1 Timothy 2B: Priorities Continued

I Timothy 2: 9-15 is one of those passages which sometimes a teacher wants to skip or gloss over. However, I have found in my experience these types of passages are often very important.

Paul is talking about our priorities as Christians.  Thus far we have seen the similarities the church at Ephesus faced in Paul and Timothy’s day which are the same we face.  A falling away of the church, materialism, and sexual immorality.  The creeping in of false doctrine, the watering down of theology, compromising, especially sin. These conditions call for us to teach sound doctrine, proclaim the Gospel, and defend the faith. Paul then says the order is to first of all pray about everything.

When it comes to worship, God has always been meticulous about how we worship Him. It must be done in the right order. We have chapter after chapter in the Old Testament as God through Moses tells the people the order of worship, sacrifice for sin and how it was to be done. Detail after detail. And the devil is in the details, for he knows if we follow God’s instructions our worship will be accepted and we experience the joy of worship.   Remember Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4, the Father is seeking true worshippers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth.  Paul says in I Timothy 2: 8, we are instructed: “I desire all men to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger and disputing (doubting KJV). Preparing to pray involves three steps:  First, holy hands means confessed all sins; second, without wrath, no unresolved anger with anyone; third step, without doubting God’s Word.  NIV uses the word – disputing for doubting. Disputing can occur over controversial topics. Controversy comes when the world culture has conformed our thinking compared to what the Word of God tells us. Today’s lesson is about such a section of Scripture.

Many would look at these verses regarding the role of women in the church and believe this is an attitude expressed by a male chauvinist, a typical egotistical man. The world culture says this is not the thinking of our culture and society in the 21st century. Therefore this thinking and these instructions are Paul’s point of view and reflect the thinking of the culture in his day. Yet Paul taught ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3: 28)  

The explanation -this is historical and not applicable to society and women today creates a solution for those who think this is wrong; but in doing so, it creates a larger, more dangerous problem.  If the Word of God is inspired then the teaching of Paul came from God and not from Paul himself. If we have a problem with what Paul writes, we have a problem with what the Bible says about women in the church. The Scripture makes it clear there are successful women in the Bible in Proverbs 31; also we read of Priscilla who worked with her husband in tent making and Lydia, the seller of purple.   These instructions to Christian women are for the home and for worship in the church. We are told: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”(I Cor. 14: 40)

This strategy of introducing doubt in the authenticity of God’s Word is as old as the Garden of Eden, where the serpent asked, “Has God really said?”  In other words did God even say this? Is it applicable to you in this day and time?  Is these one of those commands we do not have to obey for they do not apply to us in the New Testament church.  Creating doubt about the Word of God is as old as the Garden of Eden. The devil questions God’s word: “Did God really say you shall not eat of every tree in the garden? “   This question created doubt in Eve’s mind. When doubt about God’s word is created, we are judging what God says, rather than trying to understand it. The first sin is a classic example of how to market sin. First make it look good in the eyes of the beholder. Then reduce the risk, ‘you will surely not die.’ This increases the interest. Then promise a great reward, you will be like God.  Eve saw it was good for food. It was pleasant to the eyes. And it would make one wise.  See the scheme: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. We must avoid judging God’s word. We must not question His goodness. We must not doubt or ignore His word. When God came into the Garden after Adam and Eve had sinned, they hid from God. Hiding is an instinctive reaction to guilt. It reveals the fact guilt produces fear. But God came searching for man, not visa versa. This is important. Christianity is the most unique among all world religions, in that all other religions began with man looking for God. Only the Bible starts with God seeking man.

God desires worship; but He does NOT accept all worship. In Genesis 4, we have a classic example of God not accepting Cain’s offering. Cain did not follow God’s instructions but came in a way which seemed right to him. When Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted, he was angry with God and envious of Abel. This anger resulted in the first murder. And the first murder was caused by a dispute over the proper way to worship God.  (Interesting side note:  Abel is the first name mentioned in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11.)

ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH AND HOME

The women’s liberation movement began at Calvary not in the 20th century. As mentioned earlier Paul proclaims we are one in Christ, neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female. However Paul says God has given us an order. This order is God’s Priority for believers. This is not about superiority; it is about priority in the roles of men and women in the church and the home. This is for Christians. In the army there are generals and privates. Both are equal in the eyes of God, but they have different roles. The private may even be a better person than the general, but he does not possess the abilities to be a general. However, he is better equipped and trained to fight the battle than the general who is better equipped to devise the proper strategy. They need each other.  The word submission is a red flag to some people. To submit means to rank under. This is why the Roman Centurion was praised for his faith by Jesus because he understood this principle as a man under authority. You can never be over what God wants you to be over, until you get under what God wants you to get under.  This is Kingdom Authority from the King of Kings, the Creator and Sustainer of All things. Wives under husbands, husbands under Christ, children under parents, employees under employers.  This is God’s order. His priorities. 

Paul then cautions women to dress modestly. We are so concerned with external appearance but real beauty to God is a godly life. Paul does not forbid the use of jewelry and lovely clothes, but rather the excessive use of them as substitutes for true, inner beauty. A woman’s clothing should be decent, modest and not create lust in the eyes of men and become as source of temptation. What was happening in Ephesus, is wealthy women were dressing extravagantly to display their wealth and create envy. Others flaunted their figures in a sexually charged society.

“Let women learn in silence (quietness, NIV) with all submission. This does not mean women could not open their mouths but in order to learn, we must listen.  Questions should be asked in an appropriate way.  A service or a classroom can get out of hand quickly if there is not an order to asking questions to gain information or have explanations. Paul had to address the problem of speaking in tongues in the church at Corinth, because it had gotten out of hand and Paul set the rules for how this was to be done decently and in order. Priorities.

But Paul is clear woman are not to be in the role of authority of a pastor over a church.

What has happened in our culture and society today?  First of all, we must remember these are God’s instructions and priorities for Christians, for believers. Consider how important women’s roles are as mothers and wives and sisters. Some are called to singleness and some are not able to bear children.  Women in the Bible were successful in business careers. But God has not called women to serve in primary leadership positions in the church. Those denominations which have chosen to neglect this command are experiencing problems with other areas of Scripture pertaining to sexual immorality and marriage.

God used women in a mighty way. With the first sin, came the plan of salvation which was created in the mind of Triune God before the foundation of the world: “And I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman. And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3: 15)  Women were designed to bear children and to nourish them. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

Before there was a Moses, there was his godly mother,  Jochabed. Before there was a Samuel there was his mother Hannah, a prayer warrior. Before there was Jesus there was Mary a pure maid who became the mother Jesus Christ. The SEED who would crush the head of the serpent.

The command to be fruitful and multiply takes both man and woman and woman. Psalm 127 says unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain. This means God says follow my instructions on how to build a home.  His word is our foundation. He has given us His priorities and roles we are to serve in the home and church.  The family is the backbone of a country. “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.”

Today our society has created a stigma about being a mother and a homemaker, staying at home with small children. It has been part of the reason for abortion. Pregnancies are not viewed as a reward to some, but a curse, an interference with one’s plans. Staying at home to raise children is viewed as inferior and less important and not as rewarding as a career, position, power and money. Others try to do it all and find the cannot.

Yet this was God’s plan and priority. No greater endeavor than to raise godly children to build God’s kingdom on earth.

Here are some truths I have learned over the years:

  1. Avoid judging the Word of God.
  2. Do not question God’s goodness.
  3. Do not doubt or ignore God’s Word
  4. Do not forget the consequences of sin.
  5. Do not throw away your confidence in the Lord.
  6. Remember your defense system. Put on the whole armor of God ( Ephesians 6)
  7. Renew your mind. Take captive wrong thoughts. 2 Cor. 10
  8. Watch and pray lest you fall into temptation.
  9. Remember your enemy can disguise himself.
  10. Don’t argue with the enemy. Remember good and evil travel on a parallel path.

God’s priorities are the key to not only peace of mind, but the guide to the abundant life Jesus died to give us.

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