Contemplations on 1 Timothy 2:11-15

An examination of Apostle Paul's words and intent

Brian Kuehmichel
August 3, 2021

"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 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 sobriety." 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Apostle Paul is directing his protege Timothy to teach and promote specific things in his ministry to the church at Ephesus and wherever else Timothy leads and serves on Paul’s behalf. These instructions begin in chapter one verse eighteen and proceed from there. Paul presents a holy respectful demeanor full of prayer, gracious in conduct toward others, and seeking their highest well-being through salvation in Christ. Paul’s first focus was the current church at Ephesus but his message proceeds from there outward to all who come to salvation and are part of Christ’s church or world-wide congregation.

After this larger scale focus Paul turns Timothy’s focus to the necessary smaller scale yet very important details. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Apostle Paul intentionally placed boundaries to the actions and choices of women in the church at Ephesus. By extension this applied to all other women in all their varied locations and circumstances who seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first important detail given for church women was to learn in quietness (vs. 11). Paul meant here for women not to be boisterous, demanding, or attention seeking but instead become active, attentive student learners, i.e effective disciples. The second detail was to learn in submission (vs. 12). The men in the church were learning submission in actions, choices, and in the thoughts of their heart (Ephesians 2:1-3; 3:21-32; 4:24; Colossians 1:21-28; 3:5-10; 2 Corinthians 10:5). Women in the church were to follow exactly the same pattern and likewise wholly submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ Jesus (vs. 12) and His will for them.

Apostle Paul proceeded with two more details that he wanted Timothy to teach and promote. Paul as an apostle did not permit a woman to teach any man and he did not permit women to have authority over any man in the church (vs 13). To support this position Apostle Paul appealed to the scriptures as the only logical basis for this mandate. He did not use the famous Proverbs passage of chapter thirty-one, or the book of Ruth, or the example of Sarah. Paul went directly to the very core or heart of the matter — what God made. The Apostle Paul took us to Genesis chapter one, two, and three, “in the beginning.”

God by sovereign choice and for the highest reasons made a male human first and gave to him dominion over his creation (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7-8, 15-18, 21-25). Then Eve was developed and formed from a part of Adam to be fully human like him. She was made, according to God’s own words, to be “an help meet for him,” namely another human suitable to assist and amplify Adam’s work in God’s dominion mandate (Genesis 2:18-25). She could not teach him for Adam was to teach her about all that proceeded before she came to be. She could not have any authority over him because all authority was given to Adam before she came to be. Eve was designed, made, and presented to Adam by God Himself as a helper to him (vs. 22). She was given by God to Adam so that he, and they together, could better fulfill God’s purposes originally given to Adam by design and mandate (Genesis 1:26-28; 1 Timothy 2:13).

In support of his logical argument, Apostle Paul went back to the original basic framework of mankind, male and female. Paul established that his directive to the church through Timothy proceeded from God’s inherent design and mandates. This was reducing the large world-wide framework to apply this concept to the church assembly. Males were correctly bearing their duties, as God intended in Eden, when appropriately leading the church assembly of males and females and when serving as teachers.

Next, Apostle Paul used the events of Genesis chapter three to expand upon and provide further support in explaining his reasons for only a male led church. Eve had undertaken the desire, first suggested by the tempter, to ascend to a higher plateau of capacity beyond that of a suitable helper to Adam. Satan had suggested she could attain a form of supremacy by seeking God’s knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5; 1 Timothy 2:14). This would position her to be an arbiter of what Adam should or should not do.

Thus Eve began a course of disobedience by partaking of the fruit of the only tree in the garden forbidden to them (Genesis 3:6). This tree’s fruit was reserved for God alone to eat when He visited them “in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:8). Eve became the first human sinner. She was motivated to step out of her designed and prepared position as a suitable helper to Adam. So Paul properly applied these scriptures, having learned from this prior devastating event to humanity. He directed women in the church to practice submission to Christ, accept and embrace male leadership in the church, and willingly choose to learn as a student from them as God had originally designed. Paul was protecting the church at Ephesus, and by extension all church assemblies, from insurrection (Adam was given primary dominion), from misdirection (falsely seeking to lead by assumed learning of right from wrong), and from disinformation (by twisting God’s declared structure and order).

Nothing here devalues women or is agianst women's individual talents, skills, noble desires, or any natural or developed capacities, nor falsely elevates these things toward men. Pauls’directive was not anything like Islam where the value of women is as soil (tilth) into which to plant seed (Surah 2:223), nor was this anything similar to the Islamic position that the testimony of two women in court can equal the testimony of a single man (Surah 2:282; Bukhari 5:59:462, “Islam Versus Christianity”). This structure stands as a matter of principle from, 1) God's direct creation of Adam first, 2) duties of administrative stewardship given to Adam when he was the only human, and then from Adam 3) God creating and presenting as his helper a woman to help Adam fulfill his commission and duties as chief steward. The church assembly must model God’s principles and directives.

Now Paul was not saying in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that men are important and women are not important. God had made both male and female humans and they were created “in [God’s] image, after our likeness” by His own declaration (Genesis 1:26). It was right for Apostle Paul to appeal to Holy Scripture, in fact the earliest of all scripture–in the beginning. Note here that males and females had real significant value as God’s offspring bearing His image. Each were reflecting attributes and qualities of God in their designed maleness and designed femaleness while carrying out their duties of dominion.

To understand this better we can consider Adam maintaining the garden in Eden as a one-person garden that would supply all of his needs. His mandate was to take dominion so he could expand the garden to two, three, or more times the size by prudent foresight and effort. Adam could increase his dominion to super-size by working to near exhaustion. When God gave a helper to Adam the capacity of proceeding toward dominion was doubled by both laboring with prudence and effort. This single-person or two-person process could never encompass the whole earth.

God had made Eve suitable for procreation and charged Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). They were to make available more males and females to engage in the dominion mandate. Adam and Eve were to train up male offspring to step into and engage with their representative role and likewise to train up female offspring to step into and engage with their respective role.

This process of increasing the family size one-by-one is known as addition, gradually increasing the total count of available male-female units. But when these children sub-units likewise follow the mandate to be fruitful and likewise teaching their male and female offspring to step into and engage with their respective roles, the rate of compounding of male-female sub-units began. This enhanced process is known as multiplication. One starting unit produces multiple sub-units. These sub-units continue the same process into multiple levels of generations. The rate of expansion of the garden of Eden would drastically bloom and spread across the face of the earth. This conceptual process when applied to the business world is known as multi-level marketing. When applied well it has been incredibly successful and amazingly wealth creating.

These last two paragraphs were not a diversion but part of the explanation for Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy to teach and promote. Paul gave to the church the highest, best, and wisest counsel he could give them by pointing back to “the beginning.” God made male and female and joined them into reproducing units. Paul effectively but indirectly said to Timothy that in order to prevent a repeat of Genesis chapter three in the body of the church women were to conduct themselves under Christ’s program.

The second focus he emphasized was upon bearing offspring. If women in the church would embrace the pattern God had designed and implemented they could be part of something truly fantastic. If they would perceive and recognize the value they could bring to the church by noble submission to God’s template, active participation to promote the highest well-being of the church through God’s designed structure, and multiply the church through the two prongs of evangelism, to their neighbors and to their own successive offspring, great things would occur. Then the women of the church would receive God’s “well done” in praise and rewards (Matthew 25:14-23).

Do you remember when the Israelites were in Egypt? Just before their departure God had asked those who were willing to take a lamb and apply its blood to the door posts and the upper lintel in order to have the death angel pass over their household and not kill the firstborn male in that household. That meant that God was a record-keeping God in order to know which person in each household was the firstborn. That implied that He kept genealogical accounts. When it is time to reward believers in 1 Corinthians 3:6-15 God will use those types of records to apply to the virtuous women who have reached their neighbor and their offspring and brought successive generations to salvation. This will be no small thing for from one seed a great traceable tree can grow with innumerable generational seeds who continue planting God’s words in men’s hearts (Matthew 13:1-9, 32; Mark 4:26-28).

Apostle Paul was directing the women in the church to whole-heartedly recognize and implement the process of multiplication. He wanted them, arguing from Genesis chapters one through three, to use their created talents, their acquired and developed skills, and their learning to produce and prepare offspring to multiply the effect of the church in taking dominion. This dominion was not for the purpose of a literal earthly kingdom but for the increase of Christ’s kingdom and the reclamation of vast quantities of human hearts and minds for God’s glory (2 Timothy 1:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 10:33; John 1:7; 12:32; Acts 22:15; Ephesians 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).

Paul was not directing Timothy to devalue or depress or subjugate or dishonor in any manner or form the women in the church (1 Timothy 5:1-3). He was directing Timothy to teach and promote the best church structure. This would bring forward the highest level of service from both males and females in the church. And Paul was laying out the most effective long-term strategy of multiplication of believers from both outside the church by evangelism to their neighbors (one-by-one addition with prospects of subsequent multiplication) and inside the church by evangelism to their offspring (long-term generational multiplication).

Regarding evangelism, how you live before your neighbors and family speaks volumes, carefully use words.