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Focus: Men and Women in the Local Church
Focus: Sinners and Saints Like Us
Focus: Sound Doctrine
What is God’s role for women in the church? In our series, FOCUS: A Study in 1 Timothy, David Leventhal teaches through 1 Timothy 2:8-15, showing us what godly conduct looks like for men and women living a peaceful and quiet life, dignified in every way.
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing? It is great to be with you guys this morning. For those of you who are joining us online, thanks for tuning in to the stream. For our friends in Frisco and Plano, we're glad to be together this morning. We are marching on in our series on 1 Timothy that we're calling Focus. This is the fourth week of our sermon series. We're going to take a break next week to dive into the God and Government series, so you'll definitely want to tune in there.
This week, we're going to tackle what is arguably one of the most debated passages in the entire Bible, one of the passages that has been kind of weaponized over the centuries in a way that has sometimes not been helpful or life-giving or reflective of all of the goodness of our God. Today, we're going to tackle a big topic, so let's all buckle in. Let's lock the doors, and let's get after it.
I am confident that there are women who have walked into this this morning, who are watching online, who have been hurt by the improper and overextended application of this passage. Some of you have been in churches where you have felt minimized and disregarded, and frankly, some of you have and maybe are wondering if there is a place for you in the body of Christ.
I want you to hear up front that our heart at Watermark has always been, since day one, to equip the women in this church to be all that God has created and called you to be. We could not be more thankful for the way the Lord has used thousands of women over the last 20 years at this place to be a blessing and an instrument to Dallas, to Fort Worth, to Frisco and Plano and, really, to the ends of the earth.
We have a thing here called Join the Journey. It's our family Bible reading program. About four years ago, this specific passage came up, this passage in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Christy Chermak, one of our leaders on staff, a godly woman, was the woman who tackled this passage in her devotional, and I want to read you a section of what she said in her devotional from June 20, 2014, in her Join the Journey entry on this passage.
She said, "As a woman who wants to change the world, I find that Paul's statements can be hard to embrace. However, I believe the Bible is true and that God preserved it, and I can't chuck inconvenient verses into the 'cultural differences' bucket and move on. Rather than define truth by my ever-changing culture, I must define my culture by his ever-steady truth." I thought, "Man, that's so good."
What I want you to know, ladies, my sisters in Christ… I feel a tremendous burden and a tremendous responsibility to do my best to rightly divide this passage. I have spent ample time this week asking God for wisdom so I can explain to you his ever-steady truth in this passage. To the men in this body, I want you to know there is plenty of work for us in this passage.
So pay attention. We're going to dive in. We're going to try to focus on what God has for us. I'd like to read the passage in its entirety, I'd like to lay out some opening thoughts, and then we'll dive in. If you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Timothy 2, and we'll start in verse 8.
"I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."
In these passages, Paul is going to continue to bring into focus what the godly conduct is of the church. Last week, David Marvin did a fantastic job of reminding us of the priority of prayer. He said especially Paul writes to pray for kings and those in high positions, because Paul is acknowledging that as the leadership of the country goes, it makes it easier for those of us in the church to live peaceful and quiet lives, which is what he says in verse 2.
This section today is going to continue to focus on Christlike conduct that we should have in the church. This section is broken up into two parts. You have one verse that's directed at the men, and then the remaining eight or so verses are directed toward the women. So, as we get going, let me highlight for you four things to set the table before we dive into a verse-by-verse explanation of this passage. Please pay attention. These things are important to help us better understand what Paul is about to write.
First is our context. These verses were not dropped out of the sky. It's not uncommon to hear these verses plucked from 1 Timothy and taught all by themselves without respect to the immediate context.
As I've mentioned already, these verses are connected both to the immediate preceding verses, in which Paul says he wants Christians to lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way, and they are connected to the broader letter in general, where Paul says, as you've seen in the bumper we roll each week, that we want to know how we ought to behave in the household of God. This section expands on the idea of living a peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified life within the household of God.
Secondly, let me just remind us that what the church looked like in the first century was not like this. We didn't have fancy lights or smoke machines. We didn't have Shane & Shane up here wearing skinny jeans. It was not like that. Church in the first century took place in homes, and the meeting spot within the home was usually in the atrium of the home. These were open-air spaces that were open to the public. As the church gathered, people could come in and come out.
Essentially, what happened in the church was a public activity. It was an open-air activity, so to speak, which means the disruptive and poor behavior of a few had an opportunity to defame the good name of Jesus Christ and hurt the reputation of the church. Paul is very concerned, not just in this letter but in all of his letters, about how we are to behave in front of outsiders, because our behavior reflects our beliefs. If our behavior betrays what we say about God and Jesus, then that's going to hurt the ministry.
Thirdly, there has been a lot of really thoughtful and well done work in the last two decades or so on the first-century Roman woman. What those who study that kind of thing have come to conclude with greater conviction is that there was going on a bit of a new Roman woman revolution, where, frankly, not unlike what we have today, women in that first century were seeking to push the boundaries of what was considered normal for their roles.
They were pushing back against what society for a while had said, "This is what a woman can look like." Some of the ways they were pushing back were not helpful and were not in line with God's plan. The negative effects of this trend undoubtedly had worked their way into the church at Ephesus (and also in Corinth, because Paul talks about this same topic in the book of Corinthians) in a way that was hurting the ministry and was not honoring to Christ. So you have that going on.
Then the last thing I want to point out before we jump into the verses is that most of what we're going to read this morning, with the exception of verse 15… No one is arguing what it says. It's pretty clear what it says. The question is…What does it mean for us today? For example, "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority…" Is that for all Christians in all times and all places or is that for the women who were at the churches in Ephesus and Corinth?
That's really the issue. Most people aren't wondering, "What does it say?" with the exception of verse 15, which we'll spend some time on. Most of them are wondering, "How does it apply to me today?" Hopefully, the Lord will allow me the opportunity to unpack this in a way that is encouraging and honors Scripture. That being said, let's dive into verse 8.
"I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling…" Here's your takeaway: men who follow Christ pursue peace and unity as they lead the church in prayer. Paul starts off by talking to the men, and he picks up and expands on this idea of prayer that he started in verse 1 of chapter 2, a few verses earlier.
Evidently, within the corporate gathering, when the church was together, the men of the church were either not leading in prayer or, when they were leading, they were leading through their anger and their quarreling, both of which are wrong. What was true for these men is Paul wanted them to lead the church in prayer, but not if they were stuck in anger or broken relationships. If there was and if there is a break in the relationship between two believers, God calls us to go pursue, to move toward each other with patience and gentleness and kindness and forgiveness, all of which are necessary for maintaining healthy relationships in the body of Christ.
It is dishonoring to Christ, it's harmful for relationships, and it makes a mockery of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, which allows us to be reconciled not just to him but to each other, when we live in quarrelsomeness and bitterness. And if it does that, then it also hurts the ministry and those who are looking in from the outside, like, "You guys say you love Jesus and that he has brought reconciliation, but look at the way you behave."
Paul says men who follow Christ pursue peace and unity as they lead the church in prayer. Men, how are we doing? Are you leading in prayer here, at your home? Are you stuck in bitterness and quarrelsomeness? Are you not doing what Paul has very clearly said we ought to do? If so, it is time to get on your knees and repent and beg for forgiveness. Men who love Jesus pursue peace and unity as they lead the church in prayer.
Paul keeps going. Now he's going to move on and begin to speak directly to the women in the church in verses 9-10. "…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works."
Paul wants women to know in the church in Ephesus that the target is modesty and self-control in good works. There is nothing inherently wrong with braided hair or pearls or gold, but Paul is saying that the way these women were wearing those and coming into the congregation was dishonoring to Christ. Modesty, as it has been said around here, is not about hiding your body but about revealing your dignity. Modesty is not about hiding your body or not wearing gold or pearls; it's about revealing your dignity.
The negative effects, probably as part of this new Roman woman, were that she was pursuing and pushing boundaries in her outward appearance that was drawing attention to her and trying to allow her to exalt herself in a way that wasn't helping the ministry. So, as we think about that today, we need to remember the target: respectable apparel driven by modesty and self-control. We don't dress to exalt self.
We should evaluate ourselves, women (and men, but Paul is talking to the women here), based on those criteria. So, when you're going out, when you're coming to church, when you're going out anywhere, you should ask yourself, "Is the way I am presenting myself" (however that looks and with whatever trend you're wearing in the season) "going to promote modesty and self-control, and will my good works be bleeding out of me?" That's what's going on here.
Let me pause for a moment and acknowledge that some of you have come into Watermark, and you don't know Jesus. You're not sure he is who he says he is. I want you to know you are welcome here. There is zero expectation that anybody should feel like they have to clean up before they come into this place. Paul is talking to women who are Christians and who have already said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is who he said he is." Paul says, "Great. If you believe that, your outward appearance should match your inward heart."
So, if you are new here, we want you to know you are welcome. There is zero expectation that you feel like you should put on some charade to hide where you are. All are welcome at the church of Jesus Christ, including here. I want to make sure that's clear, because the last thing I want you to hear is, "Oh, this is a place where I can't come up and be authentic." We want you to be authentic with where God has you right now. Paul is talking to the Christian women in the church.
He goes on to say it's not just about apparel; it's about good works. He's going to mention this good works a bunch of other times in this book. There's going to be stuff you wear today that, I promise you, you will look back on in 20 years with horror. I have an example. This is David Leventhal in 1988. How's that? Look at the glasses and the hair. Yes, if you're wondering, that is a Loudness tee shirt, the famous heavy metal Japanese band that rocked the 80s.
I look back at that with horror. There's just so much that's wrong with that. But I was full throttle, like, "I've got it." That, thank the Lord, is not what I look like today. You may be like, "Well, it's not that much better today," but that's a different conversation. My point is that style is going to come in and come out, but what is always in style are good works. That never goes out of style. That's never awful brown thick glasses and a Loudness tee shirt. Good works are always in style. Women who follow Christ strive to lead with modesty, self-control, and good works. Then he goes on.
"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."
Paul here is going to give two commands, and then he's going to give you two reasons for those commands, and then verse 15 is meant, somehow, to lessen the impact of verses 13-14. That's the flow. First the commands. "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." Let's unpack some of this.
"Let a woman learn…" The first thing you need to hear is that statement in the first century for a woman was revolutionary. If you look in your Old Testament, women were involved in all sorts of the religious family and public life of the Old Testament. I promise that's in your Bible. Some of us think the Old Testament woman was oppressed, and she wasn't. God invited her in, with the exception of the priesthood. That was the one exception. But women were all involved in community life in the Old Testament.
By the time you get to the first century, the religious leaders of the day had moved away from God's call. We've talked about that here, that the Pharisees and the oral tradition of the first century were not reflective at all of what God had in mind, which was why Jesus was so harsh and strong to the Pharisees.
When you get to the first century, the women had been shelved. They'd been privatized. They couldn't go out of their home, and they weren't allowed to learn. So when Paul says, "Let a woman learn," you need to know that was a revolutionary statement. And it wasn't Paul's idea; it was Jesus' idea. Paul is picking up on that theme. Jesus values women and wants them to be able to learn, wants them to be able to become literate, unlike what was going on in a sinful and unhealthy way with the first-century religious leaders.
Secondly, "Let them learn in quietness." Does that mean you have to walk in here and put duct tape on your mouth? No. Paul uses this same word a couple of verses earlier (I've already read it to you) where he says, "I want Christians to live peaceful and quiet lives." It doesn't mean silent; it means quiet. It means dignified. It means not causing a ruckus. If I go out in the backyard and my kids are hollering and I say, "Hey, you guys be quiet out there," I'm not meaning "You can't talk or play." I'm saying, "Don't be so disruptive." That's what quiet here means.
"…with all submissiveness." We tend to think of that term in terms of the husband and wife relationship, and Scripture speaks to that in Ephesians 5 and other places, that the woman has been established by God as the head of the family, and there's this idea that women should submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. But Paul is not talking about the husband and wife relationship right here. He's talking about our behavior within the church.
So when he says women should be with all submissiveness, he's talking about the things he's explaining right now…in their apparel, in their good works, in their teaching. He wants them to follow the commands of God. He says, "I don't want them to teach or exercise authority." The verb teach here is used a lot by Paul, and I think it's safe to say he's talking about the authoritative activity of teaching, and the prohibition here is teaching over men. That's what Paul is talking about here.
We have plenty of godly, gifted women who teach all over this place, but as the elders have wrestled extensively with this passage and several other passages regarding God's design for the church, we begin to apply this verse in junior high. With our young men and young women in junior high, in Wake and in Shoreline (our high school ministry), in The Nine (our college ministry), we ask that men teach the authoritative teaching of God's Word when they're together.
When you get to men and women, no longer young but men and women, in our Porch ministry (our young adults ministry) and in this setting, we ask that men be the ones (because we think that's in line with what Paul is saying here, with what Scripture is saying) who bring and explain the authoritative teaching to men. So, that's what Paul is talking about here.
Now he's going to give us two reasons for why he issued that command. "I don't want a woman to teach or exercise authority. For…" In your Bible, this is called… If you go back to your junior high grammar with all the horror, this is a conjunction, or a connector word. You want to pay attention to connector words. They help explain the flow of the passage.
So, Paul gives the command, and now he says, "For…" which is going to explain that, and when we get to verse 15, he's going to say, "Yet…" Which is meant to somehow serve as a qualifier to lessen the impact of the prior verses. "For Adam was formed first, then Eve…" The first reason for the command. Paul goes way back to Genesis to explain his reasoning for this command.
He speaks first of the creative order from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:7, that man was created first and then woman. In Genesis 1:27 it says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." God's Word regularly affirms the value and dignity and worth of a woman. God's Word regularly affirms the giftedness, the intellect, and the capacity of women, and God's Word affirms that a leadership structure has been put in place from the very beginning of creation.
Paul is simply going back to those verses in Genesis to say, "This is the way God designed it." These verses in 1 Timothy 2 have their foundation in Genesis 1 and 2. This was not Paul's idea. So, the first reason: because of the created order and the divine leadership structure God has put in place. Then he says the second reason for the command. "…and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."
Now he's going to go to Genesis, chapter 3. So, he has been in Genesis 1 and 2. Now he's going to go to Genesis 3. We see in Genesis 3:6: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate."
If this whole "Eve was deceived" thing kind of puts a bur in your saddle, let me remind you that Paul spends the better half of the entire chapter of Romans 5 and a whole bunch of verses in 1 Corinthians 15 to point out that the responsibility for sin coming into the world falls on Adam, not on Eve. Scripture could not be more clear that sin came into the world through Adam.
Adam was the one to whom God had given the commands. Not only did Adam fail to properly share that with his wife, but when she was getting ready to make a decision that wasn't in line with Scripture, he just sat there in silence and went along with her. Great job, Adam. God has designed men and women equal in dignity, value, and worth but with different roles.
When it comes to the local church, the task of teaching and exercising authority has been given to men by God. It's not because we're smarter. It's not because we're godlier. It's not because we're more gifted. I mean, good heavens! Have you met my wife? You know that those things, at least in my house, aren't true. But it's because of the way God has ordained, in his wisdom and sovereignty, the leadership structure to go.
Now, those are the two reasons for the command, and now Paul is going to come to verse 15, this doozy of a verse. "Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." What in the what does that mean? In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says, "Sometimes Paul writes things that are hard to understand." I want you to know, for me, this is hard to understand.
Part of me also wonders if when Timothy got this letter and he got to this verse it made complete sense to him, because he and Paul had been doing ministry together for decades. So, Timothy was like, "Oh yeah. Totally. We've talked about that." Great for Timothy. For us, if that's true, that script has been lost, so now we're left with the task of trying to unpack what Paul's original intent was with this verse. There have been men and women over the centuries who have spent time, effort, and energy trying to figure it out.
Let me first say, for sure, here's what this verse does not mean. Let me get rid of what it doesn't mean for sure. First, "Yet she will be saved through childbearing…" This does not mean that every woman is going to be physically saved through childbirth. How do I know? Because there have been thousands and thousands and thousands of women over the centuries, and today in certain parts of the world, who regularly die during childbirth. So, whatever Paul is saying, he's not saying that.
He's also not saying that a woman's salvation is accomplished through the process of giving birth. Scripture is abundantly clear all over the place. This is one of the Mount Everests of your Bible. Salvation and peace with God come only with reconciliation with Jesus Christ, which was made possible in his life, death, and resurrection from the cross. So, whatever this verse means, it does not mean you're promised safety through childbearing, and it absolutely does not mean that your salvation hinges upon you having a child.
Again, let me just insert here that I suspect that for some of the women in this room, and men too, even the idea of talking about childbearing is hard, because I know there are people in this body who would love to work through the pain of childbirth, but you can't because of infertility, because of miscarriages. I know that's hard. My wife and I have worked through a couple of miscarriages, and I know the darkness of that.
We're going to talk more about childbearing in the next little bit. I just want to acknowledge I know for some of you that's really hard, and I'm sorry. I don't know your personal pain experience. I do know what it's like for my wife and me to have walked through that season, and I know how hard it is.
So what did Paul mean? I think the key to unlocking this passage is going to be understanding the three words saved through childbearing, so let's spend some time unpacking those three words. I think Paul intends to keep this verse tightly connected to the two verses, and I think Paul wants to stay in Genesis. I think that's his point here. He's going to stay in the Genesis narrative. So, let's pick these words apart.
Saved is the Greek word sozo. It is used a lot in your Bible. Paul uses it a lot too. Take this one instance out. Paul uses this word 28 other times in his letters, and as best I can tell, because I've looked at them all, there's only one instance of Paul using this word where he uses it to refer to something other than spiritual salvation. Paul uses it, I think, one time to refer to physical salvation. That's in 2 Timothy 4:18. So, 96 percent of the time when Paul uses this word he is referring to spiritual salvation. That's important.
Saved through. Does Paul use that phrase? He does use that phrase a couple of times in his letters. I think there's one usage that is really helpful for us to understand this passage, and it's found in 1 Corinthians 3:15, where Paul writes, "If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." It's the same saved through language. In that passage, Paul is talking to Christians whose teaching and works are not up to snuff, if you will.
Paul is saying to them, "Listen. You're going to be saved through the fire." In other words, "You're going to be saved not as a result of the fire, but you're going to be saved in spite of the fire." That's Paul's point in 1 Corinthians 3:15. "…he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." The fire in this verse is not the saving mechanism, but it is the way as though sort of by the skin of your teeth, if you will. That is what Paul is talking about there. I think that's instructive for helping us unlock this verse.
Then lastly, childbearing. This word can be used in two ways: first, to refer to the physical act of giving birth to a child and, second, it can be used to represent the whole idea of parenting. So, childbirth and then raising a child. Here's the deal. Paul uses this term later in the book in 1 Timothy 5:14, and it's pretty clear that he's using it to refer to childbirth. Again, I say it's pretty clear. It seems pretty clear to me that Paul is using that term to refer to childbirth.
So, I think in this passage, Paul is not referring to the whole process of motherhood. I think he's referring to childbirth. You're like, "Well, that doesn't help explain it." I'm working there. Saved through childbearing. So, staying with Genesis, because I think that's where Paul wants us to stay… Adam was formed first, then Eve. Eve was created from Adam's body, Eve was deceived, Adam fails to lead, sin enters the world, and God pronounces judgment, which for Eve included a multiplication of pain in childbirth and a desire to usurp the authority from her husband.
In other words, the two places where the curse touches Eve, and subsequently women throughout history, are in the pain of childbirth and in her desire to rule her husband. Every time a woman gives birth, the pain of that process was meant to remind her that she became a transgressor and she needs grace, just like God said to the man, "Your work is now going to be messed up with thorns and thistles."
So, every time a guy goes out to work the land and gets his thumb on a thistle, he's to be reminded, "This is harder because I decided to go my own way. The fact that when I farm I get thorns and thistles and the ground doesn't cooperate…" "The fact that when I give birth to a child the pain is multiplied is because we decided to go our own way, and it did not work out well."
We need to remember that childbirth back then… There were no epidurals. There was no C-section. There was no comfortable hospital bed or team of doctors on standby if things went wrong. Thousands of women died or suffered in pain, sometimes pain that lasted the rest of their lives.
My wife has given birth unmedicated to five children, not out of some principled stand against medication but because, for her, it was the lesser of two evils because she couldn't imagine having somebody put a needle in her spine for an epidural. She was like, "Well, that seems horrible. This seems incrementally less horrible, so I'll go with that." As a witness to five childbirths unmedicated, good Lord! If men had to have kids, the population would have died off at Adam. You talk about the multiplication of pain.
So, let's go back to 1 Timothy. "Yet she [Eve] …" Paul is continuing his illustration here. When he says, "She will be saved," he's talking about Eve. "Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness…"
Paul cites the creative order, he cites Eve's deception, he cites childbirth, which is the constant reminder of sin and deception and transgression, and he finishes with the call to continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control, which is almost the exact same language he calls older men to in Titus 2:2, where he says, "Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness."
Now let me pull it all together for you. Here's what I think Paul is trying to communicate. This is me paraphrasing. Paul: "You will still be able to experience spiritual salvation in spite of childbirth, which is an unspeakably painful reminder of the sin that has caused you separation and death. Significant as that curse was, as that pain is, it does not prevent you from being able to experience your salvation.
You're going to think about the curse every time you give birth, but don't worry, women. It's not going to prevent you from salvation, which is accomplished, like everybody else, through faith and love and holiness and self-control, all of which reflect a transformed heart that trusts in Jesus. I want you women to know God is not against you. He's for you. God is not continuing to curse you. He wants you to be saved. I've taken you back to Genesis and back to the curse from sin, but your life…indeed, your salvation…is still assured if you will trust in Jesus."
I think that's what Paul is getting at in this verse that he could have made more clear. Women who follow Christ submit to the divinely ordained leadership structure. Now let me talk really quickly about why these verses are so hard for us to absorb. If we're honest, there's a little bit of this that, for some of us, it's like, "I don't like that." Let me give you three Cs. I tried to be super creative and came up with three Cs.
1 . There has been a crummy example from male leadership. I wanted to use a different word than crummy, but I won't. First and foremost, men have led poorly. It didn't finish with Adam. We've been leading poorly since. God has called men to live and lead like Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. If you look around the world today (and, sadly, if you look around some places in the church), you will see men abusing their power, stepping on people, using others to accomplish their own end.
When you see somebody abusing their role, it makes you not want to follow them, and I get it. It wouldn't make me want to follow them either. So, the first reason this is so hard is because, men, we have done a not great job of loving the women in the church broadly the way Jesus Christ has said, "This is how you love women."
2 . Our culture is providing an unbelievable amount of pressure to do away with the whole roles thing. The chorus is that men can be women, women can be men; there's no distinction. While we acknowledge that our culture is not coming from a biblical worldview, we are required to push back lovingly and firmly and teach our children that what God says about men and women is true.
God's Word acknowledges that men and women are equal in dignity and worth and value, but they are distinct when it comes to role. Our culture does not adhere to that, so we're swimming upstream. When my kids turned 13, I decided some years ago that I'd take them away for a little father/daughter, father/son time just to invest in their hearts. I've done it now with four of my kids, two girls, two boys. I just got to go away with Josh, my 13-year-old. He turned 13 in May, but thank you, COVID, for screwing up our plans. We just now got to get away together.
When I've taken my two daughters away, I invested in their hearts. I share three things with my boys, and I share three different things with my girls. I want to bring them back to Scripture. Here's what I share with my girls. I want my daughters to know they are infinitely valuable, and I explain to them why they're valuable…not why the culture says they're valuable but why God's Word says they're valuable.
I want them to know they're exceedingly beautiful. I define for them what Scripture says about beauty, and I remind them of the garbage the culture says about what beauty is. I take them back to Scripture. I remind them that they are called to radical devotion in Jesus Christ. We have to teach our children what God says about roles and uphold the dignity of women while affirming the God-ordained structure.
3 . There's confusion about how God views women. Passages like this and others have been improperly or harshly applied in such a way that it leads some to believe that God doesn't like women or he thinks they're somehow inherently less or that God and, therefore, his people are somehow misogynistic. I've said it before, but let me affirm it again. God's Word consistently, repeatedly, explicitly affirms a woman's glory, dignity, value, and worth. There is no "less than" in God's economy over gender.
Women have always played an essential, an indispensable, and unspeakably important role in the outworking of God's economy, broadly and specifically here at Watermark. Open your Bible. Go read about Rahab in Joshua 2, who hid the spies so they could scout the land. Go read about Abigail in 1 Samuel 25, who kept David from committing a massacre over her dumb husband. Go read about Deborah in Judges 4 and 5, who led the nation of Israel as a judge. Go read about Jael in Judges 4, who killed this powerful Canaanite general Sisera.
Go read about Huldah in 2 Kings 22, who was a prophetess whom King Josiah consulted rather than Jeremiah who was her contemporary. Go read about Mary, the mother of our Savior and the Messiah. Go read Romans, chapter 16, and see how Paul elevates Phoebe, who was a deaconess at the church at Cenchrea; Priscilla, who was a church leader at Ephesus and hosted the church in her home; and Junia, who worked with Paul and who was imprisoned with Paul as a co-laborer in the gospel.
Go read about Lydia, who was a wealthy Gentile woman who was likely the first convert in all of Europe and who hosted the early church in Philippi, and on and on. I know you're saying, "Yeah, that's the Bible. Of course you're going to quote from the Bible." Let me introduce you to some of my friends and co-laborers here at Watermark. Let me introduce you to Sherry Jia, who serves in the international student ministry, serving and caring for international students from around Dallas colleges.
Or Charran James who has a passion for equipping them in the church and has facilitated racial reconciliation for the last two years. Or Antoinette Davis and Rachel Shelton and Ann Holford, who have spent countless hours reworking the women's Bible study curriculum in light of COVID so that thousands of women could be able to participate in the women's Bible study here, virtually online, in neighborhood groups all over the world.
Or Shelley Girtz and Veronica Netzer, who help lead our Path to Restoration ministry, which loves and serves moms whose kids have been removed from them by the foster system to help them get their kids back. Ella Brown who oversees our partnerships and volunteer teams with ministries that reach out to women working in the strip clubs. Helayne Wendel shepherding and coaching, leading other women through GriefShare.
Terri Kendrick who helped develop and coordinates our unexpected pregnancy ministry to women who were abortion-minded. Ashlyn Miller leads our communication efforts for our Life Initiative and keeps the message of life in front of our body and this community. Katie Lowman coordinates our efforts to educate foster and adoptive families through our Introduction to Foster Care and Adoption.
Jackie Michael leading strategy and execution for all of our refugee and international school outreach initiatives. Sheetal Agrawal and Christy Chermak started our Reclaimed Impact Area to help our efforts to end sex trafficking and to serve those who have been affected by it, and on and on and on. These women are not volunteers. They're pastors and missionaries and evangelists and disciple-makers, and they are changing eternity.
So what do we do from here? As I said at the beginning, our aim has always been to set the women of this church free to be all that God has created you to be, because that's what God's Word says the church should do. We want to encourage you and invest in you, train you, equip you, unleash you to be all that God wants you to be in your family, in your friendships, at your workplaces, in your marriage, in your neighborhoods…any place you rub shoulders with the world. We have women serving all over this body teaching and leading.
When the church functions the way it's supposed to, as God intended it, with godly men leading godly women, it is a glory to the world and a direct reflection of the Trinity. It's a reflection of God. You have Jesus who said, "I am going to humble myself," Philippians 2 says, "being made in the form of a man, and I'm going to go to the cross. I haven't lost my value or my dignity, but I am willing to submit myself to the Father for the benefit of all of you."
The only reason any of us even give a rip about anybody else is because Jesus Christ has let us know we are not the center of the universe. Paul says when we follow the divinely ordained structure, it reflects the Trinity. Jesus didn't make his role on earth an opportunity for higher rank or power, even though he could have. He didn't get hung up on his role. He died for you and for me, and when he died, it was his sacrifice that made you, ladies, infinitely valuable, exceedingly beautiful, and it's what allows you to be called to radical devotion to him.
In the same way, when we trust the Father's design for our role, we're saying, like Jesus, "I want to find joy in the role the Father has called me to fill, whether I'm a man or a woman, because I know that when the individual members of the body operate in this way for the benefit of Christ, people are going to get to see Jesus, and their eternity is going to be altered forever."
The question we should focus on is not if we can exercise authority or if we can teach. The questions to focus on are: Are we going to let God lead us? Are we going to let God teach us? Are we going to trust his design? Are we going to trust his distinct purpose and his plan for our lives, and are we going to respond in faith and obedience?
Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for this really difficult passage. I pray that if I said anything that was not reflective of what you had in mind in your Word that you would strip it from our minds immediately. I pray that the men of this church would get after it as they love and serve and exalt the women of this body.
I pray for the women of this church. Father, I thank you for them, for the way they have served so faithfully for so long as they expand your kingdom in Dallas, in Fort Worth, in Frisco, in Plano, and all over the world. Would you remind them of your tenderness toward them and your kindness to them and of your good plan for them, that the curse is not so great that they can't still know you and come to know Jesus.
Father, help us to be the hands and feet to this world, this lost, dying world that is seeking to strip away anything that is reflective of you. God, help us to push back against that with tactfulness and dignity and grace and gentleness and kindness. We trust you. Help us to trust you more. In Jesus' name, amen.