Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:9-12
When we are at peace with those around us (absent of wrath and dissension) we feel an inward sense of freedom to lift our hands and pray before our holy God. Sometimes, as I approach a time of prayer, I shrink back because I know I am not right with others. God’s desire is that I would come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain help in my time of need. How important it is that I reconcile with other believers anything that divides us.
Paul goes on to deal with an issue that apparently needed to be addressed in the church at Ephesus (and Corinth too… The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but bare to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:34) The issue was the role of women in authority and specifically teaching within the early church. He gave instruction that we ought to have an outward posture of modesty and evidence of good works which reflect godliness.
Paul included women in the learning processes of the church. He did not exclude them from religious life and learning as much of the first century culture did. However, he did prohibit them from teaching and exercising authority over a man. That’s fascinating to me. Why? Why open up the opportunity to learn, but limit the possibility to teach?
In my short devotional time I cannot fully examine the text and implication for us today. But, some of the questions to consider are these- Was Paul making a once for all time prohibition of women teaching in all settings? Was he attempting to address a problem within the churches at that time, that no longer is an issue for us today (eg. uneducated women usurping authority without having knowledge themselves)?
I will tip my hand on where I land today… (which I hate to do without justifying in greater detail with scriptural support).
My belief is that Paul was bringing order to churches that were lacking order. To do so, he called upon God’s creative order to support his solution. He used a sledge hammer to pound the nails. That should give us pause to think about the importance of harmony and unity within the church. It’s more important than “my rights”. That’s the bigger message here. Value the unity within the church above my own rights. If I humble myself, He will lift me up. Married women in particular ought to be aware and cognizant to maintain an attitude of modesty so that the use of their gifts does not alienate and stifle their husband’s spirituality and headship.
Do I have to have things in the life of the church go “my way”? How much do I really care about unity? On the other hand, am I compromising God’s word for the sake of getting along or going along?
God, I thank you that You lead and guide us by Your Holy Word and indwelling Spirit. Thank you that you’ve given gifts for us to share with each other. Thank you for the many wonderful Bible teachers and expositors that build up the body of Christ today- Christine Caine, Beth Moore, Julia Staton, Joyce Meyer, Jennifer Felix, Christina Brendling, my lovely wife (Maureen Husen) and many others. May the issue of women fulfilling leadership roles in the church be one we navigate with grace, truth, and obedience to Your Word, recognizing we may not agree with one another completely, but we can be without wrath and dissension lifting holy hands in prayer in every place!