“Women, the Word, and Worship” Sermon Notes

Attached below is an annotated outline of a sermon I preached on the role of women in the church. It is part of the ethics series we are having at our church every first Sunday of the month.

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Preliminary Thoughts. Any discussion of gender roles must take the following into consideration as we enter into the conversation:

The Equality of Man and Woman in Value. Biblical anthropology (the Bible’s teaching regarding man and woman) teaches that they are equal in value. Genesis 1:27 expresses this truth in that both man and woman are created in the image of God. First Peter 3:7 also indicates that wives are co-heirs with their husbands as redeemed individuals.

The Intentionality of God. The God of the Bible makes no mistakes and is intentional in all of his actions. If God intended for man and woman to carry no distinct roles then why would he create two separate genders? Is it not true that God has a purpose in creating man in two distinctly separate genders? I would suggest that purpose is to glorify God in the distinction of roles while maintaining absolute equal value in the eyes of God. God intended for woman to be the “helper” to man (Gen 2:18). This is the God-ordained role of the woman in the place of creation.

Gender Roles in the Church. The church in America has largely overlooked the issue of gender roles in the church. We must be aware that it stands as an important doctrine. Just like all doctrine, this is particularly practical within the fellowship of believers. It is difficult for believers to make corrective statements toward society in light of sexual orientation and gender roles when the church itself has struggled to define appropriate roles for male and female. Believers must remember that judgment begins in the household of God (1 Pet 4:17).

The Role of Man. The role of women in the church are directly related to the man’s role in the church. This is not to excuse women from obeying God’s command, rather it should emphasize the importance and urgency for men in all God-honoring churches to embrace their God given task of spiritual leadership.

Women, the Word, and Worship

While much debate is involved in identifying a “central text” for identifying the role of women in the church our text of focus will be 1 Timothy 2:9-15. While I do recognize that 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 also have a lot of contributions to the roles of women in the church they can be addressed in the future when time permits.

First Timothy 2:9-15 can be broken down into three palatable sections: (1) Who the Men see (vv. 9-10); (2) Who the Men Lead (vv. 11-14); and (3) Who The Man Redeems (v. 15).

Who the Men Sees (vv. 9-10). These first two verses explain to us the physical and spiritual “adornment” observable in the church. The Word of God in this passage instructs that women ought to be concerned about their clothing. They aren’t to be concerned with matching, style, or the latest fashion. Rather, the women in this context are told to be concerned with what their physical appearance has to say about their character.

Paul draws focus and attention on the improper clothing that women can potentially wear in the believing community, I want women to adorn themselves. Paul’s focus is for women to specifically take notice of their adornment. The term here means, “to dress” but has a wide array of meaning which can include slaves “adorning the doctrine of God by being submissive to their masters (cf. Titus 2:10). It also speaks of the temple being adorned with “noble stones and offerings” (Lk 21:5) and the scribes and Pharisees adorning the graves of righteous people (Matt 23:29). The initial use of proper clothing indicates more than just physical clothing. This is not an allegory, but it can be used to communicate “attire” but also “deportment.”

The type of adornment that women ought to be concerned with is clothing that modestly and discreetly. These terms indicate that the woman of God is concerned with a clothing that is void of shame and depicts self-control. Just a man’s behavior in public can show his level of maturity, so too can a woman’s dress. While men are expected to be chivalrous in the opening of doors, laying down of jackets, or providing a coat to a cold mother, sister, or wife. Here, chivalry leads a man to perform acts of duty towards women; then in this case modesty ought to lead a woman to actively pursue proper adornment. Secondly, women ought to clothe themselves discreetly. This means that women ought to concern themselves with clothing that shows forth self restraint and self-control.

The two words communicate a well balanced state of mind that will protect the woman from vanity and worldly display. “One’s attire is the expression of tastes, interests, and even character. Consequently, the manner in which a woman dresses indicates a great deal about what sort of woman she is.”[1]

Inversely, Paul continues to point out the negative aspects of a woman’s clothing, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments. While many may think that Paul argues that women should not be concerned with their clothing that is not what the passage means. The passage indicates that women are to concern themselves with certain types of clothing. These types of clothing indicate a level of priority that draws attention and focus to the physical features of a woman.

A woman’s true adornment or attention should not be upon herself, but upon the evidences of her Christian faith, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

Women are to adorn themselves with good deeds. Paul elsewhere speaks of how Jesus Christ redeemed us by the sovereign plan of God so that we would be do the good works which He has prepared beforehand. We are told to be people who are zealous for good deeds. We are to have a burning and passionate desire to live a life that pleases God.

The emphasis is not on salvation by works. Rather, it is highlighting the very works and triumphs of God’s grace in the life of the believing woman. The woman ought to do these good works in a life of commitment and intentionality. The idea behind making a claim [promise] to godliness indicates that women need to be consistent in their profession of faith and their behavior.

Here, Paul emphasizes when a woman thinks about what others see in her life, she is not to be concerned with the zit on her head or the bags under her eyes, but the dominant visible characteristic is the fruit of the Holy Spirit wrought only in those who truly believe.

Who the Men Lead (vv. 11-14). This section is the highly debated section of the passage. The basic idea being communicated by Paul here is that women are to be diligent students who are submissive to the Word of God.

A Woman Who is a Student. The passage continues to instruct readers that women are not only to be concerned with their outward appearance, but are to be diligent students of the word, A woman must quietly receive instruction. Readers of Scripture must be aware that this passage goes beyond encouraging a woman to learn or be a student, but rather it commands the woman to be a student of the word.

The idea behind receive instruction is the Greek word μανθανέτω.[2] This word is related to the noun μαθητής which means “disicple.” Therefore, Paul commands that women be learners  or practically students.

Again, the fact that this is stated as a command makes compliance an obligation and not a preference. Women are to primarily understand that they are to be students of the word. We must also recognize that a woman’s learning was a remarkable contrast to society. The role of a woman to be a disciple is a continual role she embraces continually in her life. There is always room to improve and always things to learn and apply in Christian living. This is not a role that can be abandoned, but must be embraced.

While society did not allow avenues for women to learn publicly, this is nothing new for Paul or the early church. Jesus Christ Himself commended Mary in Luke 10:38-42 for siting at His feet and learning as a disciple while Martha was serving. She took the place of a disciple and Jesus commended her showing forth His view of women to be sharp, astute, and capable learners and practitioners of spiritual truth.

It must be explained that this state of the woman is commanded in the context of public worship. The Scriptures do teach over and over again that women do bear the responsibility of teaching. They are to teach other women (Titus 2:3) and in discipleship. They are even described as having taught children (2 Tim 1:5). They are even recorded in Scripture as evangelists for the lost.

A woman implements these commands in quietness and submission.[3] These words indicate that when women learn they are to do so as if they are in the location of sphere of quietness and submission. They are quiet or silent in their learning and they are under the authority of God’s Word.

This does not teach blind submission by the woman. Rather, it implies the intentional and willful submission to the body of truth that is authoritative Scripture. Women are students who are so sharp that they know what kind of authority they are placing themselves under.

Women are to learn in quietness and submission that keeps the peace of the gathered assembly. This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:35-36 that women are to be silent during the worship service and if they are to ask questions, they are to do so under the proper circumstances.

A Woman Who is Surrendered. Secondly, the type of women that men lead are women who are surrendered or in other words submissive. Paul in the continuing verse gives a prohibition for women I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.

Here, two prohibitions are given that keep a woman from assuming the role of man. First the woman is prohibited from teaching. Secondly a woman is prohibited from exercising authority.

While teaching communicates the idea of the passing on of knowledge, the second term is much broader and prohibits a woman from exercising any authority over a man, yes, even if it is delegated authority. This indicates that women cannot hold the position of elder or pastor. This has nothing to do with value/form, but everything to do with function.

The reasons for why the prohibition is given is stated in verses 13-14. Here, an appeal is made to the creation story. First, it is reminded that Adam was created first. Second, we are reminded that Eve was deceived and Adam was in open rebellion.

The appeal to creation shows that it is has been intended for God that man and women to be in this particular relationship of leader-follower. This order has been ordained by God from the very beginning. Those who believe that this complimentarian hierarchical structure is imposed by Paul as a temporal condition must deal with the fact that this has always been part of God’s intended design.

Genesis 1-2 shows forth the God intended purposes for man and woman. Adam, having been created first is given authority. The intention of Eve’s creation was to provide man with a suitable helper to accomplish his God-given tasks in the garden. Unfortunately, Eve was deceived by the Serpent. Additionally, Eve’s recollection of the command shows forth error in the communication of the divine command that was solely given to Adam. As a result, God went on a manhunt to find and look for answers from Adam after the fall had occurred. This shows the leadership expectations of Adam in the events of creation and purpose. It was since the beginning that God had intended for this structure to exist.

Women are to be surrendered to the leadership of men and should not overstep the boundaries of teaching and exercising authority because it is God’s prescribed will. It has nothing to do with value, but is given as a means to show forth function.

Who The Man Redeems (v. 15). This verse may have caused a lot of confusion in the past among both egalitarian (proponents of women in leadership) and complimentarians (the belief that men and women are equal yet distinct in function) circles. Nonetheless, the position taken here argues that Paul is continuing his logical flow from the previous verses to describe the eventual fate of the woman who was deceived. While it may seem as though she is left in her transgression, this passage provides the hope of the Gospel.

The passage reads, But she will be preserved through the bearing of children. Another way to translate this passage is, “she will be saved through the childbirth.” This is a reference that again echoes the events of the Genesis account of the fall. In Genesis 3:15 a promise is given to the woman that from her seed a Savior would come to undo the works of the Serpent. This is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ as the promised seed.

Mary, the woman, gave the birth to Jesus fulfilling the prophecy. Therefore, Paul is saying that even though Eve was deceived and fell into transgression there is hope that salvation would come through the childbirth which references and points to Jesus Christ.

The women are saved through the childbirth on account that they show forth the true signs of saving faith which are continuing in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. This again does not teach salvation by works, but rather emphasizes the fruits of salvation. These virtues are those which become evident in a person’s life who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ.

This passage again shows the dignity and worth of the woman in the church. Her role in being appropriate in attire, possessing a hunger for spiritual knowledge, and submission to proper authority do not lessen her value in the eyes of God to be redeemed. God saves male and female and provides a foundation of hope for all who come to saving faith.

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Below is the video of the sermon:


[1] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Pastoral Epistles rev. ed., 105.

[2] Present Active Imperative 3S μανθανω.

[3] Locative of sphere. “This [locative of sphere] is a metaphorical use of the locative in figurative expressions. The location is in a logical sphere rather than in space or time” James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek, 40.


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