1 Timothy 2

1 Here, Paul begins to write about general practices of the church. Prayer was to be of primary importance. Four words for prayer are used here. "Supplications" are typically requests for personal needs. "Prayers" is a general term for communicating with God. "Intercessions" are requests made on behalf of others. "Thanksgiving" is one's gratitude for what God has done and promises to do in the future. Prayer is not to be completely focused on oneself or on the church, but should reflect one's concerns and hopes for all people. A Christian should desire to see God work in everyone's life - even his enemies (Mat 5:43-44).
2 Having been imprisoned in Rome for at least two years, Paul was likely familiar with the deterioration of the Roman government's stability and the growing animosity that Nero had against Christians, which was based on inaccurate information about this new religion (see writings from Tacitus in Reading About the World, ISBN: 0155674250). Paul himself had persecution experiences in Judah and several other countries around the Roman Empire. He undoubtedly had an appreciation for those peaceful times when he could work and minister. Thus, besides praying for the salvation of the national and local rulers, Christians are to pray that the authorities would allow Christians to practice their faith. Under these situations, Christian lives should have the following characteristics:
  • Tranquil, Quite - two words denoting stillness. Likely indicating good and peaceable relationships with their fellow citizens, or at least a lack of fear and upheaval.
  • Godliness - reverence towards God.
  • Honor - The word used here has a variety of meanings generally indicating a life of purity and honor that leads to respect from others.
3 God desires that we pray, and we need to keep our communication open with Him. He wants us to care about others and ourselves the way that He does. At times, we may get discouraged when prayers are not answered the way we expected, but we must remember that we live in a fallen word that will cause us suffering at times, and that through everything God is actively shaping history to His desired outcome. Prayer helps us to remember that the God who saved us still cares about us, and that we need to keep His goals and objectives for our lives and the world in mind above our own wishes.
4 God's greatest desire is that people establish a loving and relationship with Him. From birth, we are doomed to eternal separation from Him because of the sinful nature we are born with, but when we enter into a loving relationship with Him, He forgives all our sins and saves us from certain destruction. This salvation comes from attaining and accepting knowledge of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.
5 The Gospel is built on the premise that there is one God. There is not a multitude of deities for one to weary himself trying to please. If mythology were true, one could easily see how hopeless it would be to please all the gods since the deities are always combating with one another. Loyalty to one would automatically mean opposition to another, and the worshiper is left in the balance, not knowing if his chosen god is strong enough to save him or even grant his wishes.

The second premise is that people are sinful and carnal by nature, making it impossible to approach God, who is holy and spiritual. The natural result is that people and God would always be relationally separated. However, God sent His Son, Jesus, to take on human flesh and live among us. In this manner Jesus became the only mediator between God and people, having been both fully human (although without sin) and fully God.

Many have well noted that this precludes the notion that a person can communicate with a deceased person in order to gain another intermediary with God. The use of mediums is forbidden in the Bible (Lev 20:27), but the modern version of attempting to communicate directly with "saints" or dead ancestors is essentially equivalent. Such things are useless since the people are dead, and these activities draw people away from the only true and living mediator between God and man. Others have noted that the Pope is claimed to be a mediator between men and God, but this is unlikely, since the Pope himself needs a mediator. At best, the Pope would be redundant, since we are give direct access to God through Jesus. At worst, it is a useless venture to use the Pope, or any living being, as an intermediary since no one has the capacity to do it, nor is anyone qualified in the divine realm as Jesus is.

6 A mediator's responsibility is to reconcile two opposing parties. More specifically in this context, Jesus did this by paying a "ransom," the word here meaning the price paid to free a prisoner or a slave. God's justice demands that the life of something pure and innocent be given in substitution for the life of someone who has committed sins. The sacrifices in the Old Testament provided for atonement for specific sins, but only addressed the deeper spiritual issues in a cursory way. The other problem was that the rituals could be performed without enhancing one's relationship with God, and thus the old sacrificial system proved ineffective at reconciling men to God.

Jesus became the perfect sacrifice in several respects. On the lowest level, the sacrifice of Himself as a man is more fitting for the ransom of human life than an animal could be. His sacrifice is universal, and its "ransoming" effect is available to all people at all times. It also guarantees reconciliation with God since it covers all sins and is only attainable by faith that Jesus accomplished all this. Thus, the Gospel, or "good news," is the testimony of God's work to reconcile people to Himself through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.

"At the proper time" has been thought to possibly mean a few different things, but the most common understanding is that God had Jesus come at a point in history where the Gospel would be most effective. The major events in history, Creation, the Flood, the First Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Exodus, the coming of the Christ, and the future Judgment and Resurrection, are all on God's timetable. He has placed everything in the order and times that will maximize the number of people who will believe in Him and be saved.

7 It is this Gospel that Paul was appointed by Christ to preach. There were those who did not believe he was an apostle, that is, one who was commissioned by Jesus Himself, but Paul insists that it is true. There were also those who believed that only Jews could accept Christ and be saved, but Paul indicates that he was specifically appointed to preach to the Gentiles so that they could come to know God. Paul carried out his ministry in truthfulness based on his faith in the Gospel.
8 In light of the Gospel, Paul has specific advice for Christians. Paul specifically wanted men to have a propensity to pray. The lifting of one's hands towards heaven was a common posture of supplication in both Jewish and pagan traditions. Clarke has noted that the original term alludes to the Jewish practice of laying hands on an animal's head before it is sacrificed (see Exo 29). Thus, it is not merely an outward motion, nor is the gesture necessary, but the inward thought is with the identification of oneself with Christ and understanding one's dependence on God. Probably more important to the context is the "condition" of one's hands. Again, this is an allusion to one's personal life, in that sin will degrade one's communication with God.

Paul gives two examples of attitudes that will hinder someone's prayer life. Both are strong negative emotions that tend to be more pronounced in men and are examples how a Christian's relationships with others reflects his relationship with God (see 1 John 4:20). The first is wrath, or anger against other people. Hot anger, grudges, and hatred are inappropriate attitudes to harbor when coming to God in prayer. Granted, prayers may begin with such emotions mixed in, but the process of prayer and spiritual growth will eventually foster the replacement of such negative feelings with love, understanding, and concern. The second is a disputing or arguing spirit. When we are in this mode, we dwell on what we might say to win particular arguments that happen to be occurring in our lives. When our main desire is to have victory in debates, we are more focused on our pride and imagined status than what God wants to do in our lives. Paul makes it clear that these feelings disrupt communication with God, and should dealt with quickly and appropriately.

9 While men can, stereotypically, have problems with aggression and dominance, Paul wants women to be careful not to let vanity to play a detrimental role in their lives. Cultures throughout history have generally trained women to have a heightened awareness of their appearance. For some it becomes an obsession, and women may "compete" to see who wears the latest and most expensive (and sometimes most daring) fashions, has the most beautiful hairstyle, and flaunts the most extravagant jewelry. Note that this verse does not prohibit ornamentation, but encourages it to be done in moderation so that she does not draw undo attention to herself because of what she is wearing. One of the adjectives used here stems from a word meaning "to be ashamed." This most likely refers to one's nakedness, indicating that "revealing" clothing is something that Christian women should avoid. Some have suggested that Paul may have been alluding to the attire of pagan temple prostitutes, which would have been seductive in intent. Another adjective used here means something like "soundness of mind" and "self-control." Perhaps this indicates that a woman is not to completely ignore her appearance, but rather that she dress appropriately at all times for whatever situation she is in. Certainly, a Christian does not want to offend anyone with her appearance, but neither does she want people to pay attention to her appearance at the expense of seeing her faith in action. When Paul was writing, complicated Greek hairdos were fashionable. Women apparently spent a great deal of time and effort fixing their hair with elaborate braiding with expensive decorations woven in. Paul uses this as an example of excessive attention to one's appearance.

It is commonly agreed that there can be no exact rules on "how much is too much" when it comes to personal ornamentation. It often depends on age, means, and position in society. However, it can be safely said that when external ornamentation hinders one's attention to Christian virtues, then it has become too much for the woman in question. A woman who takes excessive pride in her looks or bases her self-worth on her appearance would not be in compliance with this verse.

10 How a woman's appearance is judged by herself or the world is immaterial on the eternal timescale. The kind of ornamentation that enhances a woman in God's system involves her good works. If a woman claims to be godly, but spends most of her time and money on her own appearance, then people will have cause to doubt her sincerity. On the other hand, if a woman applies herself to helping those in need, being kind, and is faithful to God, then she will receive eternal blessing in heaven, and will likely attain true respect from people on earth.
11 Christian women are to learn the Gospel, and there is no prohibition of women learning it in any less detail and depth as men are allowed. These two verses, however, indicate that women are to be restricted in giving religious instruction to others. On the learning end, women were to receive instruction quietly. This does not mean they were not allowed to talk, but rather this word means stillness. 1 Cor 14:34-35 indicates that women were not allowed to speak or ask religious questions during public church gatherings, but they were allowed to ask their husbands questions at home, and there may have been other circumstances where they could receive private, interactive religious instruction. 1 Cor 11:5 indicates that women were allowed to participate in worship with at least audible prayer and prophesy. The word submissive most likely refers to recognizing the authority of the church leadership, but in any case, it would also apply to the authority of God's word.
12 While there are mixed views about how much women should participate in a church meeting, there is one clear directive - women are not to have authority over men. Verse 11 indicates that it is to be a voluntary act for women to allow and even encourage the men to lead. There may be those situations where there are no men qualified or willing to lead. One might take the story of Deborah as an example (Judg 4-5). In such a case, one or several women may need to lead, but one of their goals would likely be to train a male leadership to eventually take over the authority positions in the church.

This verse does not prevent women from leading other women or teaching children, which are both excellent opportunities for those gifted with teaching to pass along their understanding of the Gospel. Paul's visit to Philippi is an example of an instance where women gathered to worship even though there was no male leadership (Acts 16:12-13).

13 This is not to devalue women, nor question their ability to learn about the Gospel or have as close relationship with God as any man, but it coincides with the order that God established in Gen 2. Paul has two major points concerning this. The first point is that Adam was created before Eve. Thus, he was the "first-born" of the human race, and, as is common throughout Scripture, the first-born was expected to be "second in command" after his father. This position has had both special privileges and responsibilities in many cultures. Paul takes this chronological priority as an indicator that God intended Adam to lead. To further the case, Gen 2:18-23 states that Eve was created as a "helper suitable for him," and was formed from Adam's flesh and bone.
14 Now if sin had never entered the world, this established order would have run very smoothly. Since there was no pride, one would not have felt especially honored to be a leader, nor would the other feel subservient as a helper. There was no sense of scarcity of resources, no lack of love, nor any reason to feel threatened by anything or anyone. Unfortunately, sin did come into the world, and how it came about led to Paul's second supporting argument.

The serpent in the Garden of Eden persuaded Eve to question God, establish pride in her mind, and experience desire for the forbidden. It is clear that she was deceived into thinking there would be no negative consequences from her actions. She sinned and then led her husband into sin as well. If this was considered a test of her leadership abilities, then it is obvious that she led Adam and the human race down the wrong path. Adam apparently sinned knowing that the consequences would be grave, and is therefore not considered to have been deceived. Some have speculated that Satan knew that Eve would have been easier to deceive since she had received God's commands second hand.

For her role in disobeying His authority, God made the women's position much more subservient that it had originally been. God specifically gives men more control over women. From that time until Christ comes again, there would be constant power struggles between men and women. If God had not set a pattern for order, then anarchy would have likely been perpetual, preventing stable families and civilizations from forming. There were going to be further consequences from the Fall, and if people were not able to become organized, the human race would have become extinct. Thus, in general terms, God made men to be the leaders, protectors, and providers, while the women were to have supporting roles.

15 It was probably as true then as it is now, that some women would have objected to this teaching, and others dismayed because people still suffer the consequences of both Eve's and Adam's sins. Anticipating this, Paul reminds women that they have hope. Now the tricky part in this verse is that no one is certain what the first half is referring to. The term "child bearing" is better translated as "child rearing," since the original word is used for both the birthing and upbringing of children. But what is meant by being "saved" or "preserved" through child rearing? It is clear that having children is not a requirement for salvation since Paul in 1 Cor 7 encourages people to remain single and celibant. So, we are left to speculate about what this means and how it was meant to encourage women.

Since Paul had been speaking of Eve as an archetype of women, many have associated this phrase with Gen 3:16, which is the first promise concerning the Messiah. Since Jesus was born, it can be said that this prophecy was fulfilled, and the birthing of Jesus by a woman was an important event in the salvation of all people. However, since that event had already happened, and Paul here is using the future tense, it would seem that Paul is referring to something else.

Another suggestion has been that by raising a family, women are preserved from the evil influences of this world because they are too busy at home to be tempted by other things. However, as mentioned in 1 Cor 7, Paul encouraged singleness, even for women, so that they could focus on the Lord rather than their husbands and families. In addition, it is doubtful if preoccupations in themselves do anything to curb sinful appetites, since this is really a question of will than opportunity.

Some have proposed that this verse means that God will protect Christian women in childbirth. Even with modern technology, giving birth is still a painful experience, and if there are complications, the mother might die in the process. There may not be any formal statistics as to whether Christian women have less pain or risk of complications, but it is safe to say that even women of faith have died during childbirth.

It is possible that a woman can be "saved" from insignificance by having children, but on the other hand, the Bible makes it clear that true significance is based on faith in God, not how many children one has.

The woman might feel honored at being able to participate in God's creative process. That is undeniable, but how this sense of honor relates to salvation is unclear.

In any event, the other virtues listed are clearly related to salvation. Faith is required, for while God has given us ample evidence of His existence, He does not lend Himself to examination in a manner that would satisfy the materialist. Love is a reflection of the love God extends to us, and is appropriately expressed through kind actions. Sanctity is keeping one's focus on God and away from worldly things that lead to sin. Self-restraint is the same word that is translated as "propriety" or "discreetly" in 1 Tim 2:9, likely the idea of keeping one's pride and self-serving impulses under control.