From verse 1 we see Paul here moves into his first main point (at least of specific application)
Note how this flows out of chapter 1. There Paul reminds Timothy of his task—deal with some false teachers. While we see hints of what the false teaching was, the real focus is on its result—speculation rather than right living (i.e. holiness and love). Paul’s testimony then serves as an example of what the Gospel is supposed to accomplish.
So then, Paul now moves to expound specific ways in which the people should live out the reality of love issuing from a poor heart, a good conscience and sincere faith (1:5).
Moving then to our text we see right away that there are some very interesting, theologically loaded, and even controversial parts of it: Christ the only mediator, what does it mean that He was a “ransom for all…?” and what about women not teaching, Adam not being deceived and women being saved through childbirth?
These are all interesting questions worthy of consideration. However, we must not miss the forest for the trees. I hope to address some of these here, but in one sermon on the whole passage we must get the big picture.
This passage is not primarily about the role of women or the theories of atonement. It speaks—importantly—to these issues, but does so in service to a larger point. Notice the key issues in the 2 paragraphs of this chapter:
1) Prayer v. 1-2a v. 8
2) Proper Living v. 2b-3 v. 9-14
3) Salvation v. 4-7 v. 15
The concern here as in chapter 1—indeed the whole of the letter—is that believers live out the realities of the gospel, that the gospel bears tangible, evident fruit in their lives. Then this will result in real evangelism with power and integrity.
Thus we should pray for all people (e.g. leaders) so we can live quiet, godly lives. This pleases God and serves evangelism.
So then, specifically, our corporate prayer should be conducted properly:
…with avoiding typical sins
…with women avoiding typical sins
…as women persevere they ensure their salvation
If we get bogged down in disputes on this passage and fail to live godly lives advancing the gospel, we begin to look more like the false teachers. The fine points are important because they define for us godly living, but right answers to fine points are not ends in themselves. They are to issue in gospel-centered living which pleases God, commends the Gospel to outsiders, and proves the sincerity of our own faith.
So then from this passage, what does Gospel living look like?
1) Universal Prayer—prayer beyond ourselves
a. First, there is an assumption that a time of intercession will be a part of our corporate worship. This is often not the case. It certainly does not make for good T.V. or fit the fast-paced style of entertainment.
i. This is why we do have a time of prayer in our service and devote our evening service to prayer.
ii. Our prayers, then, should embrace the world. This is one reason we focus in our morning service on missionaries and often on other churches/pastors lest our prayers give the impression we serve merely some village deity (Stott).
b. Paul singles out prayers for political leaders. His point here is praying for peace. The point is not praying for Christian leaders. That is fine of course, but there were no Christian political leaders at this time! The emperor was Nero!
i. This exhortation is an extension of the truth that “the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and…He turns it wherever He desires.” (Proverbs 21:1)
Do we pray as we ought for peace that believers might be able to go about their Gospel living in a quiet way? What might be the effect on world missions if we did? (see Stott) Do we know enough about the world to do this? The book, Operation World, can be a great help to this end.
2) Live Rightly—this appears in the text as the goal of our praying. We are to pray for peace so that we might be able to quietly pursue godliness in the world. This is a striking portrayal of Christian living on several points.
a. This obviously assumes that withdrawal is not an option. We must live in our society, so let us pray that we might do so peaceably. Godliness is not found in retreat, but in engagement.
b. Secondly, this description (like others in this letter) often strikes people as being rather mundane. Contrary to much of what we see and hear in the Church today this description is nothing flashy. The goal is not to attain national attention. In fact, there seems to be a desire to fly under the radar. Today people think, “If we (Christians) could just gain enough attention/importance we could really reach people for Jesus.” As a result, some will even compromise in places to gain this attention since the goal is evangelism. But this is all wrongheaded. Our goal is not to attract the attention of man, but to receive the favor of God. Evangelism that is lasting will take place (most often) locally and relationally.
i. Example: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, N.Y.—avoiding media attention for the church because they did not want Christian tourists. They want local people to know them not because they saw them in the paper or on T.V. but because they have been ministered to.
3) Seek the Salvation of all Peoples
a. God is “Savior”, do not forget it. The idle speculation of the False Teachers seems to have undercut their evangelistic fervor and have caused them to focus only on certain people.
i. Today, as many react against a man-centered gospel in which it was all about us, do not over-react in the other direction. It’s all about God’s glory—that’s true—but He has seen fit to manifest His glory in the salvation of souls. You will never be more evangelistic than God!
ii. God “desires all people to be saved.” Do you? Are you willing too easily to write off some? We may need to be reminded of “God the evangelist.”
b. We must affirm God’s desire for all to be saved. As He says in Ezekiel, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” It is clear, though, even from this letter, that not all will be saved. Why then are some not saved? Because they do not repent and believe.
It is sometimes assumed that a belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation should lead to a lack of interest in salvation. This is not so! Let us affirm all that the Bible affirms.
As an example, take John Calvin. He affirmed the doctrine of predestination. However, he did not understand this to preclude personal evangelism. In his key work on predestination he wrote:
“Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace…even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom He foreknew predestined.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God)
This is a pretty clear call to diligent personal evangelism. However, one understands this doctrine, it is clear that we are to be serious about the salvation of the nations.
It is precisely because it is God who saves that the call is to pray, not to manipulate or coerce.
Sum up, back to main point—Gospel living will include a passion for the salvation of people all over the world.
4) Conduct Yourselves Properly in Corporate Worship
a. It is very instructive that Paul’s dealing with problems in corporate worship occurs here. Consider again the flow of thought. Pray that we might live a certain way that many might be saved. Then in light of the desire of salvation for the nations he tells us to conduct ourselves properly in corporate worship. As elsewhere there is a link between health in the church and evangelistic power. We cannot just say we’re too busy with evangelism to deal with church order. NO! The greatest tool for the task of world evangelism will be a pure church and the greatest hindrance for the task will be an unhealthy, impure church.
i. “One reason, wrote P.T. Forsyth, ‘why the Church is too little missionary is that it is established on good terms with its world instead of being a foreign mission from another.’ The powers of darkness will never scattered by a Christendom infiltrated by the enemy… for only to a Church radically different from the world will the world consent to listen; and the whole cause of the Kingdom of God, now as then, is at stake in that appeal.” (Thine is the Kingdom, pg.19-20)
b. How can we call outsiders to trust the gospel to save them if we will not trust the gospel to guide our lives? So he takes up issues particular to each gender.
i. Anger/Quarreling: This will hinder our prayers (for evangelistic participation) longing for an ingathering of souls is futile if we are not living together rightly as the church. Thus we dare not allow bitterness, resentment or division amongst us. The fate of souls rests upon it! We should recoil from these things as a deadly disease.
ii. Immodesty: We came to worship, to pray for souls, not to see your body.
1. Dress: too low, too revealing, too high, too tight. Ladies, adorn yourselves with godliness. The gospel leads to godliness not gaudiness
2. Behavior: courting or engaged couples. We did not come to see you all over each other.
iii. Not usurping roles: gospel does not obliterate distinctions, but teaches us to live under authority.
Some argue that since the overarching theme is evangelism, the point of this passage is that the involvement of women in teaching and leadership would offend the watching world. Therefore, the church should not do this. In our current setting, however, they argue, not allowing women to serve in this way offends the watching world. Therefore today we should affirm women in teaching and having authority over men. However, we must be suspect anytime we read a passage which says “A” and after we interpret it, it comes out saying “not A”.
This is a clear prohibition and is grounded in creation and the fall not merely some cultural situation. In the flow of argument, we must say that if we want the church to be most effective in reaching the lost world we must order ourselves according to this clear teaching.