Sunday, July 14, 2019
INTRODUCTION TO THE CONCLUSION
Getting to know Christ certainly involves learning about Him. For those of us who have been doing this for a while, it is easy for us to settle into what we know…at least, what we think we know. As we grow in knowledge and mature in wisdom about Christ it is important to both refresh and renew our understandings periodically.
There is no doubt that the apostle Paul illustrated this belief in the importance of coming to know Christ (Philippians 3:7-11, NLT). So, it only makes sense that we spend time in Paul’s letters as a path to knowing Jesus. However, if this is the beginning point in our quest we are vulnerable to distortions.
A METHOD TO KNOWING CHRIST
In my opinion, the way we perceive Paul’s writings must be shaped by a knowledge of the Old Testament, paying particular attention to those passages that pointed to the coming of Jesus (1 Peter 1:10-12, NLT). Our perceptions of Paul’s writings must also be understood in the light of the four gospels (Luke 1:1-4; John 21:24-25, NLT). Then we will be equipped to more accurately grasp the reflections of Christ as He is further revealed in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, John and James and the other books of the New Testament.
THE METHOD APPLIED
This focus upon God’s equality of relationship to men and women in the Old Testament that is powerfully illustrated in the life of Christ has been out touchstone for studying Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. With 1 Timothy 2 we, thus, conclude this study on men and women’s roles ( Image, Servants, Corinth) for now.
1 TIMOTHY 2
Paul’s letter to Timothy was a personal correspondence between the two of them about the church in Ephesus where Timothy was serving as a minister. The cultures of Corinth and Ephesus were very similar. So were the challenges faced by the Christian community with subtle differences that are easy to miss.
CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING
Context is everything to, first, understand what Paul was addressing in Corinth and Ephesus. Secondly, how do we apply these letters to our world today, almost 2,000 years later. Last week we focused upon the context for the church in Corinth. This week we centered our focus upon part of Paul’s message to Timothy. It’s all about Christ and the relationships of the Christian men and women in Ephesus.
Just the use of the word ‘silence’ is particularly interesting. The subtlety of meanings between 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are challenging to communicate. The difference can be highlighted in Luke’s account of Paul’s address to the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem in Acts 21:40 and 22:2. Here the same root words are used respectively between 1 Corinthians 14:34 and Acts 21:40 in contrast to the same root words used in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and Acts 22:2. Subtle but significant understandings that are clarified by their respective contexts.
At least three factors in this passage are significant in our understanding of Paul’s message to Timothy. First, Paul’s use of the word translated “peaceful” and “quiet” in verse 2 should give insight to his use of the same word later in verses 11 and 12. The word ‘silence’ in the New King James version does not recognize the subtle contrast, for example.
Second, it is a valid question to ask whether or not Paul is referring to ‘women’ in 1 Timothy 2:11 and ‘woman’ and ‘man’ in verse 12 or, more probably, ‘wives’ and ‘husbands’ in 1 Timothy 2:12. Once again, context is everything as Paul follows up with the first husband and wife (Adam and Eve) in verse 13 to make his point.
Finally, the reading that makes the most sense of the enigmatic statement that “women will be saved through childbearing” in verse 15 is a reference to ‘the childbearing’ of Mary giving birth to Jesus, thereby reversing the curse “if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (NIV). Including the article ‘the’ is important in helping us understand what Paul is saying in this verse; yet, it is omitted in most of our translations. An exception is found in the God’s Word translation: “However, she and all women will be saved through the birth of the child, if they lead respectable lives in faith, love, and holiness.”
Concluding our understanding of the passages in 1 Corinthians 11:2-14:40 and 1 Timothy 2:1-15, I would suggest the following, believing both statements to be true at the same time:
- Wives need to honor and respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), especially in public worship (1 Cor. 11:2-14:40; 1 Tim. 2:1-15).
- Men and women should respect each other’s complementary roles in Christ as God calls men to provide spirit-led servant leadership.
As an extension of this observation, based upon this entire portion of our study, Knowing Christ, we have concluded that the following statements represent our understanding of these passages thus far:
- As servant leaders, men should ask women to exercise their God-given gifts to serve, sing, pray, read and speak to edify the body; not to compete but to complement.
- When women accept the invitation to use their gifts, they are quietly supporting their leaders, complementing their efforts to edify and care for the body of Christ.
My conclusion is that this approach is upheld by God’s relationship to men and women in both the Old Testament Scriptures and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the difficulty of translating subtle shades of meaning in words and respecting context that has contributed to many misunderstandings over the years. Freedom in Christ is so much more than freedom from law. It also means that we, as God’s children, can appreciate and celebrate each other’s God-given roles and gifts equally (Galatians 3:22-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
On a personal note, it seems to me that the roots for much of our struggle with the text in 2 Timothy 2:11-15 are found in translating the subtleties of the original language into English. For a more surgical analysis of this challenge I would refer those who wish to probe further to the following resource:
Geer, Thomas C., Jr. “Admonitions to Women in 1 Tim. 2:8-15.” in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1993), Vol. 1, Edited by Carroll D. Osburn, pp. 281-302.
I heartily recommend the two-volume set! <>< steve