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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:The gospel shapes the respective roles of men and women in the church.
Text:1 Timothy 2:11-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible translation: NKJV

Psalm 111:1,2

Psalm 103:4

Hymn 17:1,2,3,6

Psalm 128:1,2,3

Psalm 111:5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the first things you get to hear when a baby is born is “It’s a boy!”  Or, “It’s a little girl!”  And then out come the pink blankets or the blue blankets, the jump suits with cars and trucks or dinosaurs for boys and the cute little dresses or the shirts with love hearts for the girls.

But from then things seem to get confused.  We live in a world where men no longer seem to know what it means to be a man and women no longer seem to know what it means to be a woman.  And we live in a world where you are in danger of being called sexist and bigoted and out of touch with our modern-day society for daring to suggest that there really is a difference.

However in Matthew 19:4 the Lord Jesus quoted from Genesis 1:27, saying that in the beginning God made them male and female.  And we know from Scripture that when the Bible says that God made them male and female He means more than that men and women have different body parts:  Men and women are equal, both created in the image of God, but men and women are not identical.  And nor are their roles identical.  One of the disastrous consequences of the feminist movement is that in their attempt to have women equally represented to men in the workforce, equally represented in positions of leadership and no longer the primary care giver in the home, is that women have, by and large, been stripped of their unique identity as women and they have lost their special place in society.

  Stay-at-home mums:  many of you know what I am talking about.  When you need to fill out a form and you are asked what your occupation is, you hesitate for a moment, not quite knowing what to write down.  “What do I call myself now?  Just a mum?  A housewife?  A domestic engineer?”  And if you stay at home for most of the time but do a bit of outside work for one or two days a week, then what do you put down as your occupation?  And woe unto you who stay at home if you have no children or if the youngest is already in school, for then you are seen as a burden and not a benefit to society – never mind the many things you do not just at home but also at the school, the church and the community at large.  And at the same time as women are losing their special role in society, men are having an identity crisis of their own.  For men are no longer encouraged to be the leader and provider in the family, taking the initiative and giving good direction, loving their wives just as Christ loves His church.  Rather anything you can do she can do better.

But what does the Bible say?

This morning we turn to God’s Word, to 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which describes the respective roles of men and – in particular – women in the church.  But when we learn that a woman is to learn in silence with all submission and that she is not permitted to teach or have authority over a man, we need to understand these words in the broader context of God’s high calling for both men and women and in the broader context of the gospel.  For while the culture says to our mothers and daughters “If you are not in charge, also in church, you don’t really count, you are inferior to men and not really valued”, the gospel says that your identity is not in what you do but your identity is in Christ.  And although we are all one in Christ, we are not all alike; but to each God has given certain tasks and responsibilities as we live in submission to Him.

And so I preach to you the Word of God from 1 Timothy 2:11-15 under the following theme:

The gospel shapes the respective roles of men and women in the church.

  1. A clear command.
  2. A right understanding.

1. A clear command.

Using texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15 the feminist movement has claimed that not only is the Bible sexist but that it encourages the ongoing subjection of women.

  That is not true.  In the first place it would be good to point out here that what the world teaches about authority and headship is different to what the Bible says.  Whereas the world thinks that authority and headship has to do with status, the Bible teaches us that it has to do with service.  Just as Christ, who is head of the church, loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so the husband, who is head of his wife, must love his wife and cherish her.  The fact that the husband is called to be the head of his wife does not make him superior to his wife.  Nor is a minister or elder superior to all other men or women in the congregation.

But there is more to be said, for the Bible emphasizes the high position of women in particular.  In Genesis 1:27 we learn that God created both the man and the woman in His image.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them.”

When this was taught to God’s people of old, they would have sat up and taken notice.  In those days in the nations around Israel the kings were seen to be sons of the gods since they had power.  Women on the other hand, had almost no power or status at all.  But the Bible teaches us that both men and women are created in the image of God.  Further, when Christ came to this earth, He came to redeem women just as much as He came to redeem men.  And going against the culture of that time our Lord Jesus Christ met with, spoke to and helped many women.  And when Mary was sitting at his feet as though she was one of His disciples while Martha was busy in the kitchen, the Lord Jesus approved of this, saying that she had chosen that good part which would not be taken away from her. 

  The New Testament describes the godly faith of various women, even contrasting them to unbelieving men.  And so while Zechariah the priest responded in unbelief when he was told that his old wife Elizabeth would have a son, Mary responded in faith, saying, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word” when the angel Gabriel told her that she would be the mother of the Lord Jesus. 

  And then in the Book of Acts, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on both men and women and they all spoke about the wonderful works of God.  Referring to this the apostle Peter quoted from the prophet Joel  where God said that in the last days,

“I will pour our of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.  And on My menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.”

And the book of Acts describes the ministry of women such as Dorcas who served the saints and helped the widows (Acts 9), of the four unmarried daughters of Philip the evangelist who prophesied (Acts 21:9), and of Priscilla who along with her husband Aquila taught Apollos, explaining the way of God more accurately to him (Acts 18:26).  And then there are many women who are mentioned in the letters of Paul who had labored in the Lord with him.  And then let us not forget the two women who were so influential in Timothy’s life, his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, through whom he first heard the Word of God.

  And so the Bible clearly teaches that women and men are both equal in status and both women and men have a clear role to play in the church.  For, as Galatians 3:28 teaches us,

“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.”

But being equal does not make us identical.  Nor does it take away the specific roles that God gives to be men and women in the church.  And it appears as though this had become a problem in the church of Ephesus where Timothy was to minister. 

From Paul’s first letter to Timothy it is clear that there were false teachers who were leading the people down the wrong path and not in conformity with the gospel.  This false teaching affected many things, including the biblical and traditional roles of men and women.  1 Timothy 4:3 says that they were forbidding people to marry and 1 Timothy 5:15 says that some women were listening to this with the result that the younger widows did not remarry, have children and manage their households but rather became idle gossips and busybodies.  And some had even left the faith and turned aside to Satan.  Further, we can learn from 1 Timothy 2 that both the men and the women were failing to conduct themselves in a right manner in the worship services.  For this reason Paul instructed the men in chapter 2:8 to pray everywhere, that is to pray in every place of worship.  The men, not the women, were to be the spiritual leaders in the church and so Paul called them to step up to the plate, to act like godly men, to take the initiative and to lead the congregation in prayer and worship.  But when they prayed they must do so in all godliness and in holiness.  The women, meanwhile, were instructed in verse 9 to

“adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”

Now this does not teach us that a woman can never wear pearls or a gold necklace or have braided hair.  What this does teach us however is that the women are called to be modest and to be godly.  And for women to be modest and godly, this will be seen in the way that they present themselves.  It is commonly agreed that the way that women were dressing up, including their lavish hairstyles, was to a certain extent an act of defiance and an expression of independence from their husbands.  They were making a statement, asserting themselves and drawing attention to themselves in a manner that was not fitting for godly women living out of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And that is why Paul instructed them to rethink their wardrobes and rethink their hair-dos so that how they presented themselves on the outside reflected the godliness which was to be there on the inside.

And then we come to 1 Timothy 2:11,12.

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”

First of all there is the positive command, “Let a woman learn.”  I say this is a positive command because it would not have been taken for granted that the women were expected to learn at all!  In the Roman world women were considered to be academically inferior to men and for many the education of women was considered a waste of time.  Further, in the Jewish context women were not instructed to learn either.  One Jewish source, the Babylonian Talmud said concerning the difference between men and women in worship:

“The men came to learn, the women came to hear.”

Compare that to how Christ exalted the position of women by commending Mary who sat at his feet like a regular disciple, listening to His teaching.

But the emphasis of 1 Timothy 2:11,12 is not so much on the fact that women are to learn but rather that they are not to teach or to have authority over a man.  And from 1 Timothy 3:15 it is clear that Paul means this within the context of the local church.  And we can not water this command down, nor may we dismiss it as applicable to Paul and Timothy’s day or to the church in Ephesus and not to our day and the church here in Baldivis.  While men and women are equal in the eyes of God they are not identical.  And when it comes to teaching and having authority in the church a woman is not to teach a man, nor is she to assume a position of authority over him.  More concretely, we can only have male office bearers that is ministers, elders and deacons and women are not to take on these roles within the church.  Rather, they are to be silent, quiet, and be in submission. And this describes not so much a lack of talking but of how a woman is to come to church.  1 Peter 3:4 tells women that their adornment should be

“. . . the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Women then must respect the leadership and the authority that God has given to the minister and elders of the church; they should learn but they should not teach.

Now this does not mean that women are not to teach at all, nor are they to be completely silent at all times.  Not only are the older women to teach the younger women, but Paul says further in First Timothy that they (that is the older widows at least) are to pray night and day and they are to help and minister to their families and others in the church.  And, outside of the official gathering of God’s people, they are to speak about the gospel albeit in a non-authoritative way and even, as Priscilla did with her husband Aquila in the context of her home, teach others about God’s glorious gospel.  But in the context of the church, the household of faith, women are not to teach, nor are they have authority over a man.

And why not?  Not because women are in some way inferior to men (we know that they are not), not because women are more gullible and less able to discern the truth from error (that is not true).  But the simple answer is that women are not to teach or to have authority over a man in the context of God’s Church because God says so.  And that should be enough.

But Paul does give a further reasoning, pointing to both creation and the Fall into sin.  We will see that further in our second point.


2. A right understanding.

Since the fall into sin there has been a tension between the roles of men and women.  In Genesis 3:16 God said to the woman,

“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

I am inclined to agree with those Bible commentators who conclude that Eve’s desire is for her husband’s place, his position, while her husband in turn will use his superior strength to dominate his wife.  Here the relationship between the husband and the wife, the man and the woman, becomes one of bondage and domination.  It is where the wife rejects her husband’s authority and the husband attempts to subjugate his wife. 

  But that was not how it was from the beginning, nor is that how those who live out of the gospel of God’s grace are to conduct themselves.  In the beginning the man and the woman were created equal, but they were not created to be identical.  Adam was formed first, 1 Timothy 2:13 says, and then Eve.  And Eve was created to be a helper for her husband so that together they might complete the work that God had given them to do. 

  Adam was formed first.  Once again that does not mean that he was superior but it does mean that he was created to be the head of his household, that he was spiritually responsible for his family.  Prior to the fall into sin, therefore, the man’s chief responsibility was to work, to be a provider for his family, to nurture and to care for them.  Prior to the Fall, the woman’s first calling was that of child bearing and caring for her family.  Now after the Fall things changed so that Adam’s work became toilsome labour; he would contend with thorns and thistles and he would eat bread in the sweat of his face.  And after the Fall things changed so that Eve would experience pain and heartache in what was to have been a most glorious calling and she would suffer pain in childbirth.  But the principle of the headship of the man over the woman, the husband over the wife that was there from the creation would continue.  And this principle of headship would be seen not only in the marriage relationship but also in the church. 

And this principle is for our good.  For where it is rejected and the created order between men and women is ignored, society will suffer, families will suffer and the church will suffer.  That’s what happened when Eve took of the fruit and then gave some to Adam when they fell into sin.  1 Timothy 2:14

“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

You need to understand this correctly.  Paul is not blaming Eve for the Fall into sin as though it was her fault and poor Adam was sucked in.  Rather, when Eve took the fruit and ate it and then gave some to her husband the created order of the man being the head of his family and the woman being his helper was set aside.  And instead of Adam showing true headship he stood by while she was being deceived.  And when Adam sinned, while Eve might have been deceived, he sinned knowing what he was doing.  And therefore when the LORD God came to garden, He did not come looking for Eve but He came to the man.  Genesis 3:9,

“Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?””

Adam was the responsible head of his wife, but Adam failed.  And that led to the fall into sin and all the consequences of that.

And that should be a lesson also to us today.  What we read in 1 Timothy 2 is not just a word for the women but also for the men.  And it is an important word for the men of our day, also for the men of this church.  For men, where are you?  It is your job to lead both in the home and also in the church.  You are called to show true spiritual headship.  But are you doing that?  We read from Titus 2.  Older men, you are called to be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love and in patience.  What are you doing, how are you living so that you grow in these things and, if you are married and have a family, lead your family in the right way?  And how are you growing so that you might also be in the position, should you be called to do so, to lead God’s church in a responsible manner?

  Young men:  Titus 2 instructs you to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say to you.  Is that how you are living?  Is that what you are striving for?  Why is it that the women so often show more spiritual maturity and at times even leadership than the men?  Is it the fault of our women, or is the fault of our men, that we are not taking God’s word seriously, that we are not being the men that God calls us to be?  To be a man is more than having a love for beer and football.  To be a man is more than getting out on the bike or working out in the gym.  In fact you can be a man and not do those things at all.  To be a man is take on the role of headship that God has given you, to either prepare for it or to practice it.  Older men:  are you doing that in the place that God has put you?  Younger men: are you preparing for that?  Or are you wasting your youth on worthless pursuits, on spending your years as one who has no commitments and no desire to grow?  Are you growing in faith and in knowledge, obedient to God’s call on your life or have you set that aside to waste these years in playing your online games or, God forbid, something even worse?  You see, just as Adam had no leg to stand on when he blamed Eve for his fall into sin, so we have no leg to stand on if we as men fail to show the true leadership and the godliness that is expected of us.

And sisters, Titus 2 tells you what to do also.  Older women, you are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers (yes, you can and you should teach!), teachers of good things – that you admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God might not be blasphemed.  (Titus 2:3,4)  Are you doing those things?  You see, although I am your minister, I am a man and it is not for me to visit these young mothers at home during the day to tell them how to be a godly housewife.  That’s your job, sisters!  Teach one another and encourage one another to live according to the gospel.  Let us be careful that we do not ignore the things that we are commanded to do in an attempt to do that which we should not do. 

But 1 Timothy 2 does not end there.  It goes on to say in verse 15

“Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self control.”

This is a challenging Bible verse and there are a number of interpretations given to it.  What I think it means, however, is that women will walk in the way of salvation not, as those false teachers of Ephesus taught, by abandoning their roles of being wives and mothers but in being these things.  Be godly wives, raise your children to love and fear God and manage your household well.

  That does not mean, of course, that women are saved by having children, nor are you less of a woman and less of a part of the church is you are unmarried or have not received any children.  We need to be sensitive to that – particularly in a church such as this one where we are blessed with so many families, and relatively large ones.  1 Corinthians 7 teaches us that those who are single or widowed – and we may include those who have not received children – are in no ways lesser in God’s church but rather, like the apostle Paul himself, you may use the position you are in to serve God in different ways.  But the point 1 Timothy 2:15 makes is that the gospel in no ways overthrows the respective roles of men and women, nor the high calling of being a wife and a mother.  To the contrary, the gospel confirms these things.

We live in a confused world where the God ordained distinction between male and female is no longer accepted.  But God has ordained that men be men and women be women and He has ordained it this way for our good.  So let us live as men, let us live as women in submission to the word of God.  Men, be the leaders you are called to be and women, submit to those whom God has placed over you, learning in quietness in faith, love and holiness.  For in this way you will be blessed and God’s name will be praised.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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