How Do We Handle Controversial Scripture? MUST Women be Silent and Modest? What’s up with that?! +Praying for People in Authority. #controversy #politics #106

Happy Monday, friends! How was your celebration of the resurrection yesterday? Ours was obviously radically different. For one, the quarantine, for two, all of us lived in Alabama until the Summer of 2018, so this was our second Easter apart from our family back home in Dixie. Our church was not able to gather together in person in one room or place, but two interesting things happened. First, for the live-stream of our church’s Easter celebration, we had so many people play a role. Three different worship teams – one a husband, wife and friend who led from our church building, another one of our deacons leading from his home, and then my wife and our two eldest daughters leading from our house, with an assist from my son reading Scripture. In addition to that, we had testimonies and encouraging words and Scriptures from at least seven other families, and then a short message from me. I was exhilarated and encouraged by hearing from so many of our church family. As we discussed last week, the church isn’t just made up of a pastor and worship team, but a whole family gifted to reach the lost, build each other up, and serve the King.

And then, we had an extra treat in the afternoon. My wife and daughters, joined with our pastor neighbor and his family for a time of worship outside in the afternoon. They played and sang from their yard, and we from ours, maintaining more than six feet of distance. Other neighbors came and joined in – all maintaining distance, with one family across the street. Four churches were represented. It wasn’t a huge crowd, and it wasn’t the most polished worship set ever, but it was really amazing and exhilarating to experience. Our together-celebration was lowered, but our proclamation was increased in a variety of ways. Thanks be to God.

As you might have noticed, I sometimes steer clear of controversy on this show. There is a reason for that, and it is not that I want to avoid controversy. The main reason I avoid it is because biblical controversy is best handled in a local church setting, in the midst of relationships and leadership and pastoring. Where questions and discussion can happen face to face and unfold via relationship. A podcast just doesn’t allow that to happen. I don’t avoid every controversial passage, but do dance around a few that I’d be much rather cover in our local church context. That said, we’re not going to steer so broadly around controversy today. We’re going to turn the bow of this ship into the storm. We’re not going straight into the middle of this storm, and by that metaphor, I mean I am not going to answer every possible objection and issue some might have with 1 Timothy 2, but I do want to give at least the beginnings of an answer. Batten down the hatches!

1st Timothy 2 is quite the controversial passage. Who does Paul think he is to tell women how to dress and to be quiet? Well, I’m not going to dive deep into this, but I will share a couple of things. In 1st Timothy 2, Paul does indeed tell women to dress in Kosmios/κόσμιος apparel. This is a difficult word to translate well, because it only appears twice in the Bible. The other time it appears is in 1 Timothy 3:

 An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not an excessive drinker, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy.

1 Timothy 3:2

The same word that is translated as ‘modest’ in 1 Timothy 2 is translated as ‘respectable’ in 1 Timothy 3. So, Paul in one passage tells women to dress in this way, and in the second passage tells church leaders to behave and have this kind of character. Sensible/modest/appropriate. Who does this guy think he is? And the answer is that he is, under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, writing the Words and commands of God. That’s what the Word of God is for. It is to tell us how God wants us to live, how to please Him. Sometimes that manifests itself in how we dress, sometimes in how we behave. We are followers of God, and we follow Him via His Word:

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2nd Timothy 3:16-17

Ok, I hear you saying – I guess some of that makes sense, but what about this WOMEN MUST BE SILENT business. That just sounds ridiculous, sexist, and old-fashioned. I can appreciate where you are coming from, but I don’t think that ‘sexism’ is the right conclusion, and I think I can come pretty close to proving that. First, allow me to say that I am what is called a biblical Complementarian theologically. That means I believe that God has given men and women equal worth and value, but different roles in the earthly Kingdom of God. Not everybody agrees with that, but I believe that it is beautiful when practiced biblically, with no hint of selfish sexism. Take Ephesians 5:

22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.

Ephesians 5:22-24

WHOA! How can it NOT be sexist to ask wives to submit to their husbands?! Have you met men?! Yeah, I get it. But, let’s back out a little bit and see the verse in its context:

21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:21-33

So – this gives us a little bit of a clearer picture as to what is going on here. Paul calls wives to submit to their husbands, and I believe that is the Word of God. Keep reading – Paul then calls husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church – by providing and caring for her. How did Christ take care of His church? BY DYING for it!! So – wives are called to SUBMIT. Husbands are called to SACRIFICE. Which of those two ‘S’ words are easier? Is it easier to sacrifice your wants/needs/desires/safety/physical well-being for another? To endure pain for them so that they don’t have to? To utterly give yourself for them? OR is it easier to submit to a person – an imperfect person?! The fact is that BOTH of those things are hard. You might believe that husbands and wives should EQUALLY submit to each other and EQUALLY sacrifice for each other. You’re entitled to your opinion, but that’s not how the Bible lays it out. Husbands must sacrifice themselves for their wives. Wives are called to submit to their husbands.

Is that sexist? I think a husband demanding submission who is unwilling to sacrifice is indeed sexist and sinful and abhorrent and a perversion of marriage. The greatest possible perversion of marriage is husband to wife physical or mental or emotional abuse. That a man could be called to sacrifice himself for his wife, and rather than do that, he abuses her? That is an abomination, and it is infuriating, and such men will face incredibly harsh judgment. They should be in JAIL on earth, and tortured in eternity. Likewise, I think a wife who demands her husband sacrifice himself for her (in the way Christ laid down His life for the church) and then refusing to follow His Godly leadership is also sexist, in a way. Husbands are to bear the bulk of sacrifice in the relationship, though wives should sacrifice for their husbands from time to time. Wives are to bear the bulk of the submission in the relationship, though husbands should certainly submit to their wives in things from time to time, as is fitting in an Ephesians 5:22 sort of way. That is what I believe the Bible teaches. Does that make me sexist? I don’t think so, but you can feel free to think of me that way. Ultimately, I want to please God and love my wife well.

Back to the silence thing. First of all, let me say that I believe the translators of the KJV somehow missed it when they translated the Greek word ‘ἡσυχία hēsychía‘ as ‘silence.’ I think the translators of the CSB got the sense of the word much better by using the word ‘quiet.’ I do not believe that Paul is here forbidding women to speak in the least. First of all, etymologically, it comes from a root word that means to ‘be settled.’ For instance, consider a passage that uses the same word:

12 Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves.

2 Thessalonians 3:12

Is 2 Thessalonians 3:12 – directed at men and women – a command to be silent? It certainly doesn’t appear that way. ‘Silent’ doesn’t make any sense whatsoever in that passage. Quiet does. Being settled does. Since Paul is writing to Timothy about pastoring, and since he is about to introduce the topic of elders/pastors, I believe the context is 1 Timothy 2 in about how women should act during a church gathering when they are being taught. I note here that the same word is used of the men in Acts 22:

“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you.” When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter

Acts 22:2

In other words, the men were listening and being quiet – which seems somewhat appropriate for some church services. (Although I actually like interaction in teaching quite often – as did Jesus, Paul and others) So – is Paul telling women to dress modestly, be quiet and submit? It all depends on how you frame it. Framed in a biblical way, those commands make sense and are lovely and beneficial for all. Paul does indeed tell men to be work in a quiet/sensible matter, to submit to all governing authorities, to sacrifice for their wives, to be gentle to them and never harsh, to not ever be bitter with her, and to love/take care of her in the same way the husband takes care of himself.

Beloved: There are commands in the Bible from God. Some of them are written to women. Some to men. Some to children. Some – many – to pastors/shepherds/leaders. Some to followers. Some to moms. Some to fathers. Some to bosses, some to workers. This is what is meant by the Lordship of Christ. This is what is meant by ‘following Him.’ If you don’t want to be told how to live life and what to do, you are going to struggle with the Bible and following Jesus completely.

If you think you can pick some verses and commands to really love and follow and then rule the others as archaic and dated, then God isn’t Lord –you are. You are the arbiter of your behavior in that scenario. This sort of approach doesn’t work as workers in the workplace, nor as law-abiding citizens under traffic laws, etc., or as students in school, nor soldiers in the military, and it sure doesn’t work under the authority of the King of Kings. Is He good? Do you trust Him? Is He really working all things for the good of those who know Him and are called according to His purposes? He is – so follow Him and trust His ways and commands. It’s not easy to sacrifice for my wife, but I must. I’m sure it can often be difficult for her to follow my leadership, but I can sure help with that by sacrificing for her, by being gentle, taking care of her, loving her, listening to her, cherishing her, and by never being bitter or harsh with her, or the kids.

One more thing: The beginning of this passage is important and often ignored by Christians. I can’t think of a time in my lifetime that it has been more important for Christians to walk in and embrace the whole truth and counsel of the beginning of 1 Timothy 2:

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

This is an hour to pray for our leaders. Whatever you think of our president, vice president, governor and congressional leaders – HIT YOUR KNEES and pray for them! Let me be very clear – this is not a partisan text in the least. It means that Christians should have been crying out to God for Barack Obama and Bill Clinton with the same amount of vigor and fervor as they cry out to God for Donald Trump and George W. Bush. There is not a president beyond the reach of God’s hand, nor is there a world leader that we should not pray for. Allow me to close with some thoughts from a younger John Piper on our calling as Christians to pray for our world leaders, and allow me to challenge you to raise the level of your prayers for our leaders – in these desperate times, we must pray that they repent, that they listen to wisdom, that they seek the Lord and that God would work mightily through them. Not just our favorites, but all of them. If I’m a sailor on a boat going through a terrific storm, and I have a number of disagreements with our ship’s captain, you’d better believe I’m going to be rooting for him and praying for him in the midst of the storm, because I don’t want to go down with the ship. That’s logical. Plus, we have this clear command to do so, and it has no exceptions!

After Paul has stressed that we pray for all men, he singles out kings “and all in high positions” to make sure that we include them. Why? It is clear from verses 4–7 that what Paul wants to emphasize is that nobody be excluded from our good will, for nobody is beyond the grace of God. Why then do kings and those in high positions come in for special mention? I can see at least two reasons.

The first is that these people had characteristics that made it especially difficult for the early Christians (and for us) to pray for them. For example, they were so distant, so remote, if not in actual miles, then at least in accessibility. It is hard to pray earnestly for someone you don’t know, and especially hard to pray for somebody you never see. Yet, this difficulty must be overcome, Paul says. You must pray for them: emperors like Nero, proconsuls like Gallio, governors like Pilate, kings like Herod. They may seem remote and inaccessible, but remember, they are not remote and inaccessible to God. And by prayer you can get as close as one of their intimate advisers.

Another characteristic that makes rulers hard to pray for is that they are often godless men, insensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This was almost universally true in Paul’s day. And in most countries around the world today I think it would still be true. I am not automatically enthused when a politician claims to have had a religious experience. It does not matter where or when we have lived, to obey God’s command to pray for all in high positions will involve us in praying for many people indifferent or hostile to our faith.

But this should not cause us to hesitate one moment to pray for them, first, because God may save them and bring them to a knowledge of the truth, and second, because God uses rulers to accomplish his purposes whether they believe in him or not. When God wanted to punish his rebellious people, Israel, he turned the haughty king of Assyria into the rod of his anger (Isaiah 10:5) and stirred him up to attack Israel. Once Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, said to himself:

Is not this great Babylon which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30)

And God took away his reason and made him eat grass like an ox until he learned this lesson (Daniel 4:34, 35):

The dominion of the Most High is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say to him, “What doest thou?”

No king, no president, no premier, no Ayatollah can stay the hand of the Lord when he has purposed to do a thing. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). “Many are the plans of the mind of a man (of a king!), but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established” (Proverbs 19:21).

Therefore, we have strong encouragement to pray for kings and for all in high positions, whether they are believers or not, because our God reigns, and none can stay his hand!

John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).

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