Why Paul told Timothy he was so FOR women leading, and I want to be too!

I don’t usually share my talks on the blog but last Sunday’s was so important to me I’ve posted the notes here. If you prefer to watch it, we have made the talk available (with an intro) on Youtube too right here…


Please get that Bible open yourself at the passage 1 Timothy 2, do the work of digging into this with me with a Bible open – or I won’t be able to help you grasp my own thoughts on what it seems to say, verses what it actually says. 

In Chapter 1 Timothy has been talking about false teachers in the church. Notice – he names two men

But here IT SEEMS he starts saying WOMEN should not be allowed to teach or lead, and the only good ones have babies. What?!

What sense does that make? He’s thrown two bad men out, so now stop all women teaching? It’s illogical! That can’t be what he means, so we’re in grave danger of misinterpreting there, something HUGE. Not just because it’s Mothers Day in International Women’s Week, but because despite the patriarchal culture at work in the world in Bible times – there are so many women who do teach and have led for God, throughout the rest of scripture. 

Here’s Miriam leading alongside Moses, and Hulda the prophet counselling priests and teaching the Bible to the kings. Deborah judges and Esther saves the nation. Numerous women disciples ‘supported Jesus’ and it was women who were first entrusted with telling everyone the Saviour had risen! 

After the Spirit was poured out on all flesh, sons and daughters, there’s Philip’s 4 daughters, and Priscilla ‘who instructed Apollos more perfectly’. 

In Romans Paul calls Phoebe an overseer, and he says Junia is ‘outstanding’ among the apostles. And of course Lois and Eunice taught Timothy

So why would Paul talk about two men who were getting it wrong then apparently write ‘so the answer is don’t let women teach?’ Writing something which for 2000 years since has been used – by men – to clobber women into submission at worst, or relegate them to help in Sunday school at best?

Could it be because we’ve read the rest of scripture through the lens of these two verses, rather than the other way round

This is a serious passage to grab hold of – because getting it wrong means a lot can go wrong with the church. And it has – and it still does

And I was grateful when Pete Edwards reached out to me to say his grow group accidentally took a sneak peek a week ahead at the video on Right Now Media where the guy teaching there says exactly that. I haven’t watched it yet but apparently he says ‘The Bible here says women can’t lead, certainly can’t teach men.’ 

And I was asked because, ‘this isn’t what Ivy believes is it?’ 

And the answer for me would be well it’s not what I believe

From my own study of scripture. But Ivy isn’t a woman. Ivy is a community. So people connected to Ivy believe all kinds of things about all kinds of things. 

And YES, I’ve met Ivy people over the years here who would and do believe that by the way. They think they are scriptural for doing so.

I can’t agree with them over that, not on the basis of a couple of difficult to translate verses with the two main words only occurring this once in scripture – interpretations of which seem to fly in the face of all the other positives about women throughout scripture. 

And of course we have women here preaching and leading at every level, but the question came up ‘Should we say to people don’t watch the video?’ 

But you know what – how do we grow? 

How do we grow?

Just by listening to people we agree with? People disagree, we have to get over it. 

The fact is you need to know that thousands of churches around the country, millions around the world, evangelical churches which say they love the Bible – they believe that women shouldn’t lead or teach too. If you ask why they straighten their ties, and open their big leather Bibles and if they never underlined anything else they have this bit highlighted to show they are not chauvinist because some of their best friends are women and anyway – ‘It’s right there.’ 

What you believe, leads to how you’ll behave. And as a result, 50% of the army stays at home. 50% of the players are left on the bench – and we wonder why we’re losing. 

So we have to engage with the understanding (or what I believe is the total misunderstanding) behind this. Love God with all your MIND and heart and strength. 

And you know what? I haven’t got long enough to go into all the detail on why I believe the men that teach that are dead wrong – but it’s not my job to tell you everything. 

You wouldn’t grow much if I did. 

We don’t grow by being baby birds with mouths open and someone else chews on the word and does all the work and then we can digest it if we like it. 

What I’ll say is that I used to believe similar to what that guy on the video believed, because that was what men taught me, twenty odd years ago. But then I read it again, and discussed with others, and did some study myself. I had experience working with and being equipped by actual women. I looked at the history and the archaeology and found out about Ephesus at the time and what religious practices were in place and what Paul was writing into – and it opened up a whole different understanding and interpretation. Some of which we’ll unravel in the weeks ahead. 

So DO go to Grow Group, and agree or disagree. Listen to me and agree or disagree. 

But go to the BIBLE and learn – with silent submission. Whether you are male or female. 

Pete also sent me a link to a book by last week’s speaker Lucy Peppiatt (who some of you may have noticed was not a man), where she addresses this too – but I’ve had quite the week so I didn’t get chance to look at that myself yet but I hope too soon and it’s called Rediscovering Scripture’s View for Women . And again this is important so if it matters to you get the book. Look at what the Bible says. Weigh this one verse that has gagged women for centuries against all the rest of what it has to say about women. 


Briefly, here’s my take. 

In Chapter 1 Paul’s had to throw a few men out, for heresy, false teachers – he names and shames the men and some terrible men get into church leadership positions, it’s nothing new. There are shepherds, and there are hirelings – and there are wolves.

In the end, you find out which they are. Paul’s warning Timothy here to look out for wolves in the Ephesians church not outside it. Years before in Acts 20 he prophesied about them to the Ephesians now the wolves are there. 

So what do you do? He says therefore – pray. Pray first. I URGE YOU. 

Get on your knees – first! 

Some of the false teachers trying to take over were what later became known as Gnostics. That’s not a type of glue. Gnosis is Greek for knowledge, and Gnostics were all about supposed secret, higher knowledge, mysteries –  and to be truly wise you had to pass through all these layers to learn the deep secrets  – it wasn’t Jesus pure and simple. 

And Gnostics hated authority. They wanted to be leaders, to have followers, but hated any kind of God-given authority. 

So Paul says pray! Pray hard for everyone – but especially leaders. Do you pray for me?

He’d say ‘pray for the Royals’ whatever you think about it – pray about it. 

Pray for the Government, whatever you think about them. Pray for them. 

And maybe we get the leaders we deserve – because we get the leaders we pray for.

If you want to remember how you should pray then SPIT. 

Because he says SUPPLICATIONS, PRAYERS, INTERCESSIONS and THANKSGIVINGS should be made for everyone, especially those in authority. 

He says pray so we have freedom for the gospel. Peace to lead godly lives. There it is again. 

Vs 5 Paul says ‘There is only One God,’ even in Ephesus, where there were so many idols, shrines and temples. One of the most religious places on earth – all about goddesses. The mother-god, Artemis or Diana. 

The earliest shrine there was said to have been set up by Amazons. 

I don’t mean it came in a brown box, I mean those legendary wonder women types. 

The whole region worshipped female, matriarchal, maternal goddesses. Archaeology has all these statues, whether she’s called Isis, Artemis, or Diana; Ephesus was full of shrines for the capital city of Mother-God worship. Her temple was one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

And in religion there, women reigned and ruled supreme. Women priests and high priests, wise women and oracles. To pray you had to go into the special building, where the women danced or babbled or took their clothes off and everyone got intoxicated. Fertility rituals. And out of that ecstasy – secret mysteries of wisdom might unlock for the initiated. 

Women ruled religion at Ephesus because women were the only mediators to the female deities. If you were a man, the best way to show your devotion to the mother-God in Ephesus was to be castrated. You couldn’t just come to a god. Only through girls and women was the will of Artemis revealed. Vestal virgins, ranks of priestesses. You paid them for an offering or rolled around a while with them, that connected you to one of hundreds of spirits or demigods intermediaries. 

But now Paul says – no way! 

Literally it says, “There is ONE GOD, and one mediator… the HUMAN, Christ Jesus.”

Paul says Jesus is the only One who can save us all, male or female, and bring us back to God without sin and shame. He wants Timothy to remind everyone of that. 

Paul’s not anti-women because God is not!

It’s not anti-women, because it’s not about all women, it’s anti some men and some women who were causing trouble by coming into that church, trying to make those simple house meetings like what went on in the pagan temples, while saying ‘This is Christian.’ 

Vs 8 Read with me – Paul says NO! ‘I want the men to pray everywhere’– not just in temples – no special buildings – you can pray anywhere now, ‘not arguing or quarrelling – pray! And I want the women to pray likewise – with holy hands! And tell them – they have to decently keep their clothes on now. Because we’re Christians here. But don’t dress up to impress God, what impresses him is the godly reality not the fashionable image. 

Verse 11 is stunningly feminist for the time. “Let a woman learn.” That’s a command! Let the women study and learn. That’s huge, in the ancient world, in many places in the world right now, it doesn’t happen – often for religious reasons! 

Except Rabbi Jesus had female disciples. He had Mary sit as his feet which was where a disciple sat to learn, and said what she was doing was the best thing, rather than staying in the kitchen with Martha. LET A WOMAN LEARN! 

God wants women to learn. And there’s an eastern idiom here, when a disciple wants to become a rabbi, how should you approach the Word of God? How? “In silent submission.”Let the women learn – like the rabbis do. Silenced, in awe. 

Then we come to the big one – that’s put a stop on our sisters way too long – and maybe if we pray now everything’s changing enough about the world – could we dare to dream it really could happen in the church- and I want it to at Ivy for sure – because being a woman is no more a disqualification, than being a man is a qualification, for how much God can use you. 

The ESV reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Wow. Now that’s a problem if it means no women should ever teach or lead men, because it contradicts various throughout the rest of the Bible, and even other places where Paul himself says they should! In 1 Corinthians Paul gave instructions for how the women should prophesy in that church. In Titus he writes that older women should be ‘teachers of excellence”!!

So can he be talking about all women? Here? Now? Or is it certain women, there in Ephesus, bringing pagan false teaching and practice in – with angry men raising fists instead of holy hands and rebelling against godly authority to take over?

Verse 12, literally, says here “I do not allow a woman to teach – authentein. That’s a very unusual Greek word used only this once in the Bible but originally it meant ‘murder’ – in order to take the place of.’ It came to mean ‘rule over’/ ‘dominate’/ ‘seize control’/ ‘or ‘usurp authority over’ – that’s how the KJV renders it. 

And you know what? I think that’s right! I don’t that should be permitted. 

Isn’t it true, that a woman should never teach, in a way that dominates, or takes power away from a man? 

And, and, and – that a man should never teach, especially never teach the Bible, in such a way that dominates, or takes power away, from a woman? 

But which way round – has it usually gone wrong – since then? 

In Ephesus – that church, at that time was in danger because some false teachers, including some women who he doesn’t name –were saying women should rule and dominate and mediate in matters relating to God. Paul says no. Women shouldn’t. Men shouldn’t. Because everyone gets it wrong. So there’s one mediator, Jesus Christ. 

Women shouldn’t put themselves first, even though the Gnostics say women are the fount of all knowledge, they get it wrong too – like Eve did. Women and men both need to learn so we won’t get fooled again. 

But – how’s this for another way of translating that very weird last verse on this Mothering Sunday – ‘BUT she will be saved’ – women and men, we can all be saved…not through ‘child-bearing’ – that’s nowhere in the Bible. You don’t get saved by motherhood, or heaven would be a Mum’s group! 

But to actually translate the last part here, it says, “But she will be saved, through ‘the birth of the child.” Not a child. THE child. What child? What child came to save us? The only Son of God, the one mediator between God and humans, the human, Christ Jesus. 

So let’s pray direct to the One God, through him now as the band come up: 

Lord thank you that you inspired the apostle Paul to write these words, in your word. Thank you that you also inspired him to write the glorious truth that now “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” We come to you – all of us in silent submission – and say we want to learn from you, and teach others how they can too