Guidelines for Worship: Men and Women

1Timothy 2:8-15

Paul is moving from his discussion of prayer in the worship assembly to the role of men and women in the worship assembly in these verses. Before we begin, let’s be reminded that he is still speaking within the context of Timothy’s mission to deal with the false teachers in Ephesus and return the church there and in the region to proper teaching and worship.

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. (2:8)

First is his instruction for the men: They are to be in prayer without anger or disputing. This is advice we can use today, for all too often there is disputing and anger more than prayer in the church. The men need to become men of prayer instead of being men of disputes.

Now comes the part that causes so much controversy in our times; his instruction for women. Verses 9-10 are simple enough; women are to dress modestly in church. Here, he doesn’t mean modesty in the way we might think of it today, for what he is telling Timothy is that he doesn’t want the women to dress up and show off, but rather to dress sensibly without trying to attract attention. It seems from verse 10 in particular that Paul’s attitude is that women should be known for the way they live their lives, their good deeds and godly living, not by their sense of fashion, for let’s be honest about this, as servants of Christ, we are all supposed to be modest, not calling attention to ourselves.

My job would be so much easier if Paul had stopped right there, but he didn’t. He goes on to say:

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. (11-12)

The Greek rendered “quietness” carries a sense of more than simple volume, for it implies something more along the lines of a “quiet spirit” than literally not being allowed to speak. “Full submission” is a little more difficult to get a handle on here, for one would typically see this kind of language used to describe the relationship between husband and wife in Paul’s writings, but remember our context: Paul is talking about worship in light of Timothy’s mission to deal with false teachers. Nothing in this text tells us that the false teachers were women, but there is an implication that women might have been more affected by them then the men, yet this is an implication only. Certainly we can take this to mean that they should be in full submission to the word, the message and to the authority of the teacher, after all, it is much more likely that a person will learn when they aren’t arguing with the teacher; I always taught my children that we learn more by listening than we do by talking.

Now take these thoughts as they relate to women, and compare them with what Paul has advised for the men. The men are to be men of prayer, not men of angry disputes; the women are to be of a godly spirit and submissive to proper teaching. It seems to me that these are roughly equivalent, while recognizing the somewhat different roles of men and women in society in the first century.

Paul doesn’t permit women to teach, nor have a position of authority over men. He didn’t say that women can never teach, and certainly Timothy of all people would know that women do teach, for he was taught by his mother and grandmother, and he is not the only example in Scripture, but remember that the context is about worship assemblies… It seems to me that Paul is talking about what we might call the preacher and a sermon, which would have been the job of an elder which will be discussed in the next chapter. He goes on to explain further:

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. (13-15)

Well dear reader, our adventures are never dull are they? Here is a short batch that causes as much controversy today as any passage in the New Testament. People write books on these verses, and others write books about the arguments over these verses, but only graduate students bother to read them, so I won’t get into all of that.

As I read these verses, it seems to me that Paul is simply pointing out that women and men have different roles to play in the church, just as they have different roles to play in the home. Neither role is better than the other, neither role is more important than the other, and surely neither one is dominant over the other. This is a good thing, for it brings about a partnership between people. A husband and a wife together are much stronger than a man and a woman separately. The Body of believers is much stronger containing men and women, each doing their part as God has ordained it, than a Body of men or a Body of women. In the final analysis, women can serve the Lord in great and powerful ways, but they do not need to become one of the boys to do it, for their role in the Body of Christ as women is every bit as important and significant for the Kingdom, as the role played by men.

Of course you’re welcome to disagree…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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32 Responses to Guidelines for Worship: Men and Women

  1. atimetoshare says:

    I like to think of submission as respect or honoring than being subservient. This is how we relate to God as well.

  2. atimetoshare says:

    By submitting we are giving ourselves completely.

  3. It does seem like it’s talking about men and women, but if you look at he broader implications of these words in Scripture, then you see that the “man” (is it literally “a man” in the Greek?) is the Christ and the woman is the church. How does that feel? We really are all equal at the foot of the cross – no male or female – we are all under the same submission to Christ. Christ is compared to Adam as well, and well Eve sinned just as the church sins… Please pray, wrap your mind around it and let me know what the Lord shows you in Scripture. 🙂

  4. Denine Taylor says:

    God created women as a “helpmate” the qualities of a good helpmate trusting, submission, kindness, politeness, helping, and following the lead. Our greatest gifts also our biggest weakness. Along comes the Satan. “here try this fruit” she is innocent so the women thinks well, I don’t want to be rude, he says its ok, and how do you say no? If Satan tried it on Adam. “Here try this fruit.” The man- ” I don’t eat fruit.” LOL

  5. Denine Taylor says:

    oh then Eve got Adam to try it by telling him it was good for him. LOL

  6. The portion of the scripture you referenced says “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.” Your suggestion as to the meaning of the instruction makes sense but it is really difficulty not to assume the literal meaning as conveyed. More explanation please.

    • Don Merritt says:

      My thinking here come from the word “hesychia” and its deeper meaning that goes beyond silence and into a person who lives quietly and stays out of the squabbles and conflicts of others. That isn’t to say they aren’t quiet in the literal sense, but rather it seems likely to go beyond that in my view. Hope that answers your request; thanks for asking.

  7. Olúsèyí says:

    Submission is service to God. When women are in submission, they worship the God Most High in humility and obedience.

  8. bcaudle77 says:

    Nice post Don and thanks for insight.

  9. Pingback: Guidelines for Worship: Men and Women | A disciple's study

  10. paulfg says:

    Catching up with a week’s worth of your fine teaching! This post and Proverbs intermingled. Reading the “hot button” comments here, I thought of Paul writing this letter. Had he known then that his audience would be this wide and this focused over the centuries, might he have chosen different words? Not just in regard to this topic. Not just in this letter. Because if we apply context – then surely that element is part of the context.

    I have written some intimate letters and emails. If I thought they would be pored over for the next two thousand years by the entire globe – each sentence deconstructed and reconstructed – each letter being a teacher to millions – I might have picked up the phone instead! 🙂

    • Don Merritt says:

      Shortly after becoming president, Harry Truman found his wife burning all of their love letters. He asked her how she could do such a thing, “think of history” he said. Mrs. Truman replied, “I AM!” (according to their daughter)

      I’m not sure where the inspiration of the Holy Spirit fits into your working theory, but it is an interesting one to think about!

      Welcome back, you’ve been missed in these precincts. 🙂

  11. mgsunshine says:

    Paul doesn’t permit women to teach, nor have a position of authority over men. He didn’t say that women can never teach, and certainly Timothy of all people would know that women do teach, for he was taught by his mother and grandmother, and he is not the only example in Scripture, but remember that the context is about worship assemblies…

    I recently changed churches because I was convicted by this Scripture. After much prayer and study God led me to a church in which men teach and lead. The awkward part was explaining to my former pastor why I left.

  12. Messenger At The Crossroads says:

    It would seem that this pulls it all together – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”, per Galatians 3:28. Another question comes from your article verse 12 – ” But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” One could almost view this as a directive of Paul, but not directly from the Lord . Also the KJV word “silence” per online Strong’s is: “stillness that is desistance from bustle or language.” This seems to paint a picture of women jabbering away rather than sitting quietly like Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus, dis-focused from the teaching due to worldly interests or concerns… Well, anyway. Thank you for your skilled handling of this particular two edged sword. Commendable. Blessings and God’s Good on you, brother!

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