1 Timothy 2

From those who had been within, now so solemnly delivered over to Satan, the apostle turns to our relationships with those outside, especially such as are in authority.

“I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men, for kings and all that are in high rank, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all piety and gravity. 9For this (is) good and acceptable before our Saviour God, Who desireth, that all men should be saved and come unto full knowledge of truth” (vers. 1-4). It is not here the counsels of God in all their immense extent and heavenly glory, but rather what is consistent with the nature of God revealed in Christ and published everywhere by the gospel. Such is the character of our Epistle, and is the ground on which the apostle insists upon a spirit of peace on the one hand and of godly order on the other. In accordance with this he exhorts that the saints should be marked by a desire of blessing for all mankind: the very reverse of that proud austerity which the heathen bitterly resented in the later Jews. It was the more important to press this gracious attitude, inasmuch as it is of the very essence of the church to stand in holy separateness from the world, as a chaste virgin espoused to Christ. With light or harsh minds this separation easily degenerates into a sour self-complacency; which repels from, instead of attracting to, Him Whose rights over all it is the prime duty of the church to assert, Whose glory and Whose grace ought to fill every mouth and heart with praise. From a misuse of his privileges a Jew was ever in danger of scorning the Gentile, and not least those in high place, with a bitter contempt for such of their brethren as served the Gentile in the exaction of tribute, the sign of their own humiliation. In their national ruin they had more than all the pride of their prosperity, and judged their heathen masters with a sternness ill-suited to those who had lost their position, for a time at least, through their constant yielding to the worst sins of the Gentiles.

The Christian is in no less danger. For on the one hand he is entrusted with a testimony of truth far beyond what the Jew had; and, on the other, his separation does not consist so much in external forms. Hence he is in continual danger of making good a separation to God, not in the power of the Holy Ghost in truth and love among those who cleave to the Lord, but in peculiar abstinences and prohibitions, in an effort to differ from others, and so in a claim of superiority for themselves. This evidently exposes the unwary to self-deception, as it tends to build up that which is as far as possible from the mind of Christ — a bitter though unconscious sectarianism.

Here we see how the Spirit of God guards the saints, so that their separation, however holy, may savour of God’s grace and not of man’s pride. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, are to be made for all men. It is not only that they ought always to pray and not to faint; nor again that they should only pray for all saints and especially for those identified with the testimony of Christ. But here we find an exhortation to every variety of prayer on the broad basis of God’s relationship with all mankind. The saints have to answer to this if they would not be false to the truth. They, too, have a corresponding relation,

The very gospel by which they were saved should remind them of it; for if the church in its union with Christ, or rather if Christ and the church, be the special witness of divine counsels, the gospel is no less the standing witness of God’s grace to the world. The saints therefore, knowing both, are responsible to bear a true testimony to the one no less than the other. And in practice it will be found that exaggeration in one tends not only to lose the other, but to corrupt that which becomes the exclusive object. For Christ is the truth; neither the gospel nor the church has a right to our love undividedly, but both in subjection to Christ. And we are called to bear witness to “the” truth as we are sanctified (not by this or by that truth, but) by “the truth.”

Such is the danger today as it was of old. Saints like other men are apt to be one-sided. It looks spiritual to choose the highest line and stand on the loftiest point, and fancy oneself to be safe in that heavenly elevation. On the other hand, it seems loving to steer clear of the church question so constantly abused to gratify ambition, if not spite and jealousy (and thus scattering saints instead of uniting them holily around the Lord’s name), and to devote all one’s energies, in the present broken state of Christendom, to the good news which wins souls to God from destruction. But this is to surrender the nearest circle of Christ’s affections and honour. The only course that is right, holy, and faithful, is to hold to all that is precious in His eyes — to love the church with all its consequences on the one hand, and on the other to go out to all mankind in the grace that would reflect the light of a Saviour God. As in Ephesians and Colossians the former truth is most prominent, so the latter is here. Let us seek to walk in both.

The Authorized Version wrongly connects “first of all” with the making supplications, etc., as both the Syriac, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Estius, Bengel, et al. So had Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva; not Wiclif nor the Rhemish (cleaving as usual to the Vulgate) nor Beza. For the apostle means that he thus exhorts, as being first of all in his mind for his present purpose. The exhortation had a great importance in his eyes who would have God’s character of grace truly presented in the public as well as private intercourse of the saints with Himself. The God Who gave His own Son to die for sinners in divine judgment of sin could not be taxed with slighting sins, whether of corruption or of violence; but oh, the love of Him Who gave His Son to die for sinners that they might be saved through faith in Him!

Therefore does His servant first of all exhort to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings for all men, but specifying “for kings and all that are in high rank.” So the godly in Israel had prayed for the city which chastised them for their sins, and sought its peace; whereas the false were habitually rebellious, save for occasional gain or other selfish ends. But now that God had fully shown Himself out in Christ, what became His saints in presence of all men, and especially of sovereigns and rulers? The continual going forth of earnest love on behalf of all men, for which they should ever be free who are delivered from dread of evil and a bad conscience, who are peaceful and happy in their own near relationship with God as His children, who can therefore feel truly and deeply for all that are far off in unremoved death and darkness, and are as ignorant of their own real misery as of the blessed God Himself. The exalted place of those in authority would only make such the more especial objects of loving desire that sovereign goodness might control them and their officials in order that the saints might lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety.

The reader will notice the abundance and variety in expression of the saints’ prayers. “Supplication” implies earnestness in pressing the suit of need; “prayer” is more general and puts forward wants and wishes; “intercession” means the exercise of free and confiding intercourse, whether for ourselves or for others; and “thanksgiving” tells out the heart’s sense of favour bestowed or counted on. Of all interpretations perhaps the most singular is in Augustine’s Epistle to Paulinus (149, Migne), where the four words are assigned to the several parts of the communion service! Witsius, on the Lord’s prayer, is nearer the mark than any other I have noticed. From first to last the terms bespeak the overflowing charity of the saints who know in God a love superior to evil, and withal never indifferent to it nor making light of it (which is Satan’s substitute) — a Father Who makes His sun rise on evil and good, and sends rain on just and unjust. It is of all moment that the children keep up the family character, and that love should be in constant exercise to His praise. What can men think, feel, or do, about such as love their enemies and pray for those that use them despitefully? Paroxysms of persecution pass quickly, and the saints are let live peacefully in all godliness and gravity; for nothing makes up for failure in piety before God and in a practically grave deportment before men.

“For this [is] good and acceptable before our Saviour God, Who desireth that all men should be saved and come unto full knowledge (or, acknowledgment) of the truth” (vers. 3, 4). The spirit of the gospel the apostle would have to permeate the conduct as well as the heart of the saint. Activity in goodness becomes those who know our Saviour God, Whose own heart goes out in compassion toward all men, not alone surely in present mercies without number, but also that they might be saved. This however cannot be unless they come to the knowledge of the truth. Hence the gospel is sent out to all the creation. Here human weakness, if it be not worse, betrays itself. Those who believe in the large grace of God too often leave no room for His positive and living links of love with the elect, once children of wrath even as others. Those who are sure of the special nearness of God’s family as often overlook what is patent here and elsewhere all over scripture — that love which Christ made known personally and proved triumphantly in His cross whereby it is free to flow out in testimony to all the world.

“Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31). Now that His character as Judge of sin is vindicated in the expiatory death of His own Son, His love can freely go out to men on the express ground that they are ungodly, enemies, and powerless (Rom. 5:6-10). He is both able and willing to save the vilest, but not without acknowledgment of truth. Therefore He commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel; also the saints, while walking as members of the one body of Christ, are called to walk in love toward all, and to testify the love that can save any by the faith of Christ. If men are lost, it is through their own will opposing the truth; it is not God’s will, Who, desiring their salvation, gave His Son, and has now sent His own Spirit from heaven that the glad tidings might be thus declared to them in the power of God our Saviour.

This gives occasion to the broad and weighty statement of divine truth which follows.

“For [there is] one God, one mediator also of God and men, Christ Jesus a man, Who gave Himself a ransom for all, the testimony in its own times, to which I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I speak truth, I lie not), a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth” (vers. 5-7).

The unity of God is the foundation-truth of the Old Testament; as it was the central testimony for which the Jewish people were responsible in a world everywhere else given over to idolatry. We must add that Jehovah, the God of Israel, was that one Jehovah, His proper name in relationship with His people on earth. “Ye are My witnesses, saith Jehovah, and My servant Whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He; before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am Jehovah; and beside Me there is no Saviour” (Isa. 43:10, 11).

But during the Jewish economy, God, though known to be one, was not known as He is. “He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel” (Ps. 103:7). He dwelt in the thick darkness, even where He surrounded Himself with a people for a possession, and. a veil shrouded what display there was of the divine presence; so that the high priest approached but once a year, with clouds of incense and not without blood lest he die. It was only Jesus Who made Him truly known, as we see (where it might least have been expected) by that act of incomparable grace in which He was fulfilling all righteousness when baptized of John in the Jordan (Matt. 3:13-17). There, as the Holy Spirit descended on Him, the Father from heaven proclaimed Him to be His beloved Son. The Trinity stood revealed. It is in the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that God, the one God, is really known. Without Jesus this was impossible; when He takes the first step, the Trinity in unity shines out, — love and light wherein is no darkness at all. How infinite is our debt to the Word made flesh, Who deigned to tabernacle with us, Only-begotten Son Who declared God and revealed the Father!

Thus, as we need, we have an adequate image of the invisible God; and this Jesus is “mediator of God and men,” though mediation of course goes farther than representation. For there are two parts in it — His manhood and His ransom, both of special moment if God is to be known, and if man, sinful man, is to be suitably blessed in the knowledge of God.

The Mediator is a man that God may be known of men. The Absolute is divided from the relative (and we, indeed creatures universally, are necessarily relative) by a gulf impassable to us. But if man cannot himself rise to God — and those of mankind who are by grace righteous would most of all repudiate and abhor so presumptuous a thought — God can and does in infinite love come down to man, to man in his guilt and misery with an endless judgment before him.

This, however, does not meet all that is wanted, though it blessedly manifests the love of God in the gift of His own Son that we through faith might have life, eternal life, in Him. Yet even this free gift, immense as it is, does not suffice, for we were lost sinners; and so we needed to be brought to God, freed from our sins, and cleansed for His presence in light. He therefore sent His Son as propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). Herein indeed is love, not that we loved Him (though we ought to have so done), but that He loved us, and proved it in this way, divine and infinite, in the Person of His Only-begotten Son sent to suffer unspeakably for our sins on the cross that we might through the faith of Him be without spot or stain before God (where otherwise we could not be), and that we might know it even now on earth by the Holy Ghost given to us. So here it is said that He “gave Himself a ransom for all.”

Hence, as God is one, it is important to remark the unity of the Mediator. Here the Catholic system, and not Rome only, though Rome most, has sinned against the truth. For the oneness of the Mediator is as sure, vital, and characteristic a testimony of Christianity as the oneness of God was of the law. It is not only that Christ Jesus is Mediator, but there is this “one” only. The introduction of angels is a base invention that savours of Judaism. And who required it at their hands to set the departed saints, or the Virgin Mary, in the least share of that glory which is Christ’s alone? The Head of the body, Who also is Head over all things, can admit of no such fellowship. He only of divine persons is Mediator; and though He is so as man, to claim partnership for any other of mankind (living or dead makes no real difference as to this) is not short of treason against Him. Not only is it untrue that any other in heaven or earth shares in mediation, but the assertion of it for the highest of creatures is a lie of Satan, as subversive of Christianity as polytheism was the direct and insulting denial of the one two God.

And most solemn and affecting it is to see that, as the Jew (called to bear witness of the one God) broke down in the foulest adoption of heathen idolatry, so Christendom has betrayed its trust at least as signally in the especial point of fidelity to its transcendent treasure and peculiar glory. For the Greek church is in this respect only less faulty than the Romish; and what are Nestorians, Copts, Abyssinians, et al.? The Protestant bodies are doubtless less gross in their standards of doctrine; but the present state of Anglicanism shows how even its services admit of an enormous infusion of objects before their votaries which detract from the glory of the Lord Jesus.

There is however another and an opposite way in which professing Christians may be false to the mediation of Christ, not by adding others which practically divide His work and share His honour, but by supplanting and in effect denying mediation altogether. It is not open Arians or Unitarians alone who are thus guilty, but rationalists of all sorts, whether in the national bodies or in the dissenting systems. The incarnation, if owned in terms, is really robbed of all its glory and blessedness; for if Christ Jesus were but “a man”, why or how could He be mediator of God and men? Superiority in degree is no adequate basis. It is His divine nature which makes His becoming man so precious; as it is the union of both in His person which gives character to His love, and efficacy to His sacrifice, and value to His ransom. Here the faithlessness, not of the party of tradition, but of the school of human reason and philosophy, antipodes as they are in Christendom, is as painfully conspicuous. God is only an idea and therefore unknown; as He Who alone can make Him known, or fit man to serve and enjoy and magnify Him, the one Mediator? Jesus, is ignored in His divine glory, His manhood being cried up perhaps, but only, if so, to set aside His deity, and to assume a fresh honour to the human race.

Thoroughly in keeping with the large character of the Epistle, it is here said that He “gave Himself a ransom for all.” It is not special counsels, which cannot fail of accomplishment, as in Ephesians 5 where Christ, it is said, loved the church, or assembly, and gave Himself up for it; and so the apostle there goes on to say, as he does not here, that He might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of water by the word, that He might present the church to Himself glorious, having no spot or wrinkle, or any of such things, but that it might be holy and blameless. Here the same apostle treats of the answer in the Mediator’s work to God’s nature and His willingness to save, in face of man’s will who, as His enemy, expects no good from God, and believes not the fullest proof of grace in Christ’s death, nor would be persuaded when He Who died in love rose in righteousness from the dead to seal the truth with that unquestionable stamp of divine power. It is “a ransom for all,” whoever may bow and reap the blessing; which those do who, renouncing their own proud will for God’s mercy in Christ, repent and believe the gospel.

“Its own times” came for “the testimony” when man’s wickedness was all out in its hatred, not merely of God’s law, but of God’s Son. As long as it was but failure in duty or violation of commands under the law, divine patience lengthened out the day of probation, whatever the enormous provocation from time to time, as we see in the inspired history of the Jew. But the cross was hatred of divine love and perfect goodness. of God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning to them their offences; but Him even thus, yea perhaps because it was thus, they would not have at any price, hating Him without a cause, hating Him most of all for a love beyond all when “made sin” for us.

Thus was man, not Gentile only but Jew if possible yet more, proved to be lost; and on this ground the gospel goes forth to all, “the testimony in its own times.” It is salvation for the lost as all are, for him that believes; God’s righteousness (for man universally had been shown to have none), — God’s righteousness unto all (such is the universal aspect of divine grace) and upon all that believe (such is the particular effect where there is faith in Jesus). Therein God is just and justifies the believer.

Here it is “the testimony,” and accordingly its direction or scope “unto all,” rather than the blessed result where it is received in faith. And therefore to “the testimony”, it is consistently added “to which I was appointed preacher (or herald) and apostle,” giving the first place to that which was not highest but most akin for proclaiming it, though not leaving out but bringing in for its support the apostleship. For indeed the apostle was not ashamed of the gospel, but emphasizes clearly his own full and high relation to it (“I speak truth, I lie not”), and closes all up with the title of (not a prophet to Israel as in probationary times of law, but) “a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth.” For now sovereign grace was not only the spring but the display in Christ Jesus the Lord. Where sin abounded, grace over-exceeded that, even as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:21).

The call to prayer for all had brought in as its basis the character of God as Saviour, shown in the gift and mediation of Christ, the testimony of which goes forth at this time to all mankind. And who could so well bear witness as the apostle Paul, and this in the Gentile field so emphatically his own, alike for preaching and teaching?

This naturally leads to the detailed injunctions that follow in gracious interest about men with God, wherein Paul is guided by competent wisdom, power, and authority from Him Who appointed him to the testimony.

“I will (wish) then that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting; in like manner also that 10women in seemly deportment adorn themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with braids and gold or pearls or costly apparel, but, what becometh women professing godliness, by good works” (vers. 8-10).

It is not merely a gracious acquiescence but his active wish or will. It is positive apostolic direction. “I will then that the men pray in every place,” not all the constituents of the assembly, but the men in contrast with women. This is of great moment. Title to pray belongs to “the men” as a whole, not to women; for public prayer is in question. There is no thought of a particular class among the men; yet is the apostle regulating the house of God. Prayer, then, is not restricted to the elders, even when elders were in full form. It belongs to “the men.” Nor has it only to do with gifts, though of course gifted men might form a large part of such as prayed. And this is so true, that the apostle adds “in every place.” It may be that there is no allusion to a different practice among the Jews or the heathen. Certainly there is no trace of polemic purpose. Nevertheless Christian practice is most evident in the words — the fullest liberty for prayer on the part of “the men,” and this not in private only but in public.

The direction entirely coincides with the spirit of the instructions in 1 Cor. 14:34. Only there the assembly is prominent, which had been previously shown in 1 Cor. 12 to be formed by the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. Here the ruling of the apostle is more general, as marked by the words “every place.” It would be a false inference, instead of holding both, to set the one (as people often do) against the other. There is complete liberty for “the men,” but absolute subjection to the Lord11 Who acts by the Spirit and leads thus to the glory of God. Man is incompetent to guide the assembly. The Lord ought to be looked to, and in fact is “in the midst” of those gathered to His name, as Matt. 18:20 shows: another scripture of the highest importance for the saints, as the resource of His grace for even “two or three” at any time.

Not that the Jews were so restricted in the synagogue as many suppose. Scripture furnishes proof that in the early days of the gospel considerable latitude was left to take part in reading or speaking, and it is to be supposed in prayer also. But Christianity, while it teaches liberty, brings in immediate responsibility to God as it was founded on the Divine presence in a way altogether unknown to Judaism, not to speak of the heathen.

It is most instructive therefore to observe that, where scriptural order is laid down most precisely, the apostle himself rules liberty for “the men” to pray “in every place.” Who abrogated it? It is impossible to deny that this apostolic direction has no place in Christendom. It would seem disorder on the most important occasions. Only one official has the title ordinarily in every place. He may associate with himself one or more of a certain rank ecclesiastically. Hence it is not open to “the men” to pray “in every place”; and accordingly no man of right feeling would think of invading the imposed regulations of such societies.

Nothing therefore can more distinctly demonstrate that a revolution, somehow or another, has intervened; for modern order is irreconcilable with apostolic. And this is quite independent of “gifts”; for prayer is never in scripture treated as a question of gift. Undeniably our Epistle treats of godly order, when it was in all its purity and fulness, when apostles were on earth still and elders were or might be in every church, and “gift” abounded in every form; yet prayer “in every place” was open to “the men.” Now, on the contrary, the exercise of such a title would utterly clash with the order of every denomination in Christendom. The question therefore is one of the greatest importance, not practically alone, though never was prayer more needed, but as a matter of principle; for surely all Christians are called to walk according to the fullest revelation of the truth. We ought every one of us to be where an apostolic direction, plain beyond controversy, can take full effect.

What can be thought of the statement [by Alford] that “it is far-fetched and irrelevant to the context, to find in these words the Christian’s freedom from prescription of place for prayer”? It is far better to own the truth, like Chrysostom and Theodoret, etc., of old, or like Erasmus, Calvin, etc., in Reformation times, even if it condemn our ways. “Far-fetched” it is not, but the unforced and sure meaning of the sentence in itself, whatever be people’s practice. “Irrelevant to the context” it is not, for what can be more proper, after exhorting prayers to be made of whatever character to lay down liberty of praying on the part of “the men” “in every place”? The scriptural doctrine of the church, and its history in apostolic times confirm not its relevancy only, but also its immense moment and prove that such a practice must have been followed until the habits which sprang up later at a post-apostolic date made it seem disorderly. Prayers on public occasions were thenceforward confined to the ordained officials. But from the beginning it was not so: as we read here, it was the apostle’s will that “the men” should pray “in every place.”

But right moral condition is carefully maintained, “raising up holy hands, without wrath and doubting,” or perhaps “reasoning.” The holiness expressed is that of pious integrity, not of a person set apart, ὁσίους not ἀγίους. It did not become men at the time conscious of evil not duly judged to take so solemn a part, if any, in the assembly. Again, if the evil were known to others, such a part taken must be an offence to their consciences. But the highest motive of all is that which should never be wanting — a sense of the presence of the Lord, and of the state which befits each of the saints so sovereignly blessed in His grace.

Hence “wrath” too is expressly forbidden. Unseemly if it intruded into any action of a Christian kind, it was peculiarly unbefitting for one who was the mouth-piece of all in prayer. So also “doubting” was most unseasonable there, being more or less a contradiction of the dependent confidence which is expressed to God in prayer. If souls lay under any of these disabilities, it became them to seek restoration of communion with God: else public praying might become a positive snare through a hardening of conscience in such circumstances.

Thus subjection to scripture in the church, where duly carried out in private and public, ever tends to true happiness and holiness; which mere form is apt to destroy, especially when the form is based on tradition opposed to scripture.

“In like manner also that women adorn themselves with modesty and sobriety.” The Lord in no way ignores women as the Rabbis were apt to do; nor were they pushed into an unseemly or even shameless prominence as in heathenism. Public action was not their place. The word is that they should adorn themselves “in seemly deportment,” which includes not dress only but bearing. And hence it is added, “with modesty and sobriety,” that shamefastness which shrinks from the least semblance of impropriety, that self-restraint where all is inwardly ruled. The apostle does not hesitate to deal plainly and unsparingly with the common objects of female vanity in all ages: “not with braids (that is, of hair), and gold, or pearls, or costly array.”

This ought to settle many a question for an exercised conscience. Take the last only. How often do we not hear a plea for the most expensive attire on the ground of its economy in the end! But those who are waiting for Christ to come need not look so far forward. Negations, however, do not satisfy the mind of the Spirit; “but what becometh women professing godliness, by good works.” Such is the adorning that the Lord approves; and women have therein a large and constant sphere, δἰ ἔργων ἀγαθῶν “by means of good works,” not here καλώ (honourable, right, fair) as in Matt. 5:16; Gal. 6:9; 1 Thess. 5:21; but ἀγαθός as in Gal. 6:10; 1 Thess. 5:15, of which we have an instance in Dorcas (Acts 9:36). Where intelligence takes the place of this activity in good, sorrow soon ensues for others, and later on shame for themselves. Real spiritual power would have hindered both; whereas vanity likes and encourages this practical error, only to find in the end its intelligence all wrong. If blind lead blind, both will fall into a pit.

The apostle now turns to further details which correct female tendencies of quite another kind, but not a whit less important to heed if as Christians they seek to glorify the Lord. Perhaps they are even more called for in these times, as men growingly lose sight of the divine order in their craving after the imaginary rights of humanity. How many now-a-days are in danger from a misdirected zeal or benevolent activity, without due reverence to the written word! To such finery in dress might be no attraction, nor the frivolous changes of worldly fashions. Their very desire to abound in good works, by which the apostle wished them to be adorned, might expose them to a snare; and the more, as no fair and intelligent mind can doubt that women (to say nothing of natural capacity or culture) may have gifts spiritual as really as men. It was of moment therefore to regulate the matter with divine authority, as he now does.

“Let a woman in quietness learn in all subjection. But to teach12 I permit not a woman, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman quite13 deceived is involved in transgression; but she shall be saved in child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with sobriety” (vers. 11-15).

The apostle had already laid down most salutary principles in 1 Cor. 11:1-16, whence he had deduced that the man is woman’s head, and that the head uncovered became him, as the covered head became her. He is called of God to public action, she to be veiled; for man is not from woman but woman from man, though neither is without the other in the Lord, while all things are of God.

Again, in 1 Cor. 14:34 is laid down the imperative regulation that the women are to keep silence in the assemblies, “for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.” They were forbidden even to ask their own husbands there. If they would learn anything, let them ask at home; “for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly.” What can be more distinct and peremptory than this? The ingenuity of will, however, has found a supposed loophole. The word “speak,” say they, means only to talk familiarly or to chatter. This is wholly untrue. It is the regular word for giving utterance, as may be seen in 1 Peter 4:10, 11. Here, “as each hath received a gift,” they are called to minister it as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; and the distinction is drawn between gifts of utterance and those of other spiritual service. “If any one speaketh,” he is to do so “as God’s mouthpiece; “if any one ministereth,” he is to do so as from strength which God supplieth, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” Now here it is the same word for “speaking” as is forbidden to the women in the former scripture. It is speaking in public, not prattling. The prohibition therefore is complete. Woman’s place is a retired one; she is to learn in quiet with entire submissiveness.

But there is more here. “I permit not a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness.” This clearly is not limited to the assembly; as the apostle traces the ground of it in the constitution and natural character of woman. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” Her subsequent formation out of the man is never to be forgotten by such as fear God and believe His word. All other thoughts are presumptuous theory in forgetfulness of the truth which goes up to the beginning. An individual woman may be comparatively able and well-instructed; but under no circumstances is leave given for a woman to teach or to have dominion over a man; she is to be in quietness. Thus absolutely does the apostle guard against any reaction from the abject place of women in ancient times, specially among the heathen; or any imitation of the peculiar prominence given to her sometimes in oracular matters, as among the Greeks and especially the Germans of old.

Had then women no seemly or suited, no good and useful, place in Christianity? None can deny that they have, who see how honoured were some of them in caring for the Lord Himself in His ministry (Luke 8:1-3), who know how He vindicated Mary that anointed Him when the apostles found fault under evil influence. Certainly He put no slight on Mary of Magdala, if His resurrection interrupted the plan of those who brought their spices and ointments after His death. Not otherwise do we find the action of the Holy Ghost when the Lord went to heaven. Mary the mother of John Mark gives her house for the gathering together of many to pray; and the four daughters of Philip were not forbidden to prophesy at home, though even there authority could not be rightly exercised over a man. Lydia is a beautiful example of Christian simple-heartedness and zeal; her house too has honour put on it for the truth’s sake. Nor was Priscilla out of place when she with her husband helped the learned Alexandrian, mighty in the scriptures, to know the way of God more thoroughly. Romans 16 pays no passing honour to many a sister, from Phoebe who served the church at Cenchreae, commended to the saints in Rome as a succourer of many and of Paul himself. Prisca or Priscilla again is coupled with her husband as his fellow-workers in Christ, who not only for his life laid down their own necks, but wherever they went opened their house for the assembly. But need we dwell on all the cases and the beautifully discriminating notice taken of them?

We may say of Evodia and Syntyche that there is not the smallest reason for conceiving them preachers, because they shared the apostle’s labours in the gospel (Phil. 4:2). That they joined their efforts with Paul in that work is no warrant for the inference that they preached. In those days a woman’s preaching must have seemed far more egregious than her venturing to say a word in the assemblies of the saints. Even in private where they might exercise that which was given them in the Lord, they must never forget the form and the reality of subjection. In public all teaching was forbidden. Such is the testimony of scripture, and nowhere with greater precision or breadth than here.

The apostle adds another reason, “Adam was not deceived; but the woman quite deceived is involved in transgression.” The man may have been in a certain sense worse. He followed the woman in wrong against God, where he ought to have led her in obedience; and he did it knowingly. She was beguiled outright; he was not. Her weakness therefore, and its dangerous effect on man, are urged as an additional plea, why she should be in quietness, neither teaching nor ruling; let her own sphere be at home (1 Tim. 5:24).

The next words have suffered not a little through speculation. Some have yielded to Wells, Hammond, Kidder, Doddridge, Macknight, et al., and endeavoured to invest them with a direct reference to the Incarnation. But there is no sufficient reason for any such thought. The Authorized Version gives substantially the true sense, which is also maintained by the Revisers, although they affect a more literal closeness, which, tempting as it may be, seems really questionable here and unnecessary. For there is no doubt that in the apostle’s usage as well as elsewhere, the preposition with the genitive (as with the accusative also) may mean “in a given state,” no less than the more common sense of the instrument used or the medium passed through.

Dean Alford’s remarks are as unhappy yet a characteristic specimen of his exegesis habitually as could be desired: “saved through (brought safely through, but in the higher, which is with St. Paul the only, sense of σώζω see below) her child-bearing (in order to understand the fulness of the meaning of σωθήσται, we must bear in mind the history itself, to which is the constant allusion. . .What then is here promised her? Not only exemption from that curse in its worst and heaviest effects; not merely that she shall safely bear children, but the apostle uses the word a. purposely for its higher meaning, and the construction of the sentence is precisely as reference, 1 Cor. 3:15.”

Now we may well agree with him that Chrysostom’s interpreting τεκνογονὶα of Christian training of children, as others of the children themselves, is beside the mark and indeed unfounded; but so is his own confusion of the government of God with the “higher meaning” of eternal salvation, which is not here in question. This very Epistle (1 Tim. 4:10) furnishes decisive proof that the preservative goodness of God in providence is fully maintained in Christianity, though His grace in the gospel goes deeper, higher, and for ever. Dean Alford enfeebles the “higher meaning” by misapplying such an assurance of providential care as the text before us supplies. There is no doubt of saving grace in Christ for the believer; but to turn this word aside from its obvious relation deprives us of the very object in view, viz., the comfort of knowing that while God does not set aside the solemn mark of divine judgment from the first in the pangs of child-bearing, it becomes in mercy an occasion of His providential intervention. Redemption clears away the clouds, so that the light may shine on all the path of the saint; and woman meanwhile shares the suited blessing in the hour of nature’s sorrow. The forced elevation of scripture not only fails in power of truth, but darkens or takes away its precious consolation for the pilgrim now on earth.

The promised succour however is conditioned by abiding “in faith and love and holiness with sobriety.” One feels how important such a proviso is at a moment when human and even worldly feelings often encroach even on children of God. Where is family pride here? where the gratification of the wish for an heir of filthy lucre, or the hope of wide-spreading influence in that world which crucified the Lord of glory? Nor need one doubt the wisdom of the peculiarity in grammar which gives individuality to the deliverance vouchsafed in mercy, while it urges (not on the “children” as some have thought, nor yet on the husband and wife as others, but) on Christian women generally the qualifying call to abide in all that fits and strengthens the sex for the due and happy and godly discharge of their momentous duties. It is continuance in faith and love and holiness “with sobriety,” which is pressed on saintly women; who doubtless could already say with Christians generally that God had saved them according to His own purpose and grace which was given them in Christ Jesus before time began.

9 The authority for omitting γάρ “for” is small but ancient — A17 67corr. Sah. Memph. Cyr. All others accept it.

10 The Received Text has the article here which all the best MSS. discard; and rightly, for “the” women as a class have no such title predicated of them, but they (persons of that sex) are called on individually to please the Lord by heeding His servant’s word.

11 Neander (Church Hist. i. 253) lays down emphatically that “the monarchical form of government was in no way suited to the Christian community of spirit”. But what is it if the Spirit form the saints in continual dependence on Christ? Is this not essentially theocratic? It is quite consistent with godly order, and with a system of gifts, as well as with unity.

12 The emphatic place is restored in accordance with A D F G P many cursives, Vulg. Goth. Arm. etc., and so I imitate in English.

13 The best MSS. sustain ἐξαπ. for ἀπ. in Text. Rec.