Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Women in the Church - Part 3 of 3

Title: Women in the Church - Part 3 of 3
A Three Part Series on women in leadership and women ministering in the Church
Text: 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 13 Oct 2010

Yesterday, I dealt with the questions: "Can Women Teach in the Church?" and whether there is an unfair hierarchical structure going on. Today, I deal with the final two questions.


PROBLEM #4 – Women Committing a Greater Sin? (v14)
And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (1 Tim 2:14)

CONCERNS: This is perhaps the most difficult verse to understand. By drawing in the fact that Eve fell first, does that mean Eve has committed a greater sin?

CONTEXT: One way to look at it is that God is fair. Much is given. Much is expected. While it is true that Eve sinned first, Adam is no better. The punishment for both Adam and Eve is the same: Exile from the Garden of Eden. This verse has to be read in terms of the ‘domineering’ manner which is the culprit. Yet, there is also seriousness in punishment. Look at the different ways Adam and Even are punished (Gen 3:16-19).  In the light of the 1st Century culture, ‘men’ should have known better. It is like a CEO of a company who ought to have known better what corporate governance is. When there are problems with the running of the company, can he blame his subordinate and run away from responsibility? If the company fails, can he simply push the blame to his accountant, or his junior staff? No. He is ultimately accountable. A good leader will take responsibility not only for good results, but bad ones too.


CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: Paul is stating a known fact to his hearers at that time. He is saying that man and woman are different in their current state because of what happened at the Garden of Eden. No where is there a pronouncement of who sinned more. Both sinned and both genders have to pay the price. It is the ‘order’ that Paul is hinting at. Again, this coincides with the role of discernment, that even if women say or teach certain things, men are responsible to discern and to make a responsible judgment. The LORD gave Adam the specific commandment NOT to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam is supposed to teach his wife, and to act upon this injunction actively. He is ultimately responsible. The fact that Eve has yielded to temptation first, and Adam falls next shows us that Adam has not only failed in teaching Eve, he himself is weak.

In other words, there is a certain order of things to observe. Whoever is given the charge and responsibility, God expects this order to be maintained, and practiced. Given that there are so many false teachers and heresy at that time, Paul needs to go back to first principle, that is the Garden of Eden and the order of things. He is concerned about a ‘rerun’ of the Garden of Eden scenario happening in the Ephesus Church. Look at the following table. There is a parallel that Paul is trying to warn Timothy about.


CONCLUSION: Both Adam and Eve have sinned. Greater or not, sins are not to be trifled with. A lesser sin does not meet the mark of a holy life. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That said, this passage alone does not conclusively prove that women has committed a greater sin. Rather, Paul is simply trying to warn all the readers, and to remind Timothy about how easy it is for Adam to fall into sin. Make sure that the teachers there are responsibly teaching the right doctrines in the first place. They must not shirk their responsibilities by letting uneducated and heretic teachers on the loose.


PROBLEM #5 – Women Saved Through Childbearing? (v15)

But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (1 Tim 2:15)

CONCERNS: What has childbearing got to do with salvation? What then about men? Are men saved?

CONTEXT: Paul is again trying to anchor the church in Ephesus on the crucial roles each member of the Church has to perform. Men are to learn and be faithful to true teachings. They are to be careful of heretical and false teachings. Women who are largely uneducated need to be reminded of their roles in society at that time. By referring to the part about being saved, according the notes from the NET Bible, there are 3 possible interpretations, all of which can be readily dismissed.

  1. Christian women can only be saved through bearing children. (if this is so, what about those who are barren? What about men who do not have a womb? Does that mean men will not be saved?)
  2. Christian women can be protected through fertility rites. (If that is so, can a woman be her own saviour? This goes against the doctrine of salvation by faith by grace alone.)
  3. Women will be saved when Jesus is born via a woman.  (If this is so, why is women singled out? What about the men?)
Thus the most logical explanation is that during that time, the Church of Ephesus are influenced by the worship of Artemis, a fertility god. The cultic teachings then perpetrate a form of learning to save oneself by bearing children. Thus the interpretation of the part about ‘through childbearing’ has to be linked back to the part about ‘faith, love and holiness with propriety.’ Women are not saved per se due to childbearing. They are saved by faith in Jesus, and the term 'childbearing' is a general call for them to recognize their own unique roles as women.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: Paul refers again back to the specific role of men and women in the Church. Women are not inferior to men. They are different. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. ‘Through childbearing’ is a reference back to the unique role that women has in society. Children can only come from women. If all the women in the world stop conceiving, the world will die a natural death.

CONCLUSION: Paul is warning the women in the Church not to believe the erroneous teaching of Artemis, that one can save oneself by bearing children. Salvation is only in Jesus through faith in Christ.

This concludes the series on women in the Church.

REFERENCES
If you are keen to pursue the topic of women in the Church, it is helpful to look at the two opposing perspectives.

a) The Complementarian View (www.cbmw.org)

b) The Egalitarian View (www.cbeinternational.org)

conrade

3 comments:

Rosie Perera said...

Regarding 1 Tim 2:15, another possibility, as described in 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (by Robert Black and Ronald McClung) is this: "Some translators suggest the rendering 'be kept safe' in place of 'be saved,' maintaining that Christian women will be protected from harm in the bearing of children despite the curse of Gen. 3:16. (Moffatt translates this verse, 'Women will get safely through childbirth,' and J. B. Phillips’s paraphrase is very similar.) According to this theory, Christian women may not teach or serve in leadership roles, but God will give them His gracious guarantee of preservation in childbearing. The problem with that theory is that it simply hasn’t proven true. Many Christian women have died in childbirth." (pp. 64-65)

I'm not sure the last two sentences completely dismiss this possibility from holding some merit. After all, there are numerous places where God apparently promises something which doesn't come true for all who trust in him. For instance, Psalm 19: "He will not let your foot slip....the sun will not harm you by day....The Lord will keep you from all harm." Plenty of Christians stumble (physically or spiritually), get sunburns, and come to harm. But it is still a general assurance of protection.

Also, remember that due to the curse, women are burdened with pain in childbirth. And this verse comes right after a reminder of Eve's sin, which led to the curse upon women's fertility. So 1 Tim 2:15 could be a general encouragement to women facing the pains and dangers of childbirth, that they will be kept safe through the ordeal if they "continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." As with Ps 19, God is sovereign and is allowed to make some exceptions to this general rule. With this interpretation, we also don't have to explain away single women or barren women. They don't face the pain of childbirth anyway, so they don't need to be kept safe through it.

Rosie Perera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YAPdates said...

Rosie,

Good thoughts. I suppose the key issue lies in how we interpret the word 'saved.' Is it salvific, protective, or preservation? Of course, based on your comments on Ps 19, God is free to use anything, which means all three remains possible.

However, to keep in the context of Genesis, Adam was commanded to work the soil, and endure toil, while Eve was given the task of childbearing, and suffer pain. Both are given specific tasks (& punishments). Therefore, we should interpret the verse in terms of ROLES. A key distinctive of a woman is childbearing, regardless of whether she bears a child or not. Men can't conceive, but he still has a role to play.

This use of 'roles' is entirely consistent in the whole of 1 Timothy 4. All of us have a unique role and the best we can do is to exercise them with courage and with faith.

c

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