As we wind down our journey through the Bible, we have just a few more groups of women to look at. In today’s episode of All God’s Women, we look at Paul’s advice for women who profess godliness.
I used to think Paul had something against women because of all the rules he had. But as I’ve come to discover all the women he praised, I realize he had great respect for women. However, you’ll recall, he was dealing with a lot of Gentiles who were not raised in godly environments. Women came from pagan societies and had no clue how to behave once they were saved. They were continuing in the ways of their past. So Paul was offering them guidance.
The book of 1 Timothy was written by Paul and addressed to Timothy who was at the time serving at the church of Ephesus. It was understood that Timothy would share it with the congregation.
As you’ll recall, Timothy was raised by two godly women, Eunice and Lois, his mother and grandmother. He knew what a godly woman looked like, but reading Paul’s letter rather than addressing it himself probably made it less awkward. So what does Paul say?
In 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells the women “to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” (NIV) Instead, they should clothe themselves in godliness and good works. He then goes on to say that women should learn in silence and that they should not teach or have authority over men.
He talks about how Adam was created first, then Eve, and how Adam was deceived because of Eve falling into transgression first. Then he says that women will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
The Rest of the Story
This passage is confusing and quite controversial. It would appear that Paul is telling women they have to walk around in plain dress and hide in the shadows so as not to offend men. That’s not really what he’s saying.
Let’s look at the verses about appearance. Paul says that women should dress modestly, with decency and propriety. He warns against fancy hairstyles, jewelry, and expensive clothes. Why does he say this? Is he blaming women if men are turned on by their appearance? Is he saying it’s wrong to look good and to wear nice things?
No, that’s not what he’s talking about here. Remember, he was addressing women who came from pagan societies and were now learning what it meant to be a Christian woman.
The pagan worship saw women as sex objects. When these women were saved, it was an adjustment. They had to get used to being valued rather than used. Paul was showing them that they didn’t have to show off their bodies or dress to impress. He was saying that as believers they should focus their attention on their inner beauty rather than their outer beauty.
Was he saying it’s wrong to have pretty things and to wear nice clothing? No. In fact, Proverbs 31 talks about women dressing in fine linen and purple. The Proverbs 31 woman was well dressed. We know throughout the Bible of Israelite women wearing jewelry.
The problem comes not in the clothes themselves, but in the attitude towards them, both by the women wearing them and by the society that observes them.
First, if we focus all our attention on our outward appearance, we neglect what we’re supposed to be focusing on – our spiritual walk. Paul wanted them to know that God was more impressed with their godliness and good works rather than our wardrobe and hairstyle.
On the other hand, like it or not, other people judge us by our appearance. They take note of our clothes and they cast judgments of what type of woman we are. If our clothes scream pagan, they will have a hard time recognizing us as the Christian women we are. We don’t want to wear anything that will detract from our Christian witness.
Then Paul starts talking about women learning in silence and not having authority over men.
Again, we need to look in context. Women in those days were not educated. These women came from pagan environments. They had no clue what Christianity was all about. We women love to hear ourselves talk. These women had so much to learn and could have easily dominated their worship time with questions. But there was no need for that. Paul told women to listen that they might learn.
When he talks about Eve deceiving Adam but women being redeemed through childbirth, what on earth is saying? Even those of us who don’t consider ourselves feminists have a hard time not feeling offended by that.
In fact, Paul is affirming the power that women have while relieving us of a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves. With Adam and Eve, his points out how Adam was deceived by Eve because of the power she had over him. He was supposed to be the one in charge, but when Eve offered him the fruit, he succumbed. As women we can easily lead men astray if we’re not careful. But then he says we don’t have to be the ones in control. The men are the ones who are held to that standard. All we have to do is take care of our families and live a life of faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Whether you’re a longtime believer or a baby convert, we all struggle to know and do the right things. Oftentimes we find these passages in the Bible that confuse and even frustrate us. They seem to go against what seems logical to us. In those times, I encourage you to keep reading until it makes sense. Read the passages before and after. Read commentary. Put it in context with other passages. Pray about it.
It may be that today’s passage bothers you. You want to be free to dress however you want, speak whenever you want, do whatever you want. But that’s not how God works. Yes, we can do our own thing, but if we go off on our own desires, we shortchange ourselves and end up with less than God’s perfect desires for us.
God isn’t trying to limit what we can do. Instead, He offers guidelines to help us be the best that we can be.
Let us thrive in our role of godly women. Let us dress in a way that brings glory to Him. Let us behave in a way that draws others to the Lord. Let us embrace who God has made us to be. To God be the glory!
Lord God, thank You for creating us as women. Though our roles may be different than that of men, help us to thrive as women, doing great things in the ways that You would have us to do. Forgive us for our selfish attitudes that come between us and You. Forgive us those times we get caught up in ourselves and as a result lead others astray. Draw us near to You. Show us what it is that You would have us to do. Give us wisdom and direction. Fill us with Your love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Tune in next week when we look at Paul’s advice for widows and idle women.
Their Story: 1 Timothy 2
Bible Study Review
- Who was Paul speaking to?
- How did Paul want the women to dress?
- What did Paul want women to do?
Thoughts to Ponder
- What was wrong with the women’s dress?
- What did he mean about Adam and Eve?
- What did Paul say redeemed women?
- What does your appearance say about you?
- Are you professing godliness?
- How can you present yourself as a godly woman?
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