Chapter two begins the actual instructions or clarifications that Timothy needed to finish his task. “First of all,” he needed to make sure that the local assemblies prayed for “all people, even for kings and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-8). These prayers had two goals. First, praying for the authorities would affect how the believers lived, leading to a more “peaceful and quiet life.” Secondly, praying for all people would result in people coming to believe in Jesus and “a knowledge of the truth,” namely, that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Because of this Paul wanted the men of the various assemblies to pray for their nation and their community regularly.
It is important to note at this point that Paul spent much of this letter giving instructions to various distinct groups of people within the local churches, starting with the “men.” The fact that he specified that men were to pray did not mean that women were not allowed to, as 1 Corinthians 11:5 shows (written about a decade earlier). However, it is a duty of men, in their God-given roles as leaders in their families, congregations, communities, and even politics, that they should intentionally pray for these areas when they are gathered together. The comment that this should be done “without anger or dispute” could show that Paul was addressing a specific issue with a timeless principle.
The second group that Paul addressed was the “women” (1 Timothy 2:9-15). This paragraph is often maligned by those who mistakenly think that Paul was misogynistic and chauvinistic. In reality, he offered great latitude toward believing women and had several of them serve alongside him in his ministry. Even so, he strongly believed in the God-designed order for men and women, and his Holy Spirit-inspired letters kept that balance.
Godly women, he wrote, should “dress…with modesty and self-control.” Again, “self-control” may indicate that some of the women in Ephesus were disrupting the meetings, like the men. In response, Paul gave principles for all believing women. They are to be identified and defined by their good deeds rather than outward adornment. Paul’s command that he did “not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” has been widely debated and often dismissed. While some see this to be a cultural issue in Ephesus that has no bearing on our modern culture, this does not fit the entire context, especially since he referred back to creation for his support. Women are not to take teaching or leadership positions over men in the congregation. Constable notes, “The verbs ‘teach’ and ‘exercise authority’ are in the present tense in the Greek text, which implies a continuing ministry rather than a single instance of ministry.” 1 Because of the inherent roles in creation and because of Eve’s being deceived, Paul supernaturally concluded that this was the natural order in the assembly.
Verse 15 is also often misunderstood, as many believe it limits women to be nothing more than “baby-making machines.” This is considered a difficult verse, unfortunately, because of our English translations. The key is found in the two verbs, “be delivered” and “continue.” Some translations make the both singular – “she will be delivered…if she continues” (NET, HCSB) – while others make both verbs plural – “they will be delivered…if they continue” (NASB, NLT, NIV). Of the major translation, only the KJV and ESV reflect the Greek text – “she will be delivered [singular]…if they continue [plural].”
In the context, “she” goes back to Eve from verse 14, while “they” refers to the Christian women Paul was writing about in verse 9. Even though Eve was deceived, bringing God’s curse of a natural struggle against male leadership upon her and all women, she (and her gender) can be delivered from this curse. Rather than spending her life being deceived, like Eve, and usurping roles that she was never designed to fulfill, the godly woman “will be delivered” from this spiritual struggle by focusing on how God did design her – a nurturer and giver of life. Even for those women who cannot or are past the age of childbearing, the nurture and life they give to others around them – whether men, women, or children – can be done out of “faith and love and holiness with self-control.” This is far from saying that women have no role in the church. On the contrary, this gives them great responsibility and freedom to serve within their God-given design.
- Thomas Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy, 2016 edition, 33. ↩