Sermons Updates

Godly Women in the Church (1 Timothy 2:9-15) – Mark Ottaway

Godly Women in the Church

1 Timothy 2:9-15


Turn 1 Timothy 2. This past week I attended the Basics Conference at Alistair Begg’s church which is just south of Cleveland, Ohio; along with my son Marty and the senior pastor at Marty’s church, and an elder. These kinds of events are things that I look forward to, but admittedly, when they get close, especially these past few months, I find myself very busy and sometimes thinking boy, it would be a lot easier to just stay home. And not that I didn’t want to go, but I am sure that you have been there when you realize the amount of work that you need to get done before you go. I left here Monday AM at 6:30, met Marty and the other two men in Harrow, and we arrived at the conference just after lunch, where session #1 was at 3 pm. But it was not long into session #1 when I realized that I was so thankful that I was there. The conference was at Begg’s church which seats 2,000 and was at full capacity, and after walking in and sitting down and standing for the opening song, Crown Him with Many Crowns as 2,000 men joined together, it was outstanding! Besides Alistair Begg there were two other main speakers, Sinclair Ferguson from Scotland, where Begg is from; and Tico Rice originally from Chile but spent years in England. They were all exceptional.


By the way, if you hear me say the “roth of God” of turn to “Isia 9” or we are going to have a service at the cemetery, you will know why. Or as my sarcastic son said, he thought when they spoke about having a “yarning” for the Word of God, that they were talking about some kind of knitting or sowing. Of course, I had a great time with my son and was greatly blessed by the whole conference when I got home late Wednesday night. And this is also peak “birding” time and that is pretty exciting for some of us Ottaway’s. So, on Friday Anne and I met up with two more of my sons Andy and Aaron for a day of birding at Long Point along Lake Erie. So, I really don’t have anything for you this morning.


About ten years ago, I was speaking on Mother’s Day at Peoples Church and a woman had talked to me earlier that week, and said that she was never all that excited about Mother’s Day sermons. Not that she did not like to be challenged as she is a great Christian lady, but just the fact that she did not see the need to divert from a series and specifically speak to Moms. Now admittedly, when I did the John series, I looked ahead and changed one week so that we landed on the resurrection passage on Easter Sunday. But there was no planning on this part in this series as I saw just a few weeks ago that 1 Timothy 2:8 begins with, “likewise, I want women” right in line with Mother’s Day. And I thought, “Wow! I am pretty smart!” So, what I have done with these seven verses is to study them, and come up with four statements about women. Not the most enviable task, by the way, to stand up here and teach about women, no one else would want to do this. But I trust that this wisdom comes from our passage and not from me. I also was reminded this past week that my ultimate responsibility is to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Word, whether that is to encourage, challenge, or at times rebuke, that I am faithful to teach what God has written. I noticed in Ephesians 2:17, Paul said that Jesus preached the Good News to those who were far away. Now this was not Jesus personally preaching far away, but it was Jesus preaching through those He sent to places far away, such as the Apostle Paul. And so, when we are faithful in preaching God’s Word, we could say that the Spirit of Christ is preaching through us. As Sinclair Ferguson said that when we preach Christ, Christ is preaching through our preaching.

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, with modesty and self-restraint, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly clothing, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women professing godliness. A woman must learn in quietness, in all submission. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first formed, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into trespass. But she will be saved through the bearing of children, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with self-restraint.”

1 Tim 2:9-15 (LSB)


Of the statements I have chosen, three of them are positive and one is negative, number three, and they just flow with the order of the text. I also realize that they are black-and-white statements, as they do not really address where each person may be in their walk, but the ideals that we are to reach for, or in the case of number three, what we are to avoid. And finally, I wish to say that this is not a time for men to check out, as the discipline and challenge of these statements, the spirit of them applies to all of us, though they are specifically addressed to women. And that our kindness and care as husbands and as men, our love, and our gentle leadership would nurture and encourage these things in our women. In fact, it is interesting that just before this discussion about women, Paul says, “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” Good to know that men are to be men of prayer and not men of anger and dissension. And especially when we consider our interaction with our wives, that we are not men who yell or are impatient with them, but as Peter reminded us men to live with our wives in an understanding way. And he said in 1 Timothy 6 that the man of God is to be gentle.


  1. Selflessness is found in a godly woman (vs 9-10).


“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, with modesty and self-restraint, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly clothing, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women professing godliness.”

1 Tim 2:9-10 (LSB)


Admittedly, this is not an easy passage to understand all that Paul is asking here of women, and it is hard to understand all the background. Maybe partly from the culture and partly from the weakness of the character of some of these women. Yet we do not get any indication that there is any thought in the New Testament that many women were not deeply spiritual. We mentioned a few weeks ago that many of the most loyal followers of Christ were women, especially around the accounts of the crucifixion. And sometimes we might read a passage like this and assume that these women were wearing indecent clothing and trying to allure other men, and this could be partly true. But it would seem that Paul has already highlighted a problem among the men, that of anger and division within the social context and especially within church life which is much of the focus of this entire letter. And the things that Paul points to here may indicate more to the fact that the problem for some of the women was trying to gain attention for themselves. Often women do not get ready to go out trying to attract other men, though they may. But much of their desire is to impress other women or even themselves. And there is certainly nothing wrong with looking good, but much of this is the heart behind it and the care for others.


Certainly, there is a call here for women to dress modestly, but much of the emphasis seems to be on the carefulness to not offend others. We must understand that within this early New Testament culture would be a much greater gap between the haves and have-nots. And therefore, to dress in a certain way that focused on clothes, in fact, costly clothing, and gold and pearls would indicate a complete drift from any kind of self-restraint. And therefore, if a woman came to church or socialized with others, without any concern for others, especially those who were poor, would not give any indication of spiritual discernment. The term self-restraint here is such an indication, in other words, I have the means to do this, but I will purposefully restrain myself to not offend someone else. Therefore, selflessness is found in the godly woman. This could also be true of what we own and the houses we live in, that there would be such carefulness to not offend someone else who has less. And this points directly to the motives of women coming to church or being anywhere with others, what is the motive for being there? Is it to focus on self? Is it to draw attention to what I have? Or even is it to just impress someone because of what I have done? As this can be a temptation to many women.


As opposed to focusing on what? Good works (vs 10), doing for others, ministering to others, helping others, encouraging others, or even teaching others, without drawing attention to self. As this is such a great part of maturing, and that is focusing away from self and placing that focus on the well-being of others. I mean what kind of wife would you like to have? What kind of mother would you like to have? As likely some of the greatest examples that we have throughout history are those who served others and placed such importance on others. And, interestingly, Paul says (end of vs 10) “as is proper for women professing godliness.” In other words, it would seem that these women were all calling themselves believers in Christ they were all professing to be godly. I suppose we could understand this as Paul saying, you are claiming Christ, therefore, this is how you need to behave properly together with each other.


And this is an ideal, isn’t it? In other words, this does not mean that this is how women always act, as I am sure with all of us there are times when we come home and think, I could have shown more attention, or given more care, or had more concern. I should have taken some of that attention off of myself. To be able to come to church and ask myself, how should I present myself in what I wear and how I act to best display humbleness before God and others. And we need to be alert to how our culture will often disregard such an ideal. Some of the award ceremonies on TV, music, shows, and movies are so often centered around what people look like, how they dress, and how they may have impressed their audience. And I think the sobering thing we could say to men and women is that no matter where we are on this issue, we know that God is not pleased if a heart is focused on self, as these first two verses directly deal with the sin of pride. Yet, selflessness is found in a godly woman.


  1. Humility characterizes a respectful woman (vs 11-13).


“A woman must learn in quietness, in all submission. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

1 Tim 3:11-12 (LSB)


The teaching in the Bible that women should not teach men in this church context is so counter-cultural, so, we think that it is really hard today. So much so, that some have suggested that this prohibition for women to teach men was a New Testament cultural thing and therefore, should not be applied to women today in the church. Yet there is a clear reason why this is not a cultural thing that should be ignored today, and it is found in verse 13, for it was Adam who was first formed then Eve. In other words, the reason Paul gives for the order is outside of culture and goes directly back to creation. And we must remember here that this section has no bearing on the value of males and females, as the teaching in the Bible is that they were made equal. What this is addressing is the unique roles of men and women. And there is permission for women to teach as Paul says in Titus:

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may instruct the young women in sensibility: to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be slandered.”

Titus 2:3-5 (LSB)


The two terms quiet and submissive seem to encompass both the outward action and the inward heart. We all know the story of the little guy who said he was obedient on the outside but rebellious on the inside. I am sure all of us have been there at one time or another, where someone asks us to do something and we sort of respond, okay? Quiet indicates listening, paying attention, and thinking deeply about. Submissive means that women act upon what they have learned and know to be right, there is a willingness to be taught and to think over. I mean if we took this to the other extreme it would mean that any of us might sit under someone’s teaching and be thinking, I am not doing what he says, as this guy is just full of hot air. The kind of human attitude that naturally wants to fight against authority likely shows itself on many fronts. Even including the challenges that come directly from God’s Word, again, we might be saying yes on the outside, but no on the inside. Interestingly, in many ways, Paul is culturally elevating the status of women here. In the Jewish culture, women were often prohibited from sitting under any kind of teaching. And Greek culture was no better. William Barclay wrote:

“The respectable Greek women led a very confined life. She lived in her own quarters into which no one but her husband came. She did not even appear at meals. She never at any time appeared on the street alone; she never went to any public assembly.”

William Barclay


None of this came from the Ole Testament as women were always part of learning. The words of God were given to all of Israel including both men and women. Women are instructed to teach their children (Prov 6:20), and to teach other women (Titus 2). So, what Paul is teaching here is this high quality of inside humility is shown in being a respectful woman. Respectful of the position where the Lord has placed her. In other words, humility on the inside shows itself in respect on the outside. Humility characterizes a respectful woman. Yet #3:


  1. Deception can be the downfall of an ungodly woman (vs 14).


“For it was Adam who was first formed, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into trespass.”

1 Tim 2:13-14 (LSB)


The question, I suppose, comes from this, are women more susceptible to being deceived than men? I don’t know. For we know of many men who have fallen to so many temptations: that sex outside of marriage can truly satisfy, think of the men who fall for things such as gambling, or the number of men who pursue some of the craziest ideas through the deception of others. Is this worse than women or the same? Or are women more prone to fall to this deception? Some have chosen to teach from this verse that the role of women is due to Eve’s sin in the garden, in other words, because of Eve, this subordinate role was part of the curse placed upon women. However, this does not seem to be the case as verse 13 clarifies that Adam was created first, then Eve. In other words, women were clearly made to be helpers before the fall as we learn from Genesis 2:18. Turn to Genesis 3.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which Yahweh God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God said, “You shall not eat from it, and you shall not touch it, lest you die.”’ And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, so she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. And the eyes of both of them were opened.”

Gen 3:1-7a (LSB)


What I believe we learn here is that Eve was deceived by Satan, for if she had any questions about what she should have done, she should have asked Adam. Yet she took the initiative herself, and therefore, she acted against that which would have been her proper humble response. And of course, we see where Adam did not act any better as he is just as much to blame, but his main sin is that he did not lead. See, what we have here is the foundation of God’s design for a man and woman in marriage, that the wife is to lean on her husband, to be submissive to her husband. And the husband’s role is godly leadership. Both failed miserably. And this failure affected the rest of history. See, the roles were not the problem. It is not like Eve sinned and then she was given the role of following. The problem was their failure to fulfill the roles that they were given. We must never look at women’s roles and men’s roles as part of the curse. The curse occurred because they did not play out their roles.


And as an aside, there is a tremendous importance in women following the lead of their husbands. In fact, I would understand the two most important roles given to wives are that they follow their husband’s leadership, and that they respect, from point #2, their husbands. In Ephesians 5:30, Paul writes, “The wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” And the two most important roles given to the husband is that he would love his wife (Eph 5:25), and that he would lead his wife. An ideal marriage, wives, follow and respect. And husbands, love and lead, or the responsibility to lead, because many times husbands drop the ball on this great responsibility. And we do not need to remind each other of our spouse’s role but to fulfill our own. And because of sin this ideal will never be easy, because a woman will often want to take charge in the marriage relationship, and a man will often be unwilling to lovingly lead, as he will either not lead or he will lead in anger.

“But she will be saved through the bearing of children, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with self-restraint.”

1 Tim 3:15 (LSB)


  1. Faith and love flow from a spiritual woman (vs 15).


This verse has been used to teach several wrong ideas. It certainly does not mean that women will be eternally saved by having children. And it certainly does not mean that women must be married and have children. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about the blessing of being single and having a greater focus on spiritual things. Yet, two things should be considered here. The first is likely the most traditional, and it refers to the promises given when God cursed Adam and Eve and the serpent. God said in Gen 3:15:

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed;

He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Gen 3:15 (LSB)


This is the promise that though Satan will be instrumental in the crucifixion of Jesus, though it was the very plan of God, ultimately Christ would destroy Satan and death. And this Christ would come from the seed of the woman, her seed. In other words, from the very seed of the woman, Jesus Christ would come salvation to mankind. So, this understanding of 1 Timothy 2:15 is possible. However, I would suggest something else here. I believe the idea here is that though Eve was first deceived, and her influence over Adam also caused him to sin. And it is Adam who is named as the primary cause of the effect of sin on the human race. Romans 5:19, for through one man’s disobedience, Adam’s, sin entered the world. So now we have all men and women over time perishing because of the sin of Adam. But here is the hope for the Christian woman, that if she continues in the faith and love, though there may be many things that would hinder this. And it could even be the poor character of a husband or the cares and worries of the world. But if she perseveres in faith and strong belief in the promises of God. And love, a great love for her husband and children. And by the way, she has the closest teaching connection with her children, especially when they are young, as there is often no greater bond than between a mother and her children.

And she is being sanctified, that she continues to deepen her walk with the Lord. And is known as a woman with self-restraint. In other words, she can resist riches, things, selfish wants, and desires. And has a proper biblical focus on the role that the Lord has given to her specifically. She, has such a connection with her children, though her children were introduced to sin, causing damnation for them way back in the Garden. She can be saved through her faith and her children can also be saved through her loving instruction as a Mom. In other words, she is pointed to in this passage as the one who was deceived, as the one who caused her husband to sin. Resulting in the damnation of all people to follow Adam and Eve. Yet that can be reversed through faith and her offspring. And this alone draws much attention to the need for a woman to embrace the role given to her by God, for it was partly, not all because Adam is just as guilty, but it was Eve’s very act in opposition to her role that started such heartache for all the human race in the first place. Things such as resisting submission and desiring to exercise authority over a man will continue to feed that cycle of sin and death. Whereas embracing God’s role will arrest it, as it will ultimately be ended through Christ. Paul is primarily talking here about church life, and we will see this more as we move further into this book. But let me close with two things.


  1. God desires for all of us to serve within the context of the roles He has given.


It is God who has established the roles of men and women, and it is all part of the functioning of the church and within families. So, ultimately resisting these roles is not a resistance against say, men, but it is a resistance against God. And the overriding focus of ministry is on service and not on the individual. We are all equal, rich/poor, male/female, elder/usher, and teacher/student. As God uses our gifts and men and women to serve Him in His church and in our homes and wherever we find ourselves, for God desires for all of us to serve within the context of the roles He has given.


  1. Women have such a gift for care and love.

I am not sure where any church would be if not for the care and love of women. When I came to Elim, I was asked about Anne. And I said that Anne would want a behind-the-scenes role, but everyone would love her, and she would love everyone. Now this does not mean that some women are gifted in teaching other women and children and that they are not excellent in leading various roles within the church. But listen, who wants their Dad when they are sick? Men, we would be in total chaos if it were not for women. And if we as men do not listen to our wives, and if the church does not listen to women, we are in trouble. And if the church does not value and encourage the unique giftedness of women, it is the church that loses.


You know our thinking in this area is so far from the world’s, as the world knows little of this. And not only are the God-given roles being confused in the world, but the world now is confused about the very gender of men and women. And so many women in the world are lamenting that they are not even being noticed for their unique giftedness, but now they have to understand that they are not even being noticed for their unique gender. But not in God’s eyes. Because God values so much a godly woman. And the church values so much a godly woman. And we husbands value so much a godly wife. And children value so much a godly mother. Such a blessing to God, such a blessing to His church, and such a blessing to our homes. Let’s pray. Father, we want to be men and women of your Word. Might we see our roles here as service to Jesus Christ alone. And may we be careful that we do not overstate your instruction or understate it, but be true to it both as men and women. And all God’s people said, amen.