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Part 2: Answering the Question

 

In this 2-part series, we are attempting to answer the question, “Why does Paul forbid women to preach to men in 1 Timothy 2:12?” In Part 1, I showed that the book is arranged around two acts with an intermission in between. Act I tells us what church ministry should look like in 1 Timothy 1:3 – 3:13. Act II tells us how church ministry should work in 1 Timothy 4:6 – 6:19. But the intermission in 1 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 is the most important part, because it both defines the purpose of the book and the purpose of the church itself. We focused, in particular, on verses 14–15, where the apostle Paul clearly states, “I am writing these things to you so that . . . you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Paul frames the purpose of the church around three titles that each define one particular aspect about its purpose, but then also form one composite mission statement for the church. 

As the House of God, the church broadcasts: We have the answer. If the church follows in the footsteps of the original House of God (the tabernacle or the temple), then it bears the same mission: To show the world that paradise is not lost. Today, the church does this by pointing to the ultimate temple, Jesus Christ, as the answer the world is looking for (John 2:21).

As the Church of the Living God, the church proclaims: We have the only answer. Many other religions claim to have answers to help a fallen world. But the church must demonstrate that there is only one answer, there is only one person, who can lead the world back to paradise. His name is Jesus (Acts 4:12). 

As the Pillar and Buttress of the Truth, the church declares: We have the only answer worth fighting for. There is only one answer and there is only one institution entrusted with that answer. The church bears the sole responsibility of upholding the hope of the gospel from generation to generation. Needless to say, the stakes are high, and the church must take its job seriously as the lone guardian of this hope. Compromise is not an option.

Paul wants the church to adopt the full mission statement that we have the only answer worth fighting for. When the church understands that this is its role in God’s plan, it will preserve the precious hope of the gospel that points the way forward to a new creation. But what may surprise us is that the way Paul wants the church to preserve the truth is primarily through its conduct. The reason he writes this letter is so that Timothy “may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.” [1] Behavior is the focus of Acts I and II of the book (1 Timothy 1:3 – 3:13; 4:6 – 6:19), and this begins to help us see why Paul forbids women to preach to men in 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul forbidding women to preach to men falls in the middle of Act I. It describes one aspect of the conduct of the church, just like the rest of Act I does. And as we have seen, Paul is concerned about conduct, because it directly impacts the integrity of the gospel. Therefore, it seems likely that the fundamental reason Paul forbids women to preach to men is because it somehow protects the integrity of the gospel. In other words, if women are allowed to preach to men, the gospel would somehow be compromised.

This is a serious claim. So, the question we need to answer in Part 2 of this series is, “Is there any evidence that this is the logic Paul is using in 1 Timothy 2 to forbid women to preach to men?” I believe there is and I want to spend the remainder of the article demonstrating just that.

THE RELATIONSHIPS OF THE CHURCH

At this point, I want to narrow our focus from the breadth of the book to the depth of the passage. Chapter 2, where we find Paul forbidding women to preach to men, is nestled between two other chapters that highlight two categories of the church as it relates to its conduct. Chapter 1 focuses on the church’s stance against false teaching (1:3–20). Chapter 3 focuses on the church’s standard for leadership (3:1–13). And each of these topics falls under the umbrella of what church ministry should look like in Act I of the book. Chapter 2, then, is no exception. It too falls under the category of what church ministry should look like, and it focuses on the church’s strategy for orderliness (2:1–15). Within this chapter, Paul proposes two areas within the church that must conform to the strategy for orderliness: The church’s relationship to the world and the church’s relationship between men and women.

1.    THE CHURCH'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD

At the beginning of chapter 2, we find Paul instructing the church about its relationship to the world. We see this from the opening command to the whole church in 1 Timothy 2:1–2:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

The reason Paul wants the church to pray for everyone, including prominent government officials, is so that its people will exemplify lives of peace and stability before the world. This is part of the strategy for creating order within the church. And the purpose behind it is so that the gospel may not be hindered. Just like I claimed before, the integrity of the gospel is the ultimate goal of the church’s conduct, and we see evidence of that in the following verses:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:3–6).

Peaceful prayer and concern for the lost preserve the integrity of the gospel before a lost world. If the church fails to behave in a caring or gentle way with its society, it will rob the gospel of its hope and may impede someone from embracing Christ as the agent who will escort the world to a new paradise. We may at times see our prayer life or attitudes about government as insignificant. But God sees it as vital to preserving the credibility of the gospel.

2.    THE CHURCH'S RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

In 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul moves from the church’s external relationship to the world to the church’s internal relationship to itself. In particular, he focuses on the relationship between men and women in the church. At first, he addresses each gender’s role within the church, separately. 

 
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For the men, he says:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling (1 Timothy 2:8). 

Again, the focus is on orderliness. Paul wants the demeanor of the men to be peaceful and orderly within their public worship services. There is no room for fighting.

For the women, he says:

Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works (1 Timothy 2:9–10).

Once again, the goal of their conduct is orderliness and propriety. No one should flaunt what they’re wearing; instead, everyone should dress modestly and humbly, so that they do not draw any attention to themselves away from centrality of the gospel.

But then Paul switches from each gender’s role distinct from each other to how the genders interact with one another:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet (1 Timothy 2:11–12).

Now, we finally reach the infamous verse about Paul forbidding women to preach to men. Why does Paul prohibit this? He gives us two reasons in verses 13 and 14. One reason is positive; the other is negative. One reason is pre-Fall; the other is post-Fall:

A.    APPEAL TO CREATION (v. 13)

First, Paul says in verse 13, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” He appeals to the order of creation to prove that women should not preach to men. Woman was created from man, not the other way around, just as 1 Corinthians 11:8–9 says, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” For this reason, the man exercised a special authority over the woman, even before the Fall. [2]

 

 
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Already, we get a sense that what Paul is commanding is timeless. It is grounded in creation itself, not a time period or situation specific to Paul’s day. It is not derived from a culture pervaded by misogyny where it would have hurt the church’s witness to allow women to preach to men; nor is it derived from a remote situation at the church of Ephesus that required a unique restriction different from all the other churches. The prohibition originates from God’s original design for men and women, intended for all time.

But there’s more. Paul not only appeals to the order of creation; he appeals to the hope of paradise. We cannot forget that 1 Timothy is arranged around the purpose of the church. It is an institution that announces by its conduct: We have the only answer worth fighting for. It does this, first and foremost, by adopting the moniker, the “House of God,” as an emblem of the first “House of God,” the Garden of Eden. Paul anchors his command for women not to preach to men in the hope of a restored creation. He points back to the time when everything was right in the world, including the relationship between man and woman, and wants the church to emulate that moment in history. The church does this in a tangible way by not allowing women to preach to men, thereby upholding the perfect order of creation. As a result, the church maintains the orderliness Paul is after by imitating creation’s order, and so it continues to rehearse the theme that paradise is not lost. This is the positive reason Paul forbids women to preach to men. It reflects a pre-Fall state, in order to forecast the hope of a new creation.

B.    APPEAL TO THE FALL (v. 14)

Second, Paul says in verse 14, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” This verse may make it sound like Eve is being punished for being more gullible than Adam. However, that is probably not the case. Adam was just as guilty as Eve was according to Romans 5:12–21. [3] Rather, the issue seems to be that Eve took charge in her relationship with Adam in that moment. She made the call for the two of them, not Adam. As a result, she bears the full burden of being deceived, not he. In other words, if she had allowed him to take the lead in the conversation, he would bear the responsibility of being deceived, not she. But as it is, she flipped the order of creation and plunged her and her husband into sin, because she was deceived.

 
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Paul not only points back to a pre-Fall moment as grounds for forbidding women to preach to men; he also brings to mind a post-Fall moment. In fact, it is the post-Fall moment of all post-Fall moments, because it is the one that introduced the world to the curse, and we feel its affects to this day. If women preach to men, it would suggest that the same action Eve took to try to reverse the order of creation is acceptable for the church to do as well. It would lend credibility to the false teaching that introduced sin into the world. Instead, the church must take a stand against the Fall. Therefore, it’s not only important for the church to point the world to the hope of a new creation; it must also remind the world that this world is broken because of sin. This is the negative reason Paul forbids women to preach to men. It recalls a post-Fall state, in order to condemn the deception of the old creation.

The church must uphold its doctrinal standard by its conduct. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about relationships outside the church or inside the church, gender roles independent of each other or dependent on each other; the church must conduct itself in an orderly fashion in every circumstance and in every way, in order to preserve the integrity of the gospel. This includes the roles women have or do not have in the church. When women submit to their male leadership and do not reverse the roles they have been given, the church takes a stand for the order of paradise and against the false teaching of the Fall. It proclaims with one voice, “A new creation is coming!”

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LET'S PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

 

This was a lot to cover and I hope you are not too overwhelmed. But I believe a sufficient summary is in order. So, let me try to put everything together for us:

The book of 1 Timothy is all about the church preserving the truth of the gospel (1 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5). It accomplishes this by embodying the message conveyed by its nicknames: (1) The House of God, (2) the Church of the Living God, and (3) the Pillar and Buttress of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). In other words, by the conduct of its people, the church shows the world, “We have the only answer worth fighting for.” That answer is Jesus (1 Timothy 3:16). He alone will escort the world back to a paradise, much like Eden, but greater (1 Timothy 1:1; 6:14–16), and the church alone is the sole guardian of this message (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14). As a result, the church must protect the truth of the gospel through its strict teaching and careful behavior.

 

Part of that behavior is what the church does in its relationships both inside and outside the church (1 Timothy 2:1–15). Its conduct must be orderly, so that the gospel may not lose its effectiveness (1 Timothy 2:3–6). Inside the church, men and women are assigned specific roles in order to facilitate orderliness. In particular, women are not allowed to teach or exercise authority over men, which includes preaching, because otherwise, it would create disorder by reversing the order of creation (1 Timothy 2:13), and it would lend credibility to the deception of false teaching, whether it means to or not (1 Timothy 2:14). Instead, the church must forbid women to preach to men, so that they may illustrate the perfect order of paradise and reject the imperfect disorder of the Fall. In this way, the church leads the world back to the original “House of God,” the Garden of Eden, so that they may hope in the permanent one to come. 

 

As you can see, women preaching to men is not an insignificant issue. The integrity of the gospel and the hope of a new creation is on the line. This is not about men being better than women or women being unable to preach. Quite the contrary! Women are just as equal to men, just as much as Jesus, the Son of God, is as equal to His Father (1 Corinthians 11:3). Just because the roles are different doesn’t make one less valuable than the other. And women are just as capable of preaching or teaching as men. In fact, older women are instructed by Paul to teach younger women (Titus 2:3–5). But just because women can preach doesn’t mean they should in every case. God draws the line with women preaching to men. The church must preserve the gospel by its orderly conduct. It must point the way to a new creation. 

[1] Emphasis mine.*

[2Some scholars do not think Paul has interpreted Genesis 2 correctly here. They would argue that Genesis 2 does not say anything about an order of creation, that, since man was created before woman, he exercised authority over her. For further study on why the order of creation may exist in Genesis 2, see William Varner, To Preach or Not to Preach, pp. 47–48. George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles (NIGTC), pp. 142–43.*

 [3] William Varner, To Preach or Not to Preach, p. 49.*

 
 
 

 

 

*Click the number at the front of the endnote to return to where you left off reading.

FURTHER READING

I found the following books to be very helpful in putting together this video and article. 

To Preach or Not to Preach: Women’s Ministry Then and Now

William Varner

pp. 39­­­­­–84

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism
Douglas Moo (Editors: John Piper and Wayne Grudem)

pp. 179–193

The Pastoral Epistles (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)

George W. Knight III

pp. 140–144