God cares how he is worshiped. A review of the book of Exodus tells us this as He was incredibly specific with the Israelites with instructions about first the tabernacle, and then the temple. Even down to the number of loops on curtains and the articles used.
As the gospel spread and Christianity went from simply a sect of Judaism to its own faith- this took place for 2 reasons: 1) many Jews refused to accept Jesus as the Christ and 2) because of this, the message of Jesus spread throughout the Gentile/pagan world- people still needed to know the “how” of worship. Should the people continue to worship in the Jewish synagogue? What elements of worship were the Gentiles/pagans bringing with them? How were these things informing/challenging/changing the worship of God?
Paul evidently had concern over these things or he would not have included them in his (what we call) first letter to Timothy. Ephesus was primarily a Greek city, and was the home of the Temple of Artemis/Diana, the goddess of the hunt and then childbirth. It is important to keep this background in mind as we read the words of Paul and consider their value for today.
Paul instructs Timothy, “first of all” that prayers ought to be offered “for everyone– for kings and those in authority.” Prayers are not just for believers, but for all, especially the leaders and authority in society. What should believers pray for? “…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Note that this is the prayer for all, that all might be saved and “come to a knowledge of the truth.” What is this “truth?” That Jesus, not Diana, nor any of the Greek/Roman gods or goddesses, was the mediator between God and men. This is Paul’s motivation, the proclamation of this truth over and above all else.
HOW should men pray? With hands lifted up…not in anger over “God being better” or even in disputing with Gentiles…but rather, in peace. Specifically (as noted above) that we’d live peaceful and quiet lives, in simple submission to God. This is important because Paul’s words came after the example that he himself modeled when he was in Ephesus, years earlier. In Acts 19, Paul was in Ephesus proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. There were many converts, and as a response, “a number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them.” Others stopped purchasing silver trinkets at the Temple of Artemis/Diana which impacted the economy of the silversmiths there. After a man named Demetrius got the silversmiths together, “they were furious and began shouting, ‘Great is the Artemis of the Ephesians.” As we read through this story, we see that not once did Paul act “in anger or disputing.” Paul is calling the men of Ephesus to follow his own example.
What about women? They were to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair of gold or pearls or expensive expensive clothes…” Again, Paul’s instruction here is to present a contrast from the pagan society of the day. The things that he lists were markers, (as they are today) of one’s place in society and a demonstration of one’s wealth. And, they simply had no place in the Christian faith. The way of Jesus is not division and separation, but unity. In Ephesus, you were either a “have” or a “have-not.” And evidences of conspicuous consumption had no place there. In Greek and Roman society, it was these external markers that demonstrated that you had “made the gods happy.” With Christianity, this is not the case. Outer beauty and the external things did not speak of one’s relationship with Christ; it was, and is, what happens on the INSIDE that ultimately mattered.
The Elephant: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Does Paul hate women? Not so fast..again, context matters. There are two schools of thought; the first being that females at the Temple of Artemis/Diana were temple prostitutes, so Paul wrote what he did to separate the Christian faith from the pagan worship practices of their time, and the second, per this interesting article, women were not prostitutes at the Temple of Artemis/Diana. Rather, they were, “compare[d] better with a Rose Bowl queen or with Miss Teen America.” By implication, their roles were ceremonial. If this is the case, Paul’s regulation against women was to communicate that the role of a leader in the church was not ceremonial. In either case, Paul’s default argument is to return to the original created order from Genesis, Adam first, then Eve.
What does all this mean to us?
- We should pray for everyone, especially our leaders. For what should we pray? That all of our lives are marked with peace, quiet, holiness and godliness.
- Men should pray not with anger or disputing, but with the above 4 things: peace, quiet, holiness and godliness.
- Women should be adorned not outwardly with demonstrations of the perception of rewarded godliness, but with demonstrable fruit of what is happening on the inside, how they’ve been transformed by Christ.
- And…yes, men have the authority role in teaching. I’m not going to dig into this one right now. Perhaps I’m being chicken, or maybe I’m at almost 900 words. Most likely, this is the kind of discussion one should have sitting across the table from one another. So, let’s chat.