Continued from Nov-Dec 2014 Issue

Paul’s first letter to Timothy, who was serving as pastor of the church at Ephesus, was written to instruct him regarding conduct in the local church (1 Tim. 3:14-15). In the second chapter, Paul addressed the place of women in the local church, including both their adornment at church and their role in church ministry. When women gather to worship, they are not to adorn themselves merely outwardly, but with propriety (modesty) and moderation (self-control), as proper for women professing godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Peter, in a similar passage, teaches that women are to adorn themselves with “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,” something which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4).

Both of these passages stress that women are to be “quiet” or “in silence” in church. As we saw in previous articles, this does not mean they are never to speak, but that they are not to cause a disturbance in church. Specifically, women are not to intrude into the roles God has given to men. This is what Paul means when he says women are to “learn in silence with all submission” (1 Tim. 2:11). They are to recognize and submit to God’s will that men are to fill the leadership roles in the local church. Thus, Paul goes on to say, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:12). Women are not to try to take over positions of teaching or authority which God has given to men. Women can certainly teach children or other women, but they are not to seek the position of pastor-teacher (also called “bishop” or “elder”); God’s requirements limit this church office to men (1 Tim. 3:1-7).

Why did God determine these different roles for men and women in the local church? Paul gives the following answer:

“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Tim. 2:13-15)

Paul’s use of the word “for” indicates he is giving a reason why God has given different roles to men and women. Paul specifies two reasons, each associated with a key event from Genesis, the book of beginnings.

The Creation

The first reason men and women have different roles goes back to the creation itself. The very order of creation indicates that men are to have the roles of leadership, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” God, in His sovereignty, created the man first. However, God recognized that man could not function by himself, saying, “It is not good that man should be alone,” and so God chose to make Adam “a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18).

The word “helper” does not imply an inferior being or even a servant, but one who supplies what is lacking, one who completes. God even uses the term for Himself in being a “help” and shield for His people, Israel (Psa. 115:9-11). This helper was to be “comparable” to Adam, meaning one who was fit for him, a counterpart to the man. Men and women were created by God with specific differences, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (not flaws); together, they complement or complete each other.

Both men and women are an important part of God’s purpose in creation, yet the order is significant, “for man is not from woman, but woman from man” (1 Cor. 11:8). God took a rib from Adam and from it made the woman and brought her to the man. This shows that man was not “created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:9). Because of God’s order and purpose in creation, He has given different roles, responsibilities, and authority to men and women, both at home and in the church.

For many years the Women’s Liberation movement has pursued equality for women, but many make the mistake of defining equality as sameness. Men and women certainly should be given equal opportunities in the workplace and equal pay for equal work, but men and women are not the same. God created them with differences because He has different purposes for them, and has given them different roles in their life and service for Him.

The Fall

A second reason men and women have different roles has to do with the fall—the entrance of sin into the world.

“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Tim. 2:14)

In Satan’s scheme to tempt Adam and Eve to sin, he approached the woman when she was alone. Why Eve and not Adam? Possibly, from his observation of the first man and woman, Satan recognized a particular vulnerability in Eve that he hoped to exploit; and he successfully deceived her by his craftiness (2 Cor. 11:3). The word “deceived” means that he thoroughly or completely deceived her through his subtle lies and half-truths. Eve’s problem was that she did not know what God had said, thus we see her adding to, taking from, and changing God’s words (Gen. 3:1-6). Not knowing the truth, she was susceptible to Satan’s lies and “fell into transgression,” meaning she became a transgressor and remained in that sad state from that day forward.

The woman was created by God “for the man,” however, in this instance, she acted independently. She conversed with the serpent on her own, was thoroughly deceived by him, and then, after disobeying God’s word herself, she led the man into sin as well. Because of her failure to recognize God’s purpose for her in the marriage relationship, God pronounced judgment upon Eve (and upon women in general), saying, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).

The woman’s desire, the things she longed for, were to be “for her husband,” meaning her desire was to be in submission to him, and he was to rule or have dominion over her. This does not imply that she was to be his slave or servant, but that he was given the role of spiritual leadership in their family. We see this same truth in Paul’s instructions to the Ephesian saints: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church …” (Eph. 5:22-23).

God certainly held Adam responsible for the entrance of sin into the world. Paul wrote in Romans 5:12 that “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Nevertheless, unlike Eve, Adam was not deceived by the subtilty of Satan. Paul refers to this fact as one of the reasons that men, not women, are given the responsibility of leadership in the local church.

The primary work of church leaders, particularly pastors, is the teaching of God’s word (1 Tim. 3:2). In Paul’s letter to Titus, one of the requirements of a bishop (or pastor) is that he “holds fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict (lit. speak against)” the truth of God’s Word (Tit. 1:9). Because of Eve’s inability to stand against the false ideas of the devil, God entrusted spiritual leadership, in the home and in the church, to men and not women.

A Woman’s “Salvation”

The next verse, 1 Timothy 2:15, opens with the word “nevertheless,” indicating that even though women are not to have roles as spiritual leaders in their families or in their churches, God still has a wonderful purpose for their lives. However, the exact nature of this purpose, as indicated in this verse, is difficult to determine and several different explanations have been given. Paul writes:

“Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:15)

One of the difficulties with this verse is the change from the 3rd person singular “she” in the opening clause to the 3rd person plural “they” in the final clause. Does “she” refer to Eve in particular or to “woman” (singular) as representing all women to come? Does “they” refer to all women or to a woman’s children?

And what about the meaning of the word “saved”? Certainly this is not a promise of physical safety in bearing children, for many women have died giving birth. Does it refer to salvation from sin? If so, does this mean a woman is saved just by having children? Or is a woman’s salvation conditioned on her children “continuing in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control”? These two explanations are not at all consistent with Paul’s clear teaching that salvation is “not of works” but is “the gift of God,” a gift that can only be received “through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Some assert that the key to this verse is the fact that the noun “childbearing” is preceded by the definite article, making it “the childbearing” or “the bearing of a child.” Many believe this implies the birth of a particular child, the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom salvation would be provided for all people (Matt. 1:21, 1 Tim. 4:10). This Child was promised to be “the Seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15) and was “born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), the virgin Mary, thus demonstrating the important role of women in God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Greek word translated “saved” actually has several shades of meaning. It is most often used to describe spiritual salvation from the penalty of sin, but it can also refer to salvation, deliverance, or preservation from physical dangers or from enemies. It sometimes refers to being delivered from or healed of physical illness or infirmity, thus is is translated “made well” (NKJV) or “made whole” (KJV) in such passages as Mark 5:34, Mark 6:56, and Mark 10:52. “She will be saved,” therefore, could have reference to how a woman is made whole or complete.

After the fall, God, in pronouncing His judgments upon Adam and Eve, seemed to set forth the different roles He intended for men and women. To the man God said, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. … In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground …” (Gen. 3:17-19). Man’s punishment made it more difficult for him in regard to his work or labor.

To the woman God said, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). Her punishment meant sorrow and pain for her in bearing children, and it set her under the authority of her husband.

These verses indicate the primary roles and responsibilities for men and women in marriage and life. A man’s role is in the area of work: providing for and supporting his family (1 Tim. 5:8); and in church providing spiritual leadership and sound teaching of the Word (Tit. 2:6-8).

A woman’s role is primarily in the area of her home and family: bearing, raising and loving her children; loving, supporting, and submitting to her husband; being a homemaker (literally, a keeper or guardian of the home) (Tit. 2:4-5). This does not preclude a woman from having a job or a career outside the home, but it does imply that her primary responsibility is at home, caring for and guarding her family—this is where she finds her wholeness, this is where she finds fulfillment.

This is especially true if the following condition is met: “if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” This may refer to the women themselves meeting this condition. If a woman’s life is not characterized by the qualities of faith, love, holiness, and self-control, she will find little fulfillment. Or, this may refer to her children meeting this condition. It is especially satisfying to a mother to see her children remain faithful to the Lord, walking in love, holiness, and self-control throughout their lives.


It is important to recognize and obey God’s purposes for men and women, in the home and in the local church. We must follow God’s instructions in these areas, “that the Word of God may not be blasphemed (lit. spoken against)” (Tit. 2:5) and “that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Tit. 2:8).

Men and women are both important to God; they both have vital roles in raising their families and in worshipping and serving the Lord. Women even have an important role in teaching the Word of God, but only in accordance with God’s will. Women are to teach their own children at home and can teach both women and children in church, but they are not permitted “to teach or to have authority over a man” in the local church (1 Tim. 2:12).

Women have been used of God throughout history. We see wonderful examples of faithful women throughout the Scriptures who have served the Lord, and through the years countless numbers of women have been a vital part of the ministry in local churches, but only as they have submitted to the Lord and to His role and purpose for their lives.

As a final note to Christian men, we need to recognize the great responsibility God has given us as spiritual leaders in our homes and in the local church, and we need to step up and fulfill these responsibilities. If we are faithful in our roles in these areas, then the women in our lives can focus on fulfilling the vital ministries God has entrusted to them.