#1. Read 1 Timothy chapter 2, make a note of anything that is confusing, convicting or encouraging for you personally.
#2. Paul uses four different words to describe prayer: petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving. Why, what point is he making?
#3. How many times is the word ALL used? What is Paul’s point?
#4 What does it look like for you personally to pray for “all people,” “kings,” and “those in authority?”
#5. According to this passage, what does God want? How does understanding God’s will make an impact in the way we make decisions and relate to others?
#6. How does this passage define the Gospel? What themes or teachings are emphasized? Why is there a need for a mediator between God and people? In what way was Jesus a ransom?
#7. Why do you think Paul sets up anger and disputes as opposite of prayer and holiness?
#8. Do you think Paul’s point about modesty applies to only women? Is it ok for men to be immodest and indecent?
#9. Why do you think Paul specifically addresses some instruction to men, and others to men?
#10. What is this passage teaching about women? How does this make you feel? What is your first response when you encounter something you don’t understand or agree with? How do you think God wants us to respond?
In verse 1, Paul’s point is to encourage us to pray all kinds of prayers. He is not creating a carefully prescribed of different kinds of prayers. The definitions and nuances of each word is overlaps with the others:
petitions: to ask or seek, to say please, carries a sense of urgency
prayers: to speak or make requests of God
intercession: to speak to someone on behalf of someone else, that is, praying for others. This word only occurs once in the NT!
thanksgiving: expression of gratitude
(See also Philippians 4:6)
The teaching about women in this passage can be difficult to understand and easy to reject. It’s best to admit the discomfort and have the courage to move towards understanding. Wouldn’t it be great if God always told us what we wanted to hear!
Resist the tendency to reject a perspective just because we don’t agree with it. The Bible is not simply a perspective, it is the Perspective because it its God’s Word.
A life of faith calls us to look to God’s Word as our standard with more authority than our feelings, experience, or culture. Faith will lead to greater wisdom when we accept that assumptions are the enemy of understanding.
Understanding what a passage in the Bible means for our life means we first understand what it meant for the lives of the original readers.
All communication requires context! What does “lead sinks” mean? Am I talking about sinks that are not porcelain but are made out of lead? Or am I talking about the obvious fact that lead is heavier than water and will not float?
Paul’s letters were occasional, meaning they were written to a specific situation. Historical context looks at what was happening in the lives of the original readers/hearers. We must also look at the greater contexts of this book, Paul’s writings, and the rest of scripture.
Now that we’ve covered some elementary principles for reading and understanding scripture, let’s talk specifically about 1 Timothy chapter 2:9-15.
Paul gives several commands about worship: women are to (1) dress modestly, (2) learn in quietness and submission, (3) not to teach or have authority about men. Modest dress is easy to understand and accept. Worship is about turning our attention to God, and distractions ought to be removed. No one would show up to church in a bathing suit! The second commands are more difficult to interpret and apply.
The Teacher-Student Dynamic
Two thousand years ago, in this part of the world, it was acceptable for students to interrupt teachers with questions, as long as these questions displayed an understanding of the topic. In these times, women were typically less educated than men. Perhaps, in this congregation, the women were interrupting too much. Paul supported their instruction (which some believe was counter-cultural), but taught against disruption.
Building a Stronger Community
It’s obvious that Timothy’s community needed to be strengthened. People were not praying for governmental authorities–hinting perhaps to a rebellion against the rulers. Apparently, men were angry and fighting, and women were dressing provocatively. Obviously this does not mean that women could fight and men could be immodest! Was it ok for men to learn without being quiet and submissive? Of course not.
No Such Thing As Second Class
We know that Paul isn’t saying that women are “second class” citizens in God’s kingdom: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 This was a radical, counter-cultural teaching.
Radical, but Never too Radical
Imagine if God spoke to you, in this very moment, and he told you everything that that was sinful about your life? We’d crumble. Instead, God takes us on a journey, telling us a little before he tells us a lot.
Romans 14 and 15 urges mature believers to give up freedoms so as to not offend other believers. One example was eating certain foods. All foods are clean, but if some people have not yet accepted this truth, there is no need for the mature to offend them with their freedom.
It may be, that in ancient times, having a woman as a teacher was simply too much of an obstacle for the congregation. In the language of our day: you’ve got to pick your battles.
In today’s culture, we are more open to equality between men and women. (Although we are still no where close to Paul’s Kingdom ideal in Galatians 3:28.)
Was Paul speaking to a specific cultural issue, or was he giving us an eternal principle to live by? Why then, would the Holy Spirit give some women incredible gifts of teaching? Do men have nothing to learn from such Spirit-filled teachers?
Additionally, “authority over a man” can also be interpreted as “authority over her husband.” This would make sense with the reference to Adam and Eve, however this would seem to contradict Rom 7:2–3; Eph 5:22–23; and Col 3:18–19.
It is impossible for women to NEVER have ANY spiritual authority over ANY men. Some biblical examples include:
Paul ranks prophets second to apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28) and clearly recognizes female apostles (1 Corinthians 11:5)
Deborah was a prophet and judge (Judges 4:4)
Pricilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26)
Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2)
In Romans 16:3-16, Paul lists and commends twice as many women as he does men.
Junia is called an apostle (Romans 16:7), and many believe this was a female name.
Understanding “Full Submission”
This phrase, in the original language and culture, “which suggests not simply an attitude, but a structural placement of one person below another (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 3.66.3; 2 Cor 9:13; Gal 2:5). The same demand will be made of the children of a household in 1 Tim 3:4 (compare Tit 2:5, 9; 3:1).”**
A Few Final Thoughts
We can’t ignore this passage, and pretend it doesn’t exist! We must remember the core teaching of the Kingdom is about the Gospel of Jesus, and in this, the particulars of worship are secondary. Additionally, Paul does base this on his authority, look at the number of times he says “I”. Throughout the history of the church, many injustices have been rationalized because of this passage–and this can’t continue or be repeated.
Finally, there can be no doubt: this is a tough passage to understand in it’s own context and apply it to ours! It is important to remember the overarching, all inclusive theme of this passage: everyone, men and women, are to worship God with lives that are peaceful and quiet.
**Johnson, L. T. (2008). The first and second letters to Timothy: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 35A, p. 201). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.