"For This I was Appointed"
(An exegesis of 1 Timothy 2)

There's a new biography out about the life of Steve Jobs. I haven't read it, but I assume that the author was truthful in portraying the details of Jobs' life. Just because he feels qualified to attest to who Jobs is, I am inclined to believe that he did his research, and not just research--I actually expect the author to have known Jobs personally.

What if I picked it up and found that the author praised Jobs, saying things like,
"Steve Jobs was one of the greatest inventors who ever lived. He was a genius and an artist. He changed the world by producing the world's most dearly-loved computer, which he called a 'PC.'"
"He was also a generous man. He felt that all software should be free to the consumer, so he refused to charge even a dime for his products."
 "He valued art for its historic value, and felt that the most important guideline of technology was that it never change too drastically. This is why he never invented anything new, but simply improved on designs which already existed."
Excellent praise of the late great inventor, no? Wouldn't you want such a glowing review of you to be written after your passing?

No! Not if it's untrue!

If Steve Jobs could know that such heretical ideas were being taught about him, he'd be turning in his grave!

My friends, whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, the world looks at us as the "authoritative source" on the Person of God. By our words and our actions, from the moment we label ourselves "Christian," those around us expect that we've done our research and--beyond that--they even assume that we know God personally.

What kind of image do we portray of Him? Do we praise Him? Exalt Him? That's good. Well, it's a start anyway. But, just as the disgustingly misinformed biographer in the example above, nice words about Him are not enough. We actually need to be right. Luckily, we have an auto-biography (written by His own hand!) that is an invaluable resource. It's also very hard to portray a person incorrectly when you know Him personally. And we do!


In the first chapter of 1 Timothy we saw how Paul really believes doctrine matters. He's adamant that only true doctrine be taught by Christians. Now, in chapter 2 he begins what will be a five-chapter-long discourse on the way sound doctrine affects the lives of its adherents. Sound doctrine (hereafter called "gospel": Christ's and Paul's favored term *1) doesn't only matter in the minds of pious, religious clergy. It matters in the mundane, day-to-day lives of every believer.

I'm going to be approaching the text of 1 Timothy 2 with two assumptions:
  1. The Gospel is both the center and the entirety of the Christian faith
  2. Adherence to the Gospel is the most important element of the Christian life
Before we move on, let me explain why I insist on those two points. 

First of all, the Gospel--the good news that Christ died for our sins and was raised (1 Cor 15.3-4)--is the power of God (1 Cor 1.18) for salvation (Ro 1.16) and the sustaining hope of our faith (Col 1.23). What Jesus did on the cross brings us near to God (Eph 2.13) and keeps us there (Eph 1.13-14). Furthermore, belief in the Gospel initiates a life-long process of regeneration (Gal 6.14; 2 Cor 3.18). Once a person believes the Gospel, they are never the same (2 Cor 5.17), and the evidence of the Gospel in their life brings those around them to repentance (2 Cor 2.15-16).

Secondly, as Christians, we must hold the Gospel as of first importance (1 Cor 15.1,3). When the Gospel dominates our thinking, it has authority to yield the fruit and blessings mentioned above. But the inverse is true as well. If it becomes secondary to anything, we are guilty of idolatry at best (1 Cor 8.5-6), and blasphemy at worst (1 Tim 1.20). This seems to be at the heart of Paul's concern as he writes to Timothy. He warns over and over again (*2) about the consequences that come from abandoning the Gospel.

So we pick up in chapter 2 right after Paul commanded Timothy to fight the good fight (1 Tim 1.18). But how do we fight? Paul proceeds to draw a blueprint for how a Christian should live and function in the community of the now-and-not-yet Kingdom. A lot of it has to do with church life. But he will also argue (in chapter 5) that the entity of the Church extends into individual homes and (in chapter 6) into the workplace. In every station of life, wherever the Gospel is embraced, it defines us.

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul teaches that the Gospel affects:
  • The way we pray (1 Tim 2.1)
  • The way we view authority (1 Tim 2.2)
  • The way we evangelize (1 Tim 2.4)
  • The way we worship (1 Tim 2.8)
  • The way we dress (1 Tim 2.9)
  • The way we structure Church leadership (1 Tim 2.11-12)
  • The way we parent (1 Tim 2.15)
He starts by urging the Ephesian Church to pray, not just for their own people, those who were being persecuted, but also for the authorities and those who doing the persecuting! After all, he points out, God may very well save them too. What's his reason for this absurd suggestion that they pray for their enemies? The Gospel. "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." (1 Tim 2.5-6) This message--this Gospel--is the reason for every mandate Paul is laying for them. In fact it's the very reason he's writing this letter and preaching and evangelizing and discipling and everything else God called him to. "For this I was appointed..." (1 Tim 2.7) For the sake of the Gospel.

What Christ did obliterates every cultural, racial, socio-economic boundary that ever existed. So Paul tells Timothy to pray for everybody. If God doesn't differentiate, why should we? What about the chauvinistic hierarchy between men and women? Yup, that's gone too (Gal 3.28). Paul surely would have been labeled a feminist in his day for speaking so highly of women the way he did (*3).

So when he begins to address the women in 1 Tim 2.12, we know that he is not operating out of some ancient sexist mindset we ought to abandon. He was above the status quo of his day and perfectly in tune with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit leading him to pen his words carefully. For this reason, I believe his instructions that men be in authority over women are a direct result of God's design, not a reflection of the cultural hierarchy of his day. He does offer a brief explanation for his view; namely, God set it up this way, back in Eden (1 Tim 2.13).

The chapter ends on a high note, taking a respectful tone toward women, which was characteristic of Paul. He says that the woman's primary responsibility before God is to raise up Godly kids (1 Tim 2.15). The term "she will be saved" here doesn't refer to her spiritual salvation, but rather a refuge, a comfort, or a relief from outside burdens (*4). Whereas the man has the responsibility to lead a whole flock of God's sheep, checking his doctrine daily that he not swerve from the Gospel (1 Tim 1.6), the woman is only responsible for her children. This is a gentle and loving remark for Paul to attach onto the end of his thought. Every woman should take heart that the struggles of the faith, the fight that Paul endorses to Timothy is ours only to the scale of our own households.

Paul sees the woman's role as noble and dignified, but notably different than the role of a man. Yet she has every qualification to fulfill her role in Christ, just as the man is qualified to fulfill his. Paul urges the woman to adorn herself with "good works" (1 Tim 2.9), which is consistent with the high view of a Godly woman found in Proverbs 31.10-31. It is also consistent with mandates that apply to the whole church. In fact, in Ephesians 2.10, Paul identifies "good works" as the cause for which we were created. Men and women alike. Serving each other and serving the world.

Just as our Savior said,
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 5.14-16)

Abba,

The truth of the Gospel changes everything. Once we were lost, busy loving ourselves and hating You. But You captured our hearts and drew us near by the blood of Your Son. You've transformed and empowered us to walk in righteousness by Your Spirit. Grant us perseverance to continue to fight the good fight, to love Your Word and let it shape us. And I pray that as it does, the whole world will see Your work in us and glorify You, Father. Indeed, You are mighty to save and of those You save not one is lost. You have redeemed us and called us out of darkness for Your name's sake. To You alone belongs the glory.

Amen.




Footnotes:

* 1 - "Gospel" is used synonymously with "sound doctrine" in Scripture. In 1 Tim 1.15 Paul defines the sound doctrine he's referring to, and it is the prime definition of the good news of the kingdom. For more on Jesus' use of the word "gospel," see this post.

* 2 - Throughout 1 Timothy we see Paul's concern for those who have abandoned the Gospel. Look at all this negative language he uses: "Swerving from these" (1 Tim 1.6); "Rejecting this" (1 Tim 1.19); "Falling into condemnation" (1 Tim 3.6); "Falling into disgrace" (1 Tim 3.7); "Departing from the faith" (1 Tim 4.1); "Incurring condemnation; abandoning their faith" (1 Tim 5.12); "Straying after Satan" (1 Tim 5.15); "Falling into temptation; plunging into ruin" (1 Tim 6.9); "Wandering from the faith" (1 Tim 6.10); "Swerving from the faith" (1 Tim 6.21)

* 3 - Brian Dodd, in his book, "The Problem with Paul," points out that the question is often posed, "Is Paul a sexist?" But that question misses the significant fact that Paul is dead. And has been for some two millennia. So in order to ask the question we ought to ask, ("Was Paul a sexist?") we need to look at his teaching in the context in which it was written. Dodd writes:
"Paul lived in a time when women and children had a far lower status than they do today. Women were largely uneducated and illiterate. Men took positions of leadership within the community, whereas women generally stayed in the background. In our terms, Paul's world was sexist and hierarchical. In light of this, it is not Paul's 'sexist' comments that would have struck the men and women of his day but his progressive comments about women. His statements that appear to place women hierarchically beneath men would not have been in any sense unique in a world of slavery and subjugation. But his comments that value women and place them front and center in the community leap off the page."
Consider the following: The first leader Paul greets in Romans is Phoebe, a deaconess (Ro 16.1). He goes on to greet Prisca before her husband Aquilla (Ro 16.3) and call her his "co-worker" which is the same term he uses for Apollos, Timothy, Mark and Luke elsewhere. He commends Mary for "working very hard," in Ro 16.6, then, in Ro 16.7, he recognizes a woman, Junia, as his fellow prisoner. Of 27 people mentioned by name in Romans 16, nine of them are women. This is astounding.

In the next letter, Cloe is the first person mentioned by name (1 Cor 1.11) as a leader. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul goes to lengths to express that men are bound by the same sex and marriage ethics as women--a concept which would have been foreign in his day! Even in 1 Corinthians 11, which is devoted to explaining the different roles of men and women, Paul takes an egalitarian balance (1 Cor 11.11-12).

Paul begins his teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5.21-23 with a command of mutual submission, which, again would have been unheard of in the Ancient Near East.

* 4 - The Greek word for saved, σῴζω (sozo), can also mean "preserved" or "healed." See 1 Tim 4.16, where Paul tells Timothy (who is very much already saved) that he can save himself, or Php 2.12-13 where he commands them to achieve their own salvation! Since there is no way, systematically aligning this verse with every other soteriological verse in Scripture, that sozo can take its most common meaning of salvation unto eternal life, we must consider the other nuances of the word. This is basic hermeneutics.

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