So yesterday I talked a little bit how Paul was opinionated and in today’s readings we see Paul providing some instructions for worship and for the church that on the surface seem rather chauvinistic and outdated. Paul admonishes that women ought to be modestly dressed, to be quiet and not to teach or assume authority over a man. This scripture certainly causes the blood of feminists to boil and frankly I have never heard churches speak about this. Preachers are like “Paul we agree with many things you say but as for this one- we ain’t even going there”. Frankly, I too wanted to gloss over this scripture and all but one thing kept coming to mind all day and convicting me. I kept hearing the word of God saying “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (1 Timothy 3: 16-17 NIV)- so read with an open mind”. So I meditated on this scripture a bit more and here’s what I have learned.
Paul was addressing his disciple Timothy and passing on God-inspired instructions that he operated by as he preached to Gentile pagan nations who did not know God (1 Tim 2: 7). These people who had come to know God under Paul’s teachings were coming from a cultural context very removed from what the Jews would have known and it was Paul’s ministry to help them make sense of how to become Christ-followers and truly let go of “worldliness” in pursuit of holiness. One may argue that the worldview in Paul’s day was a lot more primitive than they are today but that does not negate the word of God which is forever settled in heaven. Paul’s instructions to women remain relevant to the “more advanced-more-refined-feminist male or female” today as it did in those days. Here is the scripture in its entirety but I encourage you to read the passage from chapter 1:
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.1 Timothy 2: 9-15 NIV
Paul encourages the proselyte women of his time to eschew disorderliness and vainglory but instead to pursue lasting virtues of faith, love and holiness. Paul encouraged women to work on having an identity that was not superficial but rather, deeply rooted in action- good deeds. This was the appropriate way for newly converted pagan women to present themselves in worship and it still rings true for children of God today. This is why after much thought, I titled today’s post ” intentional worship”. Women and men alike must be intentional in giving God worship that pours out from the inside out. Our actions must come from a place of love, faith and holiness that it adorns us before God and all that are beholden to us. Jesus said it best when He taught:
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.Matthew 5:16 NLT
This is God’s expectation of his children, women and men alike and whether Paul said it in a way that rubs many of 21st century Christians the wrong way or not, the truth of God’s word remains the same. Holiness should be our watch word and song.