A Question of Authority
1 Timothy 2
A note of warning: it is the pattern of this
teacher to take the Scriptures as they come. This passage does not
give us a complete picture of the concept of authority in general,
nor does it give us the complete picture of a man’s authority over
(and responsibility to) his wife. The concept is one which deserves
some detail, and a single lesson will not deal with it. So please
understand that the general framework of authority in Christian
thought is NOT what is spoken of here – a point which we hope to
make clear shortly.
First of all
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties
and thanksgivings, be made on behalf
of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may
lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is
good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
(1Ti 2:1-3 NASB)
Note the word “then.” This refers back to the
last chapter, in which Paul has given his charge to Timothy. This,
then, is the beginning of the specific instructions which Paul has
for Timothy. In other words, the details.
For those in authority
Paul takes four words to describe prayer for
those in authority. They have varying meanings, but in combination
it is clear that Paul wanted every type and style of prayer to be
made for those in authority.
Not only every type of prayer, but Paul asks
prayer for every type of authority – at all levels. He asks prayer
for all men – the Greek is anthropos, which means people in
general. Then, having covered everybody, he asks us to pay
particular attention to kings. In Paul’s time these would have been
the Roman Emperors – who were in general not the most moral and
friendly of men. Then, in case he missed anyone – it’s all in
So, with all types of prayer, for all mankind in
authority, we are to pray. What is the object of this prayer? We
should not be like the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof, who said
the proper blessing for the Czar was, “God bless and keep the Czar –
far away from us.” No, we have these objectives as we pray for those
So that we might lead a quiet
and tranquil life. Think about that; what does it say to
those around us? Not rabble rousers, not revolutionaries,
not those constantly in conflict –but the salt of the earth.
It is a life of godliness, or
piety. Those about us should see this; they should know who
the Christians are.
It is a life of dignity – not
pompous stuffiness, but the seriousness of one who knows
himself to be an ambassador of Christ.
We are told that this is “good and acceptable” –
a phrase often used of sacrifices. The pleasures of sin for a season
are to be given up; we are to live as godly people – and pray that
we may do so unhindered.
Why? What difference does it make?
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of
the truth. For there is one God,
one mediator also between God and men,
man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the
at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an
apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the
Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I want the men in every place
to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
(1Ti 2:4-8 NASB)
To build the church
We see it clearly here: this is to build the
church. Look at it this way – the church is built two ways:
First, in evangelism. God
desires all men to be saved.
But that is not the end of the
matter: we must make disciples, not just emotional converts.
They must come to the knowledge of the truth.
See it now? This is Timothy’s charge: build the
Because of who He is
One thing I know about prayer: it is not my good
works or holiness that causes God to hear this poor sinner. It is
nothing less than the atonement of Christ that gives me both
standing and courage to go boldly before the throne of grace. Our
petitions stand on the rock of Calvary. We can pray, because He is
who He is.
God is one – and he wants us to
be one also. He wants us to be one with Him in Christ.
There is only one mediator; only
Christ is the way. His one-ness is shown, for there is no
There is one Ransom. The world
needs to know that he gave himself. Gave – voluntarily. Gave
Himself – all that He had, including life itself.
He is the testimony at the right
time. Like the Ark of the Covenant, his sacrifice is
evidence that we are sinners – else why the sacrifice? Like
the ark as well, his atonement covers our sins.
The man with the mission
Let’s get down to brass tacks, Timothy. All this
high and holy writing comes down to the fact that someone has to do
the work. Paul tells us his work – so that we might understand that
he is serving the cause of God which he has just so well outlined.
He is a preacher – the word
means herald – one who proclaims the Good News of Jesus
Christ. He is an evangelist.
He is an apostle – the word can
mean ambassador – the one who is given the task of putting
the authority of God and the church on papyrus.
He is a teacher – so that once
converted disciples will grow strong in the faith.
Having proclaimed God’s purpose for these prayers
and his authority in the matter, Paul gives his command:
First, that men pray for those
Then, that they do so without
wrath or dissension.
In other words, all the men of the church are to
agree in Christ, praying for those in authority over us.
It must be pointed out: the word used for men is
not the one used for mankind. It is the one for adult males. Prayer
is a man’s work.
So what are the women supposed to be doing?
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and
discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly
garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women
making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive
instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman
to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For
it was Adam who was first created,
then Eve. And it was
not Adam who
was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue
in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
(1Ti 2:9-15 NASB)
Likewise. What does he mean by “likewise?”
Obviously, he means that for the same high and noble objectives
which he has laid out for men, women have duties for the same
reasons. That those duties are different is no surprise; the Bible
is clear that our modern idea that men and women are interchangeable
parts, that sex means nothing in authority – these things are
absurd. So let’s look at what he has to say about women.
What women should be
Let us begin with what women should not be –
which is a very good description of what most Christian women accept
as being obviously true. You think not? Look around; do you see
women in fine clothes? Perfect make up? These women accept the idea
that women are what they look like. This is a great curse for
women; it condemns them to become less and less valued as they grow
older. Women, please: you are not just a body or play toy. You are a
child of God. Your clothing should not be in the style of the world,
for a child of the world. Your appearance should be clear: it’s not
my short skirts but the kindness and charity which I give. These
should be apparent to one and all. It matters how you dress.
Do you see the parallel? The men are to be grave
and dignified, praying for those in authority, salt of the earth
types. The women are to be known for their good works. Why? So that
those around you may see the truth of Christ lived out in your
lives, and be given salvation as well. Does that make it important
to you? I hope so.
A curious passage
So what’s this business about Adam and Eve, and
child-bearing, and so on? Well, there is a bit of translational
difficulty here. Do you see that last verse, where it says “women
shall be saved” (NASB)? Note the italics. The word is supplied, but
it’s not in the original. That is an interpretation. The King James
has “she shall be saved” – note there are no italics. But who is
“she?” Parse the sentences and you will see that this refers not to
women in general but “Eve”.
Eve? Now it makes even less sense. But if you
refer to the original passage in Genesis, you will see that God
tells Eve that she will bear the one who will crush Satan. Eve – in
this instance – represents womankind. Which is different that women
in general. For it is from woman – Mary, the theotokos – that the
Holy One came – who defeated Satan at Calvary.
This is one interpretation. Another, perhaps
still as common, is that this has to do with pain in childbirth.
Pick as you please.
A question of authority
Though this passage is often cited in the debate
over the place of women in church and society, Paul’s point here is
somewhat limited. He has begun with the idea that honor, in the form
of prayer, be rendered to all to whom it is due – those in authority
over us. Roman Law would have forbidden a woman to teach or speak at
a public meeting. It was considered disgraceful. As Paul’s purpose
is to spread the Gospel, it is not surprising that he tells the
women to behave this way.
What is surprising to modern feminists is the
argument for it. Having no use for Adam and Eve, we feel that Paul’s
a fossil who should be ignored. Isn’t he the guy who has been
oppressing us all this long? Paul would reply, simply, that indeed
throughout the history of the church, women have played a greater
role there than in any other part of society until the 20th
century. But he would also insist upon the authority of men over
women, particularly of husbands over wives.
This should not distract us from the main point.
Women are being told to behave so that the pagans will know a good
thing when they see it. Christianity should look as God intended it,
not as bad as we can make it.
Our attitudes have changed. Matthew Henry, in the
17th century, commented upon these verses thusly: “Women
must learn the principles of their religion, learn Christ, learn the
scriptures; they must not think that their sex excuses them from
that learning which is necessary to salvation.” You see the
point, of course. His argument on this same passage is that it
prevents women from shirking their duty to study the Scriptures just
because that was a man’s job.
It is not possible to lay out the general
argument of authority of a man over his wife. It might be sufficient
to point out that the Scripture describes the church as the bride of
Christ. Women no longer promise to obey their husbands. Is it not
also the case that the church, by and large, has ceased to obey the
Christ revealed in the Scriptures and rather follows its own
imaginings? Perhaps it is not St. Paul who is so misled.
 It is necessary to give my standard
disclaimer. If I knew all
about women, I would be one very
rich Bible teacher. I’m not; therefore I don’t. Or is it I don’t,
therefore I’m not?