Formations lesson for May 11: The Virtue of Quietness
April 25 2003 by David Stratton , 1 Timothy 2:1-12

Formations lesson for May 11: The Virtue of Quietness | Friday, April 25, 2003

Friday, April 25, 2003

Formations lesson for May 11: The Virtue of Quietness

By David Stratton 1 Timothy 2:1-12

I confess that I missed it until now. For years I devoted so much energy to reconciling my view of the role of women in the church with the apparent teaching of a portion of this passage that I missed a wonderful lesson in these verses. If we are not careful in our rush to defend our approaches to this passage we may miss a good word about effectively translating the good news into the culture in which we find ourselves.

Salvation offered to all As Paul continues his instruction to his co-worker, Timothy, we find in verse 1 a word translated "therefore" or "then" which connects these verses to the preceding passage. In chapter 1 Paul exhorted Timothy to deal with unhealthy teaching among Christians in Ephesus. So, in our passage, the apostle becomes more specific in advising Timothy concerning a specific problem among Christians in a specific area.

Although verse 1 mentions prayer, William D. Mounce points out that prayer is the "stage" on which Paul proclaims the message of "the universal offer of salvation to all people" (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 46, p. 76). Four times in verses 1-7 Paul uses a term translated "all" or "everyone" : (1) prayer for everyone in verse 1, (2) prayer for "all who are in high positions" in verse 2, (3) God's desire for "everyone to be saved" in verse 4, and (4) that Christ "gave Himself a ransom for all" in verse 6.

We do not know the exact content of the false teaching in Ephesus. Yet Paul's emphasis on the universal offer of salvation indicates the heresy involved some sort of exclusion of those God meant to save. In chapter 1 we were reminded that Christ came to save sinners of whom Paul identified himself as the foremost (1:15). The false teaching in Ephesus somehow puts up barriers between sinners and the "one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human " (1:5, NRSV).

Tear down the wall Beginning in verse 8 Paul explores more specific ways to bring down the barriers that false teaching in the church had put before sinners. In that regard he taught men to lift up hands in prayer. However, more than this specific practice of prayer, the apostle desired that men be holy by restraining their anger and their arguments (v. 8).

Paul wanted women to dress modestly and he did not want them teaching or having authority over men. Rather, females were to learn quietness and submission. Paul was addressing a local situation in Ephesus and his injunctions against women teaching and having authority over men and wearing gold and braided hair were never meant to be universal prohibitions for all places and times. The appeal to the creation account in verses 13-14 is an illustration of his teaching, not the foundation for it.

Many resources are available for in-depth study of the controversial aspects of this passage. Beyond the debate about two of these verses is an important thread that runs throughout the passage. Part of the problem at Ephesus was that some false teaching in the church put a wall between sinners and Christ. Paul wanted Timothy to lead the church to tear down that wall so the good news could be translated effectively to the people in Ephesus.

Intolerance outshines love In Revelation 2 Jesus told the believers in Ephesus that He knew they could not "tolerate evildoers" but He was concerned that they had "abandoned the love (they) had at first" (vs. 2; 4, NRSV).

Is this a description of essentially the same problem that Paul noticed? Were the Christians at Ephesus burning bridges toward sinners rather than building them? Did their intolerance toward sinners outshine their love for them?

Perhaps the problem of several thousand years ago in Ephesus is not so far removed from our churches today. The specifics may have changed but the difficulty of effectively translating the good news to our culture remains. Too often we burn bridges to sinners when we are called to build them. Too often our intolerance outshines our love.

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4/25/2003 12:00:00 AM by David Stratton , 1 Timothy 2:1-12 | with 0 comments
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