When my mom was struggling with cancer, one of my most vivid memories revolves around her first several days in ICU as her body began finally succumbing to the ravages of chemotherapy. Hooked up to numerous IVs, tubes and monitors, she could hear, blink and point weakly, but she couldn’t speak since one of the tubes went into her mouth and down her throat. This made communication difficult, but my feisty and determined mom always found a way to make her will be known.
Now my mother had always been independent, smart, classy, a quick learner, copious letter writer, and excellent talker, a woman’s woman in the eyes of many. She was interesting to listen to, interested in people, and had a knack for keeping entire offices together all the years of her working as a secretary both in law offices and later in the oil industry.
They say that opposites attract and when she married my dad it was exactly that: practical planner meet idyllic dreamer. But, as with all things done in God’s power, it worked. For 30 years my parents loved, struggled, rejoiced, clashed and resolved. Sometimes the struggling and clashing almost overwhelmed, but the choice to love won out every time.
Now here she was. Independent spirit essentially tied to a bed. Getting things done left up to others. The one who helps now having to be helped. The controller not having control over anything.
Due to the fact that the hospital room was kept chilly, the tube kept her mouth propped open, and liquids entered her body solely intravenously, her lips were constantly dry and uncomfortable. After a few moments of her trying to tell me, my dad, and younger sister what she wanted, a light bulb went off in my head and I grabbed some lip balm to gently spread across her mouth. But one slight shake of her head and a small frown between her eyebrows let me know something was still wrong. Shaking her finger in gentle reprimand at me, she pointed to the lip balm and then pointed to my father. She wanted him to help her.
What a beautiful picture of submission that was for me. Having someone help you with basic hygienic duties is extremely humbling. And she trusted my dad to do it.
Do I trust God in the same way? Do I strive and worry my way through what I want in my marriage, my womanhood, my parenting, my church, and my work or do I listen and allow the Holy Spirit to create a new heart in me? How deep am I willing to let the hard things of Scripture go within me? How intentional am I to allow God’s way to be my way? Will my choices leave a good picture for those I mentor?
What does it look like to have a church body functioning well as a unit? Timothy obviously desired to lead his congregation in strong corporate worship. But many negative outside forces – and sometimes negative inside attitudes – meant the young pastor could probably use a lot of advice. In this week’s lesson, Paul gives Timothy some snapshots of healthy, unifying worship. These are not exhaustive, but address some of the issues faced by Timothy’s church.
Sometimes Paul’s words are hard and we have to wrestle with meaning and application to our own church and to ourselves. We will see how we can grow as mentors and give guidance to those under our care by focusing on prayer and order.
DAYS 1 and 2
I. Read 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
Now begins the essence of Paul’s instruction portion of the letter: running a church, keeping people unified, helping focus their hearts. And the first thing Paul talks about is prayer – the heart of corporate worship. But he also challenged the young believers of his day to go far beyond the easy topics of prayer.
In case “all men” didn’t compute, Paul lists “kings” and “all who are in authority.” During this time period, Christians were under the rule of Nero, one of the most notorious dictators in history. In spite of persecution, Rome actually offered more communication routes for the spread of the gospel plus, due to its pluralistic religious outlook, a greater ability in many cases to talk about Christ. But attention to Caesar was to be paramount. And the narcissistic, insane Nero saw enemies around every corner, demanding not first place but the only place in the hearts of all Rome’s subjects.
Yet Paul says to pray for them. Even in the face of possible persecution, the answer was and is to pray. Pray for the soldiers. Pray for the Roman senators. Pray for the governors. Pray for Nero.
- What four things does Paul list in verse 1 as essential to corporate worship?
- And whom should we lift up?
- What reasons does Paul give at the end of verse 2 for such focused prayer?
II. Read Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.
In the back of my mind, it seems like the statement, “I’d just like a little peace and quiet,” is something I heard a lot growing up. We associate it often with getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the noise, the distractions, the frustrations. The New American Standard translation of 1 Timothy 2:2 uses the word “tranquil,” which has as part of its definition, “calm,” “undisturbed,” and “not agitated.”1 Instead of escaping what’s before us, these defining words depict a heart and mind at rest in the midst of turmoil and frustration.
In Timothy’s day, there was no luxury of the kind of peace and quiet we envision at times. Taking just one look at the slavery or the practice of putting Christians in with lions in the Roman arenas of Paul’s day would tell us that the words “tranquil” and “quiet life” may have more facets than what we see on the surface.
“God established and upholds the principles of government even
though some governments do not fulfill His desires.” – Charles Ryrieii2
- In submitting to authority what do these passages indicate?
- In verses 3 and 4, we see the true reasons for Paul’s urgings in prayer for all, including corrupt authority figures. What are those reasons?
III. Read quickly Acts 23:11 through 25:12.
Notice within these passages that there are several times Paul benefits from his Roman citizenship. He worked within the law to get to where he needed to be, avoiding being put into the hands of the Jewish authorities who wanted him killed right away. God still had plans for Paul. The apostle maneuvered through the authority system of that day to get it done. Pagan though it was, Rome emphasized justice and fair trials for her citizens.
So, as Paul worked within the political structure of his day, several questions arise:
- Is it appropriate for Christians today to work within their own country’s governmental system to bring about justice?
- Is it right to pray for someone in office to be ousted?
- Is it acceptable to pray for a radical change in law?
- How about working toward these ends?
- Should Christians participate in public demonstrations?
- Should pastors address political issues and actions of candidates with Biblical teaching that deals with such matters?
These questions and a host of others focus on outward results. We know that Paul wasn’t seeking justice for himself, but he was seeking to gain new ground for sharing the gospel. A change of heart is the real issue. God wants people to come to Him. How amazing would be a king, a Caesar, a lawgiver or law enforcer in the hands of the Almighty? But above their potentially righteous actions here on earth, they would be His forever.
- Do your prayers consistently cover all in authority over you, even those with whom you disagree?
- How can you better make God’s goals your own?
- How well do you know your rights as a citizen of this country or perhaps your host country? Do you use every opportunity to share Christ, even within the government and its laws?
- As a mentor, how can you be an example of working to gain new ground?
IV. Read 1 Timothy 2:5-8
Paul again points to the central message of the gospel. This is the only way anyone can hope to be saved, to understand truth, and to pray to live quiet, tranquil, dignified and godly lives. One God. One mediator. One ransom. The understanding of that oneness is essential to the unity in worship Paul is encouraging for Timothy’s congregations. To make his point extremely clear, Paul uses an interesting, parenthetical phrase: “I am telling the truth, I am not lying.” Read Paul’s similar phrase usage in Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 1:23, 11:10; Galatians 1:20.
- What does this phrase imply to you?
- Why do you think Paul was compelled to write this phrase here in I Timothy?
- What does “lifting holy hands” (verse 8) signify to you? Read Psalm 63:4 and Luke 24:50 for other usages of this phrase. “Dissension” in 1 Timothy 2:8 implies a divided interest, an intellectual rebellion against God.3 This idea ties into the term “double-minded” found in James 1:8 and 4:8. Read Psalm 24:3-5. How does this encourage you as you enter corporate worship?
I. Read 1 Timothy 2:9-12.
For God’s perspective on beauty and beautification, read Genesis 24:22, 53 (you may want to skim the whole chapter of this lovely story of Rebekah and Isaac); Exodus 28:2; Ezekiel 16:9-14; Matt 5:16, 6:16-18; 1 Peter 3:3-4.
Paul just addressed men as they were to lead in public prayer within the churches. Now, he speaks about women – specifically within the greater topic of worshipping in a corporate setting. Paul begins with how women are to “adorn” themselves for church.
Clothing and accessories will probably be a topic for discussion until Christ returns. Some have very definitive views. Others don’t think of it at all. But obviously there was something to alert Paul to the fact that this issue needed to be addressed in order for things to be healthy when church members gathered to worship as a whole body.
- What should be the goal of a woman in her appearance?
- According to verses 9 and 10, what might have been an issue with the Christian women of Ephesus?
- What is your focus as you get ready for the day?
- How do you focus your heart as you get dressed for church?
- How do you see beautification being corrupted in the world today? In the church?
I. Read Psalm 119.
Though women were the main group addressed in 1 Timothy 9-15, receiving instruction humbly and submissively is a must for anyone wanting to become more Christ like. Throughout the Psalms are terms like “meditate,” “regard,” “observe,” “teach,” “understand,” and “wait” as it pertains to a yearning to know God better by obeying His commandments. These expressions invoke a sense of selflessness, a constant reminder of who we are and who God is.
Timothy must have had some hard-headed women in his church who thought it was their duty to instruct beyond what Timothy and some of the elders were teaching. They most likely were disrupting the service since Paul requested they remain quiet in the corporate worship sessions.
- How has pride prevented you from quietly and submissively receiving instruction?
- Does the role of women in corporate worship as laid out by Paul bother you? Why or why not?
- In a mentor role, how could these attitudes espoused in 1 Timothy 2 benefit women under you?
I. Read 1 Timothy 2:13-15, Genesis 2:23-24, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-21.
Paul then goes back to creation in verses 13 and 14 to show God’s leadership order. And he’s not saying that the fall was all Eve’s fault – other passages show that the main portion of blame rests on Adam as head of household and God’s appointed leader. Both were equally guilty. Both succumbed. Both failed.
But, at the start of the whole fiasco, Eve took control of the situation; she was the first one deceived by acting on her own in pride, essentially, taking on the role as leader in that moment. She took control from Adam and even from the Father.
Verse 15 continues the thought that Eve overstepped her bounds, but will come back into her correct role by doing what she was intended to do. This doesn’t mean she is “saved” by bearing children. Only one Child was born who can save all of mankind and that is Jesus Christ, a foundational truth preached by Paul again and again. Besides, there are some women who cannot bear children at all. This verse instead focuses on the fact that a woman’s greatest source of achievement, accomplishment and purpose (by God’s design) is intentionally being subject to the leadership order. In that role, she can truly be a helpmate to her husband, be a good steward of children God may give, and – for all women – live a faithful, godly life pursuing the service of others and good works.
- How well do you take constructive criticism?
- What is your goal in corporate worship?
- In light of all the Scriptures we’ve studied this week, how can we keep in perspective what is often considered controversial material from Paul? What other Scripture passages help you?
Often our greatest struggles are those which can most help the women God’s put into our lives. Our moments of greatest pain and frustration are better sermons than the greatest oratory we can conjure. Our times of deepest wrestling with the Word are the inspiration for those we mentor to seek God’s will and purpose for their lives. And those humbling moments like spiritual lip balm can be the picture that truly inspires.
1. Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. 1828. Entry for “tranquil.”
2. Ryrie, Charles C., Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, Moody Press, Chicago, commentary on Romans 13:1.
3. “Greek Lexicon :: G1261 (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 21 Sep, 2014.
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