A Woman’s Role In the Church

In the study of 1 Timothy, Paul gives Timothy guidance in his instruction to both men and women as to how they are to come to church and prepare for worship. At that time, the church of Ephesus was heavily influenced by the existing culture, which was involved in idol worship, prostitution, and false teaching with meaningless “myths and endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:4). To counter the existing culture, Paul discusses that the women of the church have an important role in maintaining the structure and unity of the church. A woman is to be modest, decent and under self-control (1 Timothy 2:9a). Modesty does not mean that a woman has to cover herself up or go out of her way to look ordinary, but in such a way where she is not to attract attention in a wrongful way. Paul also mentioned to avoid the use of “elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9b), so as to not cause a disruption within the church. He had to give these guidelines to those women coming in because some of the women did not know any better or were involved in prostitution. The women were asked to act with decency, which is living with the proper behavior, in good taste, and with the socially appropriate manner of dress. This is important not just in their appearance, but also in how the women were to value themselves in their own self-esteem and their own self-respect. While many women today may not see it from this viewpoint, how they dress, whether they are modest or not, can be a reflection of how they value themselves before others. A woman’s real identity is in their “good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God” (1 Timothy 2:10). It is not in her beauty but in her good works and in where her heart is for God (Acts 9:36-39; 1 Peter 3:3-4). The woman’s beauty was in how they submitted to the authority of God and their husbands (1 Peter 3:5). It does not mean that a woman should not make herself beautiful, but not to overdo it. The woman who is truly following Christ will have self-control through the presence of the Holy Spirit working in her life.

An equally controversial subject is how a woman is instructed to learn within the church. “A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). Anyone who is willing to learn must quiet themselves in order to gain knowledge and instruction–they must be silent (Acts 22:1-2; Luke 10:38-39, 14:2-5). The submission of the woman referenced in 1 Timothy is not so much to the teacher or to man himself, but to hear the knowledge of the truth (Acts 11:1-18). A woman is to submit to God’s authority, just as a man must do the same. If you study the culture in Paul and Timothy’s day, the woman’s education was not valued. Here, we see that there is value to a woman learning the truth and knowing God’s Word, but now with the proper emphasis on the woman’s role.

Paul expands this instruction on gaining knowledge to a woman not having authority or teaching a man. He refers to the natural order of man (Adam) being created first, then the woman (Eve). Eve had not yet been created when God gave Adam the instruction that was necessary to teach Eve (Genesis 2:15-17). God established the natural order for instruction, yet Adam relinquished his authority to Eve when he followed Eve’s desire for knowledge of the forbidden fruit, knowing full well that it was against God’s command. The consequences were significant (Genesis 3:16-19). God never states, however, that a woman does not have the ability, intelligence or knowledge to lead or teach a man. She does, however, need to respect God’s authority from a spiritual perspective. Man must come under God’s authority through Jesus Christ, and the woman comes under the man’s authority. It is the faith, love and holiness of a woman’s relationship with God that makes the difference in her life and how she serves him. She can help the man shoulder the responsibility that God has given to him. Paul speaks under the authority of Christ and the church. “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

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