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The Place and Posture of Christian Women (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2023 4:00 am

The Place and Posture of Christian Women (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 17, 2023 4:00 am

What’s considered fashionable changes from generation to generation, and even from season to season. But find out how God’s guidelines for beauty are timeless and intended for every generation. Study along with us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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When it comes to high fashion and the latest hairstyles, don't come to me. I have to admit, I have no idea.

I don't pay any attention to these kinds of trends. Today on Truth for Life, however, we'll find out how God's guidelines for beauty are timeless. Alistair Begg takes us to chapter 2 in 1 Timothy. We're looking at verses 9 through 15. Now we know by this time in our studies that the wider context in which Paul is addressing these issues is that of his desire to ensure that Timothy as the pastor will be clear as to how God's people should conduct themselves in God's household. In verse 8, he has made it clear that it is important, if there is to be propriety in public worship, that men, in exercising their office and in fulfilling their responsibility in praying, should do so in a way that is not marred by anger or by disputing. When he comes to verse 9, he then addresses the women.

And his concern is exactly the same concern—namely, for propriety in public worship. The concern that he has for women is different in relationship to their activities, but the net impact of his instruction for women is in parallel to that of his instruction for men—namely, both sexes are to live holy lives, and both sexes are to participate in public worship according to God's divine instruction. In verse 9a, what we have is a principle about women's dress.

And the principle is this. In a woman's dress, in the context of public worship, it is to be marked by modesty, decency, and propriety. The principle can be understood by paying careful attention and, at the same time, by cross-referencing this statement with what Peter says in 1 Peter chapter 3 and verse 3. In a similar point of emphasis, he says to the women, Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and a quiet spirit which is of great worth in God's sight. Now, notice that the instruction is given to those who profess to worship God. A wooden application of 1 Peter 3 3, especially as it is translated in the King James Version, would lead us into some severe difficulties. Because if you have a King James Version—and I don't have it in front of me—but from recollection, it reads something like this, Your adornment, ladies, should not be in the wearing of clothes. That's the King James. Your adornment should not be in the wearing of clothes.

Now, a wooden application of that would, of course, create some very interesting worship services. And clearly, that is not what he is saying, right? Now, when I put it in common parlance, what he is saying is this. Ladies, when you come to worship, don't dress yourself up to the nines. When you come in public worship, don't get off track and make your focus the various clothes that you're wearing, the style of your hair, the jewelry that you're able to use, because that would be to divert your focus and the focus of those who are around you. Showy clothes and flashy jewelry ill befit the broken and the contrite heart. And it is a broken and a contrite heart for which God looks in the worship of his people. Now, this emphasis is not unique to biblical literature.

Hellenistic and Judaism literature address the very same issues, and a whole variety of them contain multiple references. Now, the answer was not for them to become awkwardly old-fashioned. The answer was for them to scale it back, not to become otherworldly, to live in the real world, and he certainly is not seeking to prevent women from looking their best. Now, I say all of that because the application of this principle to our current situation must be understood in light of the principle.

Because there is a timeless dimension to the principle, there is a passing element to its application. For example, I do not believe that Paul here is providing a timeless categorical denial of a particular hairstyle or of a particular kind of clothing. Now, the issue of expensive—the little adjective expensive—is an issue all the time everywhere. And he seems to be saying this, For those of you who can afford really expensive stuff, recognize that nine-tenths of the congregation can't afford that, and for you to wear that unless you are able to do so with great discretion and with deportment may become a source of aggravation, and since you would want to abstain from anything that would make your brother or your sister stumble, you probably don't want to do that. And expensive is understood in every culture.

I'm not about to flesh it out. But each of us must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling in relationship to the adjective. There is no doubt that Paul is forbidding in this section here, verses 9 and 10, a style of dress and a kind of hairdo that was known to his readers and that was particularly reprehensible. And the reason it was reprehensible was because of its immodesty and because of its cost in terms of time and money and effort.

However, his emphasis is on the effect that these elements bring and not on the elements as such. You have to understand this. This is not a timeless denial of a way of wearing your hair. People get all knotted up with this, so they can't wear their hair in braids, and they think they're obeying 1 Timothy 2. No, they may not be obeying 1 Timothy 2. They're motivation is fine. Their execution is probably flawed. It is with braided hair, gold, pearls, and very costly garments as violations of this principle—not with hair, however arranged, or gold, or pearls, or garments—in and of themselves that he is concerned.

You got this? Is it not right for us to assume that Paul understands that his readership will understand that he does not mean hairstyles, jewelry, clothes as such, but rather he uses this as illustrative of the immodesty and the indiscretion which he says is unacceptable within the context of public worship? In other words, if it was in the late twentieth century, if it was in the sixties, he would have said, And don't show up at church wearing those many skirts. Don't show up at church wearing those halter tops. Don't show up at church doing that, because they are classic illustrations of immodesty, impropriety, and indiscretion.

This is how Phillips paraphrases it. The woman should be dressed quietly, and their demeanor should be modest and serious. The adornment of a Christian woman is not a matter of elaborate coiffure, expensive clothes, or valuable jewelry, but is the living of a good life. That's what verses 9 and 10 essentially say. And the good deeds are not uniquely the prerogative of women, because Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, has given that to all of his followers that you should let your light so shine before men that they will see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

And Paul is merely applying that in a feminine context, and he says, Don't be the kind of person who is immediately noticed for the way she wears her hair, the way she dresses, the jewelry she wears, but rather become the kind of person who is noticeable for the kindness and quality of an imperishable jewel, and a gentle and a quiet spirit, and the life of integrity and holiness and so on. What is a woman to do? Well, a woman is to learn. A woman should learn. Most of us just jump right over that to in quietness and full submission. Most of the discussions I have with women have to do with, Why does it say in quietness and full submission?

Say, Wait a minute, hang on. First of all, let's see what it says. It says women are to learn.

Is that an issue? Well, it actually is, because the Babylonian Talmud said of the women who attended the synagogue worship, The men come to learn, the women come to hear. So they're allowed to listen, but they're not supposed to learn.

There's no reason for them to learn. Paul says, No, it is not that, but the women come, and they benefit from their place in the assembling of God's people, and they benefit as a result of the edification and the instruction of God's Word, and in that context they begin to grow in grace and in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. But in the context of public worship, their learning is not the learning of dialogue, it is not the learning that comes as a result of themselves being teachers and learning as they teach, but it is the learning that comes as a result of quietness and submission. Now, the principle of submission is underscored through the whole of the Bible. And it is the principle of submission which needs to be laid hold of, understood, and applied in every dimension of life.

And it is largely because we are rebellious and cantankerous creatures when it comes to the issue of submission at all, that it is no surprise that in this firework display of role relationships, there should be such confusion. The Bible speaks about submission, the submission of the Christian to God the Father. In James chapter 4, for example, he talks about submitting to God your Father. The Bible speaks about the submission of all things to the Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 2, 22, Philippians 3, 21. It speaks of the submission of all Christians to one another in the fear of Christ, Ephesians 5, 21. It speaks of the submission of the church family to those whom God has placed in positions of authority and leadership, eldership, in 1 Peter 5, 5, and Titus 2. And it speaks clearly of the submission principle expressed within marriage—namely, the submission of the husband to God in exercising the role of leadership and the submission of the wife to God in exercising the role of a submissive helpmate. And unless that is understood and applied within a marriage, you may be certain that it will never be understood and applied in the corporate context in church. And until there has come clarity to the heart and mind of a woman in relationship to her role as a wife and as a mother, as a woman, then you will make heavy weather of trying to apply 1 Timothy 2, verse 11 and following.

Let me pause from the text and say a number of things that may appear to be disparate, but I hope by the end of it all, it will weave one whole piece of fabric. Let's recognize this, that in the relationship of husband and wife, the concept of submission is used of a voluntary and willing submission on the part of the wife and equal with her husband to one whom God has called to be the head in that relationship. Now, when people challenge this principle in the home, they challenge it in the church.

And the issue is so vitally important. Because, as my friend and mentor Derek Prime says, there is a divinely intended order in the creation of male and then female. This sequence was not a mistake. Men and women are equal in value and as persons, but different and distinct in the roles they are to play. And so we affirm the fact that the leadership or the headship role of the male in no way implies the inferiority of the female. There is no implied, inferred, stated inferiority on the part of the woman.

And of course, you see, the feminist cause loves to obscure and confuse this. There is no inferiority in the Trinity. The precedence of God the Father in the order of the Trinity in no way implies the inferiority of God the Son or God the Holy Spirit.

But God the Son and God the Spirit submit to God the Father, not because they are inferior to him, but because that is the role that they have been given to play. And the wife submits to her husband not on account of her inferiority intellectually or her capacities, but she submits to her husband because that is the role she's been given to play. And the husband is supposed to lead his wife, not sit around and gaze at the stars and wait for her next bright idea.

He has to take ownership and leadership and protectorship and initiative, because that is the role he's been given to play. Men and women are different by divine intention. Because the issue of equality between the sexes is under such continual debate, and because as a result of human perversity, male dominance has been taken to extremes, which it has, then the tendency has been to suggest that male and female are completely identical—named simply to reinforce the arguments for equal treatment. Now, this is the flaw you see in a feminist position. Because the thing they regard to be so skew-whiff, they say, Now, what we must argue for is the absolute equality in every dimension of male and female.

And in saying equality, they mean there is no difference. So it doesn't matter if the mom's the dad or the dad's the mom. It doesn't matter. You wear the pants, I wear the pants.

You wear the skirt, you wear no skirt. It doesn't matter. There is no difference.

The Bible says, Yes, there is. Men and women are equal but different. They are equal, but they are complementary. And it is in that vital distinction that the Bible urges the roles of men and women to be worked out, and not least of all within the framework of corporate worship and how it is that a woman is to learn. Men and women are equal in their standing before God as human beings, and equal as the objects of God's concern and love. Nevertheless, they are different, and their difference is part of the delightful chemistry of human relationships.

Now, do you need me to work that out for you? The delightful chemistry of human relationships covers it all. But when you start with a worldview that is evolutionary, that you emerge by happenstance and formulate yourself into these beings in which there is really no male and no female and no precedence and no response, etc., then you end up with a manifold confusion which is part and parcel of men and women's lives today. And one of the reasons that we get short change as Christians is because we appear simply to be a radical fringe, banging away on the drum, and we're playing such a lousy tune on the drum. And that's why I want to try and help you understand this stuff. It's clear that Paul's concern is that a woman's learning, verse 11, should not become an occasion for her to overturn her role in relationship to the teaching role that is given for men to exercise in the church. In other words, her desire to learn must not be used to gain the privilege of speaking.

Now, I want you to notice very carefully that this prohibition is qualified by the context. There's not a full stop after teach. I do not permit a woman to teach.

If you just put from or to authority in parentheses for a minute, you get it clear. I do not permit a woman to teach a man. It's qualified by man, it's qualified by the fact that we're talking about religious instruction in the life of the church, and it's qualified by the fact that we're talking about the Bible. We're not talking about a woman teaching a man politics or a woman teaching a man mathematics or a woman teaching a man how to put sutures effectively in an open wound.

That's very, very important. It is the teaching in church services where both sexes are together is to be a male function as is the exercise of spiritual authority. Now, when you say that, the common reaction is this. Oh, but Alistair, if you look at this more carefully, you will realize that verses 11 and 12 emerge from a cultural background. It all has to do with Paul's day.

It has to do with some circumstance about which we know nothing. And if Paul were alive today, he would never write as he writes. Well, that that is not the case can be safely deduced from the fact that Paul doesn't argue from culture as he applies his principle, but he argues from Scripture. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.

She must be silent. Where do you get that from, Paul? For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Excuse me? That's the reason?

That's the reason. It has nothing to do with pragmatism, has nothing to do with the culture of his day, has nothing to do with being politically correct. It has to do with his knowledge of the Bible. It has to do primarily with his knowledge of the first three chapters of the Bible, which of course have been undermined consistently for the last 150 years. And the evil one understands that, because now when the battle is at its fiercest in relationship to human sexuality, you have Christian people who ought to know better, saying, well, we can't take first Timothy 2 and apply it to today, because after all, it's cultural, and there is no point in us going back to the opening chapters of Genesis, because we're not convinced that they are anything other than a mythology.

Now, that used to be the realm of liberalism. At the turn of the century, there was people who denied the Bible that said that, but it's no longer people who apparently denied a Bible. It is people who like to interpret the Bible in light of the times.

They accommodate the Bible to the culture of the day. God could not be saying that to this day. Well, the fact is, he is saying that to this day.

What more can he say than to you he hath said? So Paul begins with Adam and Eve. Paul begins with creation. And he does so to illustrate the fact that the principles applied in a timeless way throughout time immemorial are grounded in the unfailing, unerring purpose of God for his creation. Is it not legitimate that God the Creator can decide what his creation does and how it happens? But you see, again, we're up against the problem of a worldview. Because when you talk to people about God—God is a cosmic principle, God is a human, is a genie, God is an extension of yourself, God is within you—therefore God is tailored to meet whatever the circumstances of the day are. And no, says the Bible, God is transcendent, he is above time, he is eternal, he is incomprehensible, he spoke, and the world came into being, and he ordered events just as the Word of God says. Now do what he says. And that, interestingly, is the same way in which Jesus argued when the Pharisees came to him and said, What should we do about divorce?

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason? Interesting response on the part of Jesus. He quotes Genesis. "'Haven't you read,' he replied, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?" In other words, says Jesus, the timeless, abiding principle of God's order in creation is that which needs to be applied here. And the issue in verse 13 is not an issue of chronology, for Adam was formed first, but it is—the issue is what is entailed by the chronology. You're listening to Truth for Life, that is Alistair Begg, with a message concerning the posture of Christian women in public worship.

And if the ending seemed a bit abrupt today, don't worry, Alistair continues the message tomorrow. Here at Truth for Life, we teach directly from the Bible, and we don't shy away from controversial topics like the one you've heard today. We trust God's Spirit will work through the teaching of His Word in the lives of both believers and unbelievers. We also love picking out books to recommend to you to help you grow in your understanding of the Christian faith. Today, we're mentioning a book called How Christianity Transformed the World. This is a book that will introduce you to Christians from throughout history, men and women whose contributions have helped to shape contemporary society. It's a tremendously encouraging book that highlights the sweeping positive impacts of believers going all the way back to the first century. Request your copy of the book How Christianity Transformed the World today when you donate to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life.

You can do that on the mobile app or on our website at truthforlife.org slash donate, or give us a call at 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. The Bible is clear men and women are equally loved by God. So does it really matter who leads and who submits, especially in this day and age? Join us tomorrow to hear the answer. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-17 05:07:22 / 2023-05-17 05:15:55 / 9

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