David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
1 Timothy 2
1 Timothy 2 - Instructions for Public Worship
A. Public prayer.
1. (1) Pray for all men.
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.
a. First of all: This does not refer to time; it refers to importance. What comes next is of first importance in the heart and mind of Paul. Paul's broader context following is the public worship of Christians, so this begins a series of instructions for those meetings.
i. White translates the idea: "In the first place, let me remind you that the Church's public prayers must be made expressly for all men, from the Emperor downwards."
b. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks: These terms describe the wide categories of our communication with God.
i. Supplication is simply asking for something. Prayer should never be all asking, but it should ask in bold confidence from God's Word.
ii. Prayers is a broad word, referring to all communication with the Lord.
iii. Intercessions refer to the requests we make on behalf of others. As we pray, there should be time when the needs of other find a place in our prayer before God's throne.
iv. Giving of thanks is an essential part of our walk with God. Those who lack a basic sense of gratitude in their lives lack a basic Christian virtue.
c. All men: This tells us whom we are to pray for with these various means of prayer. The idea is that all men need prayer. You have never met someone that you cannot or should not pray for.
i. Most Christians find it easy to pray for their family, friends, and loved ones, but it should not end there. We should also pray for our enemies and for those with whom we have conflict. We should pray for those who annoy us, and for those who seem to be against us. Each of these fall into the category of all men.
ii. To pray for all men also means to pray evangelistically. We should pray for our friends who need to know Jesus, for our coworkers, and for others we have regular contact with.
iii. To pray for all men also means to pray for your pastors, to pray for your church, and to pray for other ministries you know and love.
d. Giving of thanks be made for all men: We can find something to thank God for regarding all men. Even those who persecute us and are against us have a place in the over-arching plan of God.
2. (2) Pray for those in authority.
For kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
a. For kings and all who are in authority: Early Christians were often accused of undermining the state because they claimed a higher Lord other than Caesar. Yet they would point out that they supported the state by being good citizens and by praying for the emperor, not to him.
i. In the previous verse Paul said that we should give thanks for all men, and here he connects the thought with those who are in authority over us. We should give thanks for those who are in authority, because God has ordained government in society to keep order (Romans 13:1-7).
ii. The early church leader Tertullian explained: "We pray for all the emperors, that God may grant them long life, a secure government, a prosperous family, vigorous troops, a faithful senate, an obedient people; that the whole world may be in peace; and that God may grant, both to Caesar and to every man, the accomplishment of their just desires." (Clarke)
b. That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence: We should pray for a government and rulers that would simply leave us alone and let us live as Christians.
i. Christians are to look for no special favors from the government. Our goal is a level playing field, unrestricted by state intervention.
ii. At the time Paul wrote this, Christianity was not an illegal religion yet in the Roman Empire and it was still considered a branch of Judaism. It was even more reasonable to believe that the Roman government might just leave Christians alone to live their faith.
3. (3-4) The goal of prayer for all men: That they would be saved.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
a. Who desires all men to be saved: Prayer for those in authority should always have an evangelical purpose. Our real goal is that they would come under the authority of Jesus, and make decisions allowing the gospel to have free course and be glorified.
b. Who desires all men to be saved: On a human level, we can certainly say that God desires all men to be saved. There is no one in such high authority that they don't need salvation in Jesus.
i. However, from a divine perspective, we understand there is a sense in which we can not say that God desires all men to be saved - otherwise, either all men would automatically be saved, or God would not have left an element of human response in the gospel.
ii. God's desire for all men to be saved is conditioned by His desire to have a genuine response from human beings. He won't fulfill His desire to save all men at the expense of making men robots that worship Him from simply being programmed to do so.
c. Who desires all men to be saved: Because this is true (as seen from a human perspective), therefore the gospel must be presented to all without reservation. Any idea of limiting evangelism to the elect is absurd.
d. All men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth: Salvation is clearly associated with coming to the knowledge of the truth. One cannot be saved apart from at least some understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done to save us.
4. (5-7) How all men must be saved.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle; I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying; a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
a. One God and one Mediator: Through one Mediator, and One alone: The Man Christ Jesus. There is no valid way to God that does not come through Jesus.
i. This statement of Paul simply echoes what Jesus said in John 14:6: Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
ii. It is also simply logical. If Jesus was at least a good and honest man, then He told the truth when He said that He was the only way to God. If He did not tell the truth at this important point, then it is difficult to regard His as even a good or honest man, much less a prophet from God. If He was wrong then He was either a liar or a lunatic.
iii. In the modern world most people think that any road leads to God, if followed sincerely or with a good heart. The Bible argues against this idea.
The Pharisee and the tax collector each came to God sincerely, but one was accepted and one was not (Luke 18:9-14).
The rich young ruler came to Jesus sincerely, but was rejected because he did not give up everything to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23).
In Leviticus 10:1-3, the story of Nadab and Abihu - and God's judgment upon them - makes it clear that we cannot come to God any way we please, and that sincerity is not enough.
Proverbs 14:12 is instructive: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
iv. Many people think that God would be unfair or narrow minded to have only one way to salvation; but the thought needs to be turned over. To say that God is unfair for this, one would have to look at Jesus dying on the cross - the spotless Son of God, came from heaven and lived humbly and died in horrific agony, both physical and spiritual - to look at Jesus on the cross and say, "Thanks God; I appreciate the gesture, but that isn't enough. You're going to have to do a little more than that, because that is only one way and if You are fair You will make several ways."
b. The Man Christ Jesus: This reminds us that Jesus is still human, even as He is enthroned in heaven right now. His humanity was not merely a temporary phase. When the Eternal Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, added humanity to His deity, He added it forever - not only for 33 years.
i. Jesus is still fully God and fully man, but His humanity is glorified and resurrected. It is the pattern of the humanity that we will experience in heaven.
c. Who gave Himself: Jesus gave Himself. You can give your time without giving yourself. You can give your money without giving yourself. You can give your opinion without giving yourself. You can even give your life without giving yourself. Jesus wants us to give ourselves, just as He gave Himself.
d. Who gave Himself a ransom: Jesus gave Himself as a hostage, as a payment for our sins. He put Himself in our place and received the punishment and wrath from God the Father that we deserved. This is the basic message of the gospel.
i. A ransom for all: There is enough in the work of Jesus on the cross for everyone. No one will be turned away because Jesus ran out of love or forgiveness at the cross for them.
e. For which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle: This was the message Paul preached. The message was of salvation only through Jesus, and Jesus crucified (as in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
f. A teacher of the Gentiles: Paul began his ministry with an equal emphasis to both Jew and Gentile (Acts 13), but because of continued rejection by Jews, Paul began to emphasize his ministry to the Gentiles.
B. Men and women in the church.
1. (8) The role of men in leading prayer when the church gathers.
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
a. That the men pray everywhere: This has the idea of "In every church," and not of "In every place." Paul's focus is on what the church does when it comes together for meetings.
i. The idea that we should pray constantly and that prayer should be a normal part of our live wherever we go is good and valid; but it is not what Paul means here.
ii. White on everywhere: "The directions are to apply to every Church without exception; no allowance is to be made for the conditions peculiar to any locality."
b. That the men: Makes it clear Paul assumed men would take the lead at meetings of the congregation. Since the lifting up of hands was a common posture of prayer in ancient cultures, this text speaks of men leading public prayer - men representing the congregation before God's throne.
i. White translates the idea of the text: "The ministers of public prayer must be the men of the congregation, not the women."
c. Lifting up holy hands: Hands that are lifted up must be holy - hands that are set apart unto God, and not given over to evil.
d. Without wrath and doubting: Such prayers must be without wrath (praying "angry" prayers) and without doubting (praying without faith). When we pray angry, or pray without faith, we can do more bad than good - especially when the prayer is public.
i. "Having no vindictive feeling against any person; harboring no unforgiving spirit, while they are imploring pardon for their own offences." (Clarke)
2. (9-10) Women should emphasize spiritual preparation and beauty more than physical preparation and beauty.
In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
a. In like manner also: The word also refers back to the statement that the men pray everywhere in 1 Timothy 2:8. Paul thought the principle of 1 Timothy 2:8 should apply in various congregations, and so should the principle in 1 Timothy 2:9.
b. That the women adorn themselves in modest apparel: This is how Christian women are supposed to dress, especially at their Christian meetings. The words propriety and moderation help explain what modest apparel is.
i. Propriety asks, "Is it appropriate for the occasion? Is it over-dressed or under-dressed? Is it going to call inappropriate attention to myself?" Moderation asks, "Is it moderate? Is it just too much - or far too little?" Moderation looks for a middle ground.
ii. The braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing Paul mentions were adornments that went against the principles of propriety and moderation in that culture.
iii. How you dress reflects your heart. If a man dresses in a casual manner, it says something about his attitude. Likewise, if a woman dresses in an immodest manner, it says something about her heart.
iv. "Woman has been invidiously defined: An animal fond of dress. How long will they permit themselves to be thus degraded?" (Clarke)
c. But . . . with good works: The most important adornment is good works. If a woman is dressed in propriety and moderation, with good works, she is perfectly dressed. Good works make a woman more beautiful than good jewelry.
3. (11-12) Women are to show submission, and yield to the authority of the men God has appointed to lead in the church.
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
a. Let a woman learn in silence: This unfortunate translation has led some to believe that it is forbidden for women to even speak in church meetings. Paul uses the same word translated silence in 1 Timothy 2:2, and it is translated peaceable there. The idea is without contention instead of total silence.
i. In other places in the New Testament, even in the writings of Paul, women are specifically mentioned as praying and speaking in the church (1 Corinthians 11:5). To learn in silence has the idea of women receiving the teaching of the men God has chosen to lead in the church, with submission instead of contention.
ii. Submission is the principle; to learn in silence describes the application of the principle.
iii. Some have said the reason for this is because in these ancient cultures (as well as some present-day cultures), men and women sat in separate sections. The thought is that women interrupted the church service by shouting questions and comments to their husbands during the service. Clarke expresses this idea: "It was lawful for men in public assemblies to ask questions, or even interrupt the speaker when there was any matter in his speech which they did not understand; but this liberty was not granted to women."
b. With all submission: The word for submission here literally means, "To be under in rank." It has to do with respecting an acknowledged order of authority. It certainly does not mean that men are more spiritual than women or that women are inferior to men.
i. "Anyone who has served in the armed forces knows that 'rank' has to do with order and authority, not with value or ability. . . . Just as an army would be in confusion if there were no levels of authority, so society would be in chaos without submission." (Wiersbe)
c. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man: Paul's meaning seems clear. Women are not to have the role of teaching authority in the church. To be under authority is the principle; not teaching is the application.
i. Paul is saying that the church should not recognize women as those having authority in the church regarding matters of doctrine and Scriptural interpretation.
ii. Not all speaking or teaching by a woman is necessarily a violation of God's order of authority in the church. Whatever speaking or teaching is done by a woman must be done in submission to the men God has appointed to lead the church.
iii. 1 Corinthians 11:1-12 emphasizes the same principle. Women are to always act under authority in the congregation, demonstrated in Corinthian culture by the wearing of a head covering. Therefore a woman in the Corinthian church could only pray or prophesy if she demonstrated that she was under the leadership of the church, and she demonstrated this by wearing a head covering and by acting consistently with that principle.
d. I do not permit: The strength of Paul's wording here makes it challenging to obey this command in today's society. Since the 1970's, our culture has rejected the idea that there may be different roles for men and women in the home, in the professional world, or in the church. In this text (among others), the Holy Spirit clearly says there is a difference in roles.
i. But the cultural challenge must be seen in its true context - not just a struggle between men and women, but as a struggle with the issue of authority in general. Since the 1960's, there has been a massive change in the way we see and accept authority.
Citizens do not have the same respect for government's authority.
Students do not have the same respect for teacher's authority.
Women do not have the same respect for men's authority.
Children do not have the same respect for parental authority.
Employees do not have the same respect for their employer's authority.
People do not have the same respect for the police's authority.
Christians no longer have the same respect for church authority.
ii. There are not many who would say that these changes have been good. Generally, people do not feel safer and there is less confidence in the culture. Television and other entertainment get worse and worse. In fact, our society is presently in, and rushing towards, complete anarchy - the state where no authority is accepted, and the only thing that matters is what one wants to do.
iii. It is fair to describe our present moral state as one of anarchy. There is no moral authority in our culture. When it comes to morality, the only thing that matters is what one wants to do. And in a civil sense, many neighborhoods in our nation are given over to anarchy. The government's authority is not accepted in gang-infested portions of our cities. The only thing that matters is what one wants to do.
iv. We must see the broader attack on authority as a direct Satanic strategy to destroy our society and millions of individual lives. He is accomplishing this with two main attacks. First, the corruption of authority; second, the rejection of authority.
v. This idea of authority and submission to authority are so important to God that they are part of His very being. The First Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Father; the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Son. Inherent in those titles is a relationship of authority and submission to authority. The Father exercises authority over the Son, and the Son submits to the Father's authority - and this is in the very nature and being of God. Our failure to exercise Biblical authority, and our failure to submit to Biblical authority, isn't just wrong and sad - it sins against the very nature of God. 1 Samuel 15:23 speaks to this same principle: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
e. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man: Paul's focus here is the public worship of the church. God has established a clear chain of authority in both the home and in the church, and in those spheres, God has ordained that men are the "head" - that is, that they have the place of authority and responsibility.
i. Our culture, having rejected the idea in a difference in role between men and women, now rejects the idea of any difference between men and women. The driving trends in our culture point towards men who are more like women, and women who are more like men. Styles, clothes, perfumes, and all the rest promote this thought.
ii. The Bible is just as specific that there is no general submission of women unto men commanded in society; only in the spheres of the home and in the church. God has not commanded in His word that men have exclusive authority in the areas of politics, business, education, and so on.
iii. It also does not mean that every woman in the church is under the authority of every man in the church. Instead it means that those who lead the church - pastors and ruling elders - must be men, and the women (and others) must respect their authority.
iv. The failure of men to lead in the home and in the church, and to lead in the way Jesus would lead, has been a chief cause of the rejection of male authority - and is inexcusable.
v. Some feel this recognition and submission to authority is an unbearable burden. They feel that it means, "I have to say that I am inferior, that I am nothing, and I have to recognize this other person as being superior." Yet inferiority or superiority has nothing to do with this. We remember the relationship between God the Father and God the Son - they are completely equal in their being, but have different roles when it comes to authority.
vi. Some may say that the church cannot work (or cannot work well) unless we go along with the times and put women into positions of spiritual and doctrinal authority in the church. From the standpoint of what works in our culture, they may be right. Yet from the standpoint of pleasing God by doing what He says in His word, they are wrong.
4. (13-14) Reasons for God's recognition of male authority in the church.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
a. For Adam was formed first: The first reason for male authority in the church is order of creation. Adam (man) was created first, and given original authority on earth.
i. The first command God gave to the human race is found in Genesis 2:16-17: Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. This command was not given to woman at all. At the time that command was given, Eve was not yet created from Adam.
ii. Therefore, Adam received his command and his authority from God, and Eve received her command and authority from Adam.
b. The woman being deceived: The second reason is the difference in the sin of Adam and Eve, as connected to their difference in authority.
i. Both Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, and Eve clearly sinned first. Yet, the Bible never blames Eve for the fall of the human race, but always blames Adam (through one man sin entered the world, Romans 5:12). Adam is responsible because of there was a difference of authority. Adam had an authority Eve did not have; therefore he also had a responsibility Eve did not have. Adam failed in his responsibility in a far more significant way than Eve did.
ii. As well, Eve was deceived, and Adam was not deceived. Eve was tricked; but Adam sinned knew exactly what he was doing when he rebelled. This means that though Adam's sin was worse, Eve's ability to be more readily deceived made her more dangerous in a place of authority. "Eve's reasoning faculty was at once overcome by the allegation of jealousy felt by God, an allegation plausible to a nature swayed by emotion rather than by reflection." (White)
iii. Generally speaking, it may be observed that women seem to be more spiritually sensitive than men - but this can be true for good or evil.
iv. Adam . . . the woman: "St. Paul says woman rather than Eve, emphasizing the sex rather than the individual, because he desires to give the incident its general application, especially in view of what follows." (White)
v. Significantly, these reasons are not dependent upon culture. Those who say "Paul was a sexist man in a sexist culture," and discount these words, are simply not reading what the Holy Spirit says in the sacred Scriptures here.
5. (15) Being a Christian woman in light of Eve's curse.
Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
a. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing: Many people regard this as one of the most difficult passages in the whole Bible. On the surface, it could be taken to mean that if a woman continues in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control, that God will bless her with survival in childbirth - which was no small promise in the ancient world.
i. Yet this interpretation leaves many difficult questions. Is this an absolute promise? What about godly women who have died in childbirth? What about sinful women who have survived childbirth? Doesn't this seem like just a reward for good works, and not according to God's grace and mercy?
b. Saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self control: Some approach this passage saying saved refers to gaining eternal life. Yet this interpretation is even more difficult. Are women saved eternally by giving birth to children - but only if they continue with godly virtues? What about women who can't have children? Are they denied salvation?
c. She will be saved in childbearing: Some say that Paul "Has mostly in mind that child-bearing, not public teaching, is the peculiar function of woman, with a glory and dignity all its own." (Robinson) The idea is that one should let the men teach in church and let the women have the babies.
d. She will be saved in childbearing: A better way to approach this passage is based on the grammar in the original Greek language. In the original, it says she will be saved in the childbirth. This has the sense, "Even though women were deceived, and fell into transgression starting with Eve, women can be saved by the Messiah - whom a woman brought into the world."
i. Probably, the idea here is that even though the "woman race" did something bad in the garden by being deceived and falling into transgression, the "woman race" also did something far greater, in being used by God to bring the saving Messiah into the world.
ii. The summary is this: Don't blame women for the fall of the human race; the Bible doesn't. Instead, thank women for bringing the Messiah to us.
e. Faith, love, and holiness, with self-control: Most of all, we should note these positives. They are all qualities God wants to be evident in women, and that women have effectively nurtured in their children through generations.
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