I Timothy 2:8-15; 3:14-16
This past week the queen was visiting Canada to celebrate the centennial of Alberta and Saskatchewan. On one news item reporting her visit, there was a picture of her walking between rows of people and on the path on which she was walking there was a young child playing on the ground. The news reported that she gave attention to the child but I was wondering about the appropriateness of such a thing. Why didn’t the parents stop the child? It seems to me that there is a certain decorum which is appropriate when the queen is present.
When we were on our anniversary cruise last summer, the appropriate attire for dinner was formal wear. Jeans were not allowed in the dining room. I thought one older couple really pushed the limits on that one. He wore a pink tuxedo and she wore a pink dress that did not match. Was that appropriate attire for the occasion?
We live in a pretty casual society and appropriate behaviour is something we don’t think about all that often, but what about in God’s house? What about as God’s people? Is there behaviour which is appropriate for us as God’s children? Is it necessary to think about such things?
In I Timothy 3:15, Paul talks about instructions so that they would know “how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household.” In His Word, God reveals that He is concerned about appropriate behaviour. Why is this important and what kind of behaviour is appropriate for us as members of God’s household?
Whether by personal visit or by letter, Paul’s concern was that they would know “how to conduct themselves in the household of God.” Proper behaviour can be known and, in fact, ought to be known and practiced. But why is it so important?
Have you seen the Pepsi commercials in which a Coke delivery man steals Pepsi from the Pepsi driver? The implication is that although he drives for Coke, he prefers Pepsi. The commercial winks at the inappropriateness of a person who works for Coke and is assumed to have an allegiance to his company, preferring Pepsi.
Why is holy conduct appropriate? Because we are the church of the living God, as it says in vs. 15. As people who belong to the church and thus belong to Christ, we are not merely an organization. We are not merely a collection of individuals with similar interests - a club if you will. We are a people who belong to the living God.
As Christians, we are identified with God and everything we do, everything we are is connected to Him and reflects on Him. We represent God on earth and so our behaviour must be appropriate to that belonging. One writer says, “The gist of Paul’s message is that order, in the widest sense of the term, is necessary in the Christian congregation precisely because it is God’s household, his chosen instrument for proclaiming to men the saving truth of the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The whole world sees who we belong to and so we need to conduct ourselves according to that belonging.
We also read that He is the “living God” which means that He sees everything we do. We can’t go sneaking around behind the scenes thinking no one is looking. God, to whom we belong, is always watching and so we need to conduct ourselves in the right way.
When we built the addition to this church, the contractors put pillars underground which support the foundation, which, in turn, holds up the rest of the building. There are also pillars on the outside drive through which hold up the roof. Both pillars and foundations are used to hold something up. Paul says that the church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” What is it that the church holds up? We as the body of Christ hold up the truth of God. Do we realize that we have such an incredible responsibility? God has redeemed the church, He is building the church and in the end, Ephesians 5:27 says, the church will be presented to God as a pure and holy church. The truth of God stands or falls by the way the church is and that is what makes it so critical that we live in holiness and truth.
Are we supporting that holiness and truth or undermining it by our conduct?
Paul uses the word “truth” in verse 15 and then goes on to describe that truth, in verse 16, calling it “the mystery of godliness.” This deepens the importance of conduct that is becoming of a follower of Christ for it reveals the amazing thing that Christ has done in the world to bring God’s truth to the world and establish the household of God.
In the remainder of verse 16, Paul quotes what was likely a hymn. There are six phrases which all point to different aspects of Christ’s work. The first line “He appeared in a body” speaks of his coming to earth. “Vindicated by the Spirit” is a reference to the way in which his earthly life and ultimate death was vindicated when Jesus was raised from the dead. The proclamation of the victory of Jesus is referred to next. It was made known in the heavenly realms when angels saw what Jesus had done and through the work of the apostles, it was proclaimed on earth. The work and message of Jesus was accepted by many on earth and also accepted in heaven when he ascended to take his place at the right hand of the Father.
One writer says, “The essence of the Christian mystery is Christ himself.” This helps us see the work of Jesus as a cosmic, world important, eternally important happening. It reminds us of the tremendous work God has done in Christ. It helps us understand that God’s work is worldwide and eternal. When we understand the significance of this, it becomes clear why it is so important to know and live by conduct appropriate to the household of God, the church of the living God. We cannot ignore Paul’s appeal to right behaviour because of the solid foundation on which it is set.
If we claim to be in God’s household, we must be concerned to behave in a certain way. What is that way? When Paul says, “know how people ought to conduct themselves” which implies specific conduct and also that we can know those specifics. What are the specifics?
This morning, I would like to direct your attention to the specifics found in I Timothy 2:8-15.
The first detail about conduct is the call in verse 8 for men to lift up holy hands in prayer. People who belong to God must be people of prayer. Prayer indicates that we are not self made, but people who are dependent on God. If we can meet all our needs by ourselves, then we do not need to pray, but then we should also not call ourselves members of God’s household. People who belong to God are people who need God, so prayer is appropriate conduct for people who belong to Jesus Christ.
What is interesting about this phrase, however, is that prayer is encouraged “without anger or disputing.” Why is this warning attached to prayer?
It seems clear that Paul knew the reality of church life. He knew that passionately held ideas and convictions about the direction of the life of the church can cause terrible fights among the people of God. Paul knew the awful damage that is caused when the people of God are involved in disputes with each other. He was aware that church fights do great damage to the kingdom of God. I believe that the concern for how we ought to conduct ourselves in God’s household” is behind his direction that there be peace.
Sometimes we are not very good at this. Relating to one another in the church “without anger or disputing” does not mean that we all think the same way. Some say, “If we all think the same way, someone is not thinking.” It is inevitable that we will not all agree, but how do we speak to and about one another when we disagree. How can we do so without anger? James 1:20 warns us that “The anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” Can we learn to disagree without anger? Can we discuss without disputing? As members of God’s household, we need to learn to do so.
Right conduct in God’s household means that we deal with our disagreements so that we can pray together without harbouring resentment towards one another.
When he uses the word “also” in verse 9 but changes from addressing men to addressing women, we might ask, “what does “also” refer to? I believe that the connection between the two verses revolves around the theme which we have already put forward as the primary theme of the text. The question is, “What is appropriate conduct in God’s household.” The word “appropriate” appears in these two verses and so shows this connection. Although I do not think that the specifics of “braided hair, gold, pearls and expensive clothes” is the center of what constitutes appropriate behaviour, the call for dress that is modest and decent and appropriate for women who profess to worship God is a universal principle which still applies today.
I have struggled a bit to know how I can communicate this truth about appropriate attire. What can I as a man say to you as women that will be the right word to you. Some have sometimes come to me and suggested that I should preach about the way in which some of the women were dressed, particularly when they were involved in front. I have to admit that there have been times when I have been uncomfortable with some of the clothes that some of you were wearing. I have, however, hesitated to say anything until I could set it in a proper context and this verse allows us to do so. The question is what is appropriate behaviour for us as people who belong to God’s household. Here is the guideline that I would like to suggest. The guideline that is often used is fashion. That was the concern that Paul had when he mentioned “braided hair, gold, pearls etc.” Those were the fashion standards of that day. Today, they are different. God’s Word, however, points to another standard. If you are concerned to conduct yourself as a member of God’s household - not only when you come to church, but always, the standard which the Bible suggests is this, what is “appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” So, putting it practically, when you go to the mall to shop or when you get dressed to go out, or when you prepare to come to church, the question you need to ask yourself is “am I dressing so that I will help, not hinder, the worship of God wherever I go.” I would encourage the women of this church to start a conversation with each other and especially with the younger women about what that means in practical terms. It is a part of conduct that is appropriate for those who are members of God’s household.
Next we come to another passage which is difficult and with which I could get myself in real trouble. If what I say causes you trouble, please remember verse 8.
The text says that women should be silent. Now this is a problem because we don’t follow this teaching in this church. Women are not silent. Are we disobeying God? How are we to understand this passage? Is it a universal principle or an application of our theme, “conduct in God’s household” to a specific situation which Timothy needed to address in the church in Ephesus?
In order to help us understand this passage it is important for us to look at what the rest of the Bible says. There is no question that there are differences between men and women. The physical differences are obvious, but there are also other differences such as the way in which we process things and even differences in the things we value. Volumes have been written on these differences.
Even though there are differences, however, the Bible talks about the many ways in which we are equal. We are equal in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The image of God in people is the ability to think, the ability to engage in relationships, especially a relationship with God and the ability to reason and plan. Therefore, men and women are equal when it comes to intelligence, in being relational and in knowing God.
Men and women are also equal when it comes to being recipients of the grace of life given us in Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Men and women are also equal when it comes to the gift of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. On the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on people for the first time, Peter quoted Joel 2 in Acts 2:16-18 saying, “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ”‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”
Since the Bible tells us that men and women are equal in these ways, we should not be surprised to find that God has placed men and women into positions in which they lead and minister and speak His Word and are anything but silent and that is exactly what we find. In the Old Testament we read about Deborah in Judges 4:4, “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.” God also appointed several women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection in Matthew 28:7 and to teach the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. Furthermore, we find many women who were not silent, but served in the early church. I Corinthians 11:5 says that they were prophesying and praying in the church and Romans 16 lists a whole bunch of women who were significantly involved in speaking and leading in the church. If that is what the rest of Scripture teaches, what then does Paul mean when he tells women to be silent in I Timothy 2:12?
I believe that he was addressing a situation that was a specific example of the greater concern he mentions in I Timothy 3:15 about conduct in God’s household. One explanation that makes a lot of sense to me is that in a culture which restricted the role of women, Christian women were discovering that God did not so restrict them and in their new found freedom in Christ, they engaged in behaviour that was not appropriate. Another explanation could be that it was women who were primarily involved in the false teaching which is mentioned several times in I Timothy and Paul was commanding them to be quiet so that they would learn truth before they taught falsehood.
So if this is about conduct that fits in God’s household in Ephesus and is not a universal principle, but applies to a specific situation, how can we learn from it today? Perhaps the question is best answered by stating that women will engage in conduct appropriate to God’s household if they follow the last part of verse 15 which says, to “continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
We are members of God’s household. That is a very high calling. It means that God has left us on earth to represent and defend the truth of God. Our conduct - in church, in the community and wherever we go matters.
Paul has given these three specifics about conduct that fits for members of God’s household, particularly as it applied to the church in Ephesus. If Paul would write to us, what would the specifics be for our church? As you examine your life, what would the Holy Spirit reveal to you about what is appropriate behaviour in God’s household?
What does the Spirit say about going to bars? If we go to drink and put ourselves in the dangerous place of drinking too much is that right conduct? If we participate in sports as a player or a fan and become so intense that we become angry is that appropriate conduct? What about our practices as we conduct business. Do we engage with total integrity? As we interact with unbelievers, “are we an influence or are we being influenced?”
As we consider such details, there is a danger of becoming strict and legalistic, but please remember the direction. We are recipients of the gracious mystery of godliness and continue in grace every day and therefore our desire for a life that fits with being members of God’s household arises out of His grace. May we love God in our acts as He has loved us in His great and sacrificial act.