Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
4:1 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious,seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
1. Refresh your memory on the main themes of Colossians so far, noticing how they build on one another:
Chapters 1-2- Here’s a correct Christology (who Christ is, what He did, and why)
Chapters 2-3- Now that you believe a correct Christology, you’ve died to the world and live to Christ.
Finish the theme of today’s passage:
3:18-4:6- Now that you’ve died to the world and live to Christ, here’s how to__________
2. Notice the structure of verses 3:18-4:1. Do you see a pairing, relationship-wise in verses 18-19, 20-21, 22 & 1? List the relationships (first word of each verse) in each of these pairs of verses. Whom does Paul address first in each of these pairings, the subordinate person or the person in authority? How might this emphasize the responsibility of the subordinate person to act in a godly way in the relationship?
3. Examine the instructions to the subordinates (wives, children, bondservants) in verses 18, 20, 22-24. How does Paul connect submission and obedience to earthly authority with the wife’s, child’s, and bondservant’s relationship to the Lord? Who are we truly serving and obeying when we submit to the authorities God has placed over us? What are the blessings of submission to authority? Examine the instructions to the authorities (husbands, fathers, masters) in verses 19, 21, 1. Does God reassure the authorities in the same way He reassured the subordinates? Is 4:1b (“knowing that you…”) a reassurance or a warning/example to follow? What does this say about the weight of responsibility those in authority have to act in a godly way? Compare this passage to Ephesians 6:1-9 to get a fuller picture of what God is saying here.
4. What does it mean to “continue steadfastly” and “be watchful” in prayer? (2) Paul again mentions “thanksgiving” in verse 2 (See question 5 in lesson 5, link above). Do you make thanksgiving a regular part of your daily prayer life? Why is thanksgiving such an integral part of the Christian’s life? What prayer request does Paul make to the Colossian church? (3-4) Think of all the other things Paul, in prison, could have asked them to pray for him. What does this tell us about his priorities? How could you pray verses 3-4 for yourself, loved ones, your pastor, missionaries, etc.?
5. Recalling that this is an epistle to the church, who are the “outsiders” Paul refers to in verse 5? How would you explain Paul’s instructions in verses 5-6 to another Christian? How do these instructions apply to the church? To individual Christians? Think of an “outsider” in your life who needs to hear the gospel. Give one specific way each that you could a) walk in wisdom toward this person, b) make the best use of your time with this person, c) use gracious, “salty” speech with this person, and d) answer this person.
This passage and the Ephesians 6 passage I linked to above are (among others) often used by critics of the Bible to support their accusation that God is in favor of slavery. Is this true? Do some further study on the Bible’s stance on slavery:
Rock Your Role is a series examining the “go to” and hot button Scriptures that relate to and help us understand our role as women in the church. Don’t forget to prayerfully consider our three key questions
as you read.
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
1 Timothy 2:11-12
I’ve never met a Christian woman, who, upon reading these verses for the first time joyfully embraced them without the slightest hint of balking, surprise or, “Wait, what?”. I have no doubt that such women are out there, somewhere, it’s just that I’ve never met one of them.
For 21st century American Christian women, these are hard verses. Whether you’re old enough to remember bra burnings and hard line feminists like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda or you were born into a world replete with female engineers, construction workers, and urologists, you’ve probably been inundated with the “anything boys can do, girls can do better” message since the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!”
And that’s exactly why this passage seems to us like a cold bucket of water. It’s what we bring to the table, our presuppositions, that make these verses feel like a big, fat, arbitrary “no” from a God who just wants to spoil our plans, when everything else in the world says “yes” to whatever we might aspire to.
I’ve struggled with God’s instruction in these verses, trying to stretch it, Silly Putty style, into what I wanted it to mean, so that I could do what I wanted to do and still be “covered” biblically. And, ladies, let me tell you something- that is a sinful, wicked, self-seeking, and self-centered way of approaching this or any other Scripture. An approach from which I have had to repent many, many times.
Looking for loopholes and exceptions and trying to see how close to the line of sin we can get without actually putting a toe over is a characteristic of a carnal mind, not a mind set on pleasing God. Godly women don’t look for ways to get around Scripture. Godly women look for ways to obey Scripture. It’s God’s desire that we flee as far away from sin as we possibly can, and, instead, “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” He wants us to love, embrace, and obey His word, not rebel against it, even in our hearts, even in the name of “ministry” or “serving God.” So let’s keep that in mind as we take a look at this passage.
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. 1 Samuel 15:22-23a
As always, we must examine every biblical passage in context, which means we need to start off by understanding a little background about the book and its author, and by reading the whole chapter.
First Timothy (along with 2 Timothy and Titus) is one of the pastoral epistles. It was written by Paul to young pastor Timothy as sort of a job description and operations manual for pastors, elders, and the church. So right off the bat, an important point we often miss about 1 Timothy is that it was written to a man, Timothy, a pastor, who would use this letter to train his elders (also men) and, subsequently, his congregation. That doesn’t mean that 1 Timothy doesn’t apply to women, or shouldn’t be studied by women, or that women aren’t required to obey 1 Timothy. It just means that when we open the letter of 1 Timothy, we need to understand that we, as women, are reading somebody else’s mail. Mail that pertains to us, yes, but mail that’s addressed to Timothy, and by extension, to pastors and elders today. That will help us better understand the tone and perspective of the passage.
The focal verse of this chapter is verse 4
God our Savior,4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Everything else Paul talks about in chapter 2 revolves around the idea that God wants to save people. He wants the church to pray for people, including governmental officials so that they will be saved. Paul was appointed a preacher and apostle so that people might be saved. Men shouldn’t detract from the gospel by quarreling or anger so that people can be saved. Women’s attire should not distract from the preaching of the gospel, and their good works should point people to the gospel so that people can be saved.
And, finally – an exhortation to men – Timothy and the elders are to allow women to be taught the gospel so that they might be saved. See that word “let” right there at the beginning of verse 11? Timothy and the elders have the responsibility to step up and make sure women are allowed to come into the church and be taught the gospel. That’s something we take for granted now, but in a time when women were routinely regarded with the same value and intelligence as a stick of furniture or the family cow, this was huge. This just reinforces what we learned from Galatians 3:28: everybody is welcome at God’s table. There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom. God wants to save women, too. We modern women rarely appreciate how precious this concept would have been to first century women hungry to know and be known by God. And the men were to make sure it happened.
But, as Jesus said, “to whom much was given, of [her] much will be required.” The men had the responsibility to make sure women were taught God’s word so they could be saved and grow spiritually, but the women had the responsibility to listen, learn, and conduct themselves in a way that would not hinder others (or even themselves) from learning and hearing the gospel.
Paul goes on to explain in verse 12 what he means by “quietly with all submissiveness”: Women are not to teach men or exercise authority over them. In the first century church, this would have been relatively easy to understand, since church services were fairly simple and didn’t include programs, parachurch organizations, Christian conferences, etc. But in our day, perhaps a little more explanation would be helpful.
Teaching includes any situation in the gathering of the body of Christ in which women would be giving instruction to men in the Scriptures and/or on spiritual matters (which, in a biblical church gathering, would necessarily include Scripture), whether in an official position of teacher (pastor, teaching elder, Sunday School/Bible study teacher, or other leadership position) or any other situation requiring exhorting, teaching, or explaining of the Scriptures.
Exercising authority includes any official position (pastor, pastoral positions, certain committee positions, elder, teacher, director, or other leadership position) or other situation which places a woman in charge of, over, or responsible for men or places men in a role subordinate to a woman.
But why? Why would God reserve the positions of teaching and authority over male or mixed groups to men? He gives two reasons in verses 13-14. God’s design for male headship, and Eve’s deception and sin.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve– Starting with Creation (not the Fall), God began laying out the pattern of male headship in the foundational institutions of His kingdom: Creation, the family, and the church. Man was created first, woman second. Man was given authority over Creation, woman was specifically created for him, to be his helper. We also see male headship in the family. God requires husbands to take the primary leadership role and wives to submit to and respect their husbands.
And, finally, we see God’s design for male headship in the church, not only in overt passages like 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, the description of qualifications for pastors and elders, and the precedent of male leadership in the Old Testament temple, but also in the beautiful picture of Christ, the bridegroom, as head of the church, His bride, who lovingly submits to Him. Starting with the very first man and woman, before sin entered the world, God initiated a pattern of male leadership.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor– Here, Paul reminds us that, when Eve listened to the serpent, she stepped out from under her husband’s oversight, was deceived, and sinned. Eve’s sin reminds us that she not only was deceived into rebelling against God’s command about eating the fruit, but she also broke His design for male headship in marriage. In establishing male leadership in the church, God is recalling, reflecting, and restoring His pattern of male headship that started in the Garden.
But I’ve been taught that 1 Timothy 2:12 only applied to the particular time and culture in which it was written.
No, that’s not the case. We’ve just seen that clearly spelled out in verses 13-14. God explains exactly why He’s delegating the teaching of men, and authority over men, to men. There’s nothing in these two verses that even hint that this command is temporary or restricted to the women in the first century Ephesian church. The first reason was the Creative order – Adam was formed first, then Eve. The second reason is that Eve was deceived. Both of those reasons are universal (applying to all women and churches everywhere regardless of era or culture). It makes no sense that these two reasons related to Eve would apply only to first century Ephesus any more than it would make sense for them to apply only to tenth century Damascus or seventeenth century Paris.
Next, again, we examine the context of 1 Timothy 2. There are all sorts of instructions to the church in that chapter. Was the instruction to pray for governmental leaders (1-2) limited to the first century Ephesian church? Were only the men of the first century Ephesian church to pray without quarreling (8)? Was modesty (9-10) only required of women in the first century Ephesian church? Then why pick out this one instruction in verse 12 and claim it was limited to that time and culture?
Finally, look at the overall general pattern of male headship and leadership in Scripture. First human created? A man. The Patriarchs? As the word implies – all men. Priests, Levites, Scribes? Men. Heads of the twelve tribes of Israel? Men. Major and minor prophets? Men. All kings of Israel and Judah? Men. Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants? All established between God and men. Authors of Scripture? Men. The forerunner of Christ? John the Baptist – a man. Messiah? A man. All of the apostles? Men. All of the pastors, elders, and deacons of churches in the New Testament? Men. Founder and head of the church? Christ – a man. Leader and head of the family? Men. Now which fits better with this pattern, women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church, or women not preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church?
But what about women in the Bible who served in leadership roles like Deborah, Esther, or Priscilla? Doesn’t that mean it’s OK for women to preach, teach men, and exercise authority over men in the church?
But I’ve been told it’s OK for women to teach co-ed Bible classes or preach to co-ed audiences as long as they don’t hold the office of pastor and as long as they’re preaching/teaching “under the authority” of their husband and/or pastor.
No, that’s not OK with Scripture. First Timothy 3 and Titus 1 restrict the office of pastor to biblically qualified men, but, as we’ve seen in this article, 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from carrying out two of the functions of pastors (preaching/teaching the Bible to men, and exercising authority over men) as well, and neither 1 Timothy 2 nor any other passage of Scripture gives husbands or pastors the authority to grant women permission to violate God’s Word. For more information on this question, see my article Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree.
In God’s perfect plan, Janes and Jills are not to serve as pastors. They are not to preach to or teach men at Christian conferences or other gatherings of the body of Christ. They are not to teach co-ed Sunday School classes. They are not to serve in positions or places of authority over men in the church.
But even though we daughters of Eve bear the taint of her reproach in this small way all these years later, God has graciously provided us with many, many ways to redeem the name of womankind by serving Him if we “continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (15) One of those ways is the gospel influence mothers are able to have in their children’s lives. Think about it. Samuel had a godly mother. Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother. Jesus had a godly mother. It is no small thing to pour the gospel into your children and raise them up to be mighty men and women of God.
So, ladies, let’s stop clinging to the fence God has placed around the pulpit, bemoaning the fact that He doesn’t want us to cross it, and trying to figure out a way to sneak over, under, or around it. If we’ll just turn around and leave that fence behind us, we’ll find a wide open field of opportunities to serve God in His church, His way.
Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? by Tom Buck The springboard issue for this article series was the movement to elect a female president of the Southern Baptist Convention, however, it is largely an exposition of the text of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with this issue, and even if you’re not Southern Baptist, these articles are helpful and easy to understand. Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4
Rock Your Role is a series examining the “go to” and hot button Scriptures that relate to and help us understand our role as women in the church. Don’t forget to prayerfully consider our three key questions as you read.
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
1 Corinthians 14:33b-35
Whew! That’s a tough passage. It stirs up a lot of thoughts and emotions just by reading it. What does it mean? How does it apply to me and to my church? Are Christian women never to open their mouths inside the church building?
The most important thing to remember about rightly handling and understanding God’s word is that we must study itin context. Paul is writing 1 Corinthians as sort of a “user’s manual” of Christianity for the fledgling church at Corinth. Remember, this Christianity thing was brand new to them. The new Christians at Corinth were coming out of paganism or Judaism. They had no idea what they were doing when it came to church and the Christian walk, and they couldn’t run down to their local Christian book store for a copy of Christianity for Dummies. They didn’t even have the New Testament yet, for goodness sakes!
So, for the first 13 chapters Paul has dealt with a variety of things, from the centrality of the gospel to unity to church discipline, marriage, idolatry, the Lord’s Supper- a smorgasbord of things the Holy Spirit thought the church needed instruction about. And chapter 14 is just more of this type of “Christianity 101” instruction.
If you read the entire chapter – which I encourage you to take a minute to do right now – you can see that the overall topic Paul is addressing throughout is keeping order in the church meeting (worship service). He spends the first 33 verses talking about tongues and prophecy and how those should be properly expressed in the service. Whether you’re a cessationist or a continuationist, I think we can all imagine that it would be mass chaos for multiple people to simultaneously stand up and speak out in these ways in the meeting, especially when the first priority was supposed to be listening to apostolic instruction.
This theme of keeping order in the worship service carries over into last portion of the chapter, as well. (My Bible even has a heading prior to verse 26 which says “Orderly Worship”.) The key verses showing this focus on orderly worship are 33: “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” and 40: ” But all things should be done decently and in order.” Those verses sort of “bookend” what Paul is saying here in the passage about women.
We saw earlier in the chapter that Paul talks about people prophesying and speaking in different languages with and without interpreters and how that can cause confusion and disorder. Likewise, in verse 26 he says, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.” You can probably imagine the resulting hullabaloo with all of those people trying to get a word in edgewise! My MacArthur study Bible adds the cultural note: “Apparently, certain women were out of order in disruptively asking questions publicly in the chaotic services.”
So, zooming out and taking a “big picture” look at this passage, we can see that the main issue here was not women speaking in church, per se, but rather a focus on orderliness in the service. Paul is trying to establish a structure for the worship service and a hierarchy of church leadership, and one of the main ways he can quickly and neatly cut a lot of the chaos (just as he earlier put limitations on speaking out in prophecy and other languages) is to tell the women to be quiet and hang on to their questions until they get home and can talk freely, in more depth, and at greater length, with their husbands. We can see from the rest of the passage that he doesn’t want men being disorderly either. In fact, he’s trying to create an atmosphere where apostolic teaching can take place that will both answer a lot of the women’s questions and equip their husbands to answer their wives’ questions later at home.
So, taking this passage and other passages about God’s design for worship and for men’s and women’s roles in the church hand in hand, it doesn’t seem that what Paul is saying in this particular passage is that no woman can ever say a word out loud in the church meeting simply because she has two X chromosomes. There are occasions when women can speak – in an orderly way – in church, as long as they are not doing it in a way that violates any other Scriptures (e.g. instructing men in the Bible or holding improper authority over men, as prohibited by 1 Timothy 2:12).
For example: if you go to a church (as I do) where people are prone to saying the occasional “Amen” when the pastor says something especially important in the sermon, it would not be a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:34 for women to say “amen” along with the men.
Neither would a woman be disobeying this verse if she stood up to make a general announcement if the church has a designated time of the service for that. Saying something like, “Just a reminder- we’re having a potluck on the 23rd. We could really use some guys to help move tables, and we need some volunteers to bring desserts,” would be fine. What would be disobedient to 1 Corinthians 14:34 is if she suddenly remembered this announcement during worship service and interrupted the pastor’s sermon to make the announcement. (Sounds crazy, I know, but I actually once saw a man do this in church, which means he was violating the biblical principle of orderliness in 1 Corinthians 14).
These are just two small examples. There are probably many other instances in which it would be fine for a woman to say something in church, assuming, as I mentioned, she is not being disruptive or violating any of the other Scriptures that define God’s plan for women in the church. But if there is any question about the biblical appropriateness of the situation, it’s best to have a godly man handle things (in an orderly way) instead. Because the primary focus here, as with any other situation in the church, should not be on how far we can stretch God’s word without breaking it, but on the way we can best glorify God by denying self and submitting to and obeying His word.
As we think about the roles of women and men in the church we would do well to remember how often Jesus said things like this:
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28
We, and the church may prize leadership, position, and recognition, but Jesus prizes servanthood, anonymity, and humility.