We are examining this Teacher-Student-Teacher relationship between Paul, who invested in Timothy and expected Timothy to invest in others as a model for not only how, but what to pass “downline.”
Last week we opened in chapter 1 of 1 Timothy where Paul, before teaching even the first “what,” sets the context – Grace. Everything that will be taught, should be taught in the context of Grace. Paul points at the Grace of God for us and then calls us to be examples of grace by being givers of grace.
This week in chapter 2 Paul picks up the first theme that he wants to pass on to Timothy and wants Timothy to pass on to others.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 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 people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 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. (1 Timothy 2:1-15)
A Difficult Text
When we were looking at the plan for preaching over the summer and felt really led by the Holy Spirit to spend the summer in preaching through 1 and 2 Timothy, I wasn’t really paying attention to the details of 1 Timothy chapter 2. We can all acknowledge that this is a very difficult text. I would absolutely agree that it is a difficult text—but I think it is difficult for a different reason that you might expect. It is not difficult to understand. It is difficult because most of us (I would guess especially the women) don’t like what it has to say.
I want to tell you right up front that this is a difficult text for reasons I want to walk through with you today—that is, this text is difficult because it is very hard to do what it asks us to do and here is what it asks us to do—live your life with others in mind.
Now lets talk about the details and work our way back to this truth. As Paul begins to instruct Timothy he begins by saying…
Pray for All People (2:1-4)
I urge you…pray for all people.
That doesn’t sound too controversial does it? I mean, simple enough, pray for everybody.
But Paul particularizes what he means by All…
Pray for the Kings. Again, simple enough right? However, the weight of this command can only be seen when we remember that the Roman Emperor when Paul wrote this Epistle was the cruel monster Nero—who later put Paul and Peter to death. Paul is urging that we pray for our present rulers, no matter how unreasonable they may seem to be.
This is foreign to us. I doubt many Republicans pray regularly for our Democratic President, at least not good prayers for him. I doubt many Democrats prayed regularly for our Republican President when we had one. Complain about him, yes. Whine about him, yes. Criticize him, yes. How about pray for him?
Paul also adds to pray for “all those in authority” in various levels of government. The purpose of this is very logical and significant: “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and honesty.” The fact that we are permitted to assemble peaceably for public worship is dependent on our rights under law—law as upheld and enforced by our legislators, administrators, and judicial leaders. Pray for them.
Then Paul connects prayer and the way we live to the salvation of all humanity. He says, “our praying and our quiet lives of godly dignity please God. So, Pray and live in a way that everyone is saved and comes to understand the truth.” Obviously everyone includes kings and those in authority and “everyone else.”
So pray for everyone. Ask God to help them, give thanks for them and pray for them to come to a saving knowledge and understanding of the truth. Now I want to ask you–who or what is the focus of the prayers that Paul is instructing Timothy to offer? Others.
When we compare what Paul instructs Timothy to do with what our most basic prayers often sound like what we find is that Paul says the focus of prayer is others but most often we experience that the focus of prayer is me. Help me, give me, guide me, show me, lead me, teach me.
Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding prayer is to make your enemies, that leader you don’t agree with, that leader you don’t respect, those in authority over you and the unknowing, unbelieving world—make them the focus of your prayers. Live your life with others in mind and specifically, pray your prayers with others in mind.
But he doesn’t stop there…
Men: Live Lives of Integrity (2:8)
“In every place of worship I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God.” Lifting up one’s hands in prayer is often mentioned in the Old Testament (e.g., 1 Kings 8:22; Psalms 141:2; 143:6). It is a natural gesture, indicating earnest desire.
The word for holy here is “devout, sincere, pleasing to God” (The word “holy” here is not the more common hagios, but hosios, which means “devout, pious, pleasing to God”). Paul says, I want men’s lives to match their prayers.
What did he just tell them to pray for? Others. So what is he telling them to live for? Others.
This “devout, sincere, pleasing to God” prayer is the directive to live in right relationship with God—to be at peace with God—to not live in the tension between praying one thing and doing another. Let your prayers and your life be aligned. Pray for others and work for and live for others.
And that means not only live in right relationship with God, but live in right relationship with the other people God has put in your world.
Paul is echoing the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:23-24 where he commands, “so if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Men: let your living for others match your praying for others. This means dealing with the division between you and God and the division between you and others.
Live your life with others in mind.
Women: Live Lives of Modesty and Submission (2:9-12)
This is no doubt the most controversial part of the text today.
To understand exactly what is at stake we have to see it against its historical background. This passage is written against a Greek background.
Ephesus, where Timothy was when this letter was written to him, was an ancient Greek city. Ephesus was the home of the Temple of Diana the Greek goddess with hundreds of priestesses who were sacred prostitutes. The Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth also had thousands of priestess prostitutes—who were constantly displaying themselves and drawing attention to themselves with elaborate dress, jewelry and hairstyles. This was part of Greek culture and specifically at Ephesus.
Add to this the fact that the respectable Greek woman led a very confined life. She lived in her own quarters into which no one but her husband came. She did not regularly appear at meals and only rarely in any public assembly and never on the street alone—because someone would have concluded she was a temple prostitute.
When we understand this about the culture, we see a little more clearly why Paul wrote what he wrote to Christian women. The Christian woman is not to adorn herself with “gold or pearls or expensive clothes” so as to draw attention to herself. This is what the prostitutes did. Rather, Christian women are to adorn themselves “with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
It is important to note that Paul does not forbid jewelry or dresses or attractive hairstyles. What Paul instructs is a decent and orderly and appropriate way so that when people notice you they don’t notice those things—they notice the good things you do in the name of God (2:9-10).
Likewise, Paul’s instruction for women to not teach men and to learn quietly. If in any Greek town Christian women had taken an active and speaking part in the work of the church, the church would inevitably have gained the reputation of being the resort of prostitutes—because those were the only women who had a public life.
Paul did not forbid women from an adorned life, but instructed them to pursue a life that was rightly adorned (appropriate dress, jewelry and hairstyle) and consisted of appropriate action (actions that pointed to God and not to themselves). And Paul did not prohibit a public life, but in this context, in public, an orderly life—a life that did not draw attention to itself either by an overly public life of teaching and leading. Jesus and Paul valued women their gifts and their ministry and elevated them to places that society and culture in no way afforded them.
Yet in Paul’s ministry:
- Eodia and Syntyche were women who labored in the Gospel (Philippians 4:2-3)
- Philip the evangelist had four daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9)
- Lois and Eunice were held in the highest honor (2 Timothy 1:5)
- Phoebe was a deacon in the church in Cenchrea (Romans 16:1)
- And Paul’s summary statement is in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So what are we to make of Paul’s clearly high view of women and their gifts compared to his statements here? That there is some specific reason that Paul is telling Timothy to tell the Christian women in Ephesus to dress modestly, draw attention to yourselves by actions that point at God and live an orderly life. Do you know what that specific reason is? Paul is telling the women—Live with Others in Mind.
Live with others in mind—pray for everyone—even the king who is persecuting you.
Live with others in mind—men—let your life match your prayers—pray for others/live for others.
Live with others in mind—women—don’t draw attention to yourselves—live a life that points at God. This living with others in mind could be confusing—because I thought we were supposed to live with God in mind—his purposes, his plan, his glory and acclaim.
If you will notice there is a section of scripture vv 5-7 that we passed over. In all of the writings of Paul there is an intent to declare the central truths of the faith. Paul includes that teaching here. He articulates four central truths:
- There is only one God
- And one Mediator—Christ Jesus
- He (Jesus) gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.
- At God’s appointed time.
Why does Paul sandwich those truths here between his call to pray for others and his call for men and women to live for others?
He is saying, “Here is why I am asking you to do this: Jesus did this for you.”
The Son of God became Mediator—he gave his life with you in mind. He gave his life to purchase freedom for you.
When Paul writes to the Philippians he says it this way:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
In case you missed it, Paul begins that passage with “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” As his people, we do what he did—we live our lives with others in mind. Verse 3: this is good and pleases God our Savior.
The very easy application from today’s sermon is to tell you to pray for everyone, the President, the congress, the Govenor and the legislature, the Mayor, and the city council.
But the harder call is to actually live your whole life with others in mind.
We live in a country whose fundamental tenant is freedom. But that central tenet has regrettably devolved into to non-consideration/personal freedom at the expense of others. “I can do what I want to do, say what I want to say, dress how I want to dress…and it is my right…I don’t care what you say—or more significantly how it affects you.” But Paul says, Christians—followers of Jesus—follow Jesus in Living your Lives with Others in Mind.
They not only pray for others—they live for others. And if that means changing the way we think and act and dress and behave for the benefit of others—we do.
You want to know what to pass down the line? It is this: your life is not your life. It is Christ’s, and Christ would have you live your life with others in mind.