The Two Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy
Chapter 2 (contd.)
2. Christ is God and the only advocate between God and humanity (2:4-7)
St. Paul points out that, proceeding in the manner described above is pleasing to "God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:3,4) Our Savior is also the One Who instituted the law "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, ..." (Mat. 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25) It is also written "... He died for all, ..." (2 Cor. 5:15) and “gave Himself a ransom for all." (1 Tim 2:6, Mat. 20:28, and Mark 10:45) Consequently, "... the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, ..." (Titus 2:11) Finally, John tells us that God's salvation is offered to all: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Since Christ the Savior has united in Himself both God and Man, He is the "... one God and one Mediator between God and men ..." (1 Tim. 2:5) St. Paul had previously told the Romans: "... It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." (Rom. 8:34) And St. John says of Christ's continuing intercessions: "... if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." (1 John 2:1,2) Furthermore, seven centuries before Christ, Isaiah prophesied saying: "... He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12)
This unique advocacy, though, is completely different from the Saints' intercessions on behalf of those who seek them, and from believers' prayers for one another. Christ's mediation is atoning, through the blood of the Cross. Christ's one-time Sacrifice in the Holy of Holies led to eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12); on the other hand, Saints' and believers' "intercessions" simply offer petitions for the Divine Throne's disposition. If we, “exaggeratedly”, refer to the Saints as "intercessors," then Christ is the "Intercessor of all intercessors." The Bible gives us several examples of intercessions; hence, we have Abraham's pleading the case of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-32), the holy Virgin's request to Christ during the wedding of Cana of Galilee (John 2:3), and Paul's request to believers to pray for him (Col. 4:3, Eph. 6:19, and 1 Thess. 5:25). These examples prove that Saints' intercessions are a biblical reality, within boundaries. They are an expression of our trust in God's love, and demonstrate mutual love to our neighbors (Col. 1:3 and Eph. 6:18). St. James also said, "... pray for one another ..." (James 5:16)
St. Paul himself introduced this "testimony" of Jesus Christ, the "one God," (as opposed to the numerous pagan competing gods), and the "one Mediator," Who is unlike any other in His timeless mediation, in heaven and on earth. St. Paul was not only a testifier to the truthfulness of this fact, but also a “preacher” who proclaimed this pivotal truth of the Christian Faith, an ambassador and “apostle”, offering Christ to the world, and a “teacher” who dedicated his life to expounding the facts to the Gentiles, explaining to them the foundations of the Faith, and preparing servants to lead their respective churches. In so doing, he states the “truth” concerning "Christ", and lays no claims to whatever is not his (1Tim. 2:6,7).
3. Spiritual conduct for men and women (2:8 - 15)
St. Paul then addresses the practical side of the Christian Faith. We find that he alludes to negative aspects in the conduct of some of the congregation members. He urges them to resist such negative behavior, and instructs the men to: "... pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; ..." while struggling against sin and all the old pagan customs and lifestyles. He furthermore exhorts them to curb anger, strife, and self-serving debates that are devoid of love, remembering the Lord's words in this respect: "... if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses ..." (Mat. 6:15) which concludes the Lord's prayer. Also "... go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Mat. 5:24) Vehement arguments poison a person's life, impede the heart's uprightness, and obstruct prayer - or, at the very least, strip prayer of its sincerity, thereby rendering it ineffective.
St. Paul seems to have been informed of some women regarding their excessive adornment, in accordance with the prevailing customs of the day, and their tendency to chatter in church, and to seek front seats(1). Therefore, he advised, “… that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” Church worship is not a forum for pretentious or vain display of wealth through clothing or adornment - whether that be through the use of gold and jewelry, or through attractive long hair braids; this disagrees, and contrasts sharply, with a Church whose Head was so poor, that there was no room for Him and His mother at the inn, He was born in a manger (Luke 2:7), and He spent His entire life owning nothing, and having nowhere to lay His head. (Mat. 8:20) A believing woman's appearance should be "... proper for women professing godliness, with good works." Put differently, a believing woman should conduct herself as having signed a covenant with God to lead a pure life, characterized by deeds of the righteous faith.
He requires women to "learn in silence with all submission," and not to teach or manipulate men. It would seem that events in the church had spun out of control, inducing him to assign, deliberately, the first teaching priority to men, since "Adam was formed first," and "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." On the other hand, he quickly draws our attention to the woman's prominent role in life: hence, motherhood, which embodies raising her children, indoctrinating them in the Faith, and offering new members to the Church - the body of Christ. A woman's path to salvation is thus to lead a dignified life, to refrain from all unruliness and perversion, and to "continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control."
St. Paul's position with respect to women seems to have been affected by prevailing conditions in the Ephesian Church at that time, which conditions led him to adopt a stance to face such transient weaknesses. This reasoning stems from the fact that women had a distinct role in the Church of Christ - a role which sometimes surpassed men's. Examples are: the incarnate Savior of the world was born through the virgin Mary, who was the closest person to Him for thirty years; Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ before any man; during the Lord's Passion, those who stood at the foot of the Cross were four women (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40 and John 19:25), plus one disciple (John 19:26); in the early Church, Priscilla (and her husband Aquila) were prominent preachers who, among other things, taught Apollos the way of the Lord and led him to the knowledge of the truth – St. Paul singled them out as the object of his, as well as of all the Gentiles', specific gratitude (Rom. 16:3,4). Other prominent women whom St. Paul mentioned include Euodia and Syntyche who struggled with Paul despite their differences (Phil. 4:2,3), and Phillip the evangelist's four daughters who prophesied; Paul also told Titus that older women had the right to teach (Titus 2:3). The Bible also mentions that Phoebe helped Paul, served the Church (deaconess) at Cenchrea (south of Athens), wrote Paul's letter to the Romans, and delivered it to them.
Furthermore, Paul praised Lois and Eunice, Timothy's grandmother and mother respectively, saying that Timothy is indebted to them for his faith (2 Tim. 1:5). Finally, in the concluding remarks of his letter to the Romans, Paul mentions seven women who toiled in the Lord's service. Paul emphasized more than once that all believers are equal before Christ and His service; hence, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28 and Col. 3:11))
(To be contd.)
(1) St. Peter gives similar instructions to women: "Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-- 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 3:3,4)