1 Timothy 2: 1-15

by admin on January 17, 2017

Pastoral Letters-2

15 January 2017

Depending on you persuasion about church leadership there are some juicy words, admonitions and direct instruction in these few verses.  And while it’s easy to quote certain Biblical nuggets to support certain pet views and even doctrines, there’s a while lot more going on here than just that guys should run the show.  If that’s even an issue. 

Two concerns are addressed in this chapter—an appeal for and theological support of prayer, particularly prayers of supplication—prayers that ask something.  And secondly, here are some guidelines about what the author thinks are appropriate behaviors in the worshipping assembly.   Of course we do not know what that assembly looked like, and it’s helpful for us not to transfer our ideas about church, including structure and liturgy/worship onto what might have been going on in first century Turkey.

WHAT?

V1 –  Jews and Christians often prayed on behalf of public authorities.  (Jer 36:7; Bar 1:10-13; Rom 13:1)  Several reasons behind this:  lessen threat of public harassment; be seen as part of the overall culture.  Secondly, precautionary measure, asking Yahweh to bless enemy.  Thirdly, Civil authorities guarantee relative peace and harmony.  Statecraft as important then as now—NB: Pax Romani. 

 Finally, acceptance of Gods larger plan, i.e. “The Assyrians?  They work for me now.”   The universal reign of Yahweh means He can use anyone he wants to achieve his ends.  What’s to say that all of these ideas are at play in these verses?  By saying that, I’m also saying that NT is a complicated document that asks us to suspend judgment about the single, one and only way to understand its words.  Context is vitally important, back then, here and now.

Of these various proposals, I favor the last one—the universal reign of God.  Thy prayers are to be made on behalf of all people—kings and authorities just part of the list.  This is in line with the Pastoral Letters larger theme of God’s universal rule to save humanity.   Salvation means to live the life God intended, peaceably and in humility

V2 –  Quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.  This is an ideal description of life that is not being lived out by the opponents in the churches here.  Recall last week’s discussion about a group of unspecified false teachers. They weren’t practicing the very things they preach and can’t be living a godly life.   I think this model life ideal is in line with the Jewish concept of Shalom.   Today we might call it Emotional Intelligence.   The Best Possible Life.

 

Vv3-6  – Sounds a lot like a liturgical song, which means that it’s not an original thought with the author, but a theological statement—creedal statement—already in common usage among some group of Christian assemblies. 

  • God and Savior—speaks of God’s primary role: This is the primary experience of Israel:  Yahweh saves us first—Exodus. 
  • If God saves, then it follows he wants to save creation. This is the Truth.  A big deal in the ancient words—the quest for Truth. 
  • One God, One Mediator. The picture here is that of a person who brokers some kind of mutually satisfying agreement between two parties.  Certainly this is part of the thinking of most of the world’s religions.  There is a separation between humanity and divinity and there is some system of bringing the two together.  Here in the Pastorals that mediator is Christ Jesus.   This is a developed line in Christian theology.
  • Ransom for all. f Mark 10:45.  Also Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7.  Christology is reflection on the event of Jesus death on the cross with the implications of salvation.   Ransom in Bible connected with sacrifice on behalf of others who are caught up in the cycle of sin – separation from God.  The effect of sin is that that godly and peaceable life is forfeited.  Something is needed to return to the bliss of Eden.   Ransom was common idea in the slave business—buying freedom.

V7  For this I was called and appointed. The substance of my personal mission is to call attention to this Truth. 

Vv8-10 –  Appropriate mode of prayer for men and worship decorum for women.  The lifted hands was a typical gesture of reverence in antiquity.  C.f. Jesus parable of Pharisee and tax collector in Temple; Ps 141:2.   Hands up – surrender.  Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling. 

OK, no fashion mavens in church.  The braided hair was fashion in Roman Vogue circles.  Plain Jane – no distractions for guys’ wandering eyes.   Church is not a pick up place.

Good deeds should be the only lovely adornment.  They say that beauty is only skin deep.  Here Paul affirms that by saying that a woman’s integrity is her Jesus life.

Vv11-12 –  It’s argued that here is a prime example of the influence of the larger Roman culture.  Many household codes of domestic behavior abounded in the ancient world.  Society’s structure and wellbeing depend of certain mores being observed.  One way for the Christian movement not to rock the boat was the acceptance of and adherence to certain societal codes of conduct.  Could this be one? 

Be good and sit in the back and don’t say anything.  Certainly sounds like the same issue in 1 Cor 14:34-35.  Was there disruption in the assembly?   Cultural mores have a way of being baptized into common usage by religious movement.  Case in point.  Last week in Russia a conservative female senator in their Duma introduced a bill that would legalize domestic violence.  Citing an old Russian aphorism:  If he beats you it how that he loves you.   The Roman Orthodox church favors his legislation.  Grumpy old men. 

Vv13-15 –  The author’s teaching on a woman’s place is supported by his exegesis of Genesis 2/3.  It’s all Eve’s fault that we are in this mess. 

SO WHAT?

  1. Societal Accommodation. How far can you go and still maintain the original edge your movement has?  Remember by the time the Pastoral Letters were written the first generation of Jesus movement followers have disappeared.  So here we see second and third generations moving to try to keep the original trenching—apostolic tradition—alive but also relevant. 

In ancient G-R world Gnosticism was a highly prevalent religious way to think.  What you know is the secret.  Along with this was a certain world view that espoused that the material life was bad and the spiritual was all that really mattered.  Sex and procreation was an evil thing. The result of that thinking was a diminishment of marriage and family.   Ok maybe having sex was Ok, but who wants the business of a wife and kids?  

Here in 1 Timothy is a differing opinion.  Perhaps it could have been said more positively, but a trajectory is the importance of family.  This will get more attention later in Tim. 

But also at play here is the concern that Christians fit in with prevailing attitudes in the Empire.  Here in Tim the Christian movement appears to be supportive of the overall society and therefore deemed to be safe.  The use of traditional household station codes indicates an increased conformity to the G-R values.

In sociology of religion there is a spectrum moving from world affirming—accommodation—rejection.  When dealing with societal factors a group is forced to clarify its values and world perspective.   Just take ride through Holmes County someday.  Watch out for horse and buggy.   Go off the main road, too and see the spreads. 

How does this align with Jesus words: be not of the world?  How about the Gospel narrative where Jesus seems to be at odds with prevailing attitudes both religious and civil?  Does the church’s accommodation to culture dull it prophetic voice? 

One of the best church fights ever is when the Young Turk preacher decides to remove the American flag from the sanctuary.  Is there resolution to accommodation or a constant discussion about it? 

  1. Use of liturgical sources and Biblical exegesis. I take the developmental view of Christian theology, that it is a long term reflection on the stories of the Jesus life and teachings.  All doctrine is attempts to make sense of certain events.  Story conveys truth better than proposition.  The Pastoral Letters are attempts to make sense for a certain group of churches the Jesus experience in light of the cultural context. 

Part of making sense of the Jesus experience is song and liturgy.  Repetitive words sink into the heart and mind.  The idea behind this is to give voice to the experiencing of Jesus as savior, mediator, and ransom.  These are all words in today’s reading.  None of them contain the whole truth about Jesus.  Jesus is Lord is also another one we encountered last week. 

Liturgy, then, gives words to use in the larger context of everyday life.  It’s work to forgive.  It’s work to give your body as a living sacrifice, not giving in to compulsions.  It’s work to focus on the good, the true and the beautiful.  It’s work to just surrender to the grace of God.

Exegesis is the discipline of immersing yourself into Scripture to discover what it says and does to you.  Can you do that without presuppositions?  That is, already have an inkling as to how you want this to come out?  Nope.   What’s important here is to recognize that.  Honest Bible study begins with that.   Once we admit that, we can recognize our desire to cherry pick favorite verses.  

That is what Paul is doing here to support his teaching about women.  You gals caused all this mess, so let’s leave it up to the guys to fix it.    How’s that working?   When we get to hard and fast definitive statements it can cause a whole lot of trouble.  One of those is that diminishment of conversation and arguing.

I believe that Jesus as a good Jewish man and Bible scholar would have found himself in the neighborhood minion at the Schule arguing about the text.  Recall the incident in the Nazareth synagogue when the congregation rose up to kill him.   We learn best and discover more through interaction.  This is why conflict can be good.   It probably takes a good Jew to understand this best. 

Biblical exegesis is not about discovering the meaning for all time, but about allowing the text to work on you.  The Bible is less a resource to underpin your convictions and more the voice of God to overturn your conclusions.

  1. Values Clarification. The important message of this reading is not the accommodation of society’s behavior codes but the value of Jesus as ransom.  I believe that the enduring message and the core of why Christianity was attractive was the alternative way it considered life.  There is another way to conceive your life beyond what you think it should be.  There is a vision of something beyond ourselves in the invitation to follow Jesus. 

The ransom talk is about the universal rule of God.  If God is God he can pull it off any way he sees fit, which of course, is not that way I would conduct myself if I were him.  If Jesus saves me, how does my life reflect that?  The problem is that Christianity is largely focused on saving people without any further attention. 

The Gospel stories give us the substance of faith.  Acts and the Letters give us how the implications of that story were lived out.  It’s a pretty good road map.  We hear time and again—stick to the essentials.  Craft your soul around that, all else is icing.  So, what is your main value as a Jesus follower?

Next week:  1 Timothy 4.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: