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If 1 Timothy 2:8-15 was read in the public square, it would sound ridiculous.
It’s laughable to most.
To the degree we in the Church find this laughable, however, it will only serve to reveal how we are more influenced by the world than we are by the Word of God.
These are some tough verses.
In fact, I’ve found myself almost dreading the preaching moment this week because these verses are so difficult.
About 10 days ago Meghann asked me if there was a song that might go with my sermon for this Sunday.
I chuckled.
She asked, “Why?
What’s your sermon about?”
I grabbed the nearest Bible and read 1 Timothy 2:8-15.
Meghann smiled and said, “Well, there might be a song...”
I interrupted: “No, love, there really is not.”
I can admit that these are difficult verses.
Personally, I would not choose to preach this passage.
If I wasn’t committed to preaching through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse; if I didn’t believe that consecutive exposition was how the Lord intended us to hear the Bible and preach the Bible, I would never choose to preach these verses.
Not if I had 100 years to preach.
But here we are.
Rich Hill Christian Church is committed to expository preaching, preaching through one book of the Bible at a time.
After we finish this book, we’ll go to another.
Because God’s Word, the Bible, is sufficient.
We will never plumb the depths of its riches.
We will never exhaust its power.
We will never master its teaching.
We will never advance from the Bible to something else or something better.
There is nothing better, not for the Church, not for God’s people.
And make no mistake: those who are not part of God’s people need the Bible; nothing else can tell them what they need to hear.
God’s Word is useful—every part of it.
God’s Word alone is our guide—not culture, not preference.
We do not bend the Bible to suit us; we bend ourselves to meet what the Bible requires of us.
If I disagree with something in the Bible, guess which of us is wrong?
It’s me.
The inspired, inerrant, infallible, dependable Word of God is not, cannot be wrong—only our uninspired, errant, fallible, undependable understanding of it.
What we do with this text says as much about our doctrine of the Bible as it does about our hearts.
>This passage of Scripture answers a couple of questions for us:
Who does what in the Church?
And why?
We need to remember, as we approach this text, that it is not divorced from what comes before it or what comes after it.
It’s all one letter, from Paul to Timothy and the churches.
There’s a flow to it.
Paul is writing to Timothy about the primacy and the scope of public worship.
He writes in chapter 2 verses 1-7 (the text of last week’s sermon) about the prayer and proclamation of the Church in light of the desire of God and the death of Christ.
That naturally leads to the discussion in verses 8-15 about who does what and why.
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes about the qualifications of elders and deacons, which follows the discussion here about who does what and why.
This passage of Scripture has a textual home (it belongs right here in 1 Timothy) and a cultural home (it was written to specific place in a specific time).
But we must admit that this was written in a time and a place not altogether different than our own.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” so says the great Missourian Mark Twain.
In the early church and in every era of church history there have been men who are divisive and there have been women who are distracting.
Even writing that sentence made me feel uncomfortable.
“Did he really just say women are distracting?!?!”
“No, I said “there have been”, meaning there are some women who are distracting and some men who are divisive.”
This was the issue in Paul’s and Timothy’s day.
And I can’t imagine anyone took it well then, either.
But we have to talk about this stuff because each local church is made up of both men and women.
Because of this, Paul engages Timothy’s congregation according to gender groups.
Based on what Paul said (by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit) in the previous verses about church members’ need to pray for everyone, we read the initial instruction given to the men of the church:
The fact that Paul has to add the “without anger or disputing” to the end of the call to pray is evidence of the divisiveness present in that day.
There were men in Timothy’s church who were, apparently, not leading in prayer at all or were praying in the church while fighting with one another.
These three are hindrances to prayer: sin, anger, quarrelling.
When these are present, prayer will diminish or disappear.
Those who come before the Lord must do so with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24).
It’s completely inappropriate for men who are supposed to be leading the way at home and in the church to approach the Lord in prayer if sin is present and/or if they are harboring resentment or anger toward another.
If you have a problem with another person, if you have issues with a brother or sister in the gathering, you need to deal with that before you approach the Lord.
Jesus taught us:
In other words, Paul is telling the men of the chuch, “Don’t pray before God when you’re not right with your brother or sister.”
That is coming before the Lord with unclean hands.
What the men in the church must not do is think that we can rush into worship and bypass our need to honestly confess our sin before God.
A right heart attitude is crucial for prayer and for God-honoring worship in the church.
Whether or not we lift up holy hands physically as we pray is a matter of cultural expression.
In Paul’s day, the time of worship was attended standing up.
For all of it, not just a song here or a song there.
In prayer, people would lift up their hands as a sign of surrender or receiving.
More important than our physical posture is our heart’s posture before the Lord, our purity, our motives.
Men, we cannot be divisive.
We must be holy, set apart to the Lord and His service, leading for the glory of God and the joy of His people.
After addressing the men, Paul turns his attention to women who had become a distraction in the church.
From his instructions in verse 9, we can tell what Paul is talking about.
I heard someone ask: “Well then, do we need to post security guards at the entrances to the church to check for braided hair and costly jewelry?”
That’s probably a bit extreme.
Here’s the underwriting principle:
Like many cities in the ANE (like many places today), Ephesus was chalk full of sexual immorality.
It was common for women to dress in a way that would attract attention, sometimes even dressing seductively on purpose.
That’s what was going on in that culture; very different from today...
So Paul is giving the women at the church in Ephesus a different model to follow, a better model, a Christian model.
“Don’t dress and behave like just like other women in Ephesus; dress differently, dress modestly.”
I want the women to dress modestly.
Or as I learned at Christian College: “Modest is hottest.”
Just like the women in Ephesus, Christian women today should, in how they dress, do so with a different motivation than women of the world.
I know I’m on thin ice here.
Start telling anyone what to do with their body, start telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do period, start telling women what they should wear and should not wear—you’re asking for it.
I know the prevailing wisdom of the world is “I can do what I like and if it bothers you or offends you, that’s too bad.
If what I’m wearing causes you to stumble or to lust, that’s not my problem, it’s yours.”
So says the world.
The counter-cultural wisdom of the church is:
That is our call—to work really hard to honor the other, to defer to the other person, to do what’s best for them, not what’s best for me.
What’s fashionable in the world isn’t fashionable for the Christian woman if its purpose is to draw attention to physical beauty or worldly wealth.
Clothing, dress should be modest.
To take some of the heat off me, let me quote another pastor (you can be upset with him).
“We are extremely liberal when it comes to what women wear: skin tight clothes, low necklines, high hemlines, and short shorts are the norm.
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