CONCERNING PUBLIC WORSHIP [7/12/22]

A Study of 1 Tim.2:1—15

Paul begins this section by addressing prayer in public worship <1Tim.2:1-8>, and it should be understood that when the Church meets for worship, it is accessible to all who wish to attend; therefore, it is a public meeting. Now, Paul sets out the principles of faith for which Timothy is to contend with. First, he instructs “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” <1 Tim.2:1-2 (NIV)>. When the Church meets for public worship; prayer requests, intercessions and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all people, especially for rulers and political officials; so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in a respectful awareness of God, and our responsibility to Him as we live our lives; for “This is good, and pleases God our Savior” <1 Tim.2:3 (NIV)>. It is pleasing to God when His children spend time in prayer to Him, bringing before Him all the concerns that we encounter as we live this life and fight for our faith <cf Acts 2:42>. Secondly, he presents the doctrine of our faith; “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” <1 Tim.2:5 (NIV); see 1 Cor.8:5-6; cf Acts 17:22-31>. In the situation where Timothy found himself, there were many gods being worshipped by the people, the Christian faith honours only one God, and His Son Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as our sacrifice for sins and is now our mediator or intercessor before His Father in heaven. The fact that Christ is our sacrifice gives Him the entitlement to be our intercessor for He knows the struggles that we face <see Heb.2:14-15>. Finally, the reason for our public worship and prayer is to let all individuals know the love God expressed to humanity, for God our Saviour “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” <1 Tim.2:14 (NIV); see also Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11>. Paul speaks to the fact that he was appointed for this very purpose – as a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles <1 Tim.2:7>.

So, our public prayer should include all of these thoughts as the Church intercedes for all members of our society – citizens and those in authority; and also, for each other as believers in Christ since we all cope with the battle for our faith.

Paul now continues by addressing the role of women in public worship <1 Tim.2:9-15>, and the content of this section has caused much controversy as to the role of women in the Church [and I do not wish to add to this], so let us look at the background to the difficulty that faced Timothy.

In Paul’s time Ephesus was the principal commercial city of Asia Minor, wealthy, elegant, and licentious (lustful), and the capital of the Ionian Confederacy, which had its treasury in the temple of Diana. The city was once a centre of wealth and a culture of idolatry [source: The Book of Life -System Bible Study- Historical Digest]. The Church in the first century A.D. was restricted to the Roman Empire and possibly concentrated in Asia Minor and consisted of many converted Gentiles [source: The Macmillan Bible Atlas, by Y. Aharoni & M.  Avi-Yonah]. According to Greek legend, the city was founded by Amazons* – mythical female warriors, and was located crosswise the main line of communication between Rome and the east. Merchants and traders flocked to it. From all over Asia Minor pilgrims came to Ephesus to worship. Under Roman influence, the city’s Greek goddess, Artemis, became identified with the Roman Diana [source: National Geographic Society, Bible Times]. Diana (Artemis) was a protectress of youth, especially those of her own sex. Young girls revered the virgin goddess as the guardian of their maiden years. Once a year there was a public festival in her honour at Ephesus, to which all the Ionians who could do so, repaired with their wives and children, bringing costly offerings for Diana and rich presents for the priests. Great gain came to the silversmiths in making and selling small images of the goddess [source: Unger’s Bible Dictionary].  *(You can read more about the Amazons here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/amazon-women-there-any-truth-behind-myth-180950188/

The Churches of Asia Minor not only consisted of Gentile believers but also Jewish believers that had migrated from Jerusalem, and these Jewish believers also had traditions from their Jewish past <see Acts 19:18-19, 35-36>. As head of the family, the husband or father presented the sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the entire family; and in the New Testament times Jewish women were not allowed to enter the Inner Court of the Temple, nor were they allowed to read or speak in the synagogue. However, a different picture unfolds in the early Christian Church; Christ, in His earthly ministry encouraged women to accompany Him and to be taught by Him; they also assembled with His disciples when they met together for prayer and communion [source: Manners and Customs of The Bible, J.I. Packer & M.C. Tenney]. 

So, here we see that the Church in Ephesus consisting of both Jewish and Gentile believers, each group predisposed to hold on to their previous traditions, at this point trying to live by their new convictions as believers in Christ. Unfortunately, the old nature never goes away or gives up trying to influence the believer, and this no doubt was a problem in the Church at Ephesus, and Paul had already dealt with this in his letter to the Ephesian Church <see Eph.4:17-24>; and Christ’s message through John the apostle for the Ephesian Church warning them of their pagan influence encouraging them to return to their “first love” <Rev.2:1-7; cf Acts 20:29-30>

Paul does not indicate the reason for his directive to Timothy concerning the role of women in the Ephesian Church, but it no doubt had some bearing on the above background.

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety” <1 Tim.2:9 (NIV); cf 1 Pet.3:3-6; Eph.4:22-24; Col.3:5>; they should not allow their previous habits to influence their new convictions, nor should they attempt to be influenced by the society in which they lived; their external beauty should emerge from their new “inner” nature; “appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” <1 Tim.2:10 (NIV)>. The intent here is that women should not dress in a way that will draw attention to them by others in the congregation, rather than to focus on the One who is being worshipped.

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” <1 Tim.2:11-12 (NIV)>; whatever the reason for this directive, again we are not told, but Paul is giving the order of propriety in public worship <see 1 Cor.11:3-16; 14:34-35>. It is God who has decreed that a woman should not have a public teaching ministry in the church, not Paul! However, we find that women are permitted to teach children and younger women <see 2 Tim.1:5; 3:14-15; Tit.2:4>, and this can certainly be done in a church setting.

The questions that we must ask ourselves are: how do we apply these principles in the Church today? Was Paul dealing with specifics of that time period only? Are any of the background qualities or similarities mentioned above present in the Church and society today?

Circumstances and situations are different in our day and these concerns have been addressed by a variety of practices. Who, or what then, is correct in the eyes of God?

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