The Role of Women in Public Worship (1 Timothy 2:9-15)

The Role of Women in Public Worship (1 Timothy 2:9-15)

Throughout the centuries God has used women in many ways for the glory of His Name and for the furtherance of the gospel. Within God’s plan of redemption, women have and continue to carry an important and influential role in the life of the church. Some passages of Scripture come under much criticism because they proclaim things that are contrary to what is accepted in society. It must always be the believer’s duty to approach the Word of God with integrity. When it comes to matters that are difficult to accept, the Word of God remains true and must be affirmed and adhered to. 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is one of those passages that can be difficult to accept. Nonetheless, it is the Word of God and we ought to approach it with a holy appetite. In this passage Paul instructs us concerning the role of women in public worship. To be equal in value does not mean one has equal function. This passage will describe a difference of function in the context of public worship (the church gathered).

The Appearance of Women (1 Tim. 2:9-10)
In dealing with the appearance of women, Paul begins by addressing their clothing (2:9). Unlike the extravagant and sensual appearance of certain women, the godly woman ought to dress herself “in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (2:9). In addition to her clothing, the godly woman is to be concerned regarding the appearance of her conduct (2:10). She is to do “what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works” (2:10).The emphasis in these opening verses is on the woman’s godliness and not outward appearance (cf. Prov. 31:30).

The Attitude of Women (1 Tim. 2:11-15)
2:11-15 are considered to be the most controversial verses in this letter. In these verses Paul instructs the women on what their attitude and actions ought to be in public worship. He does this by firstly providing the requirement (2:11-12). Far from being confining and chauvinistic, the amazing reality behind these words is that in the church a woman can learn! Women can still teach the Word of God in certain contexts (Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3-5 and 2 Tim. 3:15). However, they are not to preach or teach in a context in which they are showing authority over men and nor are they to be elders.

Secondly, Paul goes on to provide two reasons for such conduct, the Divine design (2:13) and the deception of Eve (2:14). This is important as it reveals that the basis of the requirement in 2:11-12 is not due to a cultural custom, but because of God’s design in creation.

Finally, he mentions the result of a submissive attitude (2:15). Verse 15 is a difficult verse to interpret (cf. 2 Pet. 3:15-16!). When approaching a verse like this it is helpful to understand what it is not saying. This is not teaching that women are saved by physically having children (this would be considered a work cf. Eph. 2:8-9 and a contradiction of numerous Scriptural passages). There are three main views offered to explain this verse: (1) this refers to physical preservation in childbirth, (2) this refers to the incarnation and the salvation that Christ brings, and (3) this refers to a deliverance that comes as a woman fulfills her God ordained design.

The purpose of this passage is to instruct woman on what their roles are in public worship with some applications. Despite the fact that society resists such teaching, why should we adhere to this? The answer is simple, this is the way God has designed it (2:13) and this is God’s design for the church (3:15).


  1. The Bible gives testimony of the importance and influence of godly women. Look up the following passages and discuss some of the wonderful accomplishments and contributions of godly women (Heb. 11:11, 31; Ex. 2:1-10; Acts 18:26).

Read Verses 9-10

  1. Read verses 9-10 and discuss how society promotes the contrary (eg. emphasis on physical beauty etc.). Read the following passages and make some observations concerning a woman’s physical dress and spiritual dress: Prov. 31:22 and 1 Pet. 3:3-4.

Read verses 11-15

  1. Verse 12 makes it clear that a woman is not to teach and exercise authority over a man. What are appropriate ways for women to exercise the gift of teaching? See Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:15.
  1. What does verse 13 teach us about the order of creation? Does this have implications on who leads in the church? See also Gen. 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:3 and 8-9.
  1. Discuss the importance and influence of a godly woman investing in and instructing her children.


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