Prayer and Gender Roles – 1 Timothy 2
Read the Passage: 1 Timothy 2
Spiritual Intercession (2:1–7)
Evidently, one of the challenges Timothy needed to address in Ephesus was that the church had ceased to regularly pray for the lost, especially for their political leaders. Since rulers and others in positions of cultural power are sometimes hostile towards God and His church, it is often easier for believers to criticize such leaders than to pray for them. This would have been especially true for the Christians in Ephesus, for Nero was the reigning emperor during this time period. History records that Nero was extremely antagonistic toward believers, as had been his predecessor, Claudius Caesar (cf. Acts 18:2). Despite the anti-Christian bias of some secular rulers, the church must continue to pray for political leaders, for, as Paul had earlier instructed the believers in Rome, “The authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom. 13:1; cf. Titus 3:1–2; 1 Pet. 2:13–17).
One reason Paul gives for praying for political leaders is “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:2). Similarly, Paul had earlier instructed the Thessalonian believers to “aspire to lead a quiet life” (1 Thess. 4:11) and told Titus “to be peaceable [and] gentle . . . to all men” (Titus 3:2). Observe Paul does not say that believers ought to spend time worrying about their future, being overly anxious about cultural decay, and answering every one of their critics. Rather, Christians are to pray for their leaders, even ones that are hostile toward the gospel, for God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Of course, not all men—nor even most men (cf. Matt. 7:13–14)—will be saved; yet, those who are lost ought to remain so in spite of believers’ prayers, not on account of our lack of prayers.
External Actions (2:8–10)
In 1 Tim. 2:8–10 Paul transitions into a discussion about gender roles. While we may be tempted to think that debates about gender roles are a modern phenomenon, mankind has always struggled with this issue. Indeed, in the creation account God’s design of gender roles is clear—that is, male and female are completely equal in regard to essence and worth, but distinct in regard to function and role. In short, God’s design entailed the following: Adam was to protect and to provide for Eve; Eve was to help and to submit to Adam; and together, they were to cultivate and to steward the creation (cf. Gen. 2:15–25). Yet, in the fall of mankind, the creation—as personified by the snake—led Eve into sin; Eve submitted to the creation and led Adam into temptation; and Adam submitted to Eve’s suggestion, thus committing the original sin (cf. Gen. 3:1–7). The fall was a complete reversal, or inversion, of the divine design for relationships.
Internal Disposition (2:11–15)
As we read 1 Tim. 2:11–15, we must keep in mind that these verses are a continuation of Paul’s earlier teaching about the way in which gender roles are externally manifest within the church. In 1 Tim. 2:11–12, focusing on the roles of women, Paul address the issue of doctrinal teaching within the church. In this passage Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:12). Contextually, Paul is referring to women filling the role and office of a pastor (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1–8); he is not prohibiting women from talking in the church or from teaching other believers in appropriate circumstances. Indeed, in Acts 18:26 we see Priscilla privately teaching Apollos and in Titus 2:3 we read Paul’s admonition that older women become “teachers of good things” as they interact with younger women within the church.
Throughout history, one of the most common ways that people have circumvented doctrine is to claim that certain biblical teachings are time-bound and/or culture-specific. Being aware of this evasive tactic, in 1 Tim. 2:13–14 Paul showed the moral nature of his teaching on gender roles by grounding it in the creation account. In concluding this chapter, Paul gave a practical argument for embracing gender roles—that is, the fact that God designs us to do what He tells us to do. In 1 Tim. 2:15, which is a challenging verse, Paul’s reference to “she” stands for Eve (from 1 Tim. 2:13) who represents all women; “saved” means fulfilled or completed; and “childbearing” is a paradigm of female gender roles. Therefore, Paul’s teaching is this verse is as follows: Women will be fulfilled or completed as they embrace their divinely designed gender roles and continue in the faith.
- Do you regularly pray for leaders both in the church and in the culture? What ought Christians to pray for in regard to unbelieving rulers?
- Do you find your life characterized by peace and quietness, or by worry and anxiety? How can we worry less in a fallen world (cf. Matt. 6:25–34)?
- What factors may have been influencing the church in Ephesus to be confused regarding God’s design of gender roles?
- How can Christians embrace and winsomely teach a biblical view of gender roles to a fallen culture that is inclined to reject this message?
- How can we tell the difference in Scripture between timeless moral principles and time-bound cultural practices (cf. 1 Cor. 11:2–16)?