“11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.”
1 Timothy 2:11-15
What are the parameters being spoken of here?
Are woman to be perfectly silent in church? Should they be overlooked and under heard as some extreme views may teach because men are better? Another group says, “This is patriarchal inequality, and it is wrong. Women are equal, if not more equal. We will not tolerate this.”
Both views are dreadfully wrong and clearly inaccurate in what is being instructed here in this letter regarding conduct in Christ’s Body, the local church.
The word silence here is perhaps misleading and it creates a tone that is off base and can be abused unless it is understood, especially in light of the beautiful, though different, roles given to men and women in their equality as created in the image of God.
Silence is the same word used in chapter 2 where Paul exhorts us to pray for all governing leaders so that “we may lead a quiet (hesuchia) and peaceable life.” (2) Here, hesuchia refers to the “quiet” life which all godly people should lead.
This is the tone and the extent of the word.
Number one, it does not refer to absolute silence and total muteness. A “quiet” and peaceable life is not a life of total silence. It’s actually a life that is untroubled and tranquil.
Number two, woman learning in this serene spirit in the local church must be connected with verse 12 that directly pertains to the particular role given to elder servant- leadership who are the guardians of the Scriptures, and the feeders of the Scriptures who are distinctly called to be men alone in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-5).
The “quietness” here is the kind of supportive serenity of women who respect and honor the leadership of the men that God has appointed to oversee the church. Clearly, the parameters are not whether a woman says anything at all, but whether she in her own beautifully designed role is supportive of the men God has called to be pastors and teachers of the Word of God. Quietness means not speaking in a way that compromises that authority nor their own design, which is a large aspect of who we are together as men and women in the local church where we are together in our marriages exemplifying the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:22-33). The function of the principle in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is powerfully designed for effectiveness as we serve together with the mutual respect and submission to each other’s gender roles in the church.
Furthermore, it needs to be said for sake of clarity, seeing how isolated this verse can get from the whole counsel of God, that Paul is not saying that women should not teach or say anything at church and should be muted by the men. In actuality, women are strong teachers (among many other things) in the New Testament, and there are dimensions of their teaching role that could never be fulfilled by a man.
In Titus 2:3 Paul writes that the older women are to “teach the younger women what is good, and so train the younger women to love their husbands and children.” This may be an oversight, and in our time some may twist this to mean that women have to be homemakers, but of course this limits the text. A good thoughtful reading of Proverbs 31 will clearly show that a virtuous woman can successfully work outside of the home and yet still be a “fruitful vine at the heart of the home.” (Psalm 128:3a)
Another powerful example is 2 Timothy 3:14, where Paul tells Timothy to remember from whom he learned the Scriptures. Timothy learned the faith and the Scriptures from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). This is an amazing factor too often overlooked.
Also, there is the significant example of Priscilla. In Acts 18:26 Apollos was teaching an incomplete message and so, “when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him unto them, and they expounded unto him the way of God more accurately.” What a beautiful reality.
Women are to speak and interact and be effective in their God-given gender and role.
Women are teachers in the local assembly within their unique gifted-ness and design; it is just that the design of God for the specified role of pastoral leadership, which involves the oversight of the assembly through preaching, teaching, and other functional and guardian tasks of the shepherd, is distinctly given to men in the Scriptures. And at the bottom line, these men need the loving and lifting support of the women to do what they have been called to do, just as Paul exhorts in this passage.
Paul points out the order of design in verse 13 to begin tying up the instruction. It is clear that there is a beautiful purpose to the design. In verse 14, the Apostle is not intending to reduce women to a more guilty position, or a lesser role due to the events of the primal narrative of Genesis. Some abuse this verse as a demeaning, “See, you got us into this mess.” This is so wrong and even ungodly banter. He is simply pointing out the consequences that can occur when there is role reversal or when the sexes operate apart from each other, which appears in the Genesis story. We need each other.
Finally, verse 15, an underestimated verse because it is too often declared as difficult to interpret. However, verse 15 ties it all together. Men would do well to be honest with it and understand it. “Nevertheless, she shall be preserved (her significance will be kept safe) in childbearing, child rearing…” Women are awesome. Their significance reaches a zenith that men could never attain to and this is found in the sight of God in her maternal design. Men may preach and pastor, and lead the home, but woman who are mothers who “continue in faith and sacrificial love, and holiness and modesty” are highly significant and unique in the grand enterprise of their role in the sexes.