1 Timothy 2:8-14
A number of years ago I began re-reading a book on the history of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America. It is a book that tracks how our denomination came to be formed. In that book it records some of the outrageous things that were going on in the PCUS, the denomination the PCA split from in 1973.
As I read that book I was shocked to find some of what was happening in worship services of all things. One story recounted how the minister opened by saying “Let us Worship God.” And then proceeded to lead the congregation in singing Simon and Garfunkel’s hit song, “Mrs. Robinson.” Other innovations included Communion services conducted with masks, sermons given by way of interpretive dance, and fast flashing videos that mocked the government’s involvement in Vietnam.
Even in Evangelical churches today we can see people experimenting with alternate forms of worship. People are breaking out of the “traditional” services to contemporize them or make them more attractive to the unbelieving.
But we very seldom hear it asked, “What in worship pleases God?” It’s ironic, that which we do in worship is supposed to be for God, but it is never composed with him in mind.
It’s almost as if we were to want our child to have the best birthday celebration he has ever had, but as we plan the event we do so with only the things we like. We have our favorite cake, our favorite games, our favorite music. But when it comes time for the birthday, we are the only ones enjoying it. The birthday boy sits on the step outside the house because he hates the music, the games, and even the cake.
Our chief and highest aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Our worship must reflect this. So our worship must implement the things that God finds pleasing. That’s why our worship must be governed by God’s Word. In the scriptures we find the principles for God honoring worship.
Of course we can’t usually open up to a certain page and find what God wants us to do in worship. It usually takes some searching of the Scriptures. But if you are going to search the scriptures, one place to begin is the pastoral epistles, the letters Paul wrote to Timothy. Tonight we come to just one such teaching having to do with worship. Here Paul gives directives on how to conduct God honoring, public worship. As a matter of fact we find three directives for worship. He tells us we must possess the appropriate attitudes, wear the appropriate attire, and fulfill the appropriate roles.
The first thing we find is that God honoring worship requires that we…
I. Possess the appropriate attitudes
Verse 8 points out two attitudes we should possess when we come to worship, one with respect to God and one with respect to man. The attitude that we should have towards God is represented in the posture of lifting up holy hands in prayer.
In Judaism, people would raise their hands for a variety of reasons, some of which are still replicated. The priests would bless the people with their hands uplifted, just like ministers today. As well, raised hands was the posture of praise. And may I say, the carismatics and non-denominational churches do not have the corner on raising your hands in praise. Presbyterians can do that too. Of course it is a little harder to do it with hymnals, and perhaps that is a good argument for memorizing the hymns or have them projected on a screen. But let me just say in passing that we should not be ashamed to express the praise of our hearts in with this type of physical gesture. It is a very Biblical, and natural thing.
But there was a third reason people raised their hands in Judaism. And this one is not so much replicated today. In Judaism people would raise their hands to bless and to praise, but they would also do when they would pray. When they would come to God to make requests they would extend their hands heavenward with their palms facing up. It was a sign of their right standing with God and of their dependence.
We seem to be stuck in a rut today. We only have one posture that we use in prayer, and that is one of contrition. Whenever we pray we bow our heads and close our eyes. But this is the posture of repentance and sorrow. It says that we are not worthy to come to God.
In Judaism they recognized that the blood of atonement made them right with God. They knew they could come to God confidently when they sought him in supplication. But they did not come rashly, they knew they were dependent upon him. So they lifted up their hands to symbolically acknowledge that whatever they would ask for, and whatever they would receive would finally and ultimately come from Him.
This is how God wants us to come to worship. Whether or not we express it physically (the form does not really matter), God wants us to come into worship acknowledging our dependence upon Him. Our attitude in worship should be that of a weak and feeble child who must look to one who is greater to provide anything and everything they need for life.
And may I add, you cannot worship unless you have this spirit. Worship by its very nature is an expression of dependence. Our greatest pitfall in worship is not arriving late, its arriving unprepared. We can come to worship and go through the motions, yet never offer up a single ounce of true worship. That’s because we view ourselves as self-sufficient. We got up on our own, got dressed on our own, and drove ourselves to the church. But were it not for our God we would never have had the clothes we are wearing, or the gas in our cars. And neither would we have even gotten up. He could have made us pass away in the night. Every point in our life relies upon God. Even every breath we take is a token of His benevolence. And we must come to worship acknowledging that very fact.
ØBut not only should we have an attitude of dependence, we should come with an attitude of peace.
That’s the attitude we should express toward man. Verse 8 says that our prayers should be offered without anger or disputing.
Your version might say doubting and that is a valid translation. In older English the word doubting meant the same as disputing. The idea is that of creating tension with another person through arguing. In other words, we should refrain from any contention in the worship service. We should have a spirit of peace so that we might direct our full and unbroken attention upon God.
Think about how easily we loose our focus on God. We have our employments and recreations. We have our sins and our miseries. We have to fight hard enough to keep our attention from being drawn away from God to thinking about the sunshine coming in the windows. Do we need any other distractions? And will not contention between brothers be even more problematic. Not only will it draw us away from worshipping God, but it will frustrate the harmony of the church. It quickly becomes contagious. I’m sure you know of churches that look like congress. People will not cross the isle because of issues that they have been arguing about.
God desires us to reconcile whatever differences we may have before we come to worship. He wants us to focus all of our attention on him and worship Him. That’s why we must come to church with the appropriate attitudes: the attitude of dependence and the attitude of peace.
ØBut God honoring worship does not stop there. God is not only concerned that we possess the right attitudes, he is also concerned that we ...
II. Wear the appropriate clothes
The Lord says in verse 9, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness.”
Now Paul is not in any way setting a strict dress code. He is addressing the fact that people’s attire had become the central focus rather than God. In the Roman world people were infatuated with extravagance. So when people gathered for church, it could look more like a fashion show than a worship service. The women would arrive at church having adorned themselves ornately in order to make a display.
And that can be the same today. We can be more concerned with what other people think about us rather than concerned for the worship of God. A church can be a place where people dress to impress. In vanity we can push to show off how rich we are. Or it could be that a woman wants to accentuate her body in order to get the attention of a man or even make another woman jealous. Either way, dress can have the potential to become a distraction in the church.
Let me point out that Paul has nothing against jewelry, braided hair, or any other adornments as such. Those of you who are ladies may feel free to dress up or take that extra time to put your hair in braids. We should not err on the opposite extreme either. Ugliness can be just as distracting! Paul is merely concerned that we not rob God of the glory he is due. Simply put, his point is this: The way we dress or the way we comb our hair should not get in the way of the worship of God.
I was once speaking with a fellow from Canada about how different America is from his homeland. He said that we Americans have that “Cowboy mentality.” Where he comes from community and family are very important. But in America we tend to be very individualistic. He went on to talk about how it comes to expression in what we wear. He said that when he first walked into American churches he was simply stunned at how the women dressed. Some of the things that they wore were so sensual that he had a hard time focusing on the worship service.
We must make sure that what we put on our bodies, albeit on Sunday or any other day of the week, is tempered for the glory of God.
And, to speak to you younger ladies among us, I recognize that this is becoming a very hard thing to do. Most fashion designers don’t embrace our value system. And a lot of times what is sold in the marketplace, while it might be fashionable, it might not honorable.
So we must take care in choosing our clothes. A Christian reveals what he or she believes in the choice of their clothing. And that is just what John Calvin says on this verse, “Without doubt the dress of an honorable and godly woman ought to be different from that of a harlot.”
In speaking of such an issue, I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about pressing it among you. From what I have witnessed all of you demonstrate good judgment in your choice of apparel. As a pastor I am most pleased that the ladies in our congregation have a sense of propriety and modesty, and I don’t have to worry about people being distracted in worship. I commend you for this, and want to tell you that your discretion only enhances what we do here each week.
If you have that guideline in mind, you will be doing the “good works” spoken of in verse 10. For what better work can you do than allow for the best possible worship of God?
The worship of God requires that we possess the right attitudes and wear the appropriate clothes. But it also requires that we…
III. Fulfill the appropriate roles
After addressing what women should wear in church, Paul goes on in verses 11 and following to talk about how they must conduct themselves.
He first says that “a woman should learn in quietness and full submission.” When we read these words we must keep in mind that Paul does not forbid all vocal participation. 1 Corinthians 11 Paul talks about wives praying in the service. One commentator says that Paul is requiring a silence of a particular sort. A woman’s silence is one that respects the teaching of the Word and submits to the church’s leadership.
If I might rephrase it, a woman must fulfill the role of a disciple. She is to be a listener and learner. And Paul makes this more explicit in verse 12. Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
Now to our modern ears this might sound quite offensive. We are not used to people saying that there are things that are off limits to women. In our day people say, “If a man can do it, so can a woman.”
Now I want to affirm that women are of equal status to men. God made man male and female. Both were created in his image, and therefore both are thus precious in his eyes, and enjoy equal status. God even created Eve from the side of Adam, showing that she is in no way a downgrade.
While God gave them equal status, he gave them different roles. And because there are different roles, there are limitations for both men and women.
One of those limitations is described here. God has ordained that men fulfill the role of minister and elder. That is what is spoken of here when it says that women may not teach or have authority over a man.
Let’s not confuse this by saying a woman may not teach at all. Paul is only speaking of the office of elder and the teaching within the context of corporate worship. And women are allowed to teach in certain contexts. One of the primary duties of a mother is that of instructing her children. And Paul makes it clear elsewhere that women are to be teaching other women. And, in some cases, they can even teach men. If you know of Priscilla and Aquilla, they were a husband and wife tag team. In Acts 18 it says that they discipled a man by the name of Appolos. That was a wonderful example of when it is appropriate for women to teach.
While we recognize that women can be involved to some degree in the ministry of the gospel, we recognize that it is limited. God here shows us that women are restricted from the office of teaching and ruling. Women are not allowed to fulfill the authoritative role of elder and minister within the church.
Having put forth that rule, let me address some objections that are commonly made against this doctrine. A lot of people object by saying, “That’s just a cultural thing.” You may say “Women back then did not enjoy the same status as they do today. So that doesn’t apply anymore. In our day women are more respected and have a greater role in society.”
But this command cannot be loosed by arguing that it was a culturally bound. Paul shows us explicitly that it is not simply a cultural thing. The basis for this restriction is found in the order of creation and the fall. Read with me verses 13-14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Paul’s argument is based on God’s design and the woman’s having been deceived. God originally created man first. As such, he was designed to be the leader. God’s intent was that man was to be the decision maker and caretaker.
So we cannot simply say that this was “a cultural thing” which is no longer binding. It is rooted in the creation, and as such it is rooted in the very structure of our nature.
Another objection that comes up typically is, “Well, you just have a very low view of women!” To which I respond, Absolutely not! That’s not the case at all. When you understand what the bible says about women, you know this is not the case at all. Women are to be cherished and honored in a very special way. And if you would get to know me, you will see that simply is not true. I do not have a low view of women. It is my belief that women are to be treated like crystal glasswear. Now you know you don’t just toss around crystal glasses. You give them a respect and admiration that is incomparable with other everyday dishware. You handle them with a particular gentleness and treat them with far greater dignity than your old plastic cups.
That’s how I view women. And that’s how the Bible says we are to respect and honor them. To say that we degrade women and have a low view of them is simply wrongheaded.
Again, women just have a different role to play. And Paul points this out in verse 15. He says, “Women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.”
Now this does not mean that women who have children are going to heaven. That would counter the Biblical doctrine that Salvation comes through faith. The church has traditionally interpreted this verse to mean that women find fulfillment when she understands her role as wife and mother.
One final objection to this teaching might be, “What’s the big deal? Does it really matter that much.” And I respond by saying, “Yes it is.” As a matter of fact, many other churches have split over this issue. And that includes my own denomination. It is important for this reason: If you forfeit this teaching, you forfeit the authority of the Bible.
The question at hand is: Hath God said. And if you compromise here, you compromise the whole of Scripture. I might add this: If you relax on this issue you really open the door to all sorts of things, particularly that of ordaining homosexuals as we have come to see in so many mainline churches.
God’s word must have the final say. He is the one who created us and his Word should be the guiding principle in our lives. Only when we fulfill the roles that he wants us to fulfill will life be rewarding. Moreover, it is only then that our lives and our worship will please him.
A Christian lady was once expressing to a friend how impossible she found it to say, “Thy will be done.” One day she confided in a friend about her consternation. After she had stated her problem the friend replied. “Suppose your little boy came to you and said, ‘Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your way with me. Whatever you ask of me, I will do it.’ How would you respond? Would you say, ‘Ah, here’s my chance to make him miserable. I will take away al his pleasures, and fill his life with ever sort of disagreeable things. I will compel him to do that which is the most difficult and brutal.’”
The woman responded to her friend, “Of course I wouldn’t. I would hug my child and cover him with kisses. I would never tell him to do such things. I would hasten to fill his life with all that is sweet and best.”
The friend drove home her point by saying, “Are you more tender than God?”
When it comes to worship, we might want to do things our way. We might not want to possess an attitude of dependence and peace. We might not want to change the way we dress. We might not want to submit to the word of God when it spells out our roles. But we must keep in mind that God’s directives, for our lives, and for his worship, are there because he loves us and cares for us. He wishes to bring himself glory, and he knows that his ways will fill our lives with sweetness. The only appropriate response is to obey his directives.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.