Today’s reading: I Timothy 1-6.
Some passages are difficult to understand or accept, but learning “the whole counsel of God” is key to reading the Bible. John Piper asked his audience to judge whether this passage surprised or offended them. If it did not offend them, he said, they had grasped the essence of Biblical manhood and womanhood.
When a husband leads like Christ and a wife responds like the bride of Christ, there is a harmony and mutuality that is more beautiful and more satisfying and more fruitful than any pattern of marriage created by man. God loves his people and he loves his glory. And therefore when we follow his idea of marriage, we are most satisfied and he is most glorified. – John Piper
Some discredit this passage by saying it is only Paul speaking, or that it is a product of the times in which it was written. However, it fits with everything else the Bible says about men, women, and the church.
I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. I Timothy 2:9-14
This passage relates to the discussion of submission in Ephesians 5. Based on that passage, Piper gives the following definitions:
- “Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.”
- “Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”
Submission as used in the New Testament comes from a Greek military word describing how troops were ordered by their rank. In non-military use it referred to a voluntary willingness to agree, cooperate, or carry out a responsibility. It has none of the connotation of being “beaten into submission” as we might say today. It has much to do with working together according to an agreed hierarchy in order to accomplish common goals.
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.” Quietness doesn’t mean silence. Instead it refers to a peaceful and orderly life, as in Paul’s earlier statement, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” The twin tasks of teaching and wielding authority describe the position of the elder in the early church. With that in mind, Piper says, the best way to understand this verse is that women should not serve as elders in the church. The Bible does give examples of women teaching other women and children. There is even the example of Priscilla teaming up with her husband to teach Apollos.
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Paul takes us back to the beginning to show that this lining up of men and women in a working order was not new on his part, but came from God’s original design.
God created man first, put him in the garden, gave him the responsibility over the garden and the moral pattern for life in the garden, and then created woman as his partner and assistant to help him carry that responsibility into action. – John Piper
Both Adam and Eve sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. Eve was deceived when she stepped out of her role as assistant and took on the role of decision-maker without consulting Adam. Adam abandoned his position and accepted Eve’s decision. The result was disastrous for them both. Paul makes this point to help us avoid repeating their mistake. He wants the church body to live according to God’s original design. If the church will do so, then such mistakes can be prevented. Of course, both parties must fulfill their responsibility. Men can fail to lead effectively, to be servants, or to be Christ-like. Women can fail to act as partners and assistants.
The relationship between husbands and wives in the home carries through to the relationship between men and women in the church. Earlier I gave Piper’s definitions for headship and submission in the home, but he has given equally good definitions for authority and submission in the church.
- “Authority” refers to the divine calling of spiritual, gifted men to take primary responsibility as elders for Christ-like servant leadership and teaching in the church.
- “Submission” refers to the divine calling of the rest of the church, both men and women, to honor and affirm the leadership and teaching of the elders and to be equipped by them for the hundreds of various ministries available to men and women in the service of Christ.
Image by Bread for the World on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0