I Timothy 2. Prayer, Modesty and Silence. A Peculiar People.
Key Notes: Prayer as political as well as personal work. Behaviors in church: normative and legal, or cultural and optional? Gender roles.
T:he second part of this chapter has caused consternation. If anyone's freedom is restricted, especially on non-moral questions, we have some explaining to do. Why would God choose to restrain the activities of women? However, we tend to overlook the first half of the chapter, which deals with prayer in some detail. In it, we learn of the submission of men to governmental authority for the sake of the Gospel.
2:1 First of all, then, prayers....
Supplication is prayer for personal needs.
Intercession is prayer for others' needs.
Thanksgiving is praising and thanking God for supplying needs.
2:2 For everyone, including kings and other officials, Paul puts priority on prayer. It is hard for us to comprehend that the early Christians prayed for and yet were subject to the likes of cruel Herod Antipas, mad Nero and hateful Domitian.
Paul’s instruction is supported in other places by instruction to submit to authority.
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Rom.13:1).
"For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing." (Rom.13:6)
"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work...." (Titus 3:1)
"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors sent by Him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right." (IPet.2:13)
The early Church took this instruction seriously.
"Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish." "Learn from them (our sacred books) that a large benevolence is enjoined upon us, even so far as to supplicate God for our enemies and to beseech blessings on our persecutors."
(Tertullian. Apology; xxx,xxxi,xxxii. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Eerdmanns; 32:42–43)
2:2–3 The first goal of prayer is for a peaceful life. We must pray, indeed beg, for peace in our world.
2:4 The larger purpose of prayer is the salvation of all men, as God desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
This is evangelistic prayer; Spurgeon taught us to pay special attention to it.
"One thing more, the soul-winner must be a master of the art of prayer. You cannot bring souls to God if you go not to God yourself. If you are much alone with Jesus you will catch His Spirit; you will be fired with the flame that burned in His breast and consumed His life." ( The Soul Winner. C.Spurgeon; Eerdmans;1989. p.246)
Evangelistic prayer for all men includes our neighbors we despair of reaching. We find it very difficult to prayer for North Korea, Russia, or Iran and their leaders. Our prayers tend to be limited to our sick, our rebellious relatives, and sometimes the church. Part of our discipline in prayer is to widen our scope.
"The growth of the Church in China since’77 has no parallels in history." "...millions of intercessors ...travailed in prayer for the long-delayed breakthrough. The cumulative impact of 150 years of global prayer for China has been enormous. Prayer is changing China." (Operation World. P.J.St.G.Johnstone, R.J.Johnstone, J. Mandryk; WEC International; 2001."Answers to Prayer." p.161)
2:5 We appeal to the lost through Christ, our Mediator, a Ransom for all, a Witness delivered at the proper time. Paul is the preacher and apostle and teacher of the Gentiles. Why Paul is emphatic to describe himself to his familiar friend Timothy is a puzzle, but his message will go far beyond Timothy and was meant for us as well.
2:8 Men everywhere should pray without anger or quarreling. Prayer is not be used as a weapon in public, to denounce, rebuke, or influence people in the audience. Prayer is not the place to preach sermons, right wrongs or make meeting announcements. Prayer is speaking to God, not speaking to people. If it is public prayer, it should lead others to speak to God.
2:9–10. Paul, like Peter (IPet.3:3–5), is concerned about how people dress for church. The morning service is not a fashion show or a place to attract attention .[However, the church should be a "match factory". Where else can single Christians find such good potential life-partners?] The contemporary church, however, suffers not from ostentation but from general sloppiness. Flip-flops, bare midriffs, sweatshirts, shorts, spaghetti straps, low cuts and high hems, jeans and bowling jackets belong somewhere else. These are not evidences of poverty but of lack of self-respect, respect for each other and for the Lord.
2:9–14 Paul commands women to be quiet and submissive in church. [Men are to be prayerful and submissive in political circles.] His argument is that Adam was first-born and had priority. Eve was deceived and became a transgressor-- one who crosses the line. The scenario was that Satan led Eve into taking the lead and she stepped out of bounds. Adam followed and did not interfere or try to stop her. He was not deceived, but passive and thus bears the greater guilt. "In Adam all died"; in Eve women must also pray a price.
2:15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children.
Paul does not mean that soul salvation comes through maternity. The word "saved" means to be made whole. Having a child makes a woman feel whole, I am told. Certainly many women are willing to spend huge amounts of money and go through considerable physical pain and risk to have a child. In the Roman world, as in our own, sex was being detached from procreation and promiscuity was rampant. Paul encourages family life in all aspects. He acknowledges the unique contribution mothers make to themselves and the world.
John Stott's commentary on I Timothy takes up the problem of public prayer and public dress in the church. His questions can be applied to other difficult NT passages:
•Are these regulations all normative or compulsory as the legalist would argue;
•are they all cultural, and optional, as the liberal insists, or
•is there a compromise?
For example, taking the easiest one first:
*Prayer is normative, compulsory, and ethical.
Praying with upraised hands (as Paul mentions) is clearly cultural. In the Bible, people prayed in various postures: face down, sitting, standing, beating the breast, kneeling, etc.
*Decency and modesty are normative and ethical, to avoid distraction in worship.
Dress, hair styles and jewelry are cultural. We expect people to wear their wedding rings, for example. A red dress used to be the prostitute’s sign. Now a red dress has no special significance. Unadorned hair can be quite captivating. A french braid can make one completely forget the sermon. We judge each situation on its merits.
*Being first-born and having authority is normative.
Silence and not teaching are cultural. Some women prayed and prophesied in the early Church.
It is significant that although the Church has argued gender roles for generations, it has been reluctant to overrule Paul and Peter. We continue to prefer male leadership in the pulpit and in governance.
The best way to understand the relationship between men and women in Church and in the home is the Jesus' relationship to the Church (Eph.5:21–33). He is our head; we are His body. In our male/female relationships, we model this larger reality. Paul says "This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband." (Eph.5:32–3). We in the Church are to play out this special relationship to Christ as Israel was commanded to follow God, as a wife. (See Hosea for an Old Testament case of God loving Israel. )
To chose another example, one of the non-moral rules binding Israel was that land was not to be sold permanently, because the land belonged to God. It was a demonstration of their covenant relationship with God not to sell land. It was in itself not immoral to sell land; God's law made it part of their uniqueness, with obvious long-term benefits to the poor.
Similarly, we are the body of Christ, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people possession (His peculiar possession), that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (IPet.2:9–10). One of the ways that we show our peculiarity is in our gender interactions. We also revere Sunday, tithe our incomes, are faithful to our spouses, and witness to our neighbors. Peculiar indeed.
Christians concerned for the Church rightly point to our lack of prayer and lack of scope in prayer. Paul's letter to Timothy would suggest that more of a church service should be devoted to prayer. Our church is growing in this regard. We do mention our sick and troubled, as is appropriate. But we are beginning to reach out to the persecuted church, to the Moslem world, to burned-out Europe, to chronically sick Africa. We are learning to focus on our national leadership and its needs. The President and the Government need prayer every day--much more prayer than protest.
Pray for our leaders.