8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 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, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:8-15)
Today we begin looking at a paragraph that first speaks directly to men and then directly to women. Now, that does not mean that the ladies can zone out today and the men next week. No, it is good for all of us to hear God’s Word and be on board with God’s design related to male and female. If we are in a passage that speaks primarily to women then the men ought to find ways to support the ladies in those commands. And if our passage, like today’s, speaks primarily to men, then the ladies ought to find ways to be supportive of the men and encourage them as they live out the Lord’s commands for them. Our purpose in life is not just to be concerned with ourselves, though we mostly, unfortunately, are mostly concerned with ourselves. But we should be concerned about the entire body of Christ and be active encouragers of each other in whatever role God has called us to.
This, I think, is a much better and more biblical approach to responding to the Bible’s instructions given to those around us. That is that we are encouragers, not demanders. That means that we encourage each other in righteousness rather than demand righteousness from them. Let me be more clear. It is good for me, best for me that I obey God’s Word. Agreed? It is good that out of a love for Christ and a heart of thanksgiving toward Him that I move by faith to live for Him. To live for Him is to obey Him. So, it is best for me that I obey the Lord. Here is how Christ illustrates this…
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
The point that Jesus is making after giving a great deal of instruction is that if we hear and obey what the Lord teaches then we are on solid ground and the troubles of life will not destroy us. But if we hear and do not obey, but choose to go our own way, then the troubles of life will beat against us and we will succumb to those troubles, and He said great will be our fall. So it is best that we hear and obey.
So back to what I was saying. It is best for me that I obey, it always is. The opposite then is that if I choose to disobey it is not good for me. So we need to be sure that when we are encouraging others to obey the Lord, that we are doing so from a heart of compassion for them, wanting what is best for them. The motive for wanting others to obey that is not so good is if we want them to obey just because it will make our lives better or easier. Like if we want our children to obey just so our lives as parents will go more smoothly and our troubles will be reduced. You see, that is being selfish in wanting someone to obey the Lord. That is like just seeking what is in it for me if you obey the Lord. No, we need to turn that around, and out of compassion for the one who is disobeying, encourage them to obey – because that is what is good for them and what is pleasing to the Lord. So as we talk about men and then about women we can look at each other and encourage obedience out of a love for the other and a love for Christ, not just so that we get something out of it.
I would like us to keep in mind another thing as we start looking at these verses in particular. A very simple and obvious truth: these are God’s words, His instruction to us as Christians. Sometimes this most obvious truth can be the most important truth as we study a passage. There are God’s words to us. That is a simple and obvious statement. But I say it because some of what we will talk about, over the next couple of weeks, will seem culturally strange to us. To live by what we will read might seem out of place in our thinking and in our world. We need to be okay with that. Becoming a Christian is a decision to follow a source of truth, the Bible, that is greater than and transcends cultural fads or trends or even foundations. We have been called by God to live in particular ways. When Jesus walked the earth, He did not make it His aim to be comfortable with His culture. We are tempted to make peace with our culture, or you could even say with whatever sub-culture we find attractive. We are all drawn to specific ways of living, we just are. But in choosing our way, have we chosen to live, really live according to God’s revealed Word? The answer for all of us will be yes and no. We know we should, and that we have been called to that as a Christian, but the truth is we struggle. And in our struggle we should repent and lean upon Christ, take steps of obedience by faith, trusting God to work all things for our good. That is our call, that is our new way. And so while obedience might be challenging, our call is to obedience. Today we will only look at verse 8 and then next time we will move to verse 9. So today we will primarily talk about men and next time women.
By the way, I should mention this. As most all of you know, we preach through books of the Bible and we don’t skip verses along the way. If you happened to be in the second service last week then you missed the sermon on verses 5-7. I preached on those verses in the early service, and due to a family medical issue was unable to preach in the second service, so Bilal stepped in and gave a message on prayer. So if you missed those verses and would like to catch up you can go to our website and hear or read it there. I don’t want you to think we just passed over those important verses.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling (1 Timothy 2:8)
Now this seems like a simple and straightforward verse, and it is, but in this short verse we see several things. We see things like a gender mentioned, that is men. We see a place mentioned, “every place.” We see a posture of lifting hands, we see the type of hands that should be lifted, holy hands. And we see attitudes that do not mix well with prayer, that is anger and quarreling. These are all things that Paul desires and that God desires, since we know He gave this to Paul as His Word to be followed.
When Paul says men here he means males. You know sometimes we see man in the Bible and it means mankind, not just males. The word used here is men as opposed to women. Paul is speaking specifically and clearly to the adult male population. This is even more clear when we we see verse 9 which begins, “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel.” And so verse 8, clearly speaking to men, and verse 9 then transitioning to women. This is an important detail of this passage to understanding it rightly. Paul is definitely addressing men.
This praying then, by men, is said to be in “every place.” This phrase “in every place” is used four times in the New Testament and each time indicates the official assembly of the church. Let me show you this. 1 Corinthians 1:2 for instance: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:”
The whole context of this writing is the local church when it assembles together. Timothy is not talking here within the context of the home or the world or any other gathering, but is talking specifically about the church, the worship meeting of the church. And it is in that context where he says the men should pray or that it should be the men who lead in the congregation of the church who pray. We are going to see in other places in this book that Paul strongly writes of male leadership in the church, male authority, male leadership in the church. We will see that as he speaks of elders and deacons for sure, but other places as well. This is really important. Paul is writing to Timothy and is giving Timothy instructions regarding the church. Let’s be careful here that we don’t take some of this teaching and apply it to all situations, it is not meant for that. He is certainly not saying women can’t pray at all, in other venues. He is saying the men should pray in the formal gathering of the church in worship.
By the way, that is what we would call what we are doing right now. We would say that our formal time of gathering as a church body is during this time, our early and our later worship services as we all gather, young and old, male and female, as a church in worship through music, prayer, and preaching of the Word. Now, we may also gather at other times. Maybe a subgroup gathers in one of our homes once a week, a men’s study at a restaurant, a women’s study in one of our church classrooms, age graded Sunday school or even the adult class, we gather in many ways, but it is our once Sunday meeting (well, two times because of two services) of all ages together in here that we see as our formal gathering of our time of worship. And so we have men pray during our worship time together, men leading in prayer.
Paul is not just concerned with prayer being offered, but how it is offered: “the men should pray, lifting holy hands.” Now the lifting of hands is often referenced in the Bible. Many times in the Old Testament the lifting of hands is mentioned, and even in Jewish traditions. It could be that Paul is emphasizing this particular posture of lifting hands in the air literally, there is certainly nothing wrong with that, but most would agree that the posture is not the emphasis as much as what it represents. The Bible speaks of many postures of prayer, not just the lifting of hands in the air. The hands represent service, they are how we serve, the hands convey that. And lifting them in holiness – our hands represents our human activities, how we act, what we do, and holiness being purity we can see that our prayers ought to be given from a life that is indicative of a pure heart and mind, with our thoughts in line with what God wants, what He desires. Yes, we can literally raise our hands to God in prayer, but the key is are we offering ourselves and our words in holiness to God? In other words, with what attitude are we praying, men?
This is so different than what we read of the Pharisees. Consider the contrast, remember holiness is purity of heart and mind, a desire to please and worship God, it is a desire for righteousness rather than a hypocritical outward act which masks an inward reality. When Jesus said these “woes” to the Pharisees He was speaking of their outward acts – that would have included prayer – that revealed their hypocritical living…
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:25-28)
These descriptions, again, stand in great contrast to what Paul was teaching: “the men should pray, lifting holy hands” The Psalmist said in Psalm 66:18, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
If we are loving sin, living in and loving sin, we are not then lifting up holy hands in prayer. True prayer is acknowledging God as King, Jesus as Lord, and communicating with them as a child of faith knowing that they can heal us, lead us, provide for us, protect us, give us wisdom, bless us, teach us, sustain us, give us joy, give us peace, be our all, work all things for our good, that the Lord will love us now and forever. These would be holy attitudes of prayer.
Lastly Paul says that this kind of prayer should be without anger or quarreling. It is interesting that Paul would mention just these two things to avoid in prayer, anger and quarreling. Now remember that he had said earlier that we are to pray for all people, and specifically those in authority over us. One obvious thing that may keep us from praying for others is our anger toward them or because of quarreling that has taken place. Anger and quarreling does what? These things set up barriers between individuals. If I am mad at you I may avoid you and I probably won’t pray for you. Praying for another person’s salvation is praying the ultimate good for them. Isn’t that right? It is wanting, desiring ultimate good for them, and in our anger we simply may not want that for others. It may be more like, “Yeah, I’ll pray alright, I’ll pray that they get what they deserve, I’ll pray that they get what is coming to them, I’ll pray that God will treat them the way they treated me.” We may do that instead of praying that God would have mercy on them for their sins, that God would be good to them in spite of how they have treated me or others. It is in fact praying that they be forgiven by a holy God rather than receiving His wrath. Anger can cloud our thinking, it can hinder our lifting of holy hands to God, and so Paul brings it up and reminds us of this important truth, of our tendency to not be gracious or merciful to those who sin against us or treat us badly.
And so, Paul starts with the men and the importance of prayer, the right kind of prayer. It is interesting to me that of all the things Paul could have said here to men, that this is what he said, men should pray. Men, let’s be praying men, lifting our voices to the Lord in prayer.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; (1 Timothy 2:8)