Sermon – July 28, 2019
Gender is a problematic and difficult issue in our day. It is a point of contention in the secular world and in the church. But such contentions are nothing new. Paul knew of the difficulties that were brought about any time that roles for men and women were addressed. And because of this, he has some difficult things to say to both his culture, and ours, even as each stand likely opposed to one another. Here in 1 Timothy, we have one of the most controversial passages in Scripture. Today, we will try to understand what Paul is saying, in context, and how to not only rightly apply it to our own situation, but how to avoid misapplications as well.
1. Paul’s command to men: you must pray without argument
Our culture tends to think of real men as those who are self-sufficient, armed with only their will, intellect, and courage to take on the worst of the world. But this is not Paul’s image of a real man – so he here instructs men to do the very thing that guarantees they understand their reliance on other: pray. Prayer admits that what we have is due to another, and what we truly need can only come from another. So, men, pray to God with humility, and do so without arguing and quarreling.
2. Paul’s command to women: you must beautify without gold
Just as men are prone to see themselves as individually secure, women tend to view their beauty in purely external terms. But Paul wants them to view beauty in terms of good works. Do not spend your time and money trying to look beautiful outside, but rather pile on yourself good works, and adorn yourself with self-control. For while gold and pearls might endear you to the world, good works make you beautiful before God.
3. Paul’s command to the church: women must learn without leading
While there are many who take these verses (vv. 11-15) differently than we do, I don’t believe that there are convincing reasons to take them differently than what is strongly implied by the translation given in the ESV: women are not allowed to teach or have authority. While they are to learn, and to understand the tradition and the faith once and for all passed down to the saints, they are not allowed to teach or lead men in the church. Paul’s reasons are based in the creation of men and women, as part of a role that doesn’t change, and the kindness poured out on women who might be deceived in the important role of elder. Yet, women too are saved through faith, even as they will escape through the curse God put over them in childbirth. Jesus has done away with the curse that stands over us all – so let us embrace his word to us and stand firm against the culture where we are called to!