Questions of Women in Ministry, 1 Timothy 2

There is a passage in 1 Timothy that draws a fair bit of attention and controversy. As Paul gives instructions to Timothy in how to safeguard the church, he also includes descriptions as to how men and women ought to conduct themselves.

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 ESV

Much of the controversy hinges on whether these specific instructions are specific to this church and its contexts, or whether they are universal in scope. Should the women (or woman) in Ephesus set their sights on learning humbly and restrain themselves from inappropriately teaching and seizing authority because they have been deceived, and were especially prone to deception given that women in that culture were not often allowed the same access to education? Or should women not teach nor speak by mere fact that they are women?

I’ve been reading more on this text in the last few days, looking for resources on this issue to help present the arguments eloquently. I’ll include a link to a short essay found on Biblegateway that I think does a good job of presenting the different views, and does so without a quarrelsome, arrogant, or dismissive tone. Many articles on this issue can be aggressive, and especially given the way in which the whole of 1 Timothy speaks to that problem in the church, I wanted to find something respectful.

Personally, as I’ve said before, we need to read Scripture in light of Scripture. There are examples throughout the Bible of women of influence and authority. In the Gospels women play a very prominent role, even more so when taken in light of the prevailing customs of that culture. We see in books like Romans and Acts that women already had prominent positions in the early church. Given that fact, and other theological assertions of Paul himself in letters like Galatians, I believe when we come upon Paul’s writing here, we are warranted to spend more time on the passage that may seem to more easily lean one way, and read it in light of other passages and understand it to mean something else. Again, if we note the culture to which he writes, the mere assertion that the women ought to learn (v11) already pushes the boundaries of the roles of women.

That being said, I’d encourage you to read this article. It is from the IVP New Testament Commentaries, provided “generously by InterVarsity Press.” Isn’t great what you can access for free on the internet?

Men and Women in Worship, 1 Timothy 2

Everyone Did What Was Right in Their Own Eyes

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25

This is the depressing end to the book of Judges. Depressing, but not surprising. No sooner is Israel settling in the promised land than they are turning from God’s ways and falling into sin. The Judges were to bring the people back to God, but the chorus of this book is that Israel again does what is evil in the sight of the Lord (2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1). Having heard that phrase, in the sight of the Lord (NIV – in the eyes of the Lord), so many times, it is then so fitting to close the book, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

Many times over God has shown them how he sees things. He urges them to live according to his ways, to do what is right in God’s eyes. But continually they instead do what is right in their eyes, according to how they see things.

…and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Judges is a saddening book as we see Israel, who have been blessed by God with so much, turn from him. Yet we can’t read it from too far a distance. Are we that unlike Israel? Don’t we do whatever we think is good? Do we allow God to be the judge in our lives, or do we more often take that role upon ourselves? How many things do we do that don’t look “right” to our own eyes? How many things can we name that we know God wants, but we think differently? Who wins that battle?

This problem can be even more deceiving because we may not easily think of things in our lives that we know God wants to change.* It’s amazing how much we all are in agreement with God–or how much God agrees with me! But is that the way we would expect it to go? No, we’re told to expect sacrifice and trials. We are told to die to the old self, to live for Christ (Romans 6:1-18, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:17-24, Romans 12:1-2). So if it seems that God has stamped his approval on all that we do and believe, isn’t it possible we’re just doing what we think is right in our own eyes, not in the sight of God?

It is easy to read the Bible and look for those parts of Scripture that affirm what we want to hear. But we need humility to approach God confessing that we are prone to self-deception (1 John 1:8). We need to ask God to help reveal those things that we think are in line with his will, but are not. We need the Spirit to pierce through our assumptions as we read God’s Word and reveal to us the challenges as well as the comfort of the Bible.

I think back to Galatians as Paul tells the churches that he had to challenge Peter (Cephas) for the way in which he was treating the Gentiles. Here is Peter, a great leader of the early church, and he is mistreating fellow brothers in Christ. He was doing what was right in his own eyes. God uses another of his servants to remind Peter than in the sight of God, there is no Jew or Gentile, and to act in another way is against the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We need God’s Word, prayer, and other followers of Christ to speak truth to us. We are not equipped to be our own judges. If everyone is left alone to decide for themselves what is right and what is the truth for them, we find ourselves with the people of Judges. Rather we should seek to see things through the eyes of God. We should seek to do what he says is right, even if the world around us thinks us foolish.

*There may be plenty of little things as we are sure God would prefer that we pray more, speed less, and be nicer to others. But on those things we agree with God, it is just a matter of doing. I’m thinking bigger.

Week in Review, Quarter 2, Week 3

Samson and Lion fountain in St. Petersburg, just one character we passed over this last week in Judges.

I haven’t devoted much typing to the book of Judges this week, something I’ll be sure to remedy for the next week’s assignments for Year in the Bible. But in reading through Galatians I see a connection to Judges, and Galatians could just about be retitled and delivered to the tribes of Israel. Paul writes in chapter one:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

He goes on to say that calling anything but the gospel of Christ ‘gospel’ doesn’t make sense, for nothing is good news compared to God’s grace. But, the point I’m making with relation to Judges is that this church in Galatia, some two thousand years ago, suffered the same problems that God’s people struggled with thousands of years before that. They so quickly turn from the God who had delivered them from Egypt and delivered them into the promised land. Sadly the story is a common one in which humanity, for no good reason, turns from God.

I don’t know whether we should grow more angry with ourselves seeing this pattern continue or if we should have greater sympathy. Maybe both. At least it should help make us humble people.

The good news is that this pattern also includes a God who forgives and welcomes us back again and again.

A Book of Grace

Mr. T says, “I Pity the Foolish Galatians”

Paul’s style throughout Galatians is great. He has been a servant of Jesus Christ for years but still writes with such passion and urgency as if he is just coming back from meeting Christ on the way to Damascus. He knows what is at stake with the churches in Galatia who have fallen prey to false teachers and have subsequently turned from the gospel, and in so doing, have turned from the one who has called them.

He make God’s grace an emphasis of the letter–that God has called us, that Christ gave himself for our sins, that he has delivered us, and that any work that is required of us has been accomplished, therefore our works can not contribute to our being saved. He emphasizes grace through and through. Sometimes it is bold and confrontational as he challenges these churches, like when he quickly jumps into the meat of the letter with words like “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ” or when he calls them “fools” for now trying to bring in some sort of works righteousness into a gospel of grace.

But sometimes his lifting up of God’s grace, his movement to us and for us when we cannot merit it, is more subtle. It sounds almost offhanded in 4:9. Paul writes about the difference between where we all once were, enslaved to false gods, compared to being heirs of God. He writes, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, who slaves you want to be once more?”

I love this verse. We are reminded even in knowing God that he has initiated. He is the one who has begun all things and he is also the one who has done all things for us. We have not come to know God, but to be known by him. How humbling is the verse, and for that matter, this whole book? We can never measure up to God nor can we ever merit his love. But he has called us by name, he has made us his own. Because of the death of Jesus Christ we can be freed from slavery to false gods and embrace the free grace of God.

Paul, an apostle, tweets to you in Galatia

I found this not too long ago and it may be a bit silly, but at the same time it sums up Galatians very succinctly. David Mathis has boiled down the entire six chapters of this letter into 30 tweets. That’s not just 30 sentences, since each tweets is limited to only 140 characters. I think it’s impressive. But don’t go reading this instead of Galatians. Think of it like a good outline.

Here are the first couple:

Jesus gave himself at the cross both for us and for God—for our good and ultimately for God’s glory #Galatians 1:1–5

There is one gospel. One path from which saving grace flows to sinners: Jesus. Every counterfeit is damnable #Galatians 1:6–9

Here is the full 30 tweets at Desiring God.

A Word on Focus Passages

It has been a few months now since we began reading the Bible in a year, so I thought I’d go back and touch on one of the aspects that people newer to Year in the Bible may not be familiar with. Each week we read quite a bit of text. We average around 23 chapters per week, with a lighter load mixed in for periodic breaks (or times to catch up!). Reading at this pace is difficult at times, and if you share my experience, it is a very different style of reading.

I grew up doing a lot of Bible study in which you take little chunks at a time. This is a great way to do it since you don’t rush and you have the flexibility to wrestle with passages, meditating on them to try to plumb the depths of God’s Word. That’s typically how sermons go, as well, with a preacher spending focused time on one or two passages. This is how I’ve taught Bible studies. For example, before beginning Year in the Bible, we spent just about all of 2011 studying the book of John.

Now that we’ve sped things up considerably you may lose some of that narrowly focused, in-depth time in the Bible. I think we’ve gained something by shifting into this style for a year, and I wrote about it here. Simply put, it is good to step back to see the larger arc of the story of God’s love for us.

We’re doing Year in the Bible in order to gain this larger perspective and to make sure we read and appreciate all of God’s Word. But we don’t want to miss out entirely on what is gained by slow, meditative study. That’s why each week there is a corresponding Bible study. That’s all that the Focus Passages are. I take a short selection from the readings, and prepare some questions and supporting passages. We use them for Bible studies and small groups, but they’re also great for personal study.

If you haven’t already, take a look at them in the This Week section, and to make it even easier, here is the current week’s below:

Q2 W3 Focus Passage Galatians 2

Some Context for Galatians

Or: An exercise in imagination to help see the importance of Paul’s letter

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, Valentin de Boulogne

Imagine if you will:

Paul has come your way through the region of Galatia, and you think you understood what he has taught. But he wasn’t the only one who has come talking about Jesus, and what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean for us.

Some of what Paul said sounded radical, such as complete dependence on God’s grace, not on what we do. But others came along to you adding to his teaching.

Yes, God is gracious, but don’t we still need to earn grace? God has given you the law, right? Shouldn’t we then follow it? Why would he give it to you if you couldn’t follow it? And if you can uphold the law, then you must.

Should we be concerned? Did Paul just emphasize some parts of the gospel and other teachers emphasized other parts? Are they teaching the same thing? They all sound pretty smart, how can I make heads or tails of this? Are they all right in some way? How should we react?

If only Paul would write to us to help clear things up…

Quarter Two, Week Three

Is it just me or have the last couple weeks flown by? We’ve already finished up both Joshua and Mark and now we begin Judges and Galatians.

I’ll just make one tip as we get into these readings. Galatians is a letter, and how many letters do you read spread out over a week? Answer: none. We don’t typically read letters in parts, so I’d encourage you to take your time with Judges, but when it comes to Galatians, try to read it in one sitting. It’s not that long, so don’t worry. If you do I think you’ll get a good sense of Paul’s intent and purpose in writing this to the churches in Galatia.

If you have questions throughout this week, send them my way!