Paul’s “Women Problem” and #Churchtoo (Part 3)

We are continuing to look at 1 Timothy 2:15

“15 But women will be saved through childbearing,[c] assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.”

We have seen that we need to think about the text in its wider context and first of all, we have done this by looking at Paul’s theology. Now we can look at the verse in the context of the Bible passage it is part of.

What is happening here?

  1. Our attitude to living in this world (2:1-7)

Paul tells Timothy that our priority should be to pray for everyone including those in authority. The World around may seem hostile but people are not our enemies. God’s desire is to see them saved and so we pray:

–          So that those who rule will do so justly and wisely in order that our lives may be peaceful

–          So that they may come to know the glorious gospel of Christ.


  1. How are we to go about this? (2:8-15)

Paul now talks about men and women. Men are to pray with holy hands lifted up. Lifting your hands was an outward sign of prayer but for Paul, the important thing is not the apparent holiness of an adopted position but the character of our hearts. Holiness means that we do not ape the world in quarrelling and fighting. Life together in God’s household should be characterised by peace and unity (2:8).

Women are to reflect a godly character by modesty.  Their concern shouldn’t be outward appearance of beauty but inner beauty (cf 1 Peter 3). My assumption here is that implicitly they are to be praying too (2:9-10)

Then Paul steps into what is now deeply controversial territory. This is the build up to our problem verse.

“11 Women should learn quietly and submissively. 12 I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. 13 For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result.”

What is going on here?

First of all, this is continuing to describe a character that is gentle and humble radiating Christ0-likeness.

Secondly, I think it is helpful to put this in the context of what we have seen about Paul’s theology. Women are clearly equal with men by nature (Genesis 1) and by salvation (Galatians 3:28). In 1 Corinthians, Paul is clear that our freedom in Christ is not to be used to push our own agenda but to serve Christ and each other.  Then, there is the context of chapter 3, elders are the ones who have teaching authority, how are they to respond to this? Paul’s answer is not by seeking to assert their own authority, not be quarrelling with their teacher-elders but by seeking to learn and to know Christ more.

Thirdly, Paul ties this into Genesis 3. This is important because it signals that this is not merely advice to a specific cultural context but rooted in God’s long term salvation plan.

Paul says that Eve was deceived and Adam wasn’t. At first sight, this seems to suggest that Eve was naïve and silly, Paul is putting her down whilst defending Adam.  We also tend to think of Eve running off on her own in the garden before Adam turns up later with the deed already done.

But note two things here:

First of all, if Adam is not the deceived one, then he enters into sin wilfully. The implication is that he is the one who had first received the specific command from God.  Adam cannot be deceived as to the exact nature of God’s command. Nor, from his experience of naming the animals and receiving Eve as a precious gift can he give any excuse for doubting God’s goodness.

Secondly, Adam was not absent. Genesis 3 tells us that he was with Eve when sin came. So, whilst the serpent was talking with Eve, Adam failed to step in to either protect her or to defend God’s honour.  Adam does what so many of us men have done down through history, he remains physically present whilst being emotionally, mentally and spiritually absent. He abdicates responsibility.

It has long been my view that husbands are called to be the head in the family not because we are particularly good at it or worthy of it but as a reminder of our failing and a prompt to be active and not abdicate responsibility.

So, the context of 1 Timothy 3:15 is

  1. A Fallen world with uncertainty and opposition
  2. A glorious Gospel
  3. A call to believers to take their role seriously as followers of Christ.