Today we are reading from 1 Timothy 2: 8-15:
8 I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; 9 also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.
Today’s passage is one that is quite controversial, and there is no way that I can explain it to you as well as other biblical scholars can, but I’ll give you a quick cliff notes version. If you’d like to read a more in-depth analysis of this passage, I’d encourage to you read this commentary from Dr. Scott McKnight, one of the leading New Testament scholars today – https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2019/11/05/now-we-come-to-1-timothy-2/
I think a lot about something one of my professors said in seminary, we can’t ignore the difficult passages of scripture. This is one that is difficult, as we see Paul say some challenging words about the role of women in the church. I think there are a couple of things to remember when we read this passage. And I will lay my cards on the table, regarding women in ministry, I am an egalitarian, in other words, I affirm the calling and authority of women to preach and teach, as does the Wesleyan branch of the church.
When passages are challenging, you need to interpret the harder passage through passages that are easier to understand. So, through the whole of scripture, from female leadership in Judges (Deborah) to the first to proclaim the resurrection (Mary) to the early leaders in the church (Acts, Romans 16) to Paul’s words about how women should cover their head when they prophecy (1 Cortihanians 11:5) we see a great witness of their role of women. So then, what is Paul talking about here?
Paul here seems to be talking about how women should learn. There seems to be great extravagance and even dominated leadership that was not glorifying Christ. Paul seems to be calling the women in this community to humility, not extravagance. That is a great word for all of us, to learn in humility, to not be drawn to the extravagant, to submit ourselves to God and our leaders, and seek to live out God’s plan for us.
Don’t be afraid of the passages you don’t understand. There are many, many in scripture that I don’t. Interpret what you don’t understand by what you do understand. Read widely. Ask your preacher questions. And most importantly, pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s Word.
The scripture is such a gift to us. Let’s never take it for granted.
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