Podcast: 2 March 2020

Welcome to Monday’s podcast.  My name is Tom Finnemore – I’m part of the team at STC and I have the honour of leading us through 1 Timothy – picking up the baton from Liam Brennan.  Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 2: 8-15 but today I’ll focus on verse 9-10:

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

REFLECTION:

There are two ways you can approach verses 8-15.  You can either see them as Paul’s very clear instructions on the role of women in the church, full stop.  Some call this the complementation position – that idea that a man and women are different and have different roles within the home and church.  Or you take the view that these very strong words on the role of women are specific only to the Ephesian church & not the whole of the church therefore thinking that women can lead and should teach – would be what is called an Egalitarian view.

I take the latter view.  The apostle Paul plants churches with women:  Lydia in Philippi, the apostle Junia – her name was translated to appear masuculine for centuries; Priscilla & Aquilla – Prisiclla’s name always appears first – they were tent makers and worked with Paul in Corinth.  Not to mention Phoebe and of course others…

Firstly it’s my view that Paul is addressing two very significant problems in the Ephesian church.  Firstly a significant cultural shift in the role and place of wealthy women in the Roman Empire.  They were gaining power: spoke publicly in debates; gained wealth and took on positions of influence in home, business and politics thus breaking the shackles of the dominant patriarchy.  They were wealthy, glamorous and part of the sexual revolution of the time.

The second issue Paul is addressing is a spiritual issue – a heresy – known as Gnosticism.  Essentially people believed they had ‘special knowledge from God’ and it was deeply destructive for Paul’s churches.

These two combined to form a perfect storm in the Ephesian church and it has come to a head when the small church 20-50 people gather for worship in a home.  It’s believed that some of the believers were these ‘Roman women’.  Paul addresses their dress code; their domineering attitude & their theology.

Is Paul really advocating women to wear sad clothing and not wear jewellery?  No – it’s not a blanket ban for all churches.  But he is asking for people to mindful of others in how they dress because Ephesian cultic religion was so mixed up with sex, lust and and temple prostitution (think Sheffield city centre on a Friday night – it had nothing on Ephesus) that he wants the church to be as pure as possible.  Wearing next to nothing in the name of empowerment is not blessing people who have been converted from a decadent lifestyle with prostitutes.  He is asking the men of the church to snap out of their passivity by worshipping Jesus.  Paul also makes a point about Family Life – countering the narrative of the Roman Women, which was that having kids was a hindrance to their freedoms – that motherhood and raising children is a good thing.

There are other specific things Paul addresses which I would argue are specific to Ephesus but we don’t have the time for that.

But there are a few things I think we can learn from this – that perhaps speaks to our culture. Paul’s affirming the view that we live in reverence to one another.  In fact he says in Ephesians 5:21 ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ – it means what I do, and how I act, affects other people and I should be mindful of that.  That’s a blatant challenge to our individualist society where even in the name of justice I present my ‘true self’ and no one can tell me what to do.

In a culture that’s quick to go ‘woke’ and call out injustice and oppression – how are we to behave towards others who read the Bible differently to us on these issues?  Well, if we take our culture’s approach we’d be taking to Twitter & calling them out as bigots, haters and misogynists.  The issue with that is that ironically, it perpetuates hate.  In Jesus Christ we have unity with fellow believers.  Our responsibility is to keep the bond of peace.  It’s far too easy for Christians to fall out over these passages – and you can see why.  But I know lots of Christians who interpret these passages differently to me.  We’re to choose honour – we’re a better witness when we’re speaking well of people.

PRAYER:

Father may we learn to love those who hold different views to us… that we’ll be a genuine people of love and unity and honour.

Amen.

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 2:8-15

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.