As we’ve been looking carefully at what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 about the differing roles of men and women in the public gathering of the church, it raises some interesting questions. Let’s clarify what this passage is teaching and what it permits and prevents.
To begin with, the word translated “men” in verse 8 is from anēr; this doesn’t refer to mankind in general, but always refers to males as opposed to females. Men are to take the lead when the church gathers for corporate worship. This word can only refer to men.
When prayer is offered for the lost during those times of corporate worship, the men are to do the praying; their heart for the lost is to set the tone for the church.
This public prayer is what we often think of as the “pastoral prayer” or an invocation or call to worship or anytime one person stands behind the pulpit to pray on behalf of the whole church. According to Scripture, only men are to take this responsibility in the worship service.
The women and other men who are not leading are to corporately unite their hearts in submissive agreement as prayers for the lost and for rulers and those in high positions are being offered by the men who serve as overseers in the church.
Of course, both men and women are to pray for the lost. But in the public gathering of the church for corporate worship, only biblically qualified men are charged with leading the way in prayer for the spiritual needs of Christ’s church.
But what about times when the church gathers for a prayer meeting, with both men and women?
During those times of informal prayer where no one is praying on behalf of the whole church, but men and women are simply offering spontaneous prayers of intercession, this wouldn’t be a violation of the principle behind 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The act of representation is missing.
However, where one person must formally present the prayers of the congregation as a representative of the whole church, only men are charged with this responsibility.
Men are held responsible by Christ for teaching His Word, for reading the Word, and for praying in the public gathering of His church; and every man is held responsible for the spiritual oversight of his own household regardless of his occupation.
The primary purpose behind these principles is the greater spread of the gospel. Ironically, having men and women offer prayers or preaching in public worship as co-equal representatives of the church isn’t how the spread of the gospel is maximized.
God’s design is for men to lead spiritually. When men fail in this regard or when they passively abdicate this responsibility, it creates a spiritual vacuum tempting women to violate God’s design for expedient or pragmatic reasons.
Someone must lead. If men don’t, women are tempted to fill the vacuum left by the absence of godly male leadership.
In verse 8 there’s an instruction for how men are to pray for the lost at church. Again, this instruction is to maximize the spread of the gospel; it’s a mandate.
And then in verse 9 there’s a mandate for Christian women on appearance, again with the overarching motive being how to maximize the spread of the gospel to all people.
Are women permitted to pray? By all means. However, in the context of the public gathering of the church, only men are to take that responsibility in the worship service of the church. Anyone can and should pray silently in their seats at church… and everywhere beyond the church.
Are women permitted to teach the Bible? By all means. However, they are to teach the Bible to other women and children outside of the corporate worship of the church (see Titus 2:3-5). In public worship, women are not to lead men spiritually.
In some informal settings outside the church however, there is the example of Aquila and his godly wife, Priscilla leading and teaching Apollos the Word of God more accurately (see Acts 18:24-26).
In that setting, Priscilla gave informal instruction (i.e. spiritual leadership) to Apollos, albeit with the partnership and counsel of her husband, Aquila.
As we continue looking at these counter-cultural truths, we’re going to see that God’s design is under assault in our day. Yet it was also under assault in Paul’s day too.
Our charge as godly men and women is to obediently apply God’s Word to His church. It shapes the way we gather as His people and it sends a loud message to the world that we follow, not the voice of the world, but the Voice of our Master and Savior.
For His glory in the church,