For the sake of review, we see that Jesus held women in high honor. He defended them, engaged them in spiritual discussion, loved them and traveled with them. Likewise Paul had women who were “dear friends,” he put them in the place of co-workers and yoke-fellow and more.
In each of the churches he instructed that there be elders set in place. These were to be men of good character who were leaders. Their duty was to make sure the church was fully instructed in good doctrine as well as protected from bad teaching.
Within the church we also see that women were given gifts by the Spirit and were contributing to the life of the church as everyone was expected to. But there was a problem. Several problems in fact. And these are the context of the difficult texts we will be dealing with.
1 Corinthians Background
There were problems in the church. A lot of them. The church still didn’t look much different than the world. People in the church were fighting and being divisive. Believers were bringing lawsuits against other believers. One man was involved in incest. And then there was the worship service. It was a mess, looking not much different than the pagan counterparts of worship.
Paul specifically spent a lot of time dealing with the issue of worship. There was disorder in
- The Lord’s Supper
- In Women’s Propriety issues
- The Handling of Spiritual Gifts
- Contribution of Spiritual gifts
For each of these situations he would emphasize mutual respect, mutual edification and orderly contribution.
1 Timothy Background
One of the roles of the elders was to protect against false teaching, and false teachers were infecting the church in Ephesus. Paul left his trusted disciple Timothy in Ephesus to straighten things out, but he sent a couple of letters to help him. He began the letter plainly,
“stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men [Gk – “some] not to teach false doctrines any longer, nor to devote themselves to endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they talking about what they so confidently affirm” (1 Tim 1:3).
Jesus honored women. Paul honored women. The letter to 1 Corinthians addresses a lot of issues with orderly worship. And in 1 Timothy the letter addresses problems with false teachers. With this we can now look a little bit deeper into some of the text regarding women that have been challenging to understand.