It's one thing to say "I'm committed to the team" but it's another thing to turn up to every practice and go to the gym every week to improve your fitness. It's one thing to say, "I'm taking my exams seriously" but it's another thing to hit the books and revise, even when all your mates are going out, or there's something good on TV. It's one thing to wish someone a Happy Birthday, but it's another thing to make sure they actually have a happy birthday by arranging a surprise party, with all their friends, and their favourite cake.
Well because words speak louder with actions, don't they. Talk is cheap. But when we back up what we say with what we do, well then our words carry more weight. Words speak louder with actions.Paul wrote this letter to Timothy to encourage him to fight for the gospel.Do you remember?False teachers were coming into the church in Ephesus where Timothy was pastor.And Paul told Timothy, 1 v.18, to
fight the good fight, holding onto the faith and a good conscience.
How was Timothy going to do that?Last week we saw. The first thing he had to do was to pray for peace. To pray that the authorities would rule in such a way that Christians could go on living Christian lives in peace. So that the church could go on being the church.Why was that so important?Because it's in the church that God has deposited the truth, v.5, that
there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.
The church is the only place which has the truth. The church, as we saw last week, is the only source of light in the world. Or to put it another way, as it says in 3 v.15,
the church of the living God [is] the pillar and foundation of the truth.
If the church disappeared then there would be no way for the world to know the truth about God, or how to be saved. The first way for Timothy to fight the good fight was by praying for peace so that the church could go on existing. But that's not all. Look at chapter 3 v.14-15.
The second way Timothy could guard the gospel was to make sure that the church was in good order.This week and next week we're going to be looking at how Paul wanted Christians to behave in the church, both then, and now.Why?Because words speak louder with actions.How we behave as a church demonstrates what we believe as a church.
First of all, Paul addresses the men, v.8 The first bit of right behaviour that Paul wants to see in churches is men being prayerful. He doesn't want them raising their hands and their voices arguing and shouting at each other, he wants them to raise their hands and their voices praying to God. Turn over the page to 6 v.3-5a. The false teachers loved to argue and quarrel. We've seen already in this letter that there is a time and a place for speaking up. In 1 v.3 Paul told Timothy to
command certain men not to teach false doctrines and longer.
But in general Paul wants the men of the church to be known as people of prayer. Now why is that, and why does Paul address it particularly to the men?Well I think the answer is because generally we don't!In general , men are bad at praying. Because men tend to be "doers" and "fixers".
I remember before I got married an older man in my congregation sat me down and tried to explain this to me. "It's very important," he said, "to understand that women aren't like us! Say you come home from work and your wife is upset because the washing machine broke. There's water all over the floor, the clothes are still dirty, and now they're also soaking wet, and because the kitchen is flooded she hasn't been able to feed the cat, and the house is a mess, and she's in floods of tears…what's the first thing you do?" "Easy," I said, "You fix the washing machine." "Wrong!" He said, "You listen." "Don't say it's alright, it's not alright. Don't pick up the phone and call the plumber, first of all you listen."You see as men our tendency is to do things.To take matters into our own hands.When we see a problem, we want to fix it.And so it is in the church. When we see a problem we want to fix it.When someone is saying something wrong we want to correct them. We like to argue and dispute.And Paul says, instead men need to be prayerful.Why? Because it shows that we rely upon God and not ourselves.
1)Prayerful men promote the sovereignty of God, v.8
Every week when I sit down to write a sermon, I am always tempted by the same thing. I'm tempted to pick up my Bible and to pick up my pen and to start reading and writing. I want to start studying and asking questions and read commentaries and wrestle with the passage. I love doing that. But that's not how you write a sermon, or at least that's not how you write a good one. You write a sermon by prayer. By praying first. Then reading the passage and praying some more.
Why? Because, as John 15 v.5 reminds us, we can do nothing, or at least nothing of any worth or value, without God. When we pray it shows that we know that we are not in control.But that we depend upon God.It shows that we believe that he is sovereign, and that we need his strength and his wisdom.And when we fail to pray it shows that we're relying on ourselves, that we think we can do it by ourselves.So Paul says, v.8
Now does that mean that Paul doesn't want women to pray, or that he doesn't mind if women are angry and disputing in church? No of course not, this is a reminder to us all. But it is particularly a reminder to us men, because we're particularly bad at this.Men…you and I should pray. We should pray more.We should meet together to pray.We should lead our families in prayer. Because, how we behave at church demonstrates what we believe at church.Prayerful men promote the sovereignty of God.
Secondly Paul has instructions for women. And just as Paul's command to the men focused on what men in general struggle with.So now Paul addresses what women, in general, struggle with more than men.And that is a wrong understanding of beauty.Look at v.9-10
Now braided hair and gold and pearls and expensive clothes, were what the first Century version of Cosmopolitan and Vogue magazine were full of. Ephesus was an important city in the Roman Empire, it was wealthy, and all the latest fashions and trends would come sweeping through.In other words, it was exactly what our world is like today.And so Paul says to Christian women. Don't dress like that. Don't chase after the things of this world.Don't spend your time and your money trying to conform to what the pagan world tells you is beautiful.Don't try to seek the approval of the world around you.Seek the approval of God and make yourself truly beautiful in His eyes.Don't come to church dressed seductively or suggestively but with modesty and decency and propriety.You don't come to church to be worshipped by men, you come to church to worship God.So don't put on fancy clothes, put on good deeds.1 Peter 3 v.3-4 says
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
How do you get ready to come to church? Do you spend more time making yourself ready to be seen by others, or more time preparing your heart by reading the passage and praying so that you're ready to spend time with God?When women dress modestly and care more about good deeds than good looks, it shows that their greatest desire is what God thinks of them, not what other people think of them.When women pour their effort and energy into their inner beauty, not their outer beauty, it shows that their identity isn't wrapped up in compliments from men or other women, but on the love that God has for them and their identity as his children.
2)Modest women promote security in God, v.9-10
Does that mean Paul doesn't care if men dress immodestly or that he thinks it's ok if men spend more time preparing their looks than their hearts when they come to church?No of course not, this is a reminder to us all.But it is particularly a reminder to women, because you are particularly in danger of this.
How we behave at church demonstrates what we believe at church. Modest women promote security in God. And so we come to v.11-15, which are some of the most controversial and counter-cultural verses in the Bible today.In the last 45 years hundreds of books and probably thousands of papers and articles have been written about these verses.The meaning of literally every word in these verses has been argued over.Churches have split and whole denominations have been started over different understandings of what these words do or do not mean for us today.We don't have long to look at them, and I would very gladly answer any questions you may have at the end in more detail.But before we look at these verses I just want to remind us of two things.
1) They are in the Bible.
That means we can't ignore them and we can't just get rid of them because we don't like them.It means that they are part of God's Word we can't just dismiss them as Paul's opinion.And it means that we should expect these words, if we understand them correctly, to be for God's glory and for our good.
2) Not everything in the Bible is easy to understand.
2 Peter 3 v.16,
[Paul's] letters contain some things that are hard to understand.
That should encourage us (!) and when we get to v.15 I think that is certainly the case.Now let's have a look at what Paul says. v11,
A woman should learn
Now it's just worth stopping there to point out that those 4 words were radically counter-cultural. In the first century most women weren't educated, and most societies taught that educating a woman was a waste of time. So for Paul to say that a woman should learn was radical stuff.The Bible is incredibly pro-women.It's full of wonderful female role models, like Hannah and Esther and Anna. Women are constantly given crucial roles in God's plan, like Deborah, Ruth, Rahab and Mary The Ecumenical Coalition of Women and Society said in 1997…
the Bible is the most effective force in history for lifting women to higher levels of respect, dignity, and freedom.
And that is true here. The first thing Paul says is that women in church should learn. They should grow in knowledge and maturity becoming. And, v.11, they should learn
in quietness and full submission.
Which is simply the best way for anyone to learn.Not arguing and disputing, like the false teachers were doing, but listening with respect. So, women should learn, Paul says, but they should not teach, v.12 Now the word 'silent' there is not a helpful translation. It's actually the same word which in v.11 was translated as 'quiet'. In 1 Corinthians 11 v.5 Paul says that women should pray and prophesy in church along with everyone else.
So here he's simply saying again that women should learn quietly with respect. But what about the rest of the verse? Well we must remember that Paul is talking about right conduct in the Church, so when he says that he does not permit a woman to teach, he's not talking about school or university or anywhere else, but only in the church.And the word he uses for 'teach' is very specific. We see it in 3 v.2 Or turn over to 2 Timothy 4 v.1-2 Paul always uses this word 'teaching' or 'instruction' to talk about the authoritative proclamation of doctrinal truth. Which is the exclusive role of elders, as we'll see next week, and pastors, like Timothy.
That doesn't mean women aren't ever to teach the Bible, nor does it mean that women aren't ever to teach men the Bible. We are all called to teach each other the truth. Colossians 3 v.16
Let the word of God dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And in Acts 18 v.26 we get a beautiful example of a woman teaching a man
When Priscilla and Aquila invited him [Apollos], they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
We are all called to teach and to learn from one another.But that's not what Paul is referring to here. What Paul is saying here is that it is not right for a woman to be one of the leaders of the church who authoritatively preaches the word. Rather she should, along with the rest of the congregation including most of the men, listen and learn quietly with submission.
Now why does Paul say this? Look at v.13-14 Now again these verses seems strange to modern ears. But back then the significance of who came first was widely accepted. Back in Genesis God could have made Adam and Eve at the same time, but he chose not to. Adam was formed first. But Adam needed a helper, as we read in Genesis 2, to help him fulfill his role of ruling over creation, and so God made Eve. She was like man, reflected in her name 'wo-man', because she was equal in status. Genesis 1 v.27 tells us that both male and female were made in the image of God.But Eve was distinct from Adam, and had a different role.Woman was given to compliment man as they served God together. That's why we call this teaching 'complimantarianism'. That is the belief that man and woman are equal in status but distinct in roles.With some roles are specifically for men, and some roles specifically for women.
Of course that is totally against what the world teaches us. In all sorts of ways the world is trying to blur the gender lines to say that not only are men and women equal in status, but that they must be equal in everything.And that world view has had a huge impact on the church. Now what of v14? Why does Paul say that it was Eve who was deceived and not Adam?Of course it is true that the serpent tricked Eve and then Eve offered the fruit to Adam.But does that mean that Eve was more guilty than Adam?No, if anything the Bible suggests that Adam's sin was the greater.In Romans 5 Paul says that sin entered the world through Adam.So is Paul saying that Eve was more gullible than Adam, so women shouldn't lead churches because they are more easily deceived?No. In actual fact all of the false teachers who are mentioned in 1 Timothy were men!So what is Paul's point? Why does he remind us that it was Eve was was deceived and became a sinner before Adam?
Well I think he's reminding us that at the Fall the order of creation was reversed. At creation GOD made MAN and ruled over him. And God gave to the man WOMAN to be his helper, and together they were to rule over CREATION.Our rebellion against God began when we turned the creation order upside down. The serpent (CREATION) deceived and ruled over WOMAN.The WOMAN instead of helping man, hindered him and both of them ate the fruit in an attempt to rule over GOD. What Paul is saying here is that in the church the right way for things to run is by restoring creation order. The unique God ordained role of man is to be the leader.The unique God ordained role of woman is to submit to his leadership and to be his helper. And I think that helps us to explain the very confusing v.15 Now what does that mean?I think this is going back to Paul's point about the created order.
God calls us, as Christians, to live our lives in line with his design. And in the church that means with men in their God ordained role as leader, and women in their God ordained role submitting to that leadership, and using the other gifts and roles that God has given them to give him glory.And the very clearest example of a unique role that God has given women but not men is childbearing. That doesn't mean that all women have to have children, but Paul's point is that this is the exclusive privilege of women. Just as being a teaching elder is the exclusive privilege of men.
3)Creation Order promotes obedience to God, v.11-15
We might think that having a church where only men preach and where the elders of the church are all men speaks of a place that is out of date and irrelevant, that demeans women and is sexist.But I truly believe that if we have a church like the one that Paul describes to Timothy here that won't be the message we portray.I think first and foremost it will promote the fact that we believe the Bible and that God is our authority.Secondly I believe it will show that we love and value each person, and their gifts and their calling as uniquely God given.
We won't despise the unique role of women as the world so often does, by saying that a woman is only fulfilled if he's acting like a man. No we're rejoicing that men and women are different and uniquely gifted by God. God's gospel is the treasure that he has given to the church, and it is our job to hold out that treasure to the world around us. But it's not just what we say that's important, it's also how we live. Words speak louder with Actions.How we behave as a church demonstrates what we believe as a church.
When men in church don't pray, it tells the world around us that we might say that God is real, and that he is in control, but we don't really believe it. We still think we are, we're no different from the world.But when we're prayerful, it shows that we believe and trust in the God who is sovereign.When women in church dress exactly like the world around us, it tells them that they might say that their identity is in what God thinks of them and that they have freedom and security in him, but they don't really believe it.
They're still trying to win the approval of men and find our security in our outward appearance.But when you dress with modesty, and find beauty in good deeds, well then it shows that we have found freedom and security in our relationship with God.When the church follows the wisdom of the world and ignores created order, it tells the world around us that we have nothing to offer. No truth that they do not know, we're just a social club looking for members.But when we live our lives based on God's revealed truth, and joyfully obey him, then we show them that here is something worth knowing.
How we behave as a church demonstrates what we believe as a church. Let's pray that God would give each one of us the grace to live lives that match our words.