Men and Women in Worship

Sermon preached on 1 Timothy 2:8-10 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 10/09/2016 in Novato, CA.

Sermon manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Timothy 2:8-10

Men and Women in Worship

So many in our culture today want to minimize the differences between men and women. And yet the Bible has declared that from the beginning God made humans male and female. Yes, we are all humans, but there are also differences between men and women. It seems that our culture today is really struggling to know what to do with gender. Well, our study through 1 Timothy will bring us to consider gender in a few different ways. This will be the case somewhat with today’s passage and especially next week’s passage. Today we’ll be focusing on verses 8-10, and then next time we’ll look at verses 11-15. Both deal with men and women matters within the church, and today’s especially in the context of worship. Thus the title of our message, “Men and Women in Worship.”

And so I’d like us to begin in our first point to consider the overall approach to this passage. When you read the commentaries, there are two main interpretations. Both understand verses 8-10 to deal with men and women in the context of the church and its corporate worship. They both understand this to speak to how men and women should present and conduct themselves in the church’s worship. The main difference in approach deals with the specific of prayer. Verse 8 clearly calls men to be praying. The question is, “Do the verses addressing women have prayer in mind for the women as well?”

Some think they do not. They think that verse 8 deals with men praying, and such a view tends to assume that these men are leading the congregational verbally in prayer. Based on what we’ll see next week, I can understand why people would want such leadership in prayer during corporate worship to be reserved for the men. That being said, verse 8 doesn’t explicitly speak of men leading verbally like that. As we know in our own services, men as well as women pray together during the service, led by the pastor or an elder. Other than the pastor or elder who is leading the prayer, the rest of the men, as well as the woman, are not exercising a leadership role by praying together like that. And so verse 8 doesn’t have to be understood as a form of leading in prayer. It could simply be understood as the men participating in the prayer during the church’s worship services.

And so in contrast others have thought that when verse 9 says “in like manner also” that it is specifically referring to prayer. In other words, in verse 8 Paul speaks of how the men are to pray at church, and then verse 9 says in the same way, here’s how the women are to pray in the church. Obviously women are allowed to pray in church, because Paul himself mentions their prayer in a worship context in a passage like 1 Corinthians 11:5. Nor does this passage speak of them praying in any sort of authoritative role or in some way leading the prayer. Certainly both men and woman are to join in prayer during our various prayers during the worship services. Well, as true as that is, the question still comes: “Is that what this passage is talking about?” I’d say “probably.” I lean toward this second view. But it is hard to be dogmatic because Paul’s a bit brief here.

And yet regardless of which view is taken, the actual difference in terms of significance is actually pretty small. You see we basically are left with either how men and women are to each conduct themselves in the worship service, or how they are to conduct themselves as they pray in the worship service. And how either men or women conduct themselves in prayer during the worship service is really how they should conduct themselves throughout the worship service. So, I think the actual difference is rather minimal, regardless of how one understands the specific nuance of prayer here or not. And so in either case, what we have in these verses are some specific exhortations to men and women of how they are to conduct themselves in the church’s worship. And what I think we see is that the reason these specific exhortations are addressed to men and women is that Paul is dealing with struggles that tend to be more common for the one gender than the other. We do the same thing today for other matters as well. For example, today in the church we might speak especially to men when it comes to the sin of pornography. Yes, women can also struggle with it, but it tends to especially be an issue for men, and so we probably spend a lot more time talking to men about that sin than the ladies. So, I think that’s what we have here. When talking about men, he’ll address a lot about anger and quarrelling that they tend to struggle with. Now yes, not every man will struggle with this, and in fact women can also struggle with anger and quarrelling too. Similarly, when talking about women, he’ll address a lot about a focus on outward adornment that they tend to struggle with. Now yes, not every woman will struggle with this, and in fact men can also struggle with this too. And so hopefully we can all learn and benefit from this whole passage, even when it addresses those things that tend to be a greater struggle for the opposite gender.

Let me give one more introductory remark before turning then to address men and women separately. Notice how verse 8 begins with the word “therefore.” That says that our verses today have a connection with verses 1-7. Clearly the prayer idea is the main connection. He’s just been talking about the kind of prayer that he wants. Then he turns to command the men, and arguably the woman, in the church to be praying. And then notice that in verse 8 it talks about this prayer happening everywhere, literally in all places. It’s that word “all” that should stand out to you. Remember that verses 1-7 had that keyword “all” in the passage. Paul wanted prayer for all people, because God desires people of all the nations to be saved, and that’s why Jesus gave himself as a ransom for “all”. We made the point that Paul especially had in mind both Jews and Gentiles; that the repeated word for “all” had in mind how we should pray for the gospel to go forth everywhere. And so now in today’s passage that idea is continued when Paul talks about how he desires prayer in all places. As the Gentiles are brought to salvation, that will be happening more and more.

So then with that introduction and background, let’s turn now in our second main point to address the men. After that in our final point we’ll address the women. I’m basically taking this in the order that’s here. So we’ll begin with verse 8 and see what it says to men as they pray. I’ll highlight two main things. First, it says that men who pray should do so lifting up holy hands. Let me begin by saying that this often sparks discussions of prayer posture. What should our posture and hand position be in prayer? Does it matter? Well, what is interesting is that when you look in the Bible there are lots of different postures for prayer mentioned in the Bible. There’s references to standing, to kneeling, to falling down with your face upon the ground. There’s reference to obviously raising your hands like here, as well as beating your breast. Interestingly, there is no reference to my knowledge of folding your hands, which is so common today. There’s mention of both bowing the head and also lifting up your eyes to heaven. And so I think the take home point in terms of posture is that there are lots of variations in the Bible, and you could reflect on what each posture might express. It seems fair to conclude that the Lord has given us great freedom in this area, though it would also seem that some intention and thoughtfulness is important. In other words, slouching and/or sloppy posture doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what we see in the Scripture on this subject.

But I digress. That’s more of a side discussion here. It does say that the hands should be holy. What does it mean to have holy hands? Well, I guess in one sense you could think of how the fact that you use your hands in prayer makes them holy because of what they are doing. That being said, when you think of having holy hands, you might recall references in the Bible of approaching God with clean or pure hands. And when you think of that, you can remember that God is ultimately not so concerned with your physical cleanliness, but your inward cleanliness. My point is simply to say that if we are to approach God with holy hands, then it should really get us to think about approaching him with a holy heart. In other words, yes, our outward posture is a consideration in how we approach God in prayer. But we especially should be concerned to go before him in holiness. And the only way we can do that is through Jesus Christ. We approach God in prayer coming in faith through Jesus Christ. In Christ, because of who we are in Christ, we come in holiness to God.

But to further apply this, I think to come before God in holiness of heart means that we come before him dealing with our sin in Christ, instead of praying while ignoring that sin. It’s like how Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7 that improperly treating our wife can hinder our prayers. Sin that is not being dealt with before the Lord can affect our prayer. So, similar to how before you take the Lord’s Supper you should examine your heart and seek to repent of any sins you’ve been holding onto, the same should be true in general when you come to worship God. Let us not pray and worship God while stubbornly holding onto unrepentance. Instead come broken before him in Christ, repenting afresh and finding holiness anew in Jesus as you come to God in prayer.

And so that’s the first thing said here to men. The second thing is that we are to come in prayer without wrath or disputes. You’ll notice I used a different word there than what’s in the pew Bibles. The pew Bible says wrath and doubting. The question is about how to translate that word for doubting. It’s a less common usage of this Greek word to translate it as doubting. A more common use refers to quarreling and arguing. Since it is paired with wrath, I think it makes the most sense to translate it as disputing. Yes, we shouldn’t doubt in our prayers either, but I think the main concern being addressed here is how men can come in prayer with God’s people when they still have unresolved conflicts with each other. Let’s face it, men like to argue, especially over theological matters. Now yes, women can definitely argue with each other too. Though often, arguments among women can turn passive-aggressive, whereas men might more commonly show their wrath in their arguments. But God would not have us come to him in prayer when we haven’t dealt with these conflicts. It’s like how Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, that if you come to worship God but remember that your brother has something against you, that you are to go to that brother and first be reconciled to him. For that matter, even the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to be forgiving others. Fathers and brothers, this is how we should present ourselves in our prayer and worship of God. Let us be striving for peace and unity with one another. This is fitting for Christ’s church, that the men of God come together to worship in peace and harmony together in Christ.

So let’s turn now to address the woman in our final point. The issue here is presented in terms of adorning. Adorning is about how you make yourself beautiful. It’s not simply about what you do or do not wear. It’s how you beautify yourself. I love that this is not against beauty. So, first it describes what your adorning should look like. It should be modest, with propriety and moderation. Let’s talk about those three words. The first one that describes modest apparel in the Greek is really a word about what is proper or appropriate given the circumstances. The ESV translates it as respectable apparel. The idea is that your physical adornment is one that commands respect, versus for example someone looking at you and thinking you look like something I wouldn’t say from the pulpit. Well, what is such proper or appropriate dress? The next two terms answer that question: propriety and moderation. The term propriety is the idea of modesty in terms of not dressing so as to physically entice or seduce. What you wear or do not wear should not be encouraging the men in the congregation to lust over you. Similarly, the word moderation deals with self-control and discretion. Have self-control when you pick out your clothes. This should be true in church when you come to worship and pray, but I would also encourage it in general!

Paul then turns to give examples of things to not wear: braided hair with gold or pearls or costly clothing. Commentators tend to understand that this is not a blanketed prohibition against any use of these things, as if wearing an item of gold was inherently wrong in church. Rather, it’s a call for the self-control and moderation that we just described. Ladies, the church is not the place to show off how well off you are so that you can afford all kinds of luxurious adornments. Be mindful that not only does God not get impressed about diamond earrings, but many of your sisters can’t afford such things and can feel embarrassed or belittled by their simple dress in comparison. Nor should they feel as if they have to try to keep up with your rich adornments. Church is not a place to show off in terms of what you wear. Now again, this doesn’t mean you should dress in rags or that you can’t put on your Sunday best, so to speak. Remember, it did talk about wearing appropriate attire. But there is a difference between dressing for church in a nice and modest way, and dressing in such a way as simply trying to draw attention to yourself or your wealth. You shouldn’t want others looking at you during the worship service, you should want them focused on God.

And so then I love the other part of this. Verse 10 then turns to say what a woman of God should really use to adorn herself: good works! It says that is what is proper or fitting for a women who professes godliness. I love how this is similar to the holy hands reference before. As I suggested, the holy hands reference could get us to think about external, physical, things, like matters of posture. But it ultimately called us to think about our inward holiness as we approach God in prayer. And the same is here. We can think about what we physically wear or don’t wear to church. But ultimately we want to look beyond that to something internal, to that inner character that shows itself in godly living. And so that’s what it says the women should do to adorn themselves. Put on good works. Lots of things could be put under this category, but there is a nice list specific to younger women given in 5:10. There it talks about bringing up children, lodging strangers, washing the saints’ feet, relieving the afflicted, and being diligent in every good work. It goes on to talk about being busy in managing their house. The opposite is given in that same chapter, the evil of being a busybody or idle or a gossip.

And so mothers and sisters, make yourself beautiful with good works. Come before God in worship and prayer with that kind of beauty. And if you are to do that, it will only be through your relationship with Christ. Lean not on your own strength to make yourself a doer of good. Seek that help from the Lord. And when you struggle with this and find the stains of sin in your life, go again to Jesus to wash them clean from you. Present yourself to God in worship, made beautiful by your loving Savior Jesus, the Christ.

And so Trinity Presbyterian Church, though there are some different things brought to the men versus the women here, there is certainly a lot of similarity too. I love the wonderful balance here between the externals in worship and the internals. Yes, external things like posture and clothing are important considerations for church. We should give thought to these sorts of things. How we act and even how we look in worship is important. We should put thought into the appropriate decorum given the setting and circumstances. But then let us especially see the greater importance of the internals. Let us seek godliness of heart and action as we come to God in prayer and worship. And let us keep seeking that in and through Christ.

For the reality is that we all struggle in these sorts of things. We all struggle with anger and our tempers and know that conflicts with others are too easy to have. We all struggle with how we look and wanting to be commended by others because of our looks. We can make worship about the wrong things. But in our struggles, flee again to Christ. Come to him in humility. Come to him in your weakness. Cry out to him again in prayer for help. Come to him broken and needy. Come to him so that he can make you presentable to God in worship. That’s what’s so wonderful about being in Christ. He gives us the confidence to draw near to God in worship. He has declared us holy and is making us holy. He has adorned us with his good works and is adorning us with grace wrought works. How wonderful it is to worship in Christ, with all that this entails. This is what ultimately makes us beautiful and accepted in God’s sight. It is us coming in Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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