An ad appeared in a newspaper that read: “Farmer wants to marry woman, age 35, with tractor. Send picture of tractor.”
We laugh at this but it ought to cause us to think about just what kind of traits do make a woman attractive? In a moment we’ll begin to consider what God’s Word says about the qualities that God thinks are important women who profess to know Him.
We’ve been discussing the topic of prayer and the public worship of the church during our studies here in 1 Timothy and we are now approaching the instruction Paul gives women in the church. Some have accused Paul of being too old fashioned here; a male chauvinist. Why, he’s a man, what authority does he have? How can he be objective in this matter of women in the church? If it weren’t for the fact that we’re talking about God’s Word, I’d be a bit sheepish teaching about woman.
Let’s understand a couple fundamental truths. First of all, when God created Adam and Eve He made them very different from everything else. He created man and woman in His image. God did not in His creation of woman make her inferior to man. His intent was for her to be a “side by side partner in the work God gave to mankind.” (John Greening, Back to the Basics of Ministry, pg. 37, RBP 1995)
We’ve seen this on Sunday evenings in previous weeks as we’ve studied Genesis together. Genesis 1:26-28 states,
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (NASB)
Jesus Christ set the example for us. In his ministry on earth he treated women with respect and dignity. He never spoke to them in a way that made little of them. His interaction with women was one of complete integrity. We know that God’s gift of salvation is for everyone; it is without partiality. And God’s Word teaches men to respect women and to guard against actions or words that would put women down.
It is important that we also understand that the Bible is not man’s opinion but the inspired Word of God. God’s Word is timeless. Even though we study passages in light of their context and culture, God’s Word transcends the generations. The fact that the Bible is inspired by God makes it impossible to accuse Paul of bigotry toward women. 2 Tim 3:16 reminds us, “All Scripture is God-breathed…” The scriptures we will study about a woman’s role in the church today are not man made rules but God given instruction for the church.
As we arrive at verses 9-15 we realize that apparently Timothy was facing gender related issues in the church at Ephesus and Paul is giving him counsel in these matters in these verses.
Last week we discussed the importance of men praying in the church and this is not to say that the woman are not to be praying in the church but in some way it appears the men in the church at Ephesus were neglecting their responsibility for leadership in the church and the women were taking over in place of the men.
There is no condemnation of the women here by Paul. He does not exclude them from praying in the church. But he is rebuking the men for not doing their part.
We will be looking at verses 9 and 10 today.
1 Timothy 2:9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,
10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
Paul has just given instruction about how the men ought to be conducting themselves in the church in verse 8. He is in the midst of instruction on prayer and conduct in the corporate worship of the church. The introduction by Paul in verse 9, (in like manner also) indicates he’s still talking about prayer but he goes beyond the immediate need of prayer in the church.
We are just entering the area of our study in chapter 2 that tends to be a bit controversial. Ray Stedman was aware of this when he entitled a sermon on this passage, Adams Rib or Women’s Lib?
Look at verse 9 again.
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel…
Let’s understand that Paul was not saying that the women should dress in an unattractive manner. Dr. Wilbert Welch, former president of Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary, says; “[Paul’s] instruction that the women of the church ‘adorn’ themselves modestly is not part of an ‘anti-attractive’ campaign. In fact, he said they should ‘adorn themselves,’ not detract. Their apparel was to be modest. There was to be no extravagance or undue emphasis placed on a woman’s physical attractiveness.” (W. Wilbert Welch, A Charge to Keep, pg. 43 RBP, 1982)
In the Greek the word the NKJV translates modest means well arranged, seemly, decent and orderly. A Godly woman’s apparel will be marked by modesty and decency.
We don’t have to look very far for examples in our culture of immodest apparel. We are assaulted with images of scantily clad women on television, in the check out lane magazine racks and just by going out in public we encounter individuals who’s dress is immodest. Let’s face it. We live in a society that does not respect the bounds of common decency in attire.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to allow the Word of God, not the culture, to set the standard for the way in which we dress.
A couple years ago news headlines carried the story of women who were assaulted by men in Central Park in broad daylight, in the midst of a huge crowd of people, much of it caught on video. While I do not want to downplay in any way the outrageous and vile behavior of the men involved, one thing that struck me as I saw the news was the dress, or lack of dress, by the women who were assaulted.
For Christian women, one of the goals of dressing in a way that is honoring to the Lord is to dress modestly and not in a way that will attract the wrong kind of attention from men. Look again at verse 9. Paul says women should adorn themselves with propriety and moderation. The NASB uses the words modestly and discreetly.
A Godly woman’s dress should consider others and show respect. The word propriety here, (sobriety in the KJV) comes from a Greek word that means “having a sound mind and good sense.” Warren Wiersbe says,
“it describes an inner self-control a spiritual “radar” that tells a person what is good and proper. Ephesus was a wealthy commercial city, and some women there competed against each other for attention and popularity. In that day expensive hairdos arrayed with costly jewelry were an accepted way to get to the top socially. Paul admonished the Christian women to major on the “inner person,” the true beauty that only Christ can give. He did not forbid the use of nice clothing or ornaments. He urged balance and propriety, with the emphasis on modesty and holy character.”
A Christian woman’s apparel should be a reflection of her inner character and beauty. Instead of a list of what to wear and what not to wear, it is best for a woman to emphasize her inner beauty and what flows from it will be pleasing if first of all, her heart is in tune with the Lord. Ladies, the way you clothe yourself is a reflection of your heart. Men the way you look at women you is a reflection of your heart.
The context of our passage is the corporate worship of the church. While it is fitting and appropriate for a woman to take time, care and effort to prepare herself outwardly for worship, it should not be the main emphasis. It can probably be said of each of us, men and women alike, that we spent more time this morning getting our outward appearance in order than we spent preparing our heart to worship the Lord.
We can be dressed in our Sunday finest and take great pains to make ourselves look presentable, but if we fail to make sure our heart is right with the Lord and prepared to worship, we are missing out on the most important and significant part of our preparation for worship.
There have been times in our family when we were so busy preparing ourselves to “get ready” for church that we neglected the most vital part of our preparation. Have you had Sundays when attitudes and actions have been sinful in your rush to get ready for Sunday morning? If we’re honest, most of us will admit that there are times when we get so caught up with getting our outward appearance in line, that we fail to prepare our hearts as we should.
Of course, extremes should be avoided. We should not draw attention to ourselves by gaudy, overdone dress nor should we dress so drably as to draw attention to ourselves. A Godly woman will be balanced in her apparel and avoid extremes which draw attention to herself.
In verse 9 , Paul continues, “not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing“.
Is Paul implying that women should never braid their hair, wear gold or pearls or fine clothing? There are some who would take this very literally and avoid all of these items. But is that what Paul really had in mind?
Listen to 1 Peter 3:3, 4
3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward; arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel;
4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
1 Peter 3 helps us understand what Paul is saying – Peter says the adornment should not merely be external. It’s not wrong to wear gold, pearls, fine clothing or to braid the hair. What is wrong is the emphasis on the external to the neglect of the heart. This becomes even clearer as we move into the next verse:
10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
Godliness and good works; this is where the emphasis should be placed. Good works should flow out of a heart that is right with God. Women who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ should concentrate on the heart.
One commentator says of verse 10; “Instead of stressing external beauty, according to the world’s standards, Christian women should manifest a different set of values. They should adorn themselves with good deeds. They should depend on their faithful service in the name of Christ to render them attractive to others. This was no plea for women to make themselves unattractive; it was simply an exhortation to reject the world’s yardstick for measuring beauty and adopt heaven’s standard (1 Samuel 16:7). One should expect nothing less from women who profess to worship God. (Bible Knowledge Commentary)
In 1 Peter 3:3-4 Peter stresses the same thing Paul is in 1 Timothy 2. A woman’s beauty should flow from her inner self not her outward appearance. Outward beauty fades doesn’t it? As we grow older we fight with wrinkles, sags, bulges and gray hair. Our youthful physical attractiveness fades with age. We live in a culture that prizes this youthful beauty. Isn’t it reassuring to note what is of great worth in God’s sight? 1 Peter 3:4 says it’s a“gentle and quiet spirit” that doesn’t fade in beauty. As physical beauty diminishes, inner beauty can increase for the Godly woman. As Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”
Billy Grahams daughter, Gigi Graham in her book, Homemade, tells of a little poll her mother took. The truth of Proverbs 31:30 is summed up nicely here.
Gigi Graham says, “My mother, Ruth Graham, once took a poll. She asked several of her young bachelor friends which they would prefer to have in a wife; scenery or atmosphere. Without exception, they all replied, “Scenery.” She then polled her married male friends, asking the same question. Without exception, they all replied, “Scenery would be nice, but atmosphere is essential.”
“A woman who fears (has reverential trust in) the Lord shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30). “Fear of and total trust in the Lord is the first step toward obtaining inner beauty.” (Gigi Graham Tchividjian, Homemade, Oct. 1987)
Ray Stedman made the following comments on the verses we’ve been considering:
Years ago I saw a woman come into our congregation who was really a sight. (It is one thing to call a woman a vision, but quite another thing to call her a sight — and she was a sight!) She had on one of those revealing gownless evening straps; her face was heavily painted and her hair was done in the very latest (kwa’ feur) coiffeur. It was obvious that her heart at that time was committed to keeping up with the latest styles. At least it appeared that way, but actually she proved to be hungry of heart, wanting something more. She came to Christ, and it was interesting to watch how, without a word from anyone, her whole behavior and dress changed, as it reflected what was going on in her heart.
On the other hand, some women have taken this word of Paul so literally that they have gone to the other extreme. They come to church frumpy and dowdy, in their dullest dress, with their hair hardly made up at all, or pulled straight back in a bun, with no lipstick or makeup on, and imagine that they are thus being pleasing to God. But actually, all they are doing is trying to attract attention too. They want to be known as “spiritual women,” so they dress that way. But that is just as much a violation of this principle as any flashy dress would be.
Stedman makes a good point. How easy it is for us to go to extremes. If you are trying to impress others with your “holiness” by your dress, God is not impressed. If you are trying to impress others and attract attention to yourself, God is not impressed. What impresses God is an obedient heart from which proper action flows. As we seek to please God and obey His Word, our conduct, speech and dress will reflect the condition of our inner heart attitude.
It is the inner heart attitude where Godly women should be placing their emphasis. Concentrate on the heart, and the right apparel will follow. Sometimes our tendency is to make a list of rules governing women’s dress but failing to make sure the heart is in line with the Lord. How easy it is for us to get things backwards. If we are first of all attentive to our hearts, the right outward conduct will flow from that. Men, do you encourage the women in your life to pursue Godliness? Women, are you concentrating on the right heart attitude or is your emphasis on your external appearance?
Listen to what Melody Green had to say about the verses we’ve been studying today in 1 Timothy.
“True beauty is Jesus and Him alone. Letting that love flow through us to others is the beauty that is pleasing to God. True beauty radiates from the face of a godly man or woman. You won’t notice much what they really look like, because you’re too busy noticing Jesus in them. Shouldn’t that be our goal? Let’s allow Jesus to so fully indwell us that we would never do or say anything that would bring shame to His name, yielding our whole lives to Him, serving Him in the inner courts of His blessedness. Let’s not forget that we are His bride and dress accordingly, as we fully divorce ourselves from the world and clothe ourselves with the righteousness of God.”
We’ve addressed women today but the broader application here is that it is the heart that counts.
Men, is your heart right with God? Ladies, how about you? Young people? Our desire should be for our worship to flow out of hearts that are in a right fellowship with God.