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 befits women
making a claim to godliness. Let a woman 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. For it was Adam who
was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived,
but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. But women
shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in
faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. (1 Tim 2:9-15)
The question of how much a woman can do in the public assembly is being
discussed more and more among brethren. It is not uncommon to hear of
churches of Christ beginning to use women to serve the Lordís supper,
lead singing, lead prayer or even address the assembly (a group of men
and women who have met for spiritual matters). In a college lecture
program recently there was a discussion in which two brethren affirmed
the right of women to participate in the public worship services. A
passage that is vital to this study is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. These
principles would apply, not only in the assembly, but in other
relationships as well. However, the purpose of this paper is to seek to
understand what inspiration is teaching concerning a womanís place and
work in the assembly. Thus, we address ourselves to an analysis of this
The Womanís Attire
I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing. The word adorn is
from kosmeo. Thayer defines it as "to ornament, adorn."1 "In classical
Greek kosmeo is used most often to refer to the normal Ďadorningí done
by women." 2 Thus, it is not wrong for a woman to "ornament" or "adorn"
herself provided that it is in the realm of modesty.
Her clothing is to be proper (from kosmios) ó "Well-arranged, seemly,
modest." 3 This word is used in the NT only here and in chapter 3:2
where it refers to the behavior of an overseer ("well-arranged, seemly,
modest; of a man living with decorum a well-ordered life.") 4 The
womanís clothing is not to be gaudy or extravagant, but that which is
appropriate. The problem of that day was that women sometimes dressed in
a lavish manner which was offensive to many people, especially those of
a poorer class. They may have been dressing in a way that reflected
their superior social status. This still happens today. However, there
are also modern problems of revealing attire that is not modest. The
Christian woman avoids either of these immodesties.
It is not just the outward adornment that God is concerned with. Their
character must be modest and discreet. Modestly is from aidos: "a sense
of shame, modesty, 1 Tim. 2:9; reverence, Heb. 12:28." 5
The old English "shamefastness" indicated a modesty that was "fast" or
rooted in oneís character. In the KJV it was perverted to
"shamefacedness" which does not portray the thought. Godly women (and
men, also) must have a sense of modesty which will keep her from
shameful conduct. Discreetly is from sophrosune. It is defined as
"self-control, sobriety." 6
This crucial term also occurs in Paulís first epistle to his spiritual
son Timothy. After giving instructions concerning public worship Paul
instructed women to dress orderly, kosmio (see 2860), a term which means
"world." The idea is that the outward apparel should be arranged in an
orderly fashion so it reflects the orderly arrangement of the redeemed
soul. If this is done the clothing will manifest two things: (1)
modesty, a quality which does not unnecessarily expose the human body so
as to draw undue attention to itself; and (2) sobriety (sophrosune),
which has to do with a soundness of mind that reflects scriptural
discretion and chastity (1 Timothy 2:9). 7
Not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments. Braided
hair is hair lavishly adorned often with silver or gold plaited into it.
This kind of hair-do called attention to itself in a gaudy and immodest
way. The wearing of ornate jewelry does not demonstrate to the world
that one is a Christian and such will not lead people to Christ. "And
let not your adornment be external onlyóbraiding the hair, and wearing
gold jewelry, and putting on dresses" (1 Pet. 3:3). It was not
that it was wrong to wear any jewelry, but there must be a modest,
discreet adorning in such matters. Those who wear such lavish attire
want to make a stunning impression. Their mind is only on themselves and
not on the worship of the Lord Jesus.
Verse 10 shows that the true adornment of the Christian woman is her
good works. "But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the
imperishable quality of a gently and quiet spirit, which is precious in
the sight of God" (1 Pet. 3:4.) Her good works are well-pleasing
in Godís eyes and lovely in the eyes of all who behold. "Good works
react on character and create that spiritual adornment which is the real
glory of the Christian woman." 8
Concerning Women And Their Work
Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. (NASB)
The ASV reads, "Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection."
First, let us consider the word quietness. It is from hesuchia = "1.
quietness, descriptive of the life of one who stays at home doing his
own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others.
2 Thess. 3.12. 2. silence ... 1 Tim 2.11." 9 The woman is to
remain in her place and not put herself in the place of the men
conducting the service. She is to be learning in quietness and not
conducting the service or doing the teaching. The public teaching of
mixed audiences is to be done by qualified men. Submissiveness or
subjection is from hupotage, "obedience, subjection." 10 This is from
hupotasso: "To subject to, put in submission to, to be or make subject;
to submit oneself." 11 He explains this subjection in the next verse:
she is neither to teach, nor to have authority over the man.
Was this addressed to women generally or
The group of individuals under discussion here is women generally; that
is, this directive is not limited to wives. Three factors make this
clear. First, in the preceding verses (2:8-10) Paul directed men
(andras) to pray and women (gunaikas) to adorn themselves properly.
Since it is unlikely that these instructions are limited to husbands and
wives, it is unlikely that verses 11-15 are limited to wives.
Second, in this context Paul was viewing men and women as part of a
worshipping community, not as family members (as he did, e.g., in
Eph. 5:22-33). Third, had Paul been speaking of the husband-wife
relationship, a definite article or possessive pronoun before andros in
verse 12 might have been expected (as in Eph. 5:22-23, 28-29, 31, 33).
Similar instruction is given in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 where Paul is
writing concerning those who addressed the assembly: "Let the women keep
silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let
them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire
to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is
improper for a woman to speak in church." The Scriptures are plain in
this matter, and we should have no difficulty in understanding what Paul
is saying. The Christian woman has a very vital function to fulfill, but
her role is not that of a preacher or teacher over the assembly. The
current "womanís liberation movement" has afflicted more than one church
and many more will be bothered by it unless they have the courage to set
forth Godís teachings in this matter forcefully.
In 1 Tim. 2:12 it is "I do not allow" (permit) and in 1 Cor.
14:34 it is "they are not permitted." Here Godís law is revealed and
it is God and not Paul who makes the prohibition (see 1 Cor. 14:37).
What is it that the woman is not permitted to do? In 1 Cor. 14:34
she was not permitted to address the assembly. In 1 Tim. 2:12 she
is not permitted to teach or exercise authority over the man. The word
teach here is from didasko, "to hold discourse with others in
order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses." 13 This is similar
to the idea of 1 Cor. 14:34 where "speak" carries the thought of
addressing the assembly.
The expression authentein is translated "to have/exercise/usurp
A recent article (1984) by George Knight ("Authenteo in Reference to
Women") thoroughly analyzes the occurrences of authenteo, and shows that
in its earliest uses (First Century B.C. to Second Century A.D.) it
means simply "to have authority." "The authority in view in the
documents is understood to be a positive concept and is in no way
regarded as having any overtones of misuse of position or power, i.e.,
Ďto domineerí " (pp. 150-151). ...Paul did not permit women in Ephesus
to have authority of any sort over men....In 2:11 Paul exhorted
these women to learn and be in full submission. These two injunctions
exactly parallel the prohibitions "to teach" and "to have authority" in
verse 12. 14
Rather than teach (a man) or have authority over a man, the woman was to
"remain quiet." as in verse 11.
In verse 12, then, Paul explained that women are permitted
neither to teach men nor to exercise authority over men in the worship
assembly. Instead, as he had already directed in verse 11, they
are to receive instruction with an inner attitude of quietness and
submission to the truth of Godís Word (and His chosen teachers). 15
Did Paul forbid any teaching by a woman? No. A woman may teach children
(2 Tim. 3:15, 1:5), other women (Tit. 2:3-4), and be
involved in teaching so long as she does not violate Godís order
(Acts 18:26). In fact, there were prophetesses in the church and
prophecy involves teaching (Acts 21:9, 1 Cor. 11:5). These
prophetesses could not violate the principles of 1 Cor. 14:34 and
1 Tim. 2:12.
We need to understand that the role of women is vital in the church.
Think of the important role played by women in the life of Jesus (see
Luke 8:1-3, Mark 15:40-41). Look at Priscilla and her work (Acts
15:26) and Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3). Think of the
high regard that Paul had for Lois and Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5) and
also for Phoebe (Rom. 16.1-2) and for several other women
mentioned in Romans 16. Look at the work of women in 1 Timothy
5. The woman is not a repressed person needing to be liberated, but
she is given a role to fill as well as man. Our difficulties come when
we try to step out of these roles. The womanís role is not that of a
public leader in the assembly.
Reasons for the Womanís Subjection
In verses 13 and 14 Paul gives two reasons why women were not to
hold a position of teaching or having authority over a man ó why they
were not to be leaders in the assembly. He refers to Genesis 2 and 3
in discussion of both of these reasons. The fact that he goes back to
creation and to the first sin shows us that these prohibitions (of
vv. 11 and 12) are valid for all time. They were not just cultural
prohibitions for that era in which they lived. Adam (the man) was formed
first. After that the woman was made as a help suitable for him. She was
not made to have authority over him. 1 Cor. 11:8-9 elaborates on
this: "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for
indeed man was not created for the womanís sake, but woman for the manís
sake." Thus, the order of creation shows a definite reason why the woman
is not be have authority over a man. As in creation the final authority
rested with the man, so in the church this order must be followed.
In verse 14 Paul lists another reason for the womanís being in
submissiveness. "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman
being quite deceived, fell into transgression." When woman took the
leadership into her own hands, she was deceived and fell into
transgression (2 Cor. 11:3). She was deceived by the serpent and
she ate of the forbidden fruit. After she had sinned, she gave the fruit
to her husband and he willingly ate and fell into transgression. Eve
took the leadership. Adam obeyed her. This was a reversal of the roles
that God had established. Adam knowingly allowed himself to be led into
sin by his wife.
That God considered Adam ultimately responsible, rather than Eve, is
clear not only from Romans 5:12, which states that "through one
man sin entered into the world," but also by the fact that the
all-knowing God first asked not Eve but Adam to explain his actions.
Further, in Genesis 3:17, God told Adam that the curse would come
on the earth "because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and
have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ĎYou shall
not eat from it.í" The term "listened to" means "obeyed" in this case,
as it often does in the Hebrew Old Testament. 16
Ann Bowman sums up this point by saying:
Paulís point is that this role reversal that caused such devastation at
the beginning must not be repeated in the church. The woman must not be
the one who leads the man in obedience to her. Thus when the teaching of
the Word of God in the assembly occurs, a qualified male elder should
fill the role of teacher. 17
This leads us to discuss verse 15: "But women shall be preserved
through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and
sanctity with self-restraint." The word preserved (saved, ASV) is from
sozo. This word is used in the NT to refer to either physical or
spiritual deliverance. In this passage the obvious reference is to
salvation in Heaven because of its connection to faith and perseverance.
This does not mean that a woman is saved from sin just by bearing
children. She is saved by the gospel just as every other person is. But
she fulfills her highest purpose and plan of God for her life by being a
mother and guiding children in the right way. A man may fulfill some of
his duty to God by public prayer and public teaching. A woman cannot do
this, but she can fulfill some of her duty to God by rearing children
into Godís way. One is just as much pleasing to God as another. In fact,
the work that a woman does may well have a more far-reaching influence
than what man does. She helps control the destiny of the church and of
the world by how she guides her children. So, in that she is fulfilling
a vital plan and purpose of God, she shall be saved. Of course, she must
personally continue in faith, love , and sanctity with self-restraint.
Paulís teaching concerning women in 1 Tim. 2:9-15 can be
summarized as follows: the women should dress modestly rather than
ostentatiously. Their real adornment is that of the heart with modesty
and discretion. The woman should learn in quiet reverence rather than
being involved in the public teaching of the word of God. She cannot
have authority over a man or teach over a man. There are two reasons
given for this directive: 1) the man was first formed, then the woman.
2) The woman was deceived and when she reversed the roles and took the
leadership, she plunged man into transgression. However, the woman has a
very vital part to play in Godís plans. She is to be a guide to her
children and must continue in her fidelity and perseverance to Christ.
Through her respecting her role in life and continuing in the faith, she
will be eternally in Godís presence. Women today must respect Godís
order and not seek to move into the sphere of public participation in
1. Thayerís Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 356.
2. The Complete Biblical Library, Springfield, Mo 65802, 1990, Vol 13,
3. Thayer, p. 356.
4. Ibid, p. 356.
5. Ibid, p. 14.
6. Ibid, p. 613.
7. The Complete Biblical Library, Vol. 16, pp. 242-243.
8. Hiebert, D. Edmond, First Timothy, Chicago: Moody Press, 1957, p. 59.
9. Thayer, p. 281.
10. Thayer, p. 645.
11. The Complete Biblical Library, Vol. 16, p. 389.
12. Bowman, Ann, Bibliotheca Sacra, Dallas Seminary Press, Dallas, Tx.,
Vol. 149, Number 594, p. 197.
13. Thayer, p. 144.
14. The Complete Biblical Library, Vol. 11, p. 487
15. Bowman, op. cit., p. 203.
16. Ibid, p. 206.
17. Ibid, p. 206.
Forrest D. Moyer, Gospel Anchor, May 1992
A Clarification on the Legalism Quote
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