For an introduction to this series, click here.
October 16, 2007
This is a short chapter but it is chock full of stuff, much of it controversial.
"This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." (2:3-6)
This passage can get tricky if we are not careful. Yes, God does want "all people to be saved," and Christ did give "himself a ransom for all." But if we only look at verses like this, we can come up with doctrines like universalism and purgatory: the idea that one day God will accept everyone into heaven, maybe after some temporary punishment. Don't believe it. There is so much scripture that tells us that not everyone will be saved. God's judgment is real and it will be eternal. That is a fact.
Obviously this scripture also runs counter to the hyper-Calvinist position that God wills people into eternal punishment. This is not the case either. God does not want anyone to die without salvation, but He also will not accept anyone who does not come to Him through Jesus Christ.
Verse 5 is a critical verse of scripture. Lots of people, even Christians who want to sound enlightened, say that God can be found in any religion, and that anyone who sincerely follows their religion will go to heaven. Don't believe it. This passage makes it perfectly clear that there is only one mediator between God and men: Jesus Christ.
"I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." (2:8-15, ESV)
See, I told you this was controversial. The reference to women's clothing, in context, probably refers to clothing worn at church. It is to be characterized by modesty and sobriety. In other words, it is not to draw attention to oneself. This is Paul's definition of modesty, not necessarily length or some other arbitrary standard, although of course clothing which shows off the body certainly draws attention, which is more of what Paul has in mind here. I have seen situations in churches where it seems the ladies are in competition to see who can outdress each other. That is the opposite of what Paul is talking about.
Next Paul talks about the role of women in the church. First of all, it should be noted that Paul says they are to learn. The ideal woman in Roman times rarely if ever left the house. She was not taught to read. Her whole life was to be wrapped up in domesticity. So Paul is actually involving women in the church more than was normal in Roman society. Secondly, Paul is talking about the office of teacher here, not the act of teaching. If a woman has something important to say, she should be allowed to say it. But she is not to be made a regular teacher over the whole church. It should also be noted this passage refers specifically to the church, and has nothing to do with the role of women elsewhere in society.
Paul takes note of the creation order as justification for this. Notice that Paul mentions the creation order first and then the fall. A lot of men notice the fall first, and try to say that men are somehow superior to women. That is not Paul's point. The point is that Eve was created to be a complement to Adam, not the other way around. The fall demonstrates Paul's point, and he does note it as such, but should not be taken as the primary reason.
The word "saved" in the last verse clearly has nothing to do with spiritual salvation. Instead, this verse gives us a beautiful word picture. Yes, a woman was the first to lead the human race into sin. But an individual woman can remove that stigma in her life by rearing godly children. Traditionally women have more contact with children, and they have a great influence. They need to use this influence the right way.