Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 24, 1972
NUMBER 41, PAGE 6,9b

Woman's Work - The Limitation Of Attitude

John A. Welch

Third in A Series The second limitation of a woman's responsibility to teach is in I Tim. 2:9-12. "In like manner also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

Many try to claim that this passage teaches that a woman can never teach a man. This is not true, for women were granted the right to teach men by the Holy Spirit through prophesy, Priscilla taught Apollos, and many Christian women taught their husbands both by their words and without a word.

This passage teaches that women were to have a particular attitude when they taught men. This passage is generally discussing the woman's attitude, with emphasis on ideas such as humility, modesty, and subjection introduced. The woman had to incorporate these attitudes into her teaching of men. Men, though generally enjoined to humility, were not given this particular subjection to anyone. A man could teach anyone with authority. The woman, when teaching men, was limited by subjection.

There are three mistakes often made in applying this passage. First, is the fact that some would argue that this passage forbids a woman to teach. And their attitude seems to add "at all." They willingly ignore two things. Other passages indicate that women did often teach, even men. Too, they ignore the wording of this passage. Teaching and usurping authority are joined together as forbidden. The Bible gives many examples of women as teachers. Thus, it is amply evident that women could teach without being over the man.

There is a parallel to this passage. "And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus." (Acts 4:18). Certainly they were not forbidden to speak or teach. They could not do it in the name of Jesus. Just so the woman was not forbidden to teach men, but she couldn't dominate the man.

There are several instances where this principal of subjection is emphasized. We found that Priscilla taught Apollos, but she did it with her husband. She did not brazenly take him aside by herself. "Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear." (I Pet. 3:1-2). The wife is encouraged to win her husband by her example if she can't win him with her words. How many husbands have been lost by a nagging wife, who failed to subject herself to her husband even though he did not believe?

Many would limit this passage beyond God's limitation. Some would state that this passages is limited as was I Cor. 14 to "church worship." A woman cannot usurp authority over the man outside of the worship of the church when she teaches the gospel. Must she be modest only when at services? Must she be humble only when in the building? Certainly not. The limitation of subjection is placed upon the woman in all situations where she would teach the gospel to men.

Others seem to have the attitude that this passage applies only to religious teaching. Where is this limitation? Where do the Scriptures say that women are to be in subjection to men when they discuss the Bible, but they can usurp authority over them in their home and on their job? The woman's attitude of subjection was to apply in all the situations of life, and not just in the isolated areas to which some would try to limit it.

Finally, women are told that they will receive blessing in return for their limitation. "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." (I Tim. 2:15). While the woman may not have authority or teach "over the man," she is told that "she shall be saved in child-bearing." This is not the remission of sins but God has given her an additional responsibility in return for the limitation that He has placed upon her. The salvation spoken of here may be compared to that which was to be worked out by the Philippian saints. (Philp. 2:12).

Women can and should be effective and zealous teachers of the gospel, especially as they recognize the limitations that God has placed upon them. We should praise their true worth, and learn from them. We should respect what the Word says about their role in teaching, and not try to twist it and them into absolute silence.

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