Rev. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. I Timothy 2:9, 10
Some general observations on the text and context:
1. We ought to keep in mind that Paul is writing in the remainder of Chapter 1 (vv. 9-15) concerning the proper, God-ordained role of both men and women in the “house of God.” This house by its distinctive character is nothing less than the “church (ekklesia) of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:19-22; Heb. 3:1-6).
2. This holy church is gathered by the Son of God out of every tongue, tribe, people, and nation (I Pet. 2:10; Rom. 9:25, 26; Hosea 2:23). The church at Ephesus is the people who are erstwhile “Gentiles.”
3. In our Scripture lesson Paul is building as a Master craftsman upon the only foundation, Jesus Christ. And as thus built, the church is the ground and pillar of the truth of the Gospel. In this church both men and women are living members of the Body of Christ. However, each has his own role. The twofold “roles” are very distinctive in character. Their role is wholly in keeping with their respective increated character. “Male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:26, 27).
4. I do believe that we should remember that the exhortation in the verses 8-15 consists of words which heretofore had not been written by any of the apostles. When Paul writes the words here, he writes as one of the holy men of God. He is writing according to the grace which was given him. He was writing, as II Peter 1:21 enlightens us, concerning the grand fact that “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Did not Peter, as he was moved by the Holy Ghost, designate the beloved brother Paul as being on a par even with Moses of old? Was this not the time when men in the New Testament church spoke with tongues (I Cor. 12:10, 28-31)?
5. When the New Testament Scriptures had been written, then “tongues ceased” (I Cor. 13:8).
Let us now direct our attention to the Holy Spirit’s admonition to the beloved sisters in the Lord Jesus. These words are not such as were uttered by men who had the special gift of tongues. They are foundational words; they are words from Christ to women who “profess godliness.” They are words speaking of the spiritual adornment of women, women who (Pet. 3:5) adorned themselves with “good works,” being in subjection to their own husbands, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, “calling him lord.” In the Hebrew text in Genesis 18:12 we read: “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord (Adonai) being old also?”
Sarah truly was a godly woman. She showed in her entire life that she shared the faith of Abraham, her “lord.” Thus she manifested herself before the very faces of Jehovah God and the two angels with Him. She did not speak disrespectfully of her husband. She knew that the matter of her bearing Abraham’s son of the promise, heir of the promise, was a matter of struggling on bended knee. It was while Abraham was growing impotent and she was ceasing to be able to live after the manner of women, that Abraham and Sarah believed in hope against hope; they believed that they would be the father and mother of many nations (see Gen. 12:3 and Gen. 17:15). Had not God directed that, as Sarah’s lord, Abraham should have the living hope that she would be not merely a mother in Israel, but “a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her” (Gen. 17:15, 16)?
But to return to our text. Paul is speaking here to a class of reborn, erstwhile Gentile women, who once worshiped outside of the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants and promises. But now they profess before all the world not merely that they are dwelling in God’s temple, but that the living God has gathered them to be the very house of God itself. Small wonder that the Holy Spirit uses the very beautiful Greek term Theosebeian instead of the usual Greek term Eusebeian. Paul employs that latter term in I Timothy some nine times. However, in our text, the term Theosebeian means not merely godlikeness, but real godliness, having potency (II Tim. 3:5). It means that these holy women have come to know God as the God of their salvation!
However, there was a fly in the ointment. It was this: they were really very inconsistent; they clung to an outward display of perishable and corruptible beauty. Would not these shapely, youthful bodies perish? Being corruptible, would they not fade away? Really, their “profession” is on higher ground. Do they not have a hope laid away for them in heaven? Should they not be wearing the garments of good works? These women (their husbands too) must listen to the great vision shown to John on Patmos. We read of this vision in Revelation 21:2: “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Did not Sarah dwell with Abraham in tents? And did they not in hope against hope see that new Jerusalem from afar? Was such seeing of the beautiful city foursquare not the staying power which enabled Sarah both to refuse to return to Ur of the Chaldees, and to refuse to live another life-style of the people of the land (Heb. 11:16; John 8:56)?
But there was another evil under the sun which was pervading the life of the church. It is an evil which is very closely associated with the lack of spiritual sensitiveness concerning the truth that this pure and undefiled adornment is “the end of the commandment,” which is love “out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (I Tim. 1:5). One sanctified conscience is more powerful than a thousand witnesses. To this we will return.
The text inserts in parentheses,’ “which becometh women professing Godliness.” The term “professing” refers to the promised godly service. It is their solemn “Amen” to the will of God that they walk the straight and narrow way which leads to life. The term in the original Greek occurs only once in the Bible. Paul also uses another word which means God-pleasing walk. It could very properly be translated “piety,” or “reverence” (see I Tim. 2:2; I Tim. 3:16; I Tim. 4:7, 8; I Tim. 6:5, 6, 11). Such women, professing that they truly fear and obey the one only true God in Jesus Christ, are women who publish the fact that they are Christians, i.e., prophets, priests, and kings of God. (See Heidelberg Catechism, Questions 86-91.) Does a glamorous dress and outlandish hairdo really “adorn” a Christian as she is portrayed by the Holy Spirit in I Peter 3:1-6?
It is well known that the life of the children of God is a letter (II Cor. 3:1, 2). See also what Paul writes in I Corinthians 7:16, 17. Is this in abroad sense not implied in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:13-16? Is this not also the implication of Matthew 5:43-48? Let us search the Scriptures which are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (II Tim. 3:15-17).
(We will continue the exposition of verses 11-15 in Lesson 6, D.V.)
Some questions for more in-depth discussion:
1. Is it not a remarkable fact that Paul refers to two women from the Old Testament Scriptures: Sarah and Eve? The latter was not born from a woman, but was one whom God brought forth from a rib of Adam as the finishing creative act on the sixth day. Was she not surnamed Eve (Hewa) by Adam after the Fall of the first man (Adam), and also after God revealed His grace and mercy in Paradise? In Genesis 3:20 we read, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” In all the holy Scriptures the name Eve is mentioned but four times – twice in each testament (Gen. 3:20; Gen. 4:1; II Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:13-15).
2. Sarah called Abraham her Adonai. We read this of her in I Peter 3:6: “Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (Adonai).” She called him this in the very presence of Jehovah, who appeared unto her and Abraham accompanied by two angels. We should notice that Jehovah, the covenant God, and the two angels are designated as “three men” who stood by him (Gen. 18:1-5). Sarah’s calling Abraham Adonai was the deep and constant attitude of “revering her husband,” expressed spontaneously before God and His angels, uttered with sanctified lips! (See Ephesians 5:32, 33.) All the obedience of Sarah, mother of Isaac and his Seed, is uttered. Only holy women are permitted by God to walk the long road of patience. See the long road of patience, even from Ur of the Chaldees, until God took Sarah home to the better country, the heavenly (Gen. 23:1, 2; Heb. 11:11-13; Heb. 6:9-11).
3. Should it be difficult to understand that Sarah is mentioned in the Bible more often than Eve? If not, why not?
4. What is the greatness of both Eve and Sarah in their “motherhood” in the church? Who seem not to be able to fathom the greatness of the mother in the church who rocks the cradle?
5. What were the “good works” which adorned Eve? Sarah? Does the definition of what really constitutes good works apply also to Eve and to Sarah?