9Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.11A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.15But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. 1 Timothy 2:9-15
Madison Avenue has been actively and subliminally mocking men and dads for years. A quick survey of TV commercials yields a string of situations in which the male is the ignorant dolt, the unwitting foil, the clumsy one set straight by a smirking female, or worse, by irreverent bratty kids. When we realize this fact—and it is a fact, because seeing is believing—we know that the enemy is at work around the clock. He always wants to stand God’s order on its end.
In the church and in the family we must confront and counteract this perpetual force. Paul is doing that in these verses (1 Timothy 2:9-15–see also my previous blog). Perhaps the teaching was a bit hard to swallow back then, but these days, to suggest the biblical model and viewpoint is to invite nuclear war.
It is important if not essential to remember that this is not Paul’s teaching, but God’s. This is his divine plan for order in society, in the church, and in the home. Society may have gone awry, but the church and the family must adhere to this plan or face the consequences of defying the Lord himself. The crux of Paul’s instructions to women and wives in the cosmopolitan city of Ephesus is boiled down to these three words: propriety, peace, and place.
First, he’s asking women/wives to dress in such a way as is proper, to clothe themselves rather in good works befitting godliness. There is a certain “sweet spot” in a woman’s attire for which Paul is aiming. Not too much. Not too little. But just right. A godly woman knows what this is. She is certainly not called here to be dowdy. Please Lord let that not be the case!
Second, women/wives are called to be peaceable, tranquil, quiet. There’s a military sense behind the dreaded word “submit” and it means simply to “fall into rank or file.” By quietly listening and speaking in the proper venue, under the appropriate circumstances, women achieve godliness. It is important to know that women in the New Testament are not subject to some kind of gag order. Hardly. In 1 Corinthians 11:5, lost in the preoccupation with what a woman is to wear on her head is the absence of any prohibition that a woman is to refrain from prophesying or praying in the congregation. Formal teaching is another story. Nevertheless, certainly older women are to teach the younger, and moms are to teach their children, and wives are to provide wise and godly counsel to their husbands. This is all about keeping God’s order, and women in the church can fall easily in line by “forever holding their peace.”
Finally, by knowing and accepting their place in God’s scheme of things, women do their part to keep the delicate balance the Lord originally intended. The man plays a key role in all of this, the admonitions for which are coming in Chapter 3 of 1 Timothy.
But before leaving the women alone for a while, there’s a beautiful Greek word behind all this, appearing twice in the passage, namely sophrosune, translated “discreet” in verse 9 and “self-restraint” in verse 15. It means to “voluntarily limit one’s freedom of thought and behavior.” This is what the Lord is calling capable, intelligent, articulate, beautiful godly women to do, to “continue [remain, abide, stay] in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”
To pull this off is to be one heck of a woman.