Is Christianity Chauvinistic?

Posted: October 13, 2008 in 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 2:8-15, “Is Christianity Chauvinistic?”

Is Paul (and more generally, Christianity) chauvinistic? Are those who believe that every verse of the Bible is given by inspiration of God people who chastise women for speaking their mind & just looking for new ways to keep them pregnant, barefoot & in the kitchen? It’s certainly not difficult to find critics of the Bible who think exactly that.

But what do we do with these verses? How do we deal with these teachings that seem so out-of-touch to our 21st century ears? The Christian community has come up with several solutions:
A. Dismiss them as uninspired. Some claim that the pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy & Titus) weren’t written by Paul, but someone claiming to be Paul. Thus their argument is, if it doesn’t have apostolic origin, it’s not inspired & we can dismiss it. The problem with this is that the early church accepted the authorship of Paul & this teaching lines up with other teaching on the subject throughout the NT.
B. Ignore them as culturally irrelevant. Some argue that these are dated remarks meant to address a specific situation in a specific city, thus the 21st century church can ignore them since we are so removed from the original situation. The problem here? What Paul addresses is universal among the church (teaching) & he makes his argument from Adam & Eve, making it relevant to all time periods.
C. Bend them to a more pleasing teaching. In this view, we’re supposed to take a little bit of the core teaching & turn the rest into some sort of spiritual analogy. The problem? That’s just bad hermeneutics (study methods) to begin with!

Question: apart from the teachings on women & homosexuals, is there ANY other doctrine in the Bible that we would dismiss, ignore, or bend? Would we dare do this to justification? The role of the Holy Spirit? Of course not! If not to any other doctrine, then why would we do it to this one?

So how DO we deal with this? Let’s go back to basics. Proper Bible study method: (1) Observation… (2) Interpretation… (3) Application… One of the major problems (and there are so many!) of dismissing, ignoring, and bending this teaching is that we rush to application without spending any time observing the text/context, and looking at the interpretation as intended by the Holy Spirit through Paul. And that’s where we MUST start – if we don’t, we’ve missed it entirely. Keep in mind these ARE words given by inspiration of God…thus we should be able to trust the heart of the ultimate Author. This is the same God Who went to the cross for your salvation – we can only glimpse at the extent of love He has for each one of us! We can be assured that these words were not penned to oppress; but given to help make us complete & equipped for every good work in Him (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Remember the context leading up to this point. Paul exhorted the church to pray – primarily for those in government, under the understanding that the only way we can approach the Father in prayer is through the One Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus. Gets back to prayer in vs 8…
1 Timothy 2:8-15 (NKJV)
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;
A. Before we get to the section on women, we get 1 little verse about men…but be careful not to pass off this little verse. It sets up the context for everything that’s about to follow. What is it? How to participate in the local church fellowship. We know we’re supposed to pray, but how do we pray as a local body of believers? For the men, several characteristics:
__a. “Pray everywhere”: Keep in mind that the church didn’t have the luxury of synagogues at the time – they were meeting from house to house. Wherever they were, the men were to pray.
____i. Mentioned this last week…many times we look at prayer as the ‘supplement’ or ‘afterthought’ of ministry. Wrong! Most of the time, it IS the ministry, or at least a foundational portion of it. We do ourselves a disfavor if we discontinue prayer – it’s absolutely vital to the health and work of the church.
__b. Lift “up holy hands”: This isn’t the normal word used for “holy” (set apart) – refers more to piety & sacredness. The idea is that when we come to God in prayer as a church, we should come undefiled. Men, confess your sin (1 John 1:9) & be done with it – and then lift your hands in prayer.
____i. Do we have to literally lift our hands? Not necessarily – it was a common posture for prayer among the Jews. But we needn’t feel like we have to fold our hands & bow our heads either…we have freedom to boldly pray to our Abba Father!
__c. Pray “without wrath”: Prayer isn’t an opportunity to hold grudges; it’s a time to forgive them. Ever listen to someone ‘pray’ when they’re really speaking to someone else? [] We should have none of that! We’re coming before the God Who has forgiven us much; we should be willing to forgive as well.
__d. Pray without “doubting”: The thought isn’t so much of a lack of faith (per James 1:6), but one of disputing – either within oneself in distraction, or among others (in wrath). Neither has a place in prayer. Prayer should be intentional & reverent.
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
A. “in like manner” – like what? Like the men in the church. Paul’s continuing the context – how Christian women are supposed to participate & conduct themselves in the local church.
B. 1st, adorn themselves with modesty. There are a ton of churches where the women (and men) put on a fashion show… Not only does it introduce unnecessary pressure & stress, it becomes a distraction from true worship. Our eyes & thoughts should be on Christ Jesus; not on what Sister So&So is wearing.
__a. Also seems to be a reference to physical modesty. Braided hair & gold used in certain circumstances were indicative of the temple prostitutes. … We don’t need to ‘dress up’ to worship, but we shouldn’t ‘dress down’ to the point of going clubbing, either. Again – we want to have our thoughts on Christ in worship…not distract one another.
C. 2nd, adorn themselves with good works. Far more important than wardrobe is the work Christ Jesus is doing in us. As He transforms us from the inside out (man or woman), our lives should reflect that in the works that we do. The sister who is truly godly doesn’t need to brag about it in endless profession; her godliness will be evident in the fruit of her life.
11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
A. Be careful not to jump to the controversy too quickly here – again, we 1st want to observe. How does the text begin? “Let a woman learn…” Amen! Women are encouraged to learn & the church was to allow the opportunity for this to take place.
__a. Do we understand how revolutionary this was for the time?! Greek culture treated women as little more than property. In their worldview, they were good for procreation & recreation, and little else…certainly they weren’t allowed an education. Roman culture wasn’t much better – although some elite women were educated, most common women were not. Yet the Lord Jesus invites ALL those whom He bought with His blood to learn of Him & to know and understand His word!
__b. Do we understand how revolutionary this still is? Christianity encourages all its followers to learn. Not to simply do as their told – not to be a blind follower – but to love God with all our heart, soul, MIND, and strength. God invites you to know of Him & to learn His word & ways…this is startling when we stop to think of it. If the US President invited you to a one-on-one lunch, offering to answer whatever questions you had about him, what would be your response? How much more the God of all the Universe? We’ve all been given that invitation: Matthew 11:28-30 (28) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” []
B. How was a woman to learn? “in silence with all submission.” 1st thing we need to do is to define “silence” – same basic word as “peaceable” in vs. 2, and in this case doesn’t necessarily mean “silent.” (Walvoord & Zuck) “It is clearly used elsewhere (Acts 22:2; 2 Thes. 3:12) to mean “settled down, undisturbed, not unruly.” A different word (siga?) means “to be silent, to say nothing.” The idea isn’t so much one of ‘zipped lips’ but an orderly atmosphere for learning. And again, before we jump to controversy, we need to ask if this is really bad? After all, how are men supposed to learn? We have a time & place for Bible discussion fellowships, but in a church service, how does everyone learn? Quietly in submission to the Word that’s being preached. Women are no different from the men in this respect…but Paul needed to give instruction to a culture that hadn’t given this opportunity to women in the past.
__a. We ALL need to be submitted to the Word of God. The immediate context here is being submitted to the teaching from the elders of the church – but the only reason the elders carry any weight is because of the word and gospel they are proclaiming. The Bible is our final rule of authority and practice because it is the very word of God Himself…and it is good because HE is good!
12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
A. Here’s where the difference between males & females in church kicks in. But before we look at what it is, notice what it’s not. The difference is not one of worth. Too often when we look at these sorts of passages, this is the conclusion we jump to: ‘Paul said that a man is better than a woman!’ Perish the thought! Nowhere in the NT will we come to that conclusion if we look at a passage in context. Regarding worth in the body of Christ, men & women are exactly the same! Galatians 3:26-28 (26) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [] Why? Because we were all bought with the same blood. Jesus did not have to pay more for John Smith than Jane Doe on the cross – we all had the same debt of sin which brought the same punishment, and thus the same blood that saves you saves me, and we are all equal in the Body of Christ…all glory be to God!
B. Instead, the difference is one of role. What ministry roles are available to men & what ministry roles are available to women? In many cases, there is much overlap – but when it comes to teaching the Word of God, there is distinction. Men are not exhorted to teach the young women; that’s reserved for the mature women. Likewise, women are not to teach the men….practically speaking, women are not to serve as elders/bishops (which Paul is contextually moving to in Ch 3).
C. Question: is Paul saying women should never say anything in church? Not at all! Elsewhere, Paul specifically instructs women regarding prophecy (1 Cor 11:5) – he gives instruction for older women to teach the younger women (Titus 2:4) – Philip’s 4 daughters were known to prophesy (Acts 21:9) – John wrote to the elder woman who hosted a home church at her house (2 John 1) – Aquila & his wife Priscilla were instrumental in teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26)…obviously, women were (and are) to be very active in the church! That activity is simply submitted to the church leadership.
__a. Keep in mind the context here is limited to the local church fellowship – this isn’t a reference to home life, school, the workplace or anything else. Mothers teach their sons, and they are to honor her for their entire lives. Male students should have no problem taking instruction from female high school teachers or college professors, etc. Anytime we take Scripture out of context, we invariably get into trouble, and this is no exception.
D. How could Paul teach this so definitively? See vs. 13-14…
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
A. God is a God of order, and the role follows the order of creation. Adam was not created 1st because God ‘liked’ him more; he was simply created 1st & carried the authority of being the 1st born. (He also carries the responsibility, as we’ll see in a minute.) But order is found in the Triune Godhead itself! God the Father & God the Son are of equal worth, equal power, equal natures – yet the Lord Jesus willingly submits Himself to His Father. Philippians 2:6-8 (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. []
B. Apart from creation, this order is reinforced because of the Fall. Eve was created 2nd, and fell 1st. Personally speaking, I believe this is all the text says. Many commentaries take a viewpoint that somehow women are more susceptible to spiritual deception – but I would argue that’s reading into the text. Paul is simply reviewing the Genesis account…if he’s implying anything, the context has to do with order; not ‘ability.’ When Adam took the fruit from Eve, the order was reversed as Adam was intended to be the spiritual head. At that moment, everything was turned upside down as Eve followed the lead of Satan, and Adam followed the lead of Eve – when it should have been Adam following the lead of God, and Eve following the lead of Adam.
C. Question: Is Paul absolving Adam of guilt here? Not at all! Paul doesn’t pull punches with Adam in the slightest (see Rom 5)…the Bible squarely puts the blame of the fall of creation at the feet of Adam. But the simple fact is Eve was deceived & Adam wasn’t…and that doesn’t speak well of Adam at all. Eve had never been lied to before; there was no reason to expect the subtle attack of Satan. Adam knew better, yet still willfully sinned & transgressed the law.
__1. Before we start casting too many stones, we should realize that we all would have made the same choices. Had the Father of Lies lied to us, we would have listened – had we been given the choice of the temporary pleasure of the fruit instead of God, we would have taken it. How can we be sure? This is what we do already! Even before we are born-again in Christ, we have the law of God written on our conscience (Rom 2:15) & yet we still buy into the lies of the devil & willfully transgress against the God that created us.
__2. This is why the gospel is so glorious! No matter what we’ve done – no matter how bad we’ve transgressed against the Lord – all can be forgiven through Christ Jesus. But you must repent! If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
A. ‘What on earth is Paul talking about here?’ Good question! There’s a ton of debate on this verse…virtually every commentary takes a different view. Some think it’s a reference to back to the curse, that women would bear children in pain, but Christian women would be saved (not die) in childbirth (which is the focus of the NASB). Big problem here: what about all the godly women that have died in childbirth? … Others think that Paul is proclaiming that a woman’s proper role is in child rearing, and that’s where a woman finds her greatest satisfaction. Problem here: the vast majority of what’s involved with “childbearing” takes place in the home & outside the ministry roles of individuals in the church – and that’s where most of the context is. And if this is a reference to eternal salvation, how does this avoid a ‘salvation by works’ scenario? Go back to basic bible study methods:
__a. Observation: (1) Who does “she” refer to? The woman – specifically Eve, but all who followed her. (2) Define “saved” – the word can (and does) refer to physical life, but it is usually used to refer to eternal life…to deliver & make whole. (I.e., a much larger context than that of general childbearing). (3) Although the English translation doesn’t show it, “childbearing” is accompanied by a definite article…could be literally translated “the childbearing.”
__b. Interpretation: The preceding verses are plainly talking about the Genesis account of the fall. Adam was formed – Eve was formed – Eve fell – Adam fell…then what happened? God gave a prophecy of salvation of a specific Childbearing. Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” [] The woman was to bear a Child…who would crush Satan’s head, bringing salvation. And that’s exactly what happened – Galatians 4:4-5 (4) But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. [].
__c. Application: Women are saved by Christ Jesus – the One born of a woman. Amplified Version takes the same position: “Nevertheless [the sentence put upon women of pain in motherhood does not hinder their souls’ salvation, and] the will be saved [eternally] if the continue in faith and love and holiness with self control, [saved indeed] through the Childbearing or by the birth of the divine Child.” How are women saved? The same way men are saved: through Christ Jesus! Their gender had the honor of bringing Him into the world.
B. The exhortation to women? Continue! Hearkening back to Ch 1:19, Paul’s basically saying, “Don’t let your faith get shipwrecked!” Men & women both ought to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5) – is our walk with Christ producing fruit of faith, love, holiness, and self-control? If so, praise God! If not – go to your knees, examine your heart, and turn to Christ Jesus.

Is Christianity chauvinistic? No. The greatest thing that ever happened to the world came through a woman – so grand that a multitude of angels sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14) A Samaritan woman was one of the 1st evangelists (John 4:28) and women were the 1st witnesses to the Resurrected Christ (Matt 28:9). The Lord Jesus invites men and women to be saved, follow Him, and learn of Him – and He graciously proscribes an order in which learning ought to take place.

Do people use these verses out of context to be chauvinistic? Without question. But just because Scripture is abused doesn’t make it invalid – it’s still the Word of God, and we can be thankful for every jot & tittle. The response to those who would use it out of context is to take them back to the Scripture itself for correction. Be a Berean & let God deal with wrong teachers…they will be held to a stricter judgment.

Bottom line?
A. Men: We have an invitation to pray. Women tend to naturally gravitate towards prayer; men want to be ‘active.’ Prayer IS being active – and we ought to pray everywhere.
B. Women: You have an invitation to learn. There is much ministry that God has for each person (male and female) within the Body of Christ – we need to be equipped from His Word in order to fulfill that calling.

We’ve ALL been invited to follow Christ! The question is: have you acted on that invitation? Have you received Christ as your Lord & been born-again? It doesn’t matter how religious you are or how much learning you think you already have – when speaking to Nicodemus the Pharisee, Jesus said “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) We must be born again spiritually because without Christ we are spiritually dead – our sin (and Adam) has condemned us to that. Every lie – every lustful thought – every time we place our will above God’s will – every sin carries a death sentence, and we are all guilty. That’s why Jesus went to the cross…to bear the punishment you & I deserved – He did it so we wouldn’t have to. And now He offers grace & forgiveness to all those who call upon Him.


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