Reading for Monday, August 20: 1 Timothy 2
Paul begins with an encouragement to prayer, which is something you’d probably expect to find in the Bible. What’s interesting is his emphasis on praying for “all people”, particularly ruling authorities. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way,” (v1-2). This is good and pleasing to God (v3) because it is in keeping with His desire that “all people” would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (v4). This broad scene of “all people” referred to here is countered by the acknowledgement of one mediator, one access point to life with God: “Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (v6).
Paul moves from prayer into a broader discussion of the mechanics of worship: lift holy hands without quarreling; women should adorn themselves modestly in keeping with the godliness they profess; women should also learn in quietness and submission, rather than seeking to wield authority. Much ink has been spilled in an effort to explain these verses as they pertain to women’s roles in the church’s public life of worship. Is Paul’s statement universally binding on all churches and all believers everywhere? Based on his appeal to the order of creation and his indictment of Eve as the one who was deceived (v14), some will argue that this is the case. And based on other passages like 1 Cor. 14:33-35, the evidence seems to point this direction. But then, what are we to do with the teaching of Paul in 1 Cor. 11 where he encourages women to cover their head while they pray or prophesy, presumably in the corporate worship setting where these activities took place?
The issue is obviously one that requires a lot of attention and discussion. For our purposes, I want to point out Paul’s insistence that the Biblical narrative has power to speak to our current circumstances, no matter how contemporary they may seem. The challenges facing people of faith today are certainly unique to our times. Yet, Paul gives us hope that the template of faith is already laid out for us. Paul finds these little hooks throughout the Biblical narrative, places where he can get a foothold and survey the landscape. Paul enters into the world of Scripture and finds instruction and guidance. And the same is true for us. I suppose people will debate the nature of Paul’s teaching here for a long time, but what’s undeniable is his insistence that true life is found in God’s Word, the Living Word alive in these stories, making them more than episodes of Scripture but something even more robust and lively — the key to life itself.