be saved through the child born.”  In other words, women are saved by the One who is born of a woman only, Jesus Christ.  It is here that Paul commends women for their special and unique role in salvation history.  When God wanted to save humanity, he chose a woman, not a man, to bear his Son.  Indeed, a man had nothing to do with it, for Jesus was born of a virgin.  This birth was first foretold to Eve by God in Genesis 3:15 when God says to Satan:  “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  God says that he will send a Savior who will crush the head of Satan.  But notice, this Savior will be only the offspring of Eve, not of Adam.  Thus, we find here the first foreshadowing of a virgin birth.  Women, then, from Eve on, have a special connection to the Savior.  For God chose a woman to bear his Savior Son, Jesus Christ.  That is a role unique and specific to women just as being a pastor is a role unique and specific to some men.

Finally, the upshot of all of this is that God chooses different people for different tasks.  God chose Abraham to be the father of Israel.  He chose Moses to lead his people out of slavery Egypt.  He chose Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land.  He chose Deborah as a judge over Israel.  He chose Esther to save the Jews from an evil plot aimed at their extinction.  He chose twelve disciples to follow his Son Jesus and an apostle named Paul to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.  God is constantly choosing certain people for certain tasks.  Does this mean that he loves some people more than others or thinks more of some people than he does of others?  No, of course not.  But God, in his infinite wisdom, always seems to know the right person or people for the right job.  Thus, God has chosen some men to be pastors in his church and a woman to bear his Son.   Praise God for the unique roles we all have to play in his Kingdom.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 1 Timothy 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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