Godly Women

Controversy notwithstanding, this passage of Scripture means exactly what it says—and this is profoundly good news for Christian women.

Chris Hutchison on October 20, 2019
Godly Women
October 20, 2019

Godly Women

Passage: 1 Timothy 2:9-14
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Adults in the room: do you remember what it was like to be a teenager, and to be at the height of what you thought “cool” was? Like when you had been working so hard to impress that group of people all year, and finally they invited you to hang out with them and you were just feeling on top of the world?

And then you bumped in to your dad or your mom or your little sister? And in that moment, surrounded by all of your peers, that family member was the most embarrassing object in the universe, and you just wished that you could pretend that you didn’t even know them.

But then do you remember when, 15 or 20 years later, you pulled out your high school yearbook and looked back at pictures of all those “cool” people you were hanging out with? And you realized that you had it all wrong. Your mom or your dad or even your little sister wasn’t the embarrassing one. It was those people you were trying so hard to impress. They were the embarrassing ones. And all these years later you don’t feel embarrassed of your family. You feel thankful for the ones who actually loved you and had your best interests in mind.

Christians often treat 1 Timothy chapter 2 the way teenagers treat their party-crashing parents. We’ve worked so hard and long to impress our culture and come across as normal and cool, and then this chapter of the Bible walks into the room and reminds us of how different from the “in” crowd we actually are. And over the years I’ve heard many people try to cover up or explain away this passage of Scripture with obvious embarrassment.

But the reality is that this is God’s word, and we have nothing to be ashamed of. Our world has a big problem with what our passage teaches, and they should be embarrassed of that. The only thing we should be embarrassed of is any attempt we’ve ever made to water down or ignore the truth to try to fit in with this world. This is God’s good and perfect and holy word, and we stand submissively before it as we receive what He has for us.


So let’s review for a moment. If you were away last Sunday, we studied 1 Timothy 2:8, and introduced this whole topic of Biblical gender roles. We explored five key truths found in Scripture:

  1. God created men and women.
  2. He created men and women equal in value, worth, dignity, and in His image.
  3. He created us different, and that these differences manifest themselves in differing roles and responsibilities in the church and in the home.
  4. These differences are profoundly good news, especially for women.
  5. These differences matter because they point to the gospel. Particularly in marriage, the differing roles between men and women are designed to be a living, breathing picture of the relationship between Jesus and His church.

If you missed last week and any of these statements sound strange or perplexing to you, I encourage you to go on our website this afternoon and read or listen to last week’s sermon, and then go back to this morning’s message again. Because they really fit together as two halves, and today won’t make quite as much sense until you’ve internalized the truths we looked at last week.

Now we looked at those five truths in order to understand the passage before us. Because what Paul is doing in verses 8-15 is taking the instructions from the first half of the passage and breaking them down along gender lines, giving specific applications for men and women within the framework of the Bible’s big teaching on gender roles.

So last week we considered verse 8 and what is says to men, and today we’re looking at verses 9-14 and seeing what they have to say to the women among us. And I want you to know that my goals this morning are very simple. First, I want us to see that these verses mean exactly what they say. Many people have tried to move the goalposts and invent all kinds of creative ways of interpreting the Bible to try to make these verses mean something totally opposite from what they say. But we don’t get to do that. We interpret this passage the same way we interpret any other passage in the New Testament letters, and when we do that we’ll see that they mean what they say.

My second goal is to help us see that what these verses say and mean is good news, especially for women. There’s nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of in these verses. These are the words of our loving God, and we should celebrate what we read here.


So let’s jump in and consider verses 9 and 10. These two verses address dress. Just like anger and quarrelling for the men, dress and apparel was a concern for Paul when he thought about the Ephesian women.

Now this doesn’t mean that men can’t dress inappropriately, anymore than it means that women can’t get angry. But in Paul’s mind, as he thinks about the Ephesian church, and what has the potential to sabotage their worship gatherings, this is a concern for him. So he tells Timothy to tell the Ephesian women how they ought to adorn themselves.

Now that’s really countercultural for us today, isn’t it? One of the central tenants of feminism is that women are the only ones who get to define what it means to be a woman. Men don’t get a say on women’s issues. And even many Christians who are not feminists would hold that a man should never, ever say anything in public about how women should dress.

Well, the Apostle Paul didn’t get the memo. As a man, he tells Timothy—another man—how to teach the women in his church how to adorn themselves. And if we’re choosing sides, I’m with them.

So, verse 9 says that “women should adorn themselves with respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.”

Do you notice the main command in this verse? “Women should adorn themselves.” It’s funny how we so often hear the negative things first, because the main command here is quite positive. Women should adorn themselves. Women should make themselves beautiful.

And they should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.

Just think about that word “respectable” for a moment. It’s telling us that women should care about how they look, and that they should dress in a way that earns the respect of others. That’s what it means to adorn yourself in respectable apparel. Dress, not to impress, but to earn respect, with sense of what’s appropriate when when to hold yourself back. Modesty and self-control.

Verse 9 goes on to tell us what this looks like with a negative picture. What does it look like to adorn yourself without modesty or self control? That would mean adorning yourself with “braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”

The first three things on this list might sound strange to us, but it helps to know that back then, only the very rich could afford gold or pearls. If you walked into church wearing those, you were basically saying “check out how rich I am.” The same actually went for braided hair. Before running water and ovens and refrigerators, only wealthy women with a crew of servants could actually afford the time to sit down and braid their hair, or, more likely, have their servants braid their hair for them.

Interestingly, there’s also some evidence from history of a group of wealthy influencers in Rome who would go over-the-top with hairstyles that would get more and more elaborate every few years. These different fashions changed often enough that historians can actually pinpoint specific time periods based on the way that women had their hair braided. Kind of like big bangs in the 80s.

And these fashions would spread throughout the empire, and ladies in Roman cities like Ephesus were tempted to try to keep up with the latest by mimicking their fashions. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?

And against these trends, Paul wants Christian women to be different. He wants them to be beautiful—to adorn themselves—but to do so in a way that earns godly respect.

And the way to earn respect is to not dress in a way that gets the wrong kind of attention. Sensual attention through immodest clothing, or envy because of how rich you obviously are or how much you look like the latest celebrity influencer.

Instead, what should a woman really be known for? What should be her true adornment, that which people really remember her for? Verse 10. “…what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” If you profess godliness—if you say you know Jesus and are growing to be like him—then this is what you should really be known for. This is where true beauty lies. In a life of good works. This is the kind of beauty that does not fade, and—far from fading—grows with age.

It goes without saying that these verses need to be heard by us today. Our world is little different from the Roman Empire. We have our own share of celebrity influencers whose reputations start and end with their appearance and who spend an inordinate amount of time and money on it. And I’m pretty sure that the temptation still exists to mimic this worldly system and dress in ways that attract all the wrong types of attention.

And sadly, we see this kind of thing in the Christian community. Just as one example, I’ve watched over my lifetime how Christian musicians are dressing in more and more sensual ways. Parents, just because your daughters are listening to Christian music doesn’t mean that they are getting a good example of how to dress like Christian girls.

I know that what I just said is unpopular, and culturally unacceptable, and that’s ok with me. Because we have God’s word in front of us, and it calls us to be different. Christian women should dress in a beautiful and respectable way, but ultimately, the goal here is that clothing—or the lack thereof—would not be a distraction from their true reputation and true source of beauty, which is a life of good works.

So that’s the big picture of what verses 9 and 10 are saying. But ladies, I think you know that there is still a lot of work to be done in applying these principles to the specifics of 2019. Because braiding your hair doesn’t mean the same thing today that it did in the 1st C. So what are the equivalent specifics that we should avoid? Our passage doesn’t give us those specifics, but it does give us guidelines. We should not be trying to mimic the world’s celebrities in the way we appear. Clothing should never deliberately draw attention to our wealth. Clothing should never deliberately draw attention to what is underneath our clothing. Our attire should not arrest people’s attention, but should earn their respect.

And in terms of getting more specific than that, ladies, it’s over to you. Find a woman who is nailing this and ask her the specific questions.

But let’s not forget that the the big picture here is that you don’t need to choose between beauty and godliness, because in the end, they are two ways of describing the same reality.


So, that’s verses 9 and 10. Women should adorn themselves—they should be beautiful—in all the right ways. Now let’s look at verse 11, which tells us that women must learn.

Yes, you heard that right. That’s the big idea in verse 11. Just look at the first four words: “Let a woman learn.”

Isn’t it so interesting that we often blast past these words and get all upset about what comes after? And what we miss is how permissive and even shocking this command actually was when it was first given.

In many of the Jewish groups in that day, women were not allowed to learn. When they would gather in the synagogue to learn from the Torah, it was men only. And this same attitude was seen in many parts of the Greek and Roman culture of the day.

And in stark contrast to all of this, Paul opens the door wide and says “Let a woman learn.” Don’t exclude her. When the church gathers each week and has God’s word taught to them, the women should be there learning alongside of everybody else. These words were so liberating and honouring to the women of the Ephesian church.

Verse 11 goes on to say how they should be learning. “Quietly with all submissiveness.” And this is where people get upset. “What do you mean, quietly?”

Well, here’s a few comments to help with that. First of all, this word for “quiet,” in the original language, is not a word that means complete audible silence, like don’t cough. This same word is used in 2 Thessalonians 3:12 which says, “…such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thessalonians 3:12).

Do you think people heard that and thought “man, that’s going to be tough. What if I need to sneeze?” Of course not. We get that this word points to a general pattern of doing what you’re supposed to be doing without disruption and distraction.

And isn’t that really the only way to learn? If you’re being loud and disruptive while someone is teaching, you’re not really learning. The same thing goes for this next word “submissiveness.” If you’re not learning in a submissive way, you’re not learning at all, whether you’re a man or a woman. If you don’t approach the sermon time each Sunday with a heart that is submitting to God and submitting to His word, then you’re not going to learn a thing.

So, once again, verse 11 is telling Timothy to open up every available opportunity for the women in his church to have full access to the best possible learning experience alongside of the men.

Not Teaching

And when we understand verse 11 this way, it’s not hard to see why verse 12 was written. Paul has just made a huge statement of equality in verse 11, and you can easily imagine some people thinking, “If women are able to learn in the church right alongside of the men, then why wouldn’t they be able teach the church alongside of the men as well?” And verse 12 says that this should not happen.

Because verse 12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

This is the verse that causes many modern readers of Scripture to blow their gaskets.

I’m not sure how your gaskets are doing this morning. I do know that every single one of us in this room has been profoundly impacted by feminist ideology, whether we know it or not. And the idea that there would be an activity which can be performed by men and not women is just so, so different from everything our culture has been telling us for the past six decades.

But we need to remember what we learned last week. God has created us differently. And especially in the home and in the church, God has called men to carry the primary responsibility for leadership, protection and provision.

That’s what verse 12 is describing: church leadership. “Teaching” and “having authority” are two of the primary functions of those who are called to lead in the church, which we’re going to hear more about in chapter 3. And verse 12 is saying that it would be inappropriate for a woman to perform those functions.

In my prep this week I was tempted to go on all sorts of rabbit trails to try to help us understand why this is the case, why this prohibition is here. But then I realized that it’s all right here in verse 13. Look at how verse 13 begins—“For.” Because. The reason for this command is because of the way that we were made. “For [or because] Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

Christ has made us one in Him in terms of our salvation (Galatians 3:27-29), but He has not overturned the created order. The leadership role given to men is still in effect. These roles play themselves out in the home, where God calls men to lead their wives, and these roles play themselves out in the church, where God calls qualified men to take up the responsibilities of teaching and authority.

Verses 13 and 14 are so important because they show us that this instruction in verse 12 was not a temporary thing just to deal with a particular issue in Ephesus. Instead, it’s rooted and grounded in the very fabric of how we were made.

And if we can try to set aside all of our cultural baggage for a few moments, we’ll find that our souls understand this. We know that God made us in different ways and that certain behaviours are appropriate as a result. We know that it’s right for a man to hold a door open for a woman and not the other way around. We know it’s right for a man to stand up on the bus and give his seat to a woman, and not the other way around. We know it’s right for a man to put on armour and go fight a battle to keep the women in his life safe, and not the other way around.

I planted trees for a summer and I remember the day one of the girls on my crew let me carry her bags for her as we walked off the block. She was an avowed feminist who said all the right feminist things, but I remember me and another guy saying “Here, let us carry those for you,” and she just softened, because these two men were treating her like a woman with honour and respect. And despite all of the messaging and indoctrination she had received, deep down she knew that this is how we were made and that it’s good when we live in accordance with it.

And deep down, we should know that it’s appropriate for men to carry the heavy burden of church leadership. Because that’s what we should think of when we hear “teaching” and “having authority.” These are not perks or privileges.

That same summer of planting trees, my foreman had a quad, and we were always tempted to be a little jealous as he zipped past us on that quad instead of having to walk with heavy bags on his back.

And if we think that teaching and having authority are like that quad, some special privilege that some people get to enjoy while the rest slog away on foot, then we’ve got this all backwards. Because teaching and heaving authority are not perks or privileges. They are heavy burdens. They are the bags full of trees.

I want to be careful of how much I say here because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m complaining about the work that I do, because I’m not. I love what I get to do. But it is war. And ladies, you should hear in verse 12 a call for men to go to war for you. God has assigned the responsibility of teaching and authority to qualified men who go to the front line and take the bullets so that you can find safety and protection and so that you can flourish.

This is God’s design. And it’s been Satan’s intention, from the beginning, to mess with this design. That’s what verse 14 points us towards. When Satan showed up in the garden, he didn’t ask to speak to the man of the house. He went right after Eve. Like verse 14 says, “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:14).

The implied idea here is that Adam was not deceived first. We should carry over that word “first” from verse 13. Eve was deceived first because Satan directly challenged God’s design when he went after her.

That’s important to understand, because some people have taken verse 14 to mean that women should not teach because they are more likely to be deceived then men. That’s not what this verse is saying, and it’s also just not true. This week I heard about a recent study which shows that women have an easier time spotting fake news on then men do. On that issue they are generally less gullible.

Instead, verses 13 and 14 are telling us to look at history. God makes Adam first. When God comes to the garden, he calls for Adam first, and gives him the heaviest curse (Genesis 3:9, 17-19). Satan is the one who challenges this pattern and usurps God’s design. And we must learn from these patterns as we understand the leadership roles in the church.

Is Jesus our Lord?

Now if you have your Bible open in front of you, you can see that there is still another verse in this passage—verse 15—which I’m not going to touch on this morning, because it needs a bit more time than I can give it today.

I’m actually going to write something about that verse for the blog this week. If you visit our website by Tuesday it should be up there.

But as we conclude here I want us to go back to verse 12 and look at those first four words. I think that this is where many of our struggles with this passage come down to. “I do not permit.” Those words just rub us the wrong way. They just sound so authoritative. And us modern individualists don’t like authority. We don’t like being told what to do.

And that’s our problem and we need to deal with it. We need to remember that Jesus is Lord. Lords, by definition, tell people what to do. And those people obey. And the risen Lord Jesus appointed His apostles as His official spokesmen. They speak for Him and we submit to our Lord Jesus by submitting to the teaching of the Apostles (Acts 2:42).

In 1 Corinthians 14, the Apostle Paul is teaching the Corinthian church about these very same matters—the role of women in the church—and he concludes that section by saying this: “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Corinthians 14:36–38).

This is God’s word, and God’s people submit to it. Full stop.

And it’s not surprising that when people don’t submit to Jesus on this one particular issue, they have a really hard time submitting to Jesus on a whole host of other issues. Within our own denomination we have people saying that the Bible isn’t really clear about this whole matter of men’s and women’s roles in the church. And not surprisingly, they also say that the Bible is not really all that clear about creation and evolution and hell and baptism and you name it.

How convenient. Anywhere the Bible challenges our thinking and makes us uncomfortable, we just say it’s not really all that clear. And if we keep going down that path we will end up inventing our own religion. One that uses all the same words as Christianity, but at its heart, we’re the lord instead of Jesus.

Can you see how important this is? The authority of God’s word and therefore the very future of the church hinges on how we respond to our passage this morning.

But more closer to home, our own spiritual health depends on this. If God created us male and female with these roles and responsibilities in mind, then we will hit our stride in life and find our greatest levels of effectiveness when we line up our lives with God’s design.

So women of Emmanuel Baptist Church, do you know that your Creator loves you? Do you know that your Saviour loves you? Do you know that He is not like so many men in this world who use and abuse their strength and position for their own gain? Instead, He loves you and gave Himself up for you and nourishes and cherishes you (Ephesians 5:25-32). And in His great wisdom He has given you a place in the church. A place to learn and grow in beauty and wisdom and in knowledge and in good works.

This is not everything that God has to say to women. There’s a lot more that goes on in the church than just teaching and having authority, and as we go through this series we’re going to hear more about the vital ministries God calls women to. This passage today is not an excuse for you to be passive in the church. Just the opposite! We need you to be engaged in ministry to the fullest level of your potential. And that’s what this passage is ultimately all about.

Let’s Talk

Now as we close, just one more word. I’m sure that some of you have questions. “What about this situation, and how does this apply?” “What about women on the mission field?”, for example. If you have a question like that this morning, I want to encourage you to take a day or two to think about it. Make sure it’s a genuine question. Make sure that you’re not just tossing up a smokescreen to try to get around full submission to the Lord Jesus. Meditate on this passage as you reflect on your question. And then, let’s talk. You know how to get in touch with me. I would love the opportunity to help you figure things out.

And please, if you don’t like something I’ve said this morning, come talk to me instead of someone else. If you think I’m wrong, you’re not helping me any by telling other people. And if you’re wrong, you’re not helping yourself either. And this really applies on any Sunday. Let’s talk, with an open Bible before us and hearts fully submitted to the Lord Jesus and to His word.

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