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6. The Conduct of Women in Worship (1 Timothy 2:9-15)

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Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet. For Adam was formed first and then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression. But she will be delivered through childbearing, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.

1 Timothy 2:9-15 (NET)

How should women conduct themselves in church worship?

This is one of the most controversial subjects in Christian doctrine. People have looked at this text and called Paul a chauvinist. Others declare that this text is cultural or specific to the church in Ephesus and therefore has no bearing on church worship today.

However, if we believe Scripture is inspired, then we must accept that this is not Paul’s opinion (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17). It is Divine. And as for saying this text only applies to the church of Ephesus, the problem with that is Paul says similar things to Corinth (1 Cor 14:34) and the church at Crete (Titus 1:5-9). What Paul teaches cannot be easily dismissed.

Though there is room to agree to disagree on this topic, we must all agree that understanding it and its ramifications are important. The context of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is public worship (cf. 1 Tim 3:15). If one studies worship throughout Scripture, one can clearly see how meticulous God is about worship offered to him. He gave detailed instructions to the priests and the Levites about how to offer acceptable sacrifices and festivals to him. We see several people killed or disciplined in the Old Testament because they did not follow God’s instructions for worship.

In John 4:23, Jesus said to the woman at the well that God desires worshipers who worship in spirit and truth. Spirit refers to the heart of the worship and truth refers to alignment with scriptural truths. God doesn’t accept all worship. He rejected Cain’s offering because it didn’t come with a right heart (Gen 4). He rejected King Uzziah’s offering as he usurped the role of the priest—his worship didn’t align with truth (2 Chr 26). Again, though we can agree to disagree about the role of women in worship, we must all agree that it is important. God desires worshipers who worship in spirit and truth. To have a right heart in worship is not enough; our worship must align with scriptural regulations.

Therefore, as we study this text, we learn more about how to offer worship that is pleasing to the Lord. The instructions in this text, though written about women, are relevant for all worshipers: How should women conduct themselves in public worship? How can we worship God in spirit and in truth?

Big Question: What does 1 Timothy 2:9-15 teach about the women’s role in public worship?

In Worship, Women Must Dress Modestly

Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing

1 Timothy 2:9

Observation Question: How does Paul describe the appropriate dress of women in worship?

Paul says that women must dress in “suitable apparel.” “Suitable apparel” can also be translated “respectable apparel” (ESV) or to “dress modestly” (NIV). Modesty has to do with avoidance of extremes. There is a suitable, respectable, and modest way for a woman to dress in worship. He then describes this dress with two adjectives: “modesty” and “self-control. “Modesty” is translated “shamefacedness” in the KJV. It means to be free of shame. John MacArthur said this about the application of the word:

A godly woman would be ashamed and feel guilt if she distracted someone from worshiping God, or contributed to someone’s lustful thought. A woman characterized by this attitude will dress so as not to be the source of any temptation. The word also has the connotation of rejecting anything dishonorable to God. Some would even suggest the meaning of the term as grief over a sense of sin. A godly woman hates sin so much that she would avoid anything that would engender sin in anyone.

“Self-control” refers to “self–control, especially over sexual passions.”1 “Women are to exercise control so that neither their passions nor anyone else’s are excited.”2

Paul then leaves the general principle of suitable or modest apparel to describe the specifics. He says women should avoid elaborate hairstyles such as “braided hair.” In addition, they should avoid expensive apparel such as gold and pearls. Why does he say this?

Interpretation Question: What was happening in the Ephesian church that led Paul to give these regulations?

It seems that two things were happening in the Ephesian worship: (1) In worship, wealthy women were displaying their wealth through extravagant gowns and hairstyles. It was common for wealthy women to place beads of pearls or gold throughout their hair. It was a way of flaunting one’s wealth. Instead of provoking worship to God, the women’s dress drew attention to themselves and even fostered jealousy in those who could not afford such attire. John MacArthur shares about the extreme cost of some dresses in that day:

The expensive dresses worn by wealthy women could cost up to 7,000 denarii. Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman historian, described a dress of Lollia Paulina, wife of the Emperor Caligula, which was worth several hundred thousand dollars by today’s standards (Natural History 9.58). Dresses of the common women could cost as much as 500–800 denarii. To put that into perspective, the average daily wage of a common laborer was one denarius. Because of the extreme expense, most women probably owned only two or three nice dresses in their lives. For a wealthy woman to enter the worship service wearing an expensive dress would shift the focus of attention to her. It could also stir up envy on the part of the poorer women (Or their husbands).3

(2) In addition, this was probably not just a flaunting of wealth that was happening in Ephesus, but also a flaunting of one’s figure—causing others to lust. Ephesus was the city of the goddess, Diana. She was a multi-breasted idol with hundreds of temple prostitutes. By conducting all types of vulgar sexual acts, people believed it would bring prosperity and blessing.

In that culture, temple prostitutes were known for their extravagant attire and beaded hair.4 Dr. Hurley said this about the ancient prostitutes: “The courtesans wore their hair in numerous small pendant braids with gold droplets or pearls or gems every inch or so, making a shimmering screen of their locks.’”5 By dressing lavishly and promiscuously, they would attract suitors. Since this was popular in the culture, women throughout society modeled this type of dress. In teaching about this, church father, John Chrysostom, said: “Imitate not therefore the courtesans…for by such a dress they allure their many lovers.” 6

John Stott summarized Paul’s exhortations this way:

What Paul is emphasizing is that Christian women should adorn themselves with clothing, hairstyles and jewellery which in their culture are inexpensive not extravagant, modest not vain, and chaste not suggestive.7

Our culture is not much different today. Women are tempted to emphasize the external more than the internal. The woman’s dress is meant to draw attention to her body and cause others to desire her. However, this is not appropriate for godly women. Peter also warned Christian women against this type of vanity in 1 Peter 3:3: “Let your beauty not be external—the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”

Now it must be heard that this not only happens with women but also men. Men also have a temptation to seek to be the center of attention by their fine clothes and attire. Instead of offering worship to God, people come to church to seek attention for themselves. This is a temptation for both sexes, though it tends to be a bigger temptation for women.

Therefore, if we are going to worship God, we must each wear modest clothes (in our cultural setting) that don’t distract others from God. We must avoid extravagance, sloppiness, and anything suggestive that could potentially hinder our worship or that of others.

Application Question: How can one discern the line between proper dress and clothing that could cause others to stumble or shift their focus from God?

If we are going to offer worship to God, instead of drawing attention to ourselves, we must ask ourselves several questions.

  1. What is my purpose in wearing this attire? Do I desire to be seen and complimented? Do I desire to be noticed by the opposite sex? God knows our hearts when worshiping. We must consider this when attending worship, and ultimately every time we dress up. May the meditation of our hearts always be pleasing to God (Ps 19:14).
  2. Could my clothing distract or cause others to envy or lust? No doubt, many come to worship with clothes that negatively affect the worship of others without necessarily desiring to be a stumbling block. However, whether intentional or not, inappropriate clothes still distract others. We must ask ourselves, “Could these clothes negatively affect the worship of others?”

Personally, as a pastor, I’ve had to address this several times in churches I’ve served. The world culture continually entices people to wear tighter and more revealing pants, shorts, shirts, and dresses. Young men have approached me about struggling with lust in service. Yes, one could say that’s their problem and not the young ladies’. But, Paul said, “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Rom 14:21). If our clothing could potentially hurt or distract someone else, then we are no longer walking in love and therefore breaking God’s commandment—”to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

I’ve not only had to correct young ladies but also young men. Our culture not only entices young women to wear alluring clothes but also men. Tighter fitting shirts and pants are common these days. Women can be as vulnerable to visual temptation as men. Therefore, both men and women must err on the side of caution, and be careful of presenting themselves as distractions in worship in a bid to protect and honor one another.

In Ephesus, the ladies were drawing attention to themselves by their extravagant and alluring dress, and therefore, it was drawing people away from worshiping God. Paul calls the ladies to wear proper clothing, but his instructions apply to both sexes.

When you come to worship, do you give attention to your clothing? Are you properly adorned so not to distract others from God—the real focus of worship?

Application Question: In what ways have you noticed a tendency for men and women to be distractions in worship because of dress? How is God calling you to better guard your brothers and sisters through your clothing, not only for worship, but daily?

In Worship, Women Must Be Identified by Good Deeds

but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.

1 Timothy 2:10

In talking about women’s clothing, Paul not only calls for them to dress with modesty but also with good deeds. William MacDonald said,

Such “clothing” does not distract others from communion with God, but rather provokes such fellowship. Neither does it cause envy or jealousy in a wrong sense, but only encourages others to follow the example.8

When a woman clothes herself for worship, she must seek the most flattering clothing—that of good works. Again, 1 Peter 3:3-6 says something similar:

Let your beauty not be external—the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes—but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. For in the same way the holy women who hoped in God long ago adorned themselves by being subject to their husbands, like Sarah who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You become her children when you do what is good and have no fear in doing so.

Peter calls for godly women to cloth themselves with gentleness. “Gentle” can also be translated “meek.” It was used of a wild horse that had been tamed. It means “power under control.” The godly woman, instead of being angry or attacking, controls her emotions. She is gentle. She has a quiet spirit, which Paul will emphasize twice in the following verses (1 Tim 2:11-12). She also clothes herself with submission. She is not in rebellion towards her husband or others. When God sees these clothes—modest outer clothes and virtuous inner clothes—he welcomes her into worship, he welcomes her into his presence.

Throughout biblical history, many women have been known for their godliness: Ruth is known for her sacrifice, leaving her family and her gods to follow Yahweh. Hannah is known for her prayer. Mary, the mother of Christ, is known for her purity. Dorcas is known for helping the poor. Priscilla is known for her faithful ministry alongside her husband. These women didn’t distract others from worship—they enhanced the worship of all. Their example drew others, women and men, to clothe themselves with godliness.

As we consider proper clothing for women (and men), we must ask ourselves: “Is my outward clothing appropriate? Am I dressed modestly?” But also, “Am I dressed with godliness? Are people being drawn into God’s presence because of me or being pushed away?”

Not only can we distract people from worship by our outer clothing but also by our inner clothing. If we worship and yet have a divisive, prideful, critical spirit, it can hinder the worship of others. God desires us to worship him with clean hands, without disputing, and without doubt (2:8). In worship, let us clothe ourselves with good works which please God.

Application Question: What woman or women have had the greatest spiritual impact on your life and why? In what ways is God challenging you to daily clothe yourself with good works?

In Worship, Women Must Learn while Submitting to Male Leadership

A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness.

1 Timothy 2:11

Interpretation Question: What was the status of women in the ancient world—specifically in the Jewish and Greek cultures?

When Paul calls for women to learn, it is an imperative—a command—in the original language.9 Paul commands the women to learn. This is important to hear as women did not have a high status in Jewish society. “While not barred from attending synagogue, neither were they encouraged to learn. In fact, most rabbis refused to teach women, and some likened it to throwing pearls to pigs.”10 Their status was not much better in Greek society either. William Barclay shares:

The respectable Greek woman led a very confined life. She lived in her own quarters into which no one but her husband came. She did not even appear at meals. She never at any time appeared on the street alone; she never went to any public assembly. (The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 67)11

Unfortunately, this low status in society may have contributed to some women in Ephesus abusing their freedom in Christ. The implication of Paul’s instructions for them to learn in quietness and submission might imply some were causing a raucous in worship. Some probably desired to not only learn but teach in the public worship.

Observation Question: How does Paul describe their manner of learning in verse 10?

1. Paul says women must learn in quietness.

Paul will repeat this in verse 11 as well. Quietness does not mean absolute silence. It is translated “peaceful” in 1 Timothy 2:2.12 In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul said: “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

Again, some women were probably abusing their newfound freedom in Christ and causing disturbances in worship. In addition, others were gossiping—involved in everybody’s business (1 Tim 5:13). Paul calls them to learn in a peaceful way, without contention. They should not be sources of discord in congregational worship.

2. Paul says women must learn in all submissiveness.

Obviously, submission is an ugly word in our society, especially when it has anything to do with women and men. However, “submission” is a military word. It means “to come up under rank.” Paul calls for the ladies to submit to the male leadership in the church (cf. 1 Tim 3:1-7). Submission has nothing to do with inequality. In a military context, a general and a corporal are equal; however, there is order in their relationship—they have different roles. This is also true of our triune God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are co-equal, and yet, there is authority in the relationship. God the Son and the Spirit submit to the Father. It’s the same with males and females. God made man and woman in God’s image (Gen 1:27), and therefore, the relationship is meant to reflect triune love and submission (cf. 1 Cor 11:3).

When Paul says, “all submissiveness,” he means that the female’s submission should not just be in action but in heart; attitude is important to God. She must fully submit to God’s order of leadership in the church. This is pleasing to God.

Interpretation Question: Why must women practice submission to male leadership in public worship?

Now this would be hard for women to hear in that context, as it is for women in this context. Why must women practice submission in public worship? According to Scripture, God has ordained for males to lead in the home and in the church. Paul teaches this throughout his letters. In Ephesians 5:22-23, he calls for the wives to submit to their husbands as unto Christ. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul commands for church overseers to be males (i.e. the husband of but one wife). He will also teach the same in Titus 1:6-9.

The godly woman practices full submission in the home and in the church because it pleases God. These instructions do not explicitly apply to the education system, business, or politics. They are focused on church worship.

Though it may seem archaic, God instructs the women who were being contentious to practice quietness and full submission as they learn from God-ordained males in worship. In fact, 1 Corinthians 11:10 says this: “For this reason a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” Paul tells the females to submit to their male authorities in worship (by wearing a head covering) because of the angels. The implication is that they will lose the ministry of God, through angels, in worship. They will not be pleasing to him if they are contentious and leave their divine roles.

Certainly, this has application to both sexes, as we are all under someone’s authority in public worship. We should submit, without contention, to the pastor, teachers, worship leaders, deacons, and various other leaders God has given us in public worship. When we don’t, it causes disorder in worship, and God is not a God of disorder but of order (1 Cor 14:33). Therefore, we all must come to worship in submission and without contention to God and his mediated leadership (1 Tim 2:11). Hebrews 13:17 says,

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you.

Sadly, many worship services are full of contention. Most times, it doesn’t manifest publicly with people yelling and questioning each other in worship, as may have been happening in Ephesus and Corinth (cf. 1 Cor 14:34-35). It is a contention in the heart among various persons—leading to discord out of service. This doesn’t please God, and it removes his blessing. His blessing is over congregations who dwell in unity, which only happens when people submit to one another and their leaders (cf. Eph 5:21, Ps 133).

Godly worshipers submit to these instructions because worship is all about God and not them—they just want to please and honor God.

Are you willing to submit to God’s mediated leadership in order to honor God?

Application Question: How is this concept of male leadership (in the home and church) attacked in our culture? How can women faithfully obey God’s design with full submission and without contention? How should this concept affect males serving as leaders in the home and the church?

In Worship, Women Must Not Usurp Male Leadership

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet. For Adam was formed first and then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression.

1 Timothy 2:12-14

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by commanding women to not teach or assume authority over men?

Not only does Paul call women to learn in quietness and full submission, he commands them to not teach or assume authority over men. What does he mean by this?

Paul is not commanding women to never teach. All Christians are called to teach (cf. Matt 28:19-20, Heb 5:12). In Titus 2:3, older women are called to teach younger women. In 2 Timothy 1:5, we see that Timothy’s mother and grandmother were his primary Bible teachers (cf. 2 Tim 3:14-15). Women are called to instruct children. They can also instruct men in certain environments. Priscilla and Aquila instructed Apollos in Acts 18:26.

In addition, Scripture never says that God doesn’t give women teaching or pastoring gifts. He gives his gifts without discrimination. The question then is, “Where should women use these gifts?” They must be used in the appropriate environment, and according to Paul, that is not the public worship service. In fact, it seems that Paul is forbidding specifically the role of pastor or elder. Many commentators believe that the word “teach” would be better translated “to be a teacher.”13 Paul forbids women from those roles. The fact that he also says they should not assume authority over men (2:12) and then commands for elders to be males in the next chapter clarifies this (3:1-7).

Does this mean that women can never teach in public worship? In 1 Corinthians 11:5, women were both prophesying and praying in public worship. With prophecy, there is often an element of teaching, as seen in the Old Testament prophetic books. It seems that the exception to the rule is that this ministry must be done in submission to male leadership (cf. 1 Cor 11:2-10), and it must be limited—she should not “be a teacher” (cf. 1 Tim 2:12). That is the argument Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 11:10 when he commands women to wear head-coverings when praying and prophesying. These were symbols of submission in that culture, and some women were discarding them in worship. They essentially were saying, “I don’t need to submit to my husband or the male elders in the church.”

Observation Question: What reasons does Paul give for not allowing women to teach and have authority over males in worship?

1. Men were formed first before women.

Why should women submit and not teach in worship? Paul makes a creation argument. He says that Adam was formed first, then Eve. At creation, God made Adam and then Eve, and this was meant to show order in the relationship. Eve was called to be his helper (Gen 2:20).

The fact that Adam was meant to be the leader is also seen in his naming of Eve. In Genesis 2, God parades the animals before Adam, and he names them—demonstrating his leadership over them. Then God creates Eve, and Adam names her woman (2:23). Then in chapter 3, he names her Eve (v. 20). The order of creation and the fact that Adam names his wife demonstrates his leadership. Furthermore, if this were not enough evidence, man’s sin nature and the consequence of death for all is attributed to the fall of Adam and not Eve (Rom 5:15). He was our federal head.

This also contradicts the reason many believe Paul’s instructions for women were temporary. They believe his instructions were cultural or something specific to Ephesus. However, when Paul gives reasons for this instruction, he doesn’t give a cultural or local argument. He gives a creation argument. He says that males should lead in worship because this is the way God designed the sexes. God called for man to lead from the beginning.

Again, we also see this in the role of males in the tabernacle and later the temple. Females were not allowed to preside over the worship offered to God—only specific males from the tribe of Levi. There were female prophets in the Old Testament, but as seen in 1 Corinthians 11 and other texts, there are also female prophets in the New Testament, and God gives regulations for that ministry (cf. 1 Cor 11:1-10). There is no contradiction there. We also see that God only allowed males to write Scripture. Paul’s argument, again, supports the fact that this was a universal requirement and not just something for Ephesus.

In fact, when he calls for the Corinthian women to practice silence as well, he says this in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34:

for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says.

He says this is true for all congregations, and it was also true in the Old Testament. No doubt, he is referring to his creation argument and the public worship through priests and Levites in Israel.

2. Eve was deceived and not Adam.

What does Paul mean by his second argument—citing how Eve was deceived and not Adam? He seems to be referring to how the original temptation was for Eve to usurp her husband’s leadership role. When Satan brought the fall, he approached Eve—not Adam. He tempted her to lead. The fact that Adam was not deceived, means that he simply submitted to his wife’s decision. The fall happened because the enemy tempted the woman to usurp her God-ordained leader. She wanted to be like God—free of all authority including her husband’s.

We can see God’s reestablishment of his order after the fall. Instead of approaching Eve, he approaches Adam to hold him accountable. It was his fault because he was the leader. He then approaches Eve and then the serpent. Adam, along with Eve, was supposed to rule over the serpent—instead, they both submitted to his temptation. The order was meant to be God, Adam, Eve, and then the serpent.

Paul encourages the women to live quietly—without contention—in considering their God-given role. Godly wives submit to their husbands because they want to please God. Godly women submit to the male leadership of the church because they want to honor God, as well.

It should be noted that God’s order in worship is not based on competence but design. In many ways, a woman may be better suited to pastor a church. Women are typically better communicators than men. Men tend to be more prone to action than words. Women also tend to be more empathetic and merciful—a trait desperately needed for pastoral ministry. When God created men and women, he gave specific roles to be honored both in the home and in the church.

In contrast to this, some have said that women can teach in worship when trained men are not present. This has been an argument used for women on the mission field. However, many female missionaries still honor their roles on the mission field in the absence of trained men. For example, Elisabeth Elliot, in the absence of trained male elders, would teach men privately so they could teach in public worship. She was a woman that honored Paul’s instructions for worship.

But I think there is also an application for men in this text. God has called for men to primarily lead in worship. Sadly, like Adam at the fall, most men are content to watch and simply follow. This is true at church and also at home. Most men would rather resemble the first Adam rather than the last Adam (cf. 1 Cor 15:45). Christ, the last Adam, gave his life for his bride. He leads by serving. He washes his bride daily with the Word of God to make her pure and blameless. Go to any prayer meeting and you’ll find mostly women. Go to any serving or training activity at church and you’ll find mostly females.

God wants men to lead, and godly women want them to lead as well. They want them to step up in leading the family in prayer and devotions. They want men to set examples in holiness, love for God, and purity. Sadly, most resemble the first Adam—content to follow—instead of the last Adam—ready to lead by serving all.

Certainly, as we hear Paul’s exhortation, we must all be challenged to fulfill God’s ordained roles for us in worship.

Are you willing to worship the Lord, as he desires?

Application Question: What are your beliefs on the role of women in ministry? Can they serve as pastors? If not, what ministries can they use their teaching gifts in? How can we walk in love with people with different views on this peripheral topic or others?

In Worship, Women Must Honor the Strategic Role of Motherhood

But she will be delivered through childbearing, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.

1 Timothy 2:15

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by women being saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety?

Finally, Paul points out the woman’s special role in the church. Paul says, “But she will be delivered through childbearing, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.” Though women have many great roles in society, church, and at home—this one seems to be the most significant in God’s redemptive plan.

Scholars have said this is probably the most difficult verse to interpret in the whole New Testament. What does Paul mean? There are various views, but we’ll only focus on two.

1. Many believe Paul refers to Mary birthing Christ.

When it says “childbearing,” in the original it says, “the childbearing.” There is an article with it. Because of this, many believe that Paul is referring to the birth of Christ. Essentially, he says that though Eve was deceived by the serpent, we must remember God saved the world through the woman. Right after the fall in Genesis 3, God pronounces the gospel—that a male seed would come through a woman and crush the head of the serpent (v. 15).

However, this interpretation has difficulties. “If she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control,” is better translated “if they continue” (ESV). Since the pronoun is plural, it is unlikely that Paul was referring to Mary.

2. Many believe Paul refers to God’s special call on women to birth and raise godly seed.

“Delivered” in this sense would refer to either being preserved from any negative stigma from not serving in pastoral roles or it could refer to salvation in a future sense14—women bear the fruit of true salvation (and therefore prove their salvation) by not rebelling but honoring God’s call for them to serve in the home.

It has been said that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” And certainly, this is true. Although God has not called women to serve in the primary leadership positions in the church, he has potentially given them the most important mission. Women by nature spend more time with children. Biologically, women are designed to carry infants in the womb and have been given the ability to nurture the child physically through breast-feeding. Mothers have a special bond with children and are extremely influential over them, especially in their formative years.

Whenever God calls a Moses, he first calls a Jochebed. Whenever he calls a Samuel, he first calls a Hannah. Whenever he calls for a savior, he first calls a Mary. Godly women who continued in love, faith, and propriety have been instrumental in God’s redemptive story. They essentially are on the front-lines.

Certainly, Paul is speaking in general for many women are not called to have children. Some are called to singleness and others can’t physically have children. Nevertheless, raising children is a high and strategic calling from God. Psalm 127 calls children arrows in the womb and that they will contend with the enemies at the gates.

Sadly, Satan, through his world system, has created a negative stigma associated with the calling to raise children. The world culture often defames the dignity of this special calling. Women are often mocked or looked down upon for staying home and raising children, as if it’s a less dignified task. Career, money, and status in society are more highly esteemed. Even those who have children often neglect faithfully raising them in favor of pursuing other endeavors. But there really is no greater endeavor than to raise godly children to build God’s kingdom—to raise arrows to contend with the enemy at the gates.

Women do not have a lesser role than men, but simply a different one. They have many significant roles in society, the church, and the home, but none probably more important than childbearing. The one who rocks the cradle rules the world. And when this high calling is neglected, society suffers. We raise liars, rebels, thieves, and criminals, instead of the righteous seed God desires (cf. Mal 2:15).

Instead of seeking the leadership roles in churches, God calls for women to embrace the highest calling of being a mother—a calling that society has despised. No doubt, Timothy would have been challenged as he heard this. His father was an unbeliever, but he was taught the faith from infancy from his mother and grandmother (cf. 2 Tim 1:5, 3:15). He knew this strategic and important calling well, and so do many of us.

Praise God for godly mothers who embraced this high calling and raised us to seek and live for God. Though society may dishonor them, let us exalt them! Hear Solomon’s words about godly mothers:

Her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband also praises her: “Many daughters have done valiantly, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. Give her credit for what she has accomplished, and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Proverbs 31:28-31

In worship, women must honor and embrace the strategic call of motherhood. This is how God raises up warriors for his kingdom.

Application Question: How has society defamed the special calling on women to birth and raise children? How can we better support mothers, including single mothers, in our churches?


How should women conduct themselves in worship?

  1. In Worship, Women Must Dress Modestly
  2. In Worship, Women Must Be Identified by Good Deeds
  3. In Worship, Women Must Learn while Submitting to Male Leadership
  4. In Worship, Women Must Not Usurp Male Leadership
  5. In Worship, Women Must Honor the Strategic Role of Motherhood

1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 80–81). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 80–81). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 79). Chicago: Moody Press.

4 Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (p. 84). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

5 Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (p. 84). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

6 Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (p. 84). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

7 Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (p. 84). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

8 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2083–2084). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

9 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 81). Chicago: Moody Press.

10 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 82). Chicago: Moody Press.

11 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 82). Chicago: Moody Press.

12 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 218). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

13 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 85). Chicago: Moody Press.

14 Accessed 1/2/17 from

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