I grew up in a single-parent home with my mom and my sister. My mom was my primary teacher and my sister was one of my best friends. My mom grew up in a home where her father abused her in every way imaginable. My dad left us when I was 5 years old, though later in my teen years he did reconcile with my sister and I as he began to follow the Lord. He also married a really godly lady who has been a huge blessing to our family over the years.
After the divorce between my mom and my dad, my mom bounced from one dude to the next. There was Ken the quiet, passive cowboy who slept on the couch. There was Paul the pathological liar who had really bad teeth and said really inappropriate things about my mom. There was Bob the lumberjack who worked for a tree removal service, wore flannel shirts and had a really bad temper that he took out on my sister and I. There was Ernie the hairy, handyman with a wife in another town. There was Marty the wealthy banker who walked with a limp due to cerebral palsy who tried to buy my mom’s love. Lastly there was an unnamed dude who was a biker outlaw with a gun who shacked up with my mom in my bed for a few days. Seven dudes counting my dad and my mom and my sister.
I share all of this to illustrate that I’ve had my fair share of personal experience with men and women and the roles they played in forming me into the man I am today. I also have six beautiful daughters, one stud of a son and a gorgeous wife who after twenty-four years of relational ups and downs is still the very best friend I have on this Earth. I have learned more from her than any other human being alive.
As a pastor, I’ve experienced the gut wrenching days of walking through the pain of sin and abuse and abandonment that erupts when a man or a woman runs off the cliff and derails their life, their marriage and their family. This pain is never one sided. For every story of a man who rejects and abandons his God given responsibility and calling to serve the woman in his life and the family he’s been given, there is an equal story of a woman who does the same thing.
The playground of sin between men and women is an equal playing field. Satan, sin and the world do not play favorites. That trio or that unholy trinity is an equal opportunity oppressor. And we are equally responsible for our individual addiction to sin. We all sin in many of the same ways. And yet, there are still distinctions or differences between men and women. These distinctions or differences between men and women do not and are not intended in any way to take away from the value of each individual. Simply put, biblically speaking, the role of a man is different from the role of a woman and those distinct roles are meant to complement one another instead of being a point of comparison or competition or oppression for the other gender.
I have long grieved the broken culture we live in where the roles of men and women have been tossed back and forth and stretched and abused beyond recognition. The prophets of our culture (music, movies and television programs) have preached a message of deception and oppression to both of the genders for far too long. And my concern is that we consume their message without questioning what it’s doing to our souls and the souls of our sons and daughters.
According to these prophets (music, movies and TV programs), men are brain dead wimps who can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Or they are ego driven, testosterone filled, violent, machines pursuing money, power and sex at all cost. And women are cute little housewives who never open their mouths to their husbands and exist only to serve their men’s needs for money, power and sex. Or they are power hungry, domineering, mouthy, working class women who live for the same pursuit of power, money and sex with less clothing on their bodies than their male counterparts.
These are obviously polar extremes of what Satan, sin and the world through music, movies and TV programs want us to swallow. And God’s people, from the very beginning, (Adam and Eve with the snake in the garden) have bought the lies lock stock and barrel. Shame on us as one author said for letting the tail of the culture wag the dog of biblical truth.
Biblical truth. Those two words alone are controversial in this day and age. It is controversial to say that the Bible teaches objective truth to topics such as gender roles, equality, marriage and the value of human life. As soon as you quote the Bible as your source for objective truth someone will reject what you are saying because they’ve experienced the abuses of Biblical truth. And they would rather hold onto the subjective influence of cultural reasoning even though the culture abuses its own set of rules too.
On this point, one author begs the question: Which is more likely? That the Bible is out of date or that the culture is out of line? My answer to that is this. If the culture were in line then the Bible would be out of date. But since it seems obvious to me that the culture is and has been out of line since the Garden of Eden, then the Bible and the truths it teaches in regards to gender roles, equality, marriage and the value of human life, are more needed now than ever before. Shame on us for letting the tail of the culture wag the dog of biblical truth.
With those thoughts in your mind, take a look at 1 Timothy 2:8 – 15…
Paul says, 8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control.
The culture in Ephesus was out of line too and it needed to be realigned with God’s original alignment on this issue of gender roles. Think of this like the front tires on your car. One wheel is male and the other is female. They look similar in appearance and their value is absolutely equal. But when they get out of line (when the left tire stops behaving like a left tire should and when the right tire stops behaving like a right tire should) then your car drives crooked. And the longer you let it go the more damage it will do to the car and to the passengers in the car not to mention other people on the roadway.
This is a picture of where the Ephesian church was at in terms of the gender roles. So Paul is seeking to realign those gender roles with God’s original design or original alignment. And he seeks to do this by outlining what it should look like for men and women in prayer, men and women in learning and teaching and men and women in sin and salvation.
#1: The Roles Of Men and Women In Prayer (8 – 10)
Paul begins his realignment sermon with the men (which I think is appropriate) when he says I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. The simple truth here is that men should pray everywhere. There isn’t a designated place to pray. Every place is the place to pray. And the posture of prayer matters too. Here, Paul describes the posture of prayer as a posture of uplifted or surrendered, humble, holy hands instead of angry fists of rage and arguing. I am reminded here that James says that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (Js. 1:20) In other words, human anger doesn’t make a wrong thing right. Even the most righteous human anger is still tainted with human sin and therefore can never produce the pure rightness that God desires.
James also says: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? (Js. 4:1-4) Men are called to pray everywhere with humble surrendered hands instead of fists of selfishly motivated fury and anger and fighting. To ignore what God is saying here is to allow the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth.
Men aren’t the only ones with issues when it comes to prayer. Women have issues too. So Paul addresses the women next by saying likewise also that 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 – with good works. There’s a lot packed into this instruction. But the simple teaching here is that a woman should spend more time being concerned with her godly character in prayer than her physical appearance in the mirror.
Paul is not making a prohibition of wearing good clothing or making yourself look presentable for a church gathering. He is however encouraging women not to copy the pop culture habits of spending excessive amounts of time, talent and treasure on skimpy clothing, expensive hair do’s and a seductive appearance. One author said it best this way: A woman who loves to be noticed must remember with whom she is competing. God is the one who ought to be the object of our attention and affections. A profession of godliness by a man or a woman is to be backed up with the good works of godliness that are characterized by holiness, humility, respect, modesty and self-control. To ignore what God is saying here is to allow the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth.
#2: The Roles Of Men and Women In Learning and Teaching (11 – 13)
And here is where our passage takes a super controversial turn. Paul says: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. These verses are shocking at first and they almost seem repulsive. I admit, that even for me, after years of studying the Bible, and after years of holding to a complementarian view of the gender roles, when I read this passage, I am tempted at first to just skim by it and chalk it up to Paul having a bad day. But the problem with that attitude is that I cannot dismiss God’s authoritative Word just because I don’t like what it says. As soon as I begin to ignore God’s Word here, who knows where I’ll land later. I do not want to ignore what God is saying here and I do not want to allow the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth.
Some people try to dismiss or minimize what Paul is saying here in regards to the gender roles by chalking it up to some unique cultural issue in the Ephesian church. Or they relegate what he is saying down to some outdated form of male chauvinism or patriarchal tradition. But a close examination of what he actually says here reveals something altogether beautiful and altogether redemptive about the roles of men and women in the church as it pertains to learning and teaching. So hang with me here. Let’s examine this carefully.
First, Paul says: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. So what can this possibly mean? Again at first glance this verse seems to be offensive. To our modern sensibilities it seems like Paul is coming across really chauvinistic. Like, really Paul? Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness? Paul, who do you think you are to give women the permission to learn? And why are you telling women to be quiet and submissive? Don’t you know the powder keg you are igniting here?
I would submit that the problem here isn’t with what Paul is actually saying. The problem here is with what we hear. Our hearing is influenced by the tone of voice we hear. And the tone of voice we hear is heavily influenced by the culture we live in. We read this and it’s easy to hear a tone of restriction rather than redemption.
Now, it’s good to note on this point that in the Ephesian culture women were not allowed to learn alongside the men. Both the Pagan Roman culture and the Jewish religious culture had relegated the centers for learning to the men only. There was even one Jewish Rabbi who said that it would be better for the Scriptures to be burned rather than to allow a woman to learn alongside a man. What Paul is doing here is actually very redemptive because he is saying that women are expected to learn right alongside the men. Paul is not allowing the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth.
Paul is actually being counter-culturally Biblical in what he is saying and in fact if we had the time to support this throughout the Bible I guarantee that you would find that God has expected the same equality for men and women when it comes to learning all along. Virtually all the passages in Scripture that teach us to apply ourselves to the learning of God’s Word apply to both men and women alike. The expectation here is that women should pursue the highest levels of theological education right alongside any man. The story of Mary and Martha is just one obvious reference. (Luke 10)
Now the other problem we have with our hearing on this verse is the two little words that Paul uses to describe the posture of a woman when she is learning. He says that a woman is to learn quietly and submissively. Again, what the heck are you doing here, Paul? Do you not know how offensive this sounds?
The key here I think is that there appears to be an obvious connection to Paul’s teaching on submission from Ephesians 5. But we must always remember that the context of submission in Ephesians 5 is a wife submitting to her husband who is also submitted to Christ. It’s mutual submission. Furthermore, in the context of learning, men learn the same way. No man can learn if he is not willing to be quiet and submissive. So it follows that Paul would require the same equal kind of posture with the women.
Secondly, and this next part is where the controversy really blows up when Paul says: I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Why does Paul say that he doesn’t allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man? And why does he instruct women to remain quiet again? I think the answer is found in the meaning of the word teach and the meaning of the phrase exercise authority in the context of what Paul is writing and is about to write. We’ve already covered why Paul uses the word quiet so I’m going to focus on the word teach and the phrase exercise authority in context.
First, the meaning of the word teach is connected to the same use of the word teach in the following verses (3:1 – 7) regarding the role and duties of an elder. An elder must be able to teach. In the verses we are looking at here (12 – 13), Paul attaches that word teach with the phrase exercise authority. So it could be rendered teach/preach with authority. When connected to the context of an elder, the phrase takes on a meaning of responsibility. Authority means responsibility and elders have been given the authority or responsibility to oversee and shepherd the flock. An elder according to the Bible is a man (the husband of one wife in 3:2) who has the responsibility or the authority to teach/preach the Word of God to the gathered assembly of the church family.
So the authority/responsibility Paul is forbidding here in verse 12 appears to be the regular ongoing authoritative preaching/teaching of the Word of God to the church family as a whole because this responsibility belongs to the elders. This interpretation makes clear sense when Paul draws our attention to the God ordained order of responsibility and authority when Adam was formed first, then Eve.
In bringing our attention to the order of responsibility and authority at the beginning he also brings our attention to the reversal of that order in Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. We will touch on that more in a moment. But this helps to underscore what I said earlier about male and female roles being like wheels on a car that are out of alignment. The culture has been out of line since the beginning and to ignore what God is saying here is to allow the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth.
Paul is not concerned with women using their gifts of teaching in the church family. Apollos obviously learned from Aquilla and Priscilla in Acts 18. And Paul listed women in his company who no doubt had gifts of teaching. Furthermore, men throughout the Bible and throughout the ages have learned much from women with the gift of teaching. I have been the beneficiary of being taught by my wife, my daughters and many of the women in our church family. And I expect this to be the norm not the exception in our church family and I think Paul expected the same in the Ephesian church.
Now as a final thought on this point I want to say that a survey of other key passages like 1 Corinthians 14:34 – 35; Titus 2:3 – 5; 1 Peter 3:1 – 7 and Proverbs 31 all paint a beautiful picture of Biblical womanhood that I pray the women of The Well would continue to embrace and grow into. It’s not that I don’t see this happening. I actually do see the Lord forming many of you ladies into some of the godliest women I know and I am proud to be running the race with you and learning from you as we run together.
Please hear the voice of the Father in this, you ladies are beautiful and loved and treasured. You are beautiful and loved and treasured and our Savior is restoring the image of God in each of you. You exemplify the beauty of Christ. You have been lavished by the love of Christ. And the cross of Christ has made you more treasured than all of the silver or gold in existence. You are beautiful and loved and treasured. I love you ladies so much. I am so proud to call you my sisters in Christ and I am thankful for the ways that I see you not ignoring what God is saying here and not allowing the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth. I love you and I am so proud of you!
#3: The Roles Of Men and Women In Sin and Salvation (14 – 15)
Paul says and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing – If they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control. We could spend a ton of more time here. But let me be brief. In the original order of Creation, God creates Adam first, then he tells Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then he creates Eve and then the serpent comes and deceives Eve with Adam standing silently at her side. (Gen. 2 – 3:7)
This is where the tires on the car got out of alignment. Adam had the responsibility or the authority to speak up and to preach the truth to protect his wife but he remained silent. In this way, Eve was deceived but Adam was willfully disobedient in his silence. Eve became a transgressor through being deceived and Adam became a transgressor through willful disobedience.
It’s also important to note that when God came into the Garden after Adam and Eve’s sin he called out to Adam first because the responsibility for the fall fell ultimately on him. Adam of course blamed Eve and then God confronted Eve and she blamed the serpent. In all of this, I believe God was relating to humanity in His original created order of responsibility. Adam first and Eve second. (Gen. 3:8 – 13)
It was a tragic day where the wheels on the car of humanity got out of line and from that point forward our culture has been in need of a realignment. God is calling us to no longer allow the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth. Through the first Adam came sin and through the second Adam came redemption. (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15:45) Thankfully there is a promise that comes later in Genesis 3:15 – 16 that salvation from Satan, sin and the grave will be made possible through the pain of a woman giving birth to a child. God literally planned from the beginning to make a way for us to stop allowing the tail of the culture to wag the dog of biblical truth.
And the way God planned this out is absolutely fascinating in the context of this passage. Think about it. A woman is able to do what every man is prohibited from doing and that’s the gift of giving birth to a child. In this case, it’s the birth of a child who would redeem all of God’s children. Mary submitted to the plan of her Father in Heaven to realign the wheels of Creation through the pain of childbirth. Mary did what no man could ever do so that Jesus could do what no other human could ever do. Through this, both men and women are given the opportunity to equally become children of God and live in faith, love and holiness with self-control.
In conclusion, God is seeking to realign the gender roles like two front tires on a car. And what he says here in this passage is hard to accept because of our cultural misalignment. We must not let the tail of the culture wag the dog of biblical truth. And the question is: will you hear this word as a realignment process for your heart? Will you allow God’s Word to realign your heart?