I am sorry for this difficulty that you are walking through right now. Many of us have faced, or regularly face anxiety. I think the enemy really does like to kick us when we are down. Sometimes our chemistry is off or we are under loads of pressure, and then he is always quick to rush in with doubts to try and keep us off balance. I have found that focusing on God’s bigger plan helps me. And I have to practice telling myself the truth of the gospel. Ken had some very good advice for you in his last post. You are not alone, dear sister, and it is evident that Jesus is answering your heart prayer even in the midst of this trying time.
I thought the song that you shared above was beautiful. What a wonderful answer to prayer for you!!! I did read through the article that you posted and I have been thinking on it for awhile. Personally I do not find the conclusion satisfying, for it seems inconsistent with how Paul conducted his ministry and life.
So I will do my best to offer you what I see to be the heart of the passage.
Many scholars believe that Timothy was living in Ephesus at the time that Paul wrote this letter to him. The prominent deity in Ephesus at the time was the goddess Diana, also called Artemis. Within the cult of Artemis, women were the primary leaders. As men and women began to come to faith in Christ they came into the church still carrying pagan baggage. There appears to have been a problem in the church. We have to guess to some degree as to what that problem was because we are only getting one side of the conversation. It appears that the women were somehow causing a bit of a stir. Perhaps some of them had come into the church with the expectation that they would slide right into leadership. The problem would then have been that being new to the faith they would have been novices and not in a position to lead the church.
But Paul does not want them excluded from learning. He actually encourages them to “quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.” My understanding is that this idea of “quietly receiving instruction” is not about sitting stone cold and silent, muted as it were, but rather to sit as a pupil in a posture of humility, ready to learn, and not as one who is contentious or disruptive. It is actually a rather positive idea. Paul WANTS the women to be learning. The gospel is not just for men. But these particular women needed to be pupils before they could aspire to being teachers.
In 1 Timothy 2:10 when Paul says, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet,” I think we have to look at what the term “exercise authority” means. My understanding is that it means a dominating power grab. So if that is true, we see that Paul is saying, “Women, I want you to sit as students and learn the tenets of the faith. Don’t bring your former way of life into the church where you are making power grabs and seeking to dominate your brothers. Put off the ways of Artemis and put on the way of Christ.” (That is my understanding, and I am not a Greek scholar, so I am having to read others who are scholars and try to learn from their expertise.)
Next we come to the part of the passage that has been bothersome to you (and honestly to many of us through the ages). Paul has been telling these particular women what it looks like to function within this new life that they have embarked upon. He gives them some background from which to base his instructions.
1 Timothy 2:13-15:
For it was Adam who was first created, then Eve. And not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But will be preserved (or saved) if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
He is reminding this group of people that Eve was deceived and then fell into transgression. (We have often taken this to mean that all women, as daughters of Eve, are lacking in discernment and thereby “sitting ducks” for deception. I think this is a bit vilifying and it is an idea that has been passed down through many religions through the ages. I think it is really sad to make such a sweeping proposition based on gender alone.)
He also previously reminded them that Adam was not deceived. (This was not because Adam was more intelligent or an all around better person. No, he actually walked right into sin with his eyes wide open. Sometimes we assume that men are more intelligent or have a greater capacity to escape deception. I don’t believe this is either logical or true. We are all sinners with the capacity to go our own way, either because of outright rebellion with eyes wide open, or because we fall pray through our own lusts to deception. I don’t think these tendencies to sin are gender specific.)
Paul instructs them that it is important within the body of Christ that the women be educated in the ways of the Lord as surely as the men are, so that they will not be more vulnerable to deception. This is not because they are innately evil, or simple minded, but because they have perhaps been at a disadvantage educationally as was common in the ancient world. And Paul does not want this trend to continue. So he is making space for them to actually learn, but they need to not be contentiously grabbing for power in the learning process. (Did we not see Jesus in like manner make room for Mary of Bethany to sit at His feet as a disciple? This seems to be in keeping with what we see from our Lord Himself!)
Paul goes on to emphasize that the woman of verse 14 will be preserved through the bearing of children, or the childbirth…
We can so easily miss this point by reading our English translations. The the of verse 15 is the definite article. According to www.grammarly.com the word “the” in English is a definite article meaning that “It limits the meaning of a noun to one particular thing.” I believe this points us to the child-bearing that brought us our Saviour! When you look at verse 15 the translators injected the word “women” to try to make sense of the passage and to cause it to read more smoothly in English. That word is actually an addition and not in the Greek. In other words, Eve, who took that first step into sin will be saved through the subsequent birth of a Saviour as will all who come to know Christ.
Paul then switches to the pronoun “they” saying, “…if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” This is puzzling. At the very least it would be considered poor grammar in English. But Paul isn’t bound by our grammar, and he switches to the plural pronoun, “they”. It seems to me that he is now moving beyond his discussion of Eve’s salvation and is making a point that woman-kind now has this salvation open to them as well (and I believe he does not include men in this thought simply because his purpose in this passage is to speak to the church about women), but he wants the women to exercise that salvation with faith, love, sanctity (holiness) and self-restraint. So he explains the basis for his position of women being offered the opportunity to learn, how the heart of it is rooted in the heart of God for women, and then he reminds the women of how living out this new redemptive life looks in attitude and posture before the Lord and in fellowship with their brothers in Christ. I don’t believe he is excluding women from leadership service in the church, but rather is putting that service in perspective to their Christian maturity and their attitude of submission to Christ and cooperation with their brothers
If we take a minute and turn our gaze once again to the garden of Eden and the fall of mankind, what do we find there?
I want to propose that we find grace beyond measure for both the man and the woman! God has created this couple and given them the directives to be fruitful and multiply in the earth, and to rule over the animal kingdom (Gen.1:28). In Genesis 2:15, He instructs the man (prior to the creation of the woman) to cultivate and keep the garden (i.e. to stand guard over it) He then fashions a woman from the man’s rib to be his ally in setting a watch over the garden (Gen. 2:18, 22-25). The man would have been in a position to inform the woman of God’s command to not eat of the tree in the midst of the garden. Somewhere there was a breakdown that proved fatal for both the man and the woman. They BOTH falied miserably to live up to their calling. The woman was deceived by the serpent and the man followed her knowingly into sin. The woman would henceforth be known for thousands of years as the weak link that unleashed destruction on the world. I think God in His mercy and kindness and with His heart overflowing for His fallen daughter, made His promise to mankind specifically through the woman because He was fully aware of how this whole thing was going to play out. And His heart was and is for both men and women to be saved through His Son. But He purposed to accomplish this specifically through the offspring of the woman, because she is not excluded from His heart or His kingdom. (It reminds me of something I heard Ravi say, that God conquered through the evil of the cross … not in spite of it…but through it!) What a powerful thought!!!
Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed (offspring) and her seed (offspring); He (Jesus) shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.”
What redemptively good news this promise is for both men and women alike. How like Paul, as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, to champion the full inclusion of women into the kingdom life of the church in Ephesus. What a gracious God we have!. May we ever strive to please Him in our interactions with one another in the body of Christ. Carolyn Custis James coined a phrase I rather like. She called the relationship between men and women as God created it, and as the kingdom presents it, “The Blessed Alliance”. I rather like this phrase as it sums up the heart of our Lord for the unity He desires within His church, for brothers and sisters to live together in harmony as we follow our Lord!
So this is my understanding of the passage. It probably has a lot of holes, but this way of reading the passage makes the most sense to me, because it does not compromise the posture that I see the Lord Jesus Christ take with the women He encountered during His sojourn on earth. I hope this proves helpful to you, Annette. I would encourage you to pour over and research Jesus’ interaction with women (even as you have already been doing!). Let that be the foundation upon which you build your theology regarding women. And may the Lord Jesus Christ bless you with His peace as you sit at His feet!
P.S.–Sorry this is so long! I didn’t know how to get to the point of what I was thinking into a more condensed form. Thank you for your patience!