Thursday, May 13, 2010

If They Continue in Faith

Right there at the end of Paul’s discussion of the role women are to have in church is an interesting comment. You remember what 1 Timothy 2:12-15 says:

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobermindedness.

Now, most of the discussion we see about this passage deals with the first part in which Paul makes the claim that we can know that woman are not to teach or have the leadership over men in the church because God created man first and then woman. He then gives an example of what happened with the role was reversed. The woman was deceived, but Adam followed her lead anyway, resulting in sin and death being brought upon all of us. But we see this statement saying that the woman will “be saved in childbearing.” What does that mean and what does it have anything to do with a woman’s role in the church?

First, we should realize that the word saved here doesn’t mean the salvation of a person’s soul. This isn’t saying that a woman with no children will go to hell. It also isn’t guaranteeing that a woman with faithful children will have a place in heaven. But look what happens when a woman has children that “continue in faith and charity and holiness.” That woman is taken care of in her old age. Her children help to provide for her needs. More than that, a woman like that sees her children become great workers in God’s kingdom. But that still doesn’t tell us what that has to do with women not being the primary leaders of churches.

I can understand the argument Paul is making in the first part. He is essentially saying that men are to lead because God picked the men to be the leaders. That’s simple enough. These days, a lot of women are upset with Paul for saying that. All I can say to that is join the club. Men aren’t very pleased about it either. While it may be upsetting to those women who have decided they want to preach, it is upsetting men because Paul dumped the responsibility of leadership in men’s laps. “You mean I’m supposed to be teaching my wife? Why me? She understands this stuff better than I do.”

Paul gives us a picture here of the man being the head of his home and men being the leaders in the church. And the role of women seems to be subjection and silence. Paul might have just left it at that and many people assume he did, but he continues on with that sentence about childbearing. I believe that the reason he added that sentence is because he is saying that women have a responsibility to teach their children to “continue in faith and charity and holiness.” Children don’t do that unless they are taught. When Paul spoke of what Timothy had learned he spoke of Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Women often find it so much easier to teach children than what men do. That isn’t to say that men can’t teach children, but it seems like God wired men and women differently.

I don’t pretend to know why God chose to do things the way he did, but I think the message is clear. Men, you need to step up and take responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing of your families and your churches. Women, you need to step up and teach your children to be faithful.

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