1 Timothy 2:8-3:3

by Dr. Stephen Kim

[8] I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

Paul addresses each sex uniquely. He begins by addressing men. The “place” is describing the church—the gathered assembly of believers, the ἐκκλησία—as seen by 1 Timothy 3:15: “If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Additional evidence that demonstrates this to be instructions for the context of the church is seen by the fact that the word ἄνδρας (men) is in the plural.

Both men and women are susceptible to anger, but it is far more the “sin of choice” among men. It is a dastardly exhibition of the flesh and one that if continually practiced, will bar one from entering the kingdom of God (cf. Gal 5:20). In lieu of anger is supposed to be the peaceful lifting up of hands in prayer—which the men are advised to do in churches. Woe to the church that is full of angry men fighting one another!

[9] 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,

“Likewise” denotes that an instruction will run the same vein as the preceding exhortation. Just as men were told how to behave in church, so now, the women are likewise instructed. The sin that is more acutely commonplace among women is the sin of vanity and outward adornment. Hence, the apostle warns them to wear respectable apparel—garments that will not draw the attentions of others within the church off of God and upon them. The Greek word for “respectable” is the word κοσμίῳ and it carries the sense of “respectability” and “seemly.” The prohibition is not a complete ban on the braiding of hair, gold, or pearls; for if we apply the same hermeneutic to the similar command given in 1 Peter 3:3, then we must conclude that there is to be a ban on clothing! Rather, Paul is simply instructing the women not to dress seductively or ostentatiously. Braided hair, gold, and pearls were worn by first-century women to draw attention to their statuses, their wealth, and beauty. This would be a self-glorifying distraction during worship.

[10] but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Instead of those outward and ostentatious practices mentioned in verse nine, Paul instructs women to have a godly heart which is naturally displayed through the doing of good works (cf. Eph 2:10, 1 Tim 5:10).

[11] Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

The Greek verb here (Gk. μανθανέτω) for “let…learn” is in the imperative form. Hence, the apostle is actually commanding that women learn quietly. Speaking to teach denotes authority (cf. verse 12), whereas silence denotes submission. For the Christian woman, the embrace of submission to biblical authority figures is a mark of spiritual maturity (cf. 1 Pet 3:6).

It is also implicit within the command that churches ought to be teaching their women— a great novelty in the Pauline era. Both first-century Greek culture and Judaism did not hold women in high regard. Paul’s instruction to teach women, therefore, was a revolutionary concept that showed a very high regard for women. Claims of Paul’s misogyny are false and misplaced.

[12] I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

“Permit” is the Greek word ἐπιτρέπω and it carries the meaning of “allowing.” Paul, under divine injunction, does not allow a woman to teach (Gk. διδάσκειν). Implicit within this injunction is the fact that teaching within the church carries authority. This, therefore, certainly prohibits women from becoming elders within the church because the role of elder has both teaching and governance responsibilities (cf. 1 Tim 3:2). The command explicitly prohibits women from any teaching or governing position within the church which exerts authority over men within the church. Thus, this does not simply mean that a woman cannot be a pastor, but it also prohibits her from teaching or leading church-based home Bible study small groups which contain men. Writer and scholar, Wayne Grudem writes,

I would not think it appropriate for a woman to be a permanent leader of a home fellowship group, especially if the group regularly carries out pastoral care of its members and functions as a sort of mini-church within the church. This is because the leader of such a group carries a governing authority that seems to me very similar to the authority over the assembled congregation that Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 2. Given the frequently small nature of churches meeting in homes in the first century, and given the “pastoral” nature of the responsibility of leading a home fellowship group, I think Paul would have thought of this as included in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men.” Furthermore, “she is to remain quiet.” (Grudem, Wayne. 1995. But What Should Women Do In The Church? The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 1, no. 2: 5.)

Grudem’s point is simple: Small group Bible studies which meet in homes feel and function as extensions of the church (this is what he means by “mini-church”). In such settings, there is teaching occurring, the Bible is being expounded, and men are often present alongside women. Therefore, in such cases, women should not be “teaching or exercising authority,” as per the 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibition. Grudem further elaborates and notes that many churches in the New Testament often met in homes—which were a very similar type of gathering to today’s “small group.”

Some have claimed that αὐθεντεῖν, “to exercise authority,” simply means that a woman could preach, but that she should not do so in a domineering way. However, solid scholarship shows that αὐθεντεῖν does not mean “to domineer” or “to flout authority,” but that it means “to have (exercise) authority” (Kostenberger 1995, 103).

“She is to be quiet” is a prohibition against women speaking when the church is assembled. In 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul commands the churches that, “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” A woman’s silence within the church, therefore, displays her Christian maturity and submission to the lordship of Christ.

A common objection is, “But what about the fact that Paul acknowledges that women have the ability to prophesy in 1 Corinthians 11:5?” The answer is quite simple: If Scripture does not contradict, then 1 Corinthians 11:5 must simply be referring to women who prophesied outside of the context of the assembled church (cf. Acts 21:9). Philip’s four virgin daughters certainly did prophesy, but they did so at home and never within the context of the assembled church. A woman prophesying in the middle of the gathered church would be considered “shameful” by God (1 Cor 14:35).

[13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

The first of two reasons the apostle gives for prohibiting women from speaking and exercising authority over men. Rather than rooting his prohibition on some temporal, cultural context; Paul instead roots it on a pre-Fall, Creation Ordinance. According to Paul, because God made man first, therefore a woman is to never exercise authority over him. This original chronology in creation by God was evidently done intentionally and with purpose. Hence, Paul’s prohibition stands for all time and is not subject to change based on societal shifts. The church’s embrace of this divinely-ordained authority structure is an acknowledgment of the lordship of Jesus Christ.

[14] and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Adam (the man) was not deceived by the serpent in Genesis 3. This also implies that Adam was a transgressor by choice—not deception. Nevertheless, the point of this verse is to demonstrate what occurs when a when a woman leaves and disrupts the God-ordained structure of male leadership. Leaving the protection and guidance of her husband, Eve became vulnerable and susceptible to attack and deception. Adam, abdicating his God-given leadership, follows Eve into sinning against God. This was a complete reversal of God-ordained sexual roles—one which is now being restored through complementarian churches. It is important to note that although Eve fell first, God however, held the man principally responsible (Gen 3:9). It is in Adam (not Eve), we all attain Original Sin (Rom 5:19), and it is through the God-man, Jesus Christ, that believers are imputed righteousness (Rom 5:19).

[15] Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

The Greek word for “saved” is in the future, indicative, passive tense. Additionally, Paul uses the plural “they.” Combined, these facts show us that Eve is not the person in view in verse fifteen. Instead, Paul is talking about all future women.

Within the context of Scripture, Paul is clearly not saying that women will attain salvation by bearing children for that would contradict the New Testament gospel of salvation by faith alone. The word for “saved” is the Greek word σωθήσεται and it could mean “preserved,” “healed,” or “rescued.” The word appears numerous times in the New Testament without any reference to salvation (cf. 2 Tim 4:18; Matt 8:25; 9:21, 22; 24:22; 27:40). Consistent with the theme of this epistle, Paul is saying that as a married woman embraces a role that is clearly and uniquely feminine (i.e., childbearing), she testifies to her genuine faith and is thus being “preserved” by God unto eternal life. Childbearing, therefore, is merely a wonderful fruit of a woman who is genuinely saved. Instead of rebelling against God’s design in creation; by bearing children, the woman testifies to the fact that she has lovingly embraced and that she cherishes her God-given identity as a female. This act of obedience brings glory to God and helps assure her of her salvation.  “Love,” “holiness,” and “self-control” are also fruits of a genuinely saved individual.

[3:1] The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.

The pastor’s job is a good work. The first word translated as “aspires” is the Greek word, ὀρέγεται, and it is a reference to an external “desire towards.” The second word translated as “desires” is the Greek word, ἐπιθυμεῖ, and it is a reference to a strong inner desire. Both words could be translated as “desires” but in the Greek, they carry two different meanings. The man of God must possess both desires. He must not only outwardly aspire to the pastorate, but he must also be deeply internally convinced that he is called by God to do the job.

“Overseer” is translated for the Greek word ἐπισκοπῆς, and it refers to the office of pastor, elder, or bishop (most literally, it is the word “bishop”). The New Testament uses these terms often interchangeably to refer to the same office (cf. 1 Pet 5:1, Acts 20:17, Titus 1:5). Overseers were responsible for literally “overseeing” the church. They oversee the flock by teaching and preaching the Word of God, protecting the sheep from error, conducting discipline, praying for the flock, ordaining other elders, and living by example.

[2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

“Must” is used in the Greek to show that these traits are absolutely necessary within the man who leads God’s house. Holy living is a mandatory requirement for the pastor. “Above reproach” is another way of saying “blameless” or without flagrant sin. The pastor must be above reproach because the flock is called to imitate his example and way of life (Heb 13:7). Furthermore, the messenger represents the message and as an ambassador of Christ, the pastor must represent Christ well through holy living.

“Husband of one wife” most plainly means that the man must be faithfully married to one woman. This certainly eliminates polygamists from the ministry, but it also eliminates adulterers, homosexuals, and those who have been divorced and are now remarried (cf. Matt 19:9). The term “one woman man” also denotes sexual purity. The pastor is to be the model of sexual purity—in both thought and act. He cherishes his wife and guards himself from all sexual temptations (Gen 39:12). Therefore, a pastor who falls into adultery could be forgiven and reinstated into the church, but forever loses the ability to fill the pastorate. Such a person is disqualified. This text also exposes the Roman Catholic mandate of a celibate clergy as a false teaching.

“Able to teach” is the translation of the Greek word διδακτικόν. The pastor must therefore, not only teach the Word of God, but he must also have the ability to teach it well. The word has the notion of giftedness and capacity. It is not enough for the pastor to know the Word of God for himself, but rather, he must also be able to teach it so that others can clearly understand it. In conjunction with 1 Timothy 2:12, this verse effectively eliminates the possibility for a woman to be a pastor. Pastors must be “able to teach,” whereas women are commanded not to teach (cf. 1 Tim 2:12). Thus, women are prohibited from being pastors. A woman who becomes a pastor is living in disobedience to the Word of God.

[3] not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

The terms here all delineate what it means to “be above reproach” (v. 2). Drinking is not a sin, but getting drunk is. It is wise and favorable, therefore, for pastors to stay away from alcohol altogether for even the impression of drunken dissipation is destructive and not fitting for a man of God. In our age of churches using mixed martial arts to draw crowds into the church, this verse stands in stark opposition by stating that a man of God must be “not violent but gentle.” Pastors are not to do their work because they are driven by a greed for money (cf. 1 Pet 5:2), but instead, they are to do it out of a genuine love for God and people. And although they will reason and contend for the faith, pastors will not be “quarrelsome” and leave such disruptions to the unregenerate.


Baldwin, Scott H., Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner, ed. 1995. Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.


About Dr. Stephen Kim

Dr. Stephen Kim is the senior pastor of Mustard Seed Church in New York City. He has also served as Associate Director of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, NYC Extension Center. Pastor Stephen is the happy husband of one beautiful woman and the joyous father of four beautiful children. As a pastor and writer, he is passionate about accurately feeding Christians the Word of God: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?" (Matthew 24:45).
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3 Responses to 1 Timothy 2:8-3:3

  1. SnapperTrx says:

    I noticed v12 appears to be two different statements: two different restrictions. 1) I do not permit a woman to teach, and 2) OR TO exercise authority over a man. It is not a singular restriction as many seem to translate it (ie: “to teach or have authority over a man”). My question is, however, that if women want to learn something for them to ask their husbands (1 Cor 13:35), and they are not permitted to teach in church, then are they permitted to teach at all? Even other women? I know the bible tells the older women to teach the younger women how to obedient to their husbands, discreet, chaste, homemakers (Titus 2:4,5), but the teaching of scripture is not needed to learn those things. Certainly application of scripture helps, but an older woman can teach a younger woman to be discreet in dress or word, or how to be a homemaker without teaching scripture.

    Also, I do not foresee anywhere in the near future that you could tell any church that their women should not be teaching men or carrying the title of pastor. I recently restricted my wife from seeing a female counselor who carried the name “pastor” (her bio indicated that she was, in fact, an ordained pastor), and she completely ignored me. Even my own father, who is a strong Christian, seem disturbed that I would restrict my wife from this woman because she claims to be a pastor. To me it’s a red flag, but to the rest of the church it is no big deal.


  2. Kelvon says:

    Very thorough and appreciated, if even unpopular and against the grain of society. We must stand for truth and God’s word.


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