The New Testament letters (especially 1st Corinthians, 1st Timothy and Titus) explain how believers ought to behave themselves "in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim 3.15). Although many of these instructions are rejected by liberals, they are clearly presented, practical, and of enduring authority throughout the Church period, from the day of Pentecost till the rapture. This chapter teaches the priority that should be given to prayer with a major emphasis on gospel testimony (vv.1-8) the importance of Christian women dressing modestly (vv.9-10), and the distinct roles of men and women in the public teaching of Gods Word (vv.11-15).
Assembly prayers (vv.1-8)
"First of all" (v.1) every local church must give prayer the highest priority. "Supplications" translates deesis which "gives prominence to personal need",1 and emphasises that for an assembly to pray effectively it must be deeply conscious of need. Since the word for "prayers" (proseuche) is "confined to prayer addressed to God"2 in the New Testament, it implies that due reverence is of paramount importance at prayer meetings. The word translated "intercessions" (enteuxis) means "to draw near so as to converse familiarly",3 and suggests that local churches should develop confidence in their prayers through frequent intercession at the throne of grace. Just as the early church "continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Act 2.42), prayer should "be made" (present tense) regularly and contain "giving of thanks" (1 Thess 5.18). Joseph was "a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall" (Gen 49.22). So it follows that the prayers of a local church should never be restricted to a narrow field, but reach out with universal scope to embrace "all men" without partiality.
Since "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom 13.1) and directed by Him (Prov 21.1), and governmental legislation impacts on the lives of citizens, Christians must pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority" (v.2). Ideally, the greatest political influences in the world are local churches; not through voting, public demonstrations, nor political involvement, but through effectual prayer to an omnipotent God. The aim of these prayers is not less taxation, nor improved public amenities, but a society sufficiently tolerant and peaceful to permit godly living "a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and gravity" (v.2, JND). Prayer, however, is not only important because of what it achieves, but also because of its intrinsic goodness and acceptability before God (v.3). Believers should pray because it pleases God "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Ps 141.2).
Because our Saviour God "desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (v.4, JND), that sufficient courage and opportunity for gospel witness is an answer to prayer (Eph 6.19; Col 4.3), and that prayer is inextricably connected to the conversion of sinners through the preaching of the gospel, the prayers of local churches should always have a strong evangelistic emphasis. The gospel of Christ is a unique message on several accounts. Firstly, it unashamedly teaches, in harmony with Old Testament revelation (Deut 6.4), that "there is one God" who is solitarily glorious, transcendent and without equal. Everyone is accountable to Him, and He alone is the source of salvation "look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Is 45.22). Secondly, only the incomparable Christ, having both divine and human natures, is capable of reaching out and "(laying) his hand upon" (Job 9.33) both God and man as a mediator (v.5), so bringing peace (Eph 2.14). Thirdly, the word "ransom" (antilutron), which was used of "a payment given instead of the slave or prisoner",4 contains the ideas of substitution and redemption. A great price has been paid to liberate men enslaved by sin and Satan. When the Saviour voluntarily "gave himself" at Calvary, He made an infinite payment which cannot be evaluated in monetary terms (1 Pet 1.18), thus elevating Christianity to a plane of its own. Fourthly, the fact that the Christian message is "to be testified in due time (kairos a season)" (v.6) that is for a limited period only (Pentecost till the rapture) injects a sense of urgency into its proclamation. Fifthly, Pauls self-depiction as a "herald" (JND), and hence a public representative of the King of kings in his preaching, conveys the matchless dignity associated with gospel preaching "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace" (Is 52.7).
The practice of restricting public prayer to men only, as with all church truth, is applicable to churches "every where" (v.8). Ironically, many who decry such truth are often in churches where only a privileged few, that is ordained clergy, can ever address God at public gatherings. In contrast, this commandment encourages every man to pray publicly, as his God-given duty. Because it is imperative for those who pray publicly to "(lift) up holy hands" in purity, the very act of engaging in such prayers should stir men to personal holiness. Again, since rifts between saints impede communion with God (Mt 18.19) participation in public prayer should motivate men to live in harmony with their brethren "without wrath and reasoning" (v.8, Newberry margin).
The prayer meeting is certainly the power house and spiritual thermometer of every church (C H Spurgeon) and must therefore take priority. Local churches that devalue prayer will never function to their full capacity.
Christian dress (vv.9-10)
The potentially devastating results of female immodesty are effectively demonstrated in the case of David and Bathsheba. Adultery, deception, and finally murder all arose from an initial sight of the very beautiful Bathsheba washing herself (2 Sam 11.2). Although David was answerable for his sins, Bathsheba may have been guilty of exposing herself to a man of God and bringing about his down-fall. Women professing godliness should be aware that men are sensually aroused through sight and, therefore, should avoid exposing too much of their anatomy.
Although "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam 16.7), our clothing, like our words (Mt 15.18), may reveal inner reality. For example, the modest dress of Christian women should arise, not from merely toeing the party line or unthinkingly clinging to tradition, but from an inward attitude of "moral repugnance of what is base and unseemly"5 (shamefacedness) and "habitual self-restraint"6 (sobriety). In contrast to worldly women, whose flashy appearance is designed to catch mens eyes, and is the result of time consuming preparation "broidered hair", and great expense "gold, or pearls, or costly array", believing women are exhorted to spend less time and money on improving their looks, and instead to beautify themselves through good works (cp. Act 9.36).
Public teaching (vv.11-15)
Although public teaching, like audible prayer, is the prerogative of men, the Bible gives notable examples of teaching roles for women. Aquila and Priscilla jointly took Apollos "unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (Act 18.26). Timothy must have been taught the Holy Scriptures by his believing mother and grandmother (2 Tim 1.5; 3.15). Older sisters should teach the younger "to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit 2.3,4). And so, even though women must "learn in silence with all subjection" at church gatherings, they do have vital teaching responsibilities. Sadly, in striving for public prominence women not only disregard Gods Word, but also neglect what they are meant to do. In conjunction with their husbands, they should seek to help young men of God, to teach the Bible to their own children, and through godly example instruct younger sisters.
Women are not meant to be submissive because they are inferior, nor because of Christian tradition or cultural expectations, but rather because of Gods order in creation and the history of the fall. That God "formed" (plasso means "to mould, as with clay or wax")7 Adam first, and then Eve to be a suitable helper for him (Gen 2.18; 1 Cor 11.9), implied that she was to have a submissive role. The fall revealed both the womans tendency to take the lead if given the chance, and her increased vulnerability to deception the woman was "thoroughly beguiled"8. God sentenced Eve and her descendants to painful childbirth and accentuated the womans submissive position in marriage (Gen 3.16). In mercy, this curse became the gateway to their salvation. Firstly, it was the womans seed who was to bring salvation by bruising the serpents head (Gen 3.15). Secondly, believing women, by bearing children and keeping the home, are enabled to realise their full potential, while at the same time being preserved from dangerous moral temptations and those associated with public teaching. By unreservedly referring to these Old Testament passages Paul reinforced their inspiration.
To be continued.
1 Wuest, K S. Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. First Timothy.
2 Vine, W E. The Collected Writings of W E Vine.
3 Wuest, K S. Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. First Timothy.
4 Wuest, K S. Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. First Timothy.
5 Vine, W E. The Collected Writings of W E Vine.
6 Ellicott, cited by Hiebert, D E. Everymans Bible Commentary. First Timothy.
7 Robertsons Word Pictures as cited on esword.
8 Vine, W E. The Collected Writings of W E Vine.