Spiritual Responsibilities of Men and Women: Part 2 (1 Timothy 2)

Godly SubmissionIn 1 Timothy 2, Paul exhorts the men and women in the church and reminds them of their spiritual responsibilities. In Part 1, we saw a spiritual responsibility of men in the church: praying. Today, we will look at a spiritual responsibility of women.

The Women—Submitting (2:9–15)

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.

In these days of women’s rights and other feminist movements the word “submission” makes some people angry. Some well-meaning writers have even accused Paul of being a “crusty old bachelor” who was anti-women. Those of us who hold to the inspiration and authority of the Word of God know Paul’s teachings came from God and not from himself. If we have a problem with what the Bible says about women in the church the issue is not with Paul (or Peter—see 1 Peter 3:1–7), but with the Lord who gave the Word (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

The word translated “submission” in 2:11 (also Eph. 5:21–22; Col. 3:18) literally means “to rank under.” Anyone who has served in the armed forces knows “rank” has to do with order and authority, not with value or ability. A lieutenant is higher in rank than a private, but that does not necessarily mean he is a better man than the private. It only means the lieutenant has a higher rank and, therefore, more authority.

“Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:40) is a principle God follows in His creation. Just as an army would be in confusion if there were no levels of authority, so society would be in chaos without submission. Children should submit to their parents because God has given parents the authority to train their children and discipline them in love. Employees should submit to employers and obey them (Eph. 6:5–8). Citizens should submit to government authorities, even if the authorities are not Christians (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:13–20).

Submission is not subjugation or enslavement. Submission is recognizing God’s order in the home and the church, and joyfully obeying it. When a Christian wife joyfully submits to the Lord and to her own husband, it should bring out the best in her. (For this to happen the husband must love his wife and use God’s order as a tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with—Eph. 5:21-33.) Submission is the key to spiritual growth and ministry: husbands should be submitted to the Lord, Christians should submit to each other (Eph. 5:21), and wives should be submitted to the Lord and to their husbands.

The emphasis in this section is on the place of women in the local church. Paul admonishes these believing women to give evidence of their submission in several ways.

Modest dress (v. 9). The contrast here is between the artificial glamour of the world and the true beauty of a godly life. Paul does not forbid the use of jewelry or lovely clothes, but rather the excessive use of them as substitutes for the true beauty of “a meek and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:1–6). The word translated “modest” simply means “decent and orderly.” Woman’s clothing should be decent, orderly, and in good taste. A woman who possesses this quality is ashamed to go beyond the bounds of what is decent and proper, but a woman who depends only on externals will soon run out of ammunition! She may attract attention, but she will not win lasting affection.

Ephesus was a wealthy commercial city, and some women there competed against each other for attention and popularity. In that day, expensive hairdos arrayed with costly jewelry were an accepted way to get to the top socially.

Paul admonished the Christian women to major on the “inner person,” the true beauty that only Christ can give. He does not forbid the use of nice clothing or ornaments. He urged balance and propriety, with the emphasis on modesty and holy character.

“It’s getting harder and harder for a Christian woman to find the right kind of clothes!” a church member complained to me one summer. “I refuse to wear the kind of swimsuits they’re selling! I simply won’t go swimming. Whatever happened to modesty?”

Godly works (v. 10). Paul did not suggest good works are a substitute for clothing! Rather, he was contrasting the “cheapness” of expensive clothes and jewelry with the true values of godly character and Christian service. “Godliness” is another key word in Paul’s pastoral letters (1 Tim. 2:2, 10; 3:16; 4:7-8; 6:3, 5-6, 11; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 1:1). Glamour can be partially applied on the outside, but godliness must come from within.

We must never underestimate the important place godly women played in the ministry of the church. The Gospel message had a tremendous impact on them because it affirmed their value before God and their equality in the body of Christ (Gal. 3:28). Women had a low place in the Roman world, but the Gospel changed that.

There were devoted women who ministered to Jesus in the days of His earthly ministry (Luke 8:1-3). They were present at His crucifixion and burial, and it was a woman who first announced the glorious news of His resurrection. In the Book of Acts, we meet Dorcas (9:36), Lydia (16:14), Priscilla (18:1–3), and godly women in the Berean and Thessalonian churches (17:4, 12). Paul greeted at least eight women in Romans 16; and Phebe, who carried the Roman epistle to its destination, was a deaconess in a local church (v. 1). Many believing women won their husbands to the Lord and then opened their homes for Christian ministry.

Quiet learning (v. 11). “Silence” is an unfortunate translation because it gives the impression that believing women were never to open their mouths in the assembly. This is the same word that is translated “peaceable” in 1 Timothy 2:2. Some of the women abused their newfound freedom in Christ and created disturbances in the services by interrupting. It is this problem that Paul addressed in his admonition. It appears women were in danger of upsetting the church by trying to “enjoy” their freedom. Paul wrote a similar admonition to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 14:34), though this admonition may apply primarily to speaking in tongues.

1-Timothy-2.12 commentaryRespecting authority (vv. 12–15). Women are permitted to teach, depending on the setting. Older women should teach the younger women (Titus 2:3–4). Timothy was taught at home by his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). But in their teaching ministry, they must not “lord it over” men. There is nothing wrong with a godly woman instructing a man in private (Acts 18:24-28), but she must not assume authority in the church and try to take the place of a man. She should exercise “quietness” and help keep order in the church.

Paul gave several arguments to back up this admonition that the Christian men in the church should be the spiritual leaders. The first is an argument from Creation: Adam was formed first, and then Eve. (Paul used this same argument in 1 Cor. 11:1–10.) We must keep in mind that priority does not mean superiority. Man and woman were both created by God and in God’s image. The issue is only authority: man was created first.

The second argument has to do with man’s fall into sin. Satan deceived the woman into sinning (Gen. 3:1; 2 Cor. 11:3); the man sinned with his eyes wide open. Because Adam rejected the God-given order, he listened to his wife, disobeyed God, and brought sin and death into the world. The submission of wives to their own husbands is a part of the original Creation. The disorder we have in society today results from a violation of that God-given order.

I do not think Paul is suggesting women are more gullible than men and thus more easily deceived; for experience proves both men and women are deceived by Satan. On one occasion, Abraham listened to his wife and got into trouble (Gen. 16). Later on, she gave him counsel and God told him to obey it (Gen. 21). In my own pastoral ministry, I have benefited greatly from the encouragement and counsel of godly women, including my wife; but I have tried not to let them usurp authority in the church. In fact, the godly women I know have no desire to “run” things in the church.

The creation of humans and their fall into sin both seem to put the woman in an inferior position, but she does have a ministry from God. There was probably a close relationship in Paul’s mind between what he wrote here and what Moses wrote in Genesis 3:16—the promise of the Savior who would be “made of a woman” (Gal 4:4). It was through a woman that the Savior came into the world. (Keep in mind Jesus had an earthly mother, but not an earthly father—Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:34–35.)

Paul teaches a practical lesson. He promised the woman would “be kept safe through childbirth” if “they” (both husband and wife) continued in sincere dedication to the Lord (v. 15). Does this mean Christian mothers will never die in childbirth? History and experience both tell us they do. God has His purposes and His ways are far above our thoughts (Isa. 55:8–9).

Paul laid down a general principle that encouraged the believing women of that day. Their ministry was not to “run” the church, but to care for the home and bear children to the glory of God (1 Tim. 5:14). Their “home congregation” would give them abundant opportunities for teaching the Word and ministering to the saints (Rom. 16:1–6).

Godly women do have an important ministry in the local assembly, even though they are not called to be teachers of the Word in a pastoral sense. If all is done “decently and in order,” then God will bless.

To think about and discuss

1. Why does Paul focus on women’s fashions? How should Christian women apply the dress code given in 1 Timothy 2:9–10 today?

2. Identify which ministries are open to women in the local church by applying the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:11–13. Think about areas of leadership in which they may or may not be involved, according to the principles set out in these verses.

3. Many churches have gone to extremes in the area of women’s involvement. Some open up every area of ministry to them, including preaching and the eldership, while others have consigned them solely to the tasks of catering and cleaning. Discuss how a biblical approach to this issue can be reached.


Published by Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

Pastor Joe has been serving in Christian ministry for 19 years. He is the author of "Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living." Through a commitment to servant leadership, he proclaims relevant Bible truth, equips the saints for effective ministry, and builds up the body of Christ. Married thirteen years, Pastor Joe and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children.

26 thoughts on “Spiritual Responsibilities of Men and Women: Part 2 (1 Timothy 2)

  1. I’ve been reading your post and just wanted to say thanks. It’s like a good commentary right at my fingertips! That was a great explanation of that passage. I look forward to future ones.

  2. Right on brother and Amen. It fascinates me how much damage has taken place with the women’s power movement. When I see the God ordained order ignored in our churches and christian homes, it makes me sad. My husband and I stand firm on the truth of Gods word that makes the order clear. Honestly when I have been asked to speak at other churches, I respectfully decline because I know the congregation is mixed with men and women. If they can confirm that the event is a women’s event only, then I’m in.

  3. Very nice, and I agree that God created distinction, purpose, and order. What fascinates me, however, is that while Christianity has historically accepted and enforced the distinction between genders, it has done the opposite regarding other God given distinction and it’s a topic that I’ve had to think about a lot as an intermarried.

    Paul makes much of the distinction between Jews and Gentiles and their respective rolls too, and Acts 15 and loads of other places make it clear they are to remain Jews. In those days, the problem was what to do with Gentiles who were coming to faith in the God of Israel via His Messiah Jesus — should they be forced to go through proselyte conversion (circumcision)? There were understandable reasons to assume they should. Ultimately, the Jerusalem council under the leadership of James decided Gentiles would not be required to fully convert to Judaism and he quotes Amos 9:11,12 to prove his point. But when Gentiles took over the Church we said the opposite regarding Jews, and have made them convert to a Gentile status and form of worship, often at risk of their lives (read Confessions of Conversions for example).

    James did lay down laws that were incumbent upon gentiles though, and those 4, as listed in the letter that went out–Acts 15: 29, correspond to the same laws given in Leviticus Chap 17 & 18, and in the same order! Even more interesting, they are listed as laws incumbent upon Jews and those foreigners who sojourn with them.

    On a side note, if the Church had rightly understood this we wouldn’t be in the moral dire straights we’re in today as more and more Christians fall away from taking the prohibition against sexual immorality seriously.

      1. Well, I’m not sure which point you’re referring to. 🙂

        Re: Jews remaining in their distinction I appreciate Rabbi David Rudolph’s story in the introduction to his wonderful book “Introduction To Messianic Judaism” where he tells the interesting story of his father coming to faith and how the Pastor of the church he later visited, directed him to a Messianic congregation since his family wouldn’t be able to live out their covenantal responsibilities to God in a church environment. It’s unfortunate this doesn’t happen more often.

        Re: Gentile believers and the laws incumbent upon them due to the Apostolic decree–
        I’ve never heard a sermon about these requirements to date, and I’ve been in church (Southern Baptist mostly) since I was 6-years old, and have been very active in apologetics and listened to a LOT of Christian radio sermons etc… The topic is largely ignored, so Pastors doing some homework on these issues and preaching on it would be a great start!

        Of course, we’d then have to understand the prohibition of “sexual immorality” from a Jewish perspective, which is nicely laid out in Leviticus 18. Perhaps this would lead to a reduction in the confusion on sexual behavior.

  4. I agree with you 100% Pastor Joe, woman are not to be in Authority in the Church and it is in Authority that they are not to Preach but both men and woman are Disciples and we are all called to share God’s Truth, to correct error , to rebuke sin and to warn of danger, we are one in Christ Jesus, there is no difference Spiritually but we do have different roles.

    Galatians 3:28-29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the Promise.

    I even heard it said that unless a woman as children, she is not saved, completely misunderstanding the Scripture referring to childbearing which in the Greek is Childbirth and we we all go through this maturing to be fully perfected in Love, Holy and Righteous but not by force but willingly.

    It was prophesied the Church would be in darkness in the end times and that the Shepherds would lead the sheep astray, they have a form of godliness but deny the power.

    Yes woman are also responsible for this when they take on the role of Shepherds but so are double standards with the Men Shepherds, they warn about critically gossiping to their flock but do it themselves, they warn about sinning, but do it themselves, they say we are to Love but are Male Chauvinists treating woman as inferior. I have witnessed with Blogging too, they slander you behind your back, accuse you of evil without evidence, ignore you and delete comments without Scriptural confirmation that they are in error and they reject the Scriptures for their own Carnal understanding, yes woman do this too so I see no real Love or wisdom just rudeness but this is not in reference to all, some are very genuinely Loving and accept correction if needed.

    The reason is many others are still in darkness, they are childish, they have never matured because they don’t know the Basics after Salvation, they believe their just sapped but their actions show thy are not, they continue to sin even though the Scriptures confirm we will not when we are Born again of God’s seed and perfected in Love, 1John 3:9 they don’t put their flesh to death or ask for God’s wisdom and empowering or believe they have received them, they are in darkness about God’s Truth in other ways too, so what hope do their flocks have.

    Christian Love in Christ Jesus – Anne

  5. Reblogged this on Freedomborn … Aussie Christian Focus and commented:
    I want to thank Pastor Joe for speaking the Truth in Love about the role of woman in the Church.

    One woman Preacher after I shared all the Scripture that confirms it is not a woman’ role, to be in Authority in the Church than asked me to forget the Scripture and tell her why wouldn’t God want her to Preach. I explained to her that we can’t put aside God’s inspired word, if He tells us something we don’t question it, we accept and obey His guidelines, He knows what is best……..

    Blessings Pastor Joe in our Unity in Christ Jesus – Anne

  6. Thanks Pastor Joe for your latest article , like where you said how much today emphasis is placed on exteriors of both men and women. On how they look and their notoriety and how the inner person is overlooked. One thing Paul did was to raise the status of women, and to respect them for their minds . Society had valued them less than the animals.


  7. Thank you for this post! My husband & I do attend a very conservative church for which I’m thankful. I’m reminded that my continuing to be prayerful in what I wear helps my brothers in Christ to continue to be the best leaders they can be for Christ (w/out their having to fight off any additional, unnecessary distractions).

  8. Thanks Pastor Joe!
    The whole article was a great (parts 1 and 2). With five home-schooled children, I can totally can testify to the truth that my “home congregation” gives me “abundant opportunities for teaching the Word and ministering to the saints (Rom. 16:1–6).”

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