Studies in 1 Timothy – part 06

Why the Difference 1 Timothy 2:13-15

In 1 Timothy 2:13-15, Paul supports his teaching of verse 12, namely a gender distinction in the teaching and leading roles in the church. The command of Scripture by itself should be sufficient for us. however, the Lord graciously provides a rationale to engage our minds as we follow His instructions. The gender role distinction is explained along two lines of reasoning:

The order of creation

For Adam was formed first, then Eve (2:13 NASB).

Because of the sequence in creation, men should take the lead in teaching, rather than women. One could either argue one’s own interpretation of Genesis, or accept the apostle’s inspired interpretation. We choose the later, because Paul’s interpre-tation is infal-lible. Further, his use of Genesis roots this teaching outsideof the 1st century culture—by basing it on an historical event that precedesall of Christianity.

The role of deception

And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner(2:14).

Adam sinned with his eyes wide open, so to speak. He was not deceived. Eve, on the other, wasdeceived (Genesis 2:15). How does this affect things in the church today? Eve was led astray, in a very real sense, by false doctrine (Gen 3:4-5), for indeed, the serpent had subtly twisted God’s good command and misrepresented the truth. Blindly, she fell for the deception and then chose to leadher husband to follow along with her. Some object to characterizing Eve’s actions as a form of leadership, but notice that when Adam responded to God’s interrogation, he made it clear that Eve had influenced him toward sin (“The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” Gen 3:12). The dictionary defines leadingas “to be first, to guide on a way especially by going in advance, to direct a course of action.” Certainly, Eve’s actions fulfill this definition.

Somehow, Adam’s and Eve’s actions carry consequences down to the present day—men and women today are affected differently because of Adam’ and Eve’s different roles. Was it a propensity to be deceived that Eve passed down to all women? Or was it a seminal activity, in that all women were “in” Eve when she was deceived, so all women therefore suffer the same consequence with Eve? Theologians debate the merits of these views. Either way, the application is the same, for Paul applies it to all women.

We would surmise from Paul’s reasoning that it is better to have a teacher of the congregation who is less likelyto be deceived into teaching wrong doctrine, than one who is more likelyto be deceived. Both men and women certainly have the capacity to either knowingly or mistakenly teach wrong doctrine. But a propensity for deception adds an additional layer of concern when it comes to teaching. When it comes to teaching God’s Word, deception is foundational to conveying false doctrine. Just as in the Garden of Eden, so also in the wilderness temptation of Jesus, Satan twists God’s Word to lead to false conclusions. When it comes to the church, the enemy has not changed his methods. And his easiest entry point is to gain access to the body of Christ through the weakest point. The direct application Paul makes is that since Adam was created first, since Eve was deceived, and since she influenced Adam to sin (in effect, promoting false doctrine), therefore, in the church of God, women today are not to teach or lead over men.

Leading and teaching in the church.

How and when does this apply in the church today? The simplest answer is to ask the question: “Does a particular activity involve a woman teaching men or having authority over them?” This, of course, leaves much room for women in teaching, leadership and pastoring roles involving women and children. Also, since our passage deals with activities within the “household of God” (which we take to mean the local church), this does not contradict the biblical example of Priscilla (a woman) and Aquila team teaching Apollos (a man) in a private setting (Acts 18:26).

Does this always apply?

In the normal operation of a church, men should be the leaders and teachers of the congregation. This is the goal, without question. However, even Jesus taught that at times exceptions were justified because of a higher cause. For example, He referred to David who ate the ceremonial bread even though normally only the priests were allowed to do so.

Consider also that God raised up Deborah as a judge and leader in OT Israel, though this was the very rare exception—in context, Deborah’s leadership was clearly a judgment upon the weak men in Israel. We may conclude that, likewise, there maybe rare times when it may be justified for a woman to take the lead over men. For example, a woman missionary in the absence of male missionaries might teach new male converts. Sad, though, is the church where men abdicate their responsibilities and leave the work of teaching and leading to the women. God may raise up the women to fill in the gaps as a judgment on the men of the church. Exceptions, however, do not make the rule. The godly woman would always do this with a view to seeing the men become the teachers and leaders.

Saved through childbearing

One of most difficult verses in Scripture is 1 Timothy 2:15, and is acknowledged so by almost all commentators, regardless of theological persuasion: “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (NASB).

The word “preserved” here corresponds to the Greek word sotzowhich is often translated “saved” which raises the question, “In what sense is a woman saved through childbearing?” Clearly, salvation for eternity would go against everything Paul taught about the gospel of grace (for example, Eph 2:8-9). However, it may also refer to being rescued from other things besides spiritual condemnation. Some interpretations have traditionally been adopted. 1) Women preserve the human race through childbearing 2) Women will be brought safely through the child-birthing process 3) Women will be saved through the birth of the Child, Jesus Christ and 4) A woman’s greatest achievement is found in devotion to her divinely ordained role, the nurturing of children being a primary aspect of this.

While some may find solace in dogmatically asserting one or another of these interpretations, the fact remains that all of them involve significant questions (see “The Cosmic Drama: Men, Women & the Church” pages 144-171 for a fuller discussion of these problems). While some who deny biblical gender distinctions appeal to the ambiguity of this verse to undermine any confidence we might have in the larger section (the whole of chapter 2), we join with Peter who recognized that, “Paul … also wrote … some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort …” (2 Peter 3:15-16). It is never a good idea to let the less clear passages of Scripture dictate our interpretation of the more clear passages of Scripture.


The words in 1 Timothy are notunfriendly words for women. To limit women from teaching men in the church is not legalistic. God’s design is for men to take the primary leadership and teaching roles in the church. We should avoid situations in which women do that for which they are particularly unsuited. The responsibility falls to the men. Men, let’s teach and lead well!

(Adapted from “The Cosmic Drama: Men, Women & the Church,” by Charles R. Gianotti. For a fuller discussion of this section along with verse 15, see pages 144-171).