Summary: Two ways men and women are different in the church, and one way they are equal.
[Note: This sermon was introduced by a drama called "God’s Plan?"].
Men and women really are different. So different one author says that it’s almost like men are from Mars and women are from Venus. The feminist movement in America has accomplished a lot of things--many of them good things--but they’ve failed to convince us that men and women are pretty much the same. We process things differently, we have different needs in our relationships, we see life differently.
But different doesn’t mean better. Feminists have a valid point when they complain that most of human history has been about men dominating women. Throughout most of history women have been oppressed and restricted. Many Americans were shocked to learn that a woman can be executed in Afghanistan for no more than learning how to read.
Unfortunately, the Christian Church has also been guilty of treating women unfairly. The second century theologian Tertullian called women "the Devil’s gateway" (cited in Bristow 28). The Christian theologian Augustine called marriage a covenant of death.
In many ways the Christian community simply reflected the prevailing attitude of the entire ancient world. All of Greco-Roman society looked at women as inferior to men. The philosopher Socrates argued that being born a woman was a punishment because a woman is halfway between a man and an animal (Bristow 4). Women weren’t allowed to vote in ancient Greece, they had little choice over who they married, and in Roman society they aren’t allowed to be seen outside the home. Women in Jewish society didn’t fare much better. The Jewish rabbis prayed, "Thank you God for not making a woman." Jewish women were forbidden from learning the Jewish Bible. In fact, one rabbi said, "It would be better to see the…scriptures burnt than to hear its words upon the lips of women" (cited in Bristow 20). The sad reality is that much of human history has been about men oppressing women. That attitude prevailed until Jesus Christ came to our world. Jesus both taught and demonstrated an entirely new attitude toward women, an attitude that was radical and revolutionary. Jesus taught that men and women were equal but different.
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Timothy called Deepening Your Life With God. In this series we’ve been looking at the apostle Paul’s final letters before his death. He wrote these letters to his young protégé Timothy who was staying at the Christian church in Ephesus. We’ve seen so far that to have a deep life with God we need accurate beliefs, spiritual practices and authentic Christian community. Today we’re going to talk about the Christian community, and we’re going to see how men and women are different in the context of the Christian community.
1. Different Temptations (1 Timothy 2:8-10)
We start by asking how men and women are different. Now I’m asking this question beyond the obvious, that men and women are different biologically. How are we different in the context of the Christian community? As we worship together, how are men and women different?
We’re going to see that men and women face different temptations in the Christian community.
Now just as a reminder, this entire chapter of 1 Timothy is about conducting prayer in the church’s worship services. Pastor Bruce Erickson did a great job last week of teaching about public prayer in 1 Tim 1:1-7 and then actually modeling it by having several people from our church-both men and women-lead us in prayer. This concern that we pray in our worship runs throughout this entire chapter, and we dare not forget it if we want to truly understand what Paul is saying here.
Paul starts by talking to the men in the church in v. 8. Lifting up your hands in prayer was the normal prayer posture among both Christians and Jews in the first century. This is one of several references to the lifting of our hands in worship. But here Paul seems less concerned with our posture and more concerned with our hearts. Apparently many of the men in the congregation were bickering and fighting among each other, and then putting on happy face at church and praying as if nothing were wrong. This was pure hypocrisy, because inwardly they were filled with anger at each other, but outwardly they were pretending that nothing was wrong. This was a clear violation of Jesus’ teaching in his Sermon on the Mount, that we should leave our offering at the altar and be reconciled with our Christian brother or sister before presenting an offering to God (Matt 5:23-24). Our uplifted hands aren’t holy in worship if our hearts are filled with seething anger and unresolved resentment.
But then Paul addresses the women in vv. 9 and 10. In the original Greek Paul wrote, v. 9 begins with the phrase, "Likewise also." This is important because the "likewise also" refers back to Paul’s statement in v. 8, "I want men to pray." By saying, "Likewise also," Paul is saying that he also wants the women to pray in worship, just as he wants the men to pray (Knight 131-32.