Qualifications to be a Church Leader (1 Timothy)
Updated: Sep 24
The letters to Titus and Timothy do not exclude women from being church leaders. Timothy is encouraged to recognize faith and godliness in others when selecting people to serve in ministry. He is to be an example of consistent faith and good conscience, to exercise his spiritual gifts, and to exhort believers to live in a way that credits the reputation of the community. I look at Titus here. There are a lot of controversial passages in 1 Timothy, so let's get started.
1 Timothy: Who and When
The letter opens identifying Paul as the author and his spiritual son Timothy as the recipient. Today, the majority of scholars doubt that Paul actually wrote the letters to Timothy and Titus (1), pointing to some aspects of the letters that do not reflect Paul's authentic letters. These three letters are often grouped together and called pastoral letters because they are addressed to people with pastoral oversight of churches.
First, the vocabulary and writing style are different from Paul's authentic letters. More than one-third of the vocabulary is not in Paul's other letters(2), yet this vocabulary was widely used by second-century writers. For example, the term knowledge [gnosis] in 1 Timothy 6:20 was used in the second-century debate about salvation by divine gnosis or knowledge, yet the Apostle Paul may have died around 65 AD.
Next, the pastoral letters reference church structures and titles not in place until the late first century or early second century, well after Paul's death. In Paul's authentic letters, he refers to leadership according to gifts given by the Holy Spirit to serve as ministry co-workers, apostles, prophets, and teachers. Paul does not refer to offices or titles such as overseers, deacons, and elders.In Paul's day, Christian assemblies were based in home churches, yet the pastoral letters indicate an organized church hierarchy that came later. The pastoral letters are not listed in the biblical canon until after 170 AD(3)
The pastoral letters uphold the Greco-Roman pagan hierarchies and limitations on women and slaves. In contrast, in Paul's authentic letters, Paul refers to the pagan hierarchal codes limiting women and slaves, and he overturns them for those 'in Christ' (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, 1 Corinthians 12:13) (4). For example, after Paul tells slaves to be respectful, he flattens the hierarchy by telling masters to likewise respect their slaves as brothers, keeping in mind that both serve the Master in heaven. After Paul tells all believers to submit to one another, as wives submit to husbands in the familiar pattern, Paul reinvents the pattern, by telling husbands to give wives the same care that they give to their own bodies. Paul's instruction echoes Jesus's instructions to do to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew (7:12). Restrictions based on class or gender seem to conflict with this golden rule.
The pastoral letters seem to prohibit women from ministry, while Paul gave advice to women who were speaking, praying, and prophesying in communal gatherings. Paul said a woman should have authority over what she wears (1 Corinthians 11:10). Paul commended female co-workers in ministry and leaders of church communities (Romans 16, Acts 16:13-15, 40, Acts 18:19-21). According to Ally Kateusz, early manuscripts showed Paul and Timothy commissioning women to preach and baptize, but these were redacted to hide records of the preaching of female apostles like Thecla and Irene (5). Kateusz suggests the pastoral letters could have been part of the late first-century debate about women (6) in ministry and leadership, written to combat records that Paul and Timothy supported women in ministry.
Lastly, the pastoral letters appear to say that women are saved through bearing children. In contrast, Paul's authentic letters repeat that salvation comes through faith, not by any human action (Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-10, Galatians 2:16, Philippians 3:9). While the pastoral letters appear to say that women must not teach or have authority over men, the authentic letters show Paul commending women in church leadership. Scholars debate why Paul's letters disagree: did his thinking change over time or do the pastoral letters mean something other than what first appears.
Being written by someone other than Paul does not make them invalid. Regardless of the author, the letters to Timothy and Titus are part of God's word in the canon of the Bible. Placing the date and time as potentially the early 2nd century gives us context to the debate and theology at the time of writing.
1 Timothy 1: Stop Exploitive, Abusive Behaviour
The letter is addressed to an individual, not the whole assembly of believers, it deals specifically with issues Timothy is facing in his role leading the church in Ephesus. The writer opens by reminding Timothy his main priority in Ephesus is to instruct certain individuals not to spread false teaching. It is not primarily about orderly worship, church structure and responsibilities for all churches.
The letter criticizes false teachers who are focused on godless myths, genealogies, and obedience to laws. The Law isn't needed for the righteous but for the unrighteous. When our faith changes our hearts, it changes our behaviours. The letter lists a few behaviours that show our hearts have not changed. Drawing from the ten commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), it lists unrighteous actions including: irreverence, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, giving false witness (perjury), and greed.
The writer varies the list, adding "whoremongers, sodomites, men-stealers, liars' (1 Timothy 1:9-10 Young's Literal Translation of 1898 (4)). It seems to copy from Paul's authentic letter to Corinth, which lists whoremongers, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, sodomites, thieves, and covetousness (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Young's Literal Translation (4)). Recent translations have used the word homosexual on this list; let's look at why that may be incorrect.
Homosexuality is not on the list of unrighteous actions
The list of unrighteous actions condemns exploitive, abusive behaviour as immoral - whether by heterosexuals or homosexuals. Whoremonger is a term meaning an adult male sexually exploiting an adolescent boy (7), or the dominant partner in using a prostitute. Idolatry can apply to worshippers of Aphrodite treating temple prostitutes as idols or it can apply today to treating sex as an idol. Effeminate refers to a male being passive in a same-sex encounter, being dominated or used like a female. Sodomy is connected to violent rape and gang rape of boys or men (Genesis 19:4-7, Judges 19:22-23). In ancient history, it was unrighteous to rape a male but acceptable to take advantage of females (Genesis 19:8, Judges 19:24). The writer lists men-stealers, which likely refers to the kidnapping or human trafficking of adolescent boys as slaves for prostitution. At the temple of the goddess Artemis (8) in Ephesus, there is no evidence of women temple prostitutes, but it was common to enslave young boys at brothels. The writer does not place blame on the prostitutes, who were likely minors or women (not legal persons). Instead, the writer criticizes people who kidnap, steal people, take charge of prostitutes or use prostitutes.
The writer seems to be calling out lustful men who lack self-control and sexually abuse (9) or exploit boys or prostitutes. In 1946, for the first time (10), the ideas of whoremonger and sodomite were combined and the word homosexual was introduced to English translations of these passages. However, the ideas in the passages condemn exploitive, abusive relations, and not faithful, monogamous homosexuality. Perhaps instead of judging a minority, this passage judges the majority. Perhaps it condemns both heterosexuals and homosexuals who are promiscuous, sexually abusive or exploitive or are involved in child prostitution or pornography.
Paul, or an imitator of Paul, says Paul trusted Timothy with instructions because of prophecies elders made about Timothy when they laid their hands on him and commissioned him for ministry. The instructions are given to help Timothy hold faith and good conscience, not like others who have ruined their faith because they did not listen to their conscience. The writer expresses gratitude that God entrusted Paul with the gospel, strengthened him and considered him faithful and suitable for ministry even though he had a history of attacking followers of Jesus. God showed Paul mercy, and he became an example for others who want to receive God's mercy. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" and Paul calls himself the biggest sinner of all. Maybe we should imitate Paul's attitude, eager to thank God for showing us mercy, slow to call out the actions of others.
The remainder of 1 Timothy does not refer to sexual orientation and quotes from scholars below are not comments related to homosexuality.
1 Timothy 2: Stop Arguing and Showing off, Let a Women Learn and Not Be Afraid
Paul asks Timothy to pray for all people and ask elders to ensure believers can live peacefully. Such peace and godliness will help bring all people to come to the saving knowledge that there is one God, and one mediator between God and humanity: Jesus Christ who gave himself as a payment to give freedom to men and women.
Therefore, keeping in mind the goal of peace and godliness that will attract people to know God, Paul (or the Paul imitator) instructs three groups:
all men to stop the anger and arguing,
all women to stop displaying their wealth and instead display their good works,
one particular woman to learn the true message, stop teaching until she learns correct doctrine, not domineering another.
We learn in Titus that an elder's responsibilities are to hold to the true message, encourage believers, and refute false teaching. The passage in 1 Timothy 2 seems to tell Timothy to encourage women to learn correct doctrine so they will be less vulnerable to false teachers and will keep their faith and listen to their good conscience.
This letter is not about having authority but about usurping it or being domineering. If she was very insistent about celibacy, her husband may have perceived it as a desire for control when she was truly acting out of sheer terror. Often when a person acts out of fear, others can mistake it as aggression or bullying. The letter addresses the root of her fears, which is false teachings, especially circulated by and for women. The solution is not to condemn her for disobedience but to let her learn so that she can defend herself against false teachings. What may have been the false ideas that made her afraid and aggressively warn others to obey?
She may have been the victim of gnostic female false teachers who said that Eve came first, pursued knowledge, gave Adam life and taught him. Paul corrects the teaching, saying that women don't hold superior knowledge from Eve, that Adam was formed first, and that Eve was deceived.
She may have been the victim of pagan teachers telling her to imitate the goddess virgin warrior Artemis. If she thought being a virgin was more honoured or a way to earn salvation, she could have been browbeating her husband into celibacy. Paul says to let her quietly learn the correct doctrine so that she can defend herself from false teachers.
She may have been the victim of legalistic Jewish teachers promoting male circumcision and saying women will be kept pure and holy by being celibate since giving birth is ritualy impure. Paul says that God will keep her salvation [by Christ] even through the ritually impure childbirth process, as through a storm (not by a storm).
She may have been the victim of enemy teachers saying Christian women were more likely to die in childbirth because they did not have the protection of Artemis, the goddess of safe childbirth. Paul reassures her that God will keep her safe through the physically risky birth process, and that she should not turn to false gods in her time of crisis.
Then Paul switches from the individual woman being brought safely through childbirth to the plural. Her safety through childbirth is on the condition that 'they both' remain faithful, loving, and self-disciplined. Traditional views are that the plural refers to all women, suggesting her spiritual salvation depends on all women behaving correctly, having faith and bearing children (there is no acknowledgement of saving her physically or of any requirement for men). New scholarship is that the plural here refers to the woman and her husband, suggesting that she is more likely to survive the physical and spiritual struggles of childbirth when a husband shows care and self-control. Ancient tombstones show evidence that it was unusual for husbands to treat their wives kindly since it was considered acceptable to beat a wife. Many women at that time were married at puberty and had five children by the age of 20, and death in childbirth was common.
Dr. Lynn Cohick discusses 1 Timothy on the Local Churchology Podcast (11) The passage in 1 Timothy 2 must be read in the context of 1 Timothy 1, which introduces the discussion on false doctrines. Paul says he isn't permitting a woman to teach until she learns; he is not giving prohibiting all women from teaching for all time. He wants the woman to keep silent from teaching false doctrine until she learns. She is to be undistracted and focused while she learns. She is not to spread the heresy that celibacy is more pious or holy, and not to dominate or have authority to make her husband celibate. Paul says childbirth will not make a woman impure and being celibate is not more holy. Paul reassures the woman that her salvation by faith is secure despite the birth process if she and her husband both remain in faith and love.
Tom Barker sees this author as mainly concerned with false teachings and letting everyone learn. In his interview with the Local Churchology Podcast (12), he explains that creation order has nothing to do with authority; God gave both genders dominion over the earth. Tom Barker believes the letter is addressing issues specific to Ephesus, where Paul placed Timothy as a church overseer. In Ephesus, many trusted the goddess Artemis and women appeared to be targetted by false teachers who encouraged women to turn back to Artemis. If women did not learn correct Christian doctrine, they would be especially vulnerable to false teachers.
Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall (13) suggests that this is a personal letter addressing the problems of private individuals. The instructions for men to stop arguing and women to stop showing off their wealth are not related to communal worship services but to how believers live their private lives. The author is concerned about the women in their homes being vulnerable to the risk of false teachers and needing to learn the correct doctrine.
Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall (14) states that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is not related to our spiritual salvation but to a specific woman who dreads dying in childbirth. Fear of death in childbirth may be what makes the woman avoid sex and insist that her husband abstain. Paul corrects her false teaching that Eve came first, was not deceived, and was wiser than Adam. Paul is concerned that this woman is teaching others to avoid childbirth because believers no longer have the protection of Artemis. Paul is concerned about women turning back to Artemis in their time of crisis, and he wants to reassure and encourage women to rely on Christ to shelter and protect them through the childbearing process. In Westfall's view, the risk of death in childbirth is paramount, and the author is telling the woman she can be saved from turning to idolatry and saved from death in childbirth if she and her husband both continue in faith, love, and self-control. Paul seems to be instructing her husband to be considerate and self-disciplined, which can help reduce maternal mortality.
Traditional interpreters discount the idea that this passage is about the fear of maternal mortality or God saving a woman from physical death in childbirth. Dr. Westfall points out that James tells us to pray for the sick and anoint them with oil (James 5:14-15) even though sometimes it does not result in the person being healed. In the same way, we can reduce the risk of death and the pain of labour even though sometimes women still die in childbirth. A husband's kindness, support, and self-restraint can help reduce maternal mortality. Sometimes it was a husband's physical or sexual treatment of a pregnant wife that contributed to maternal mortality.
Theologian Marg Mowczko also suggests the woman is domineering her husband (15) or refusing to have sex with him. The woman may be avoiding sex, bullying her husband into abstinence based on the idea that Artemis honoured chastity and the Jewish law said a woman became ritually impure after childbirth. Perhaps the woman thought to remain pure and keep her salvation, she needed to be celibate even while married. Marg Mowczko discusses the theme of virginity in the Acts of Paul and Thecla here (16). The woman teaching this heresy should stop domineering her husband and be assured that she will be kept pure even through childbirth if she and her husband continue in faith and love together (1 Timothy 2).
Bruce C. E. Fleming, the host of the Eden Podcast and Co-Founder of the Tru316 Foundation, states that the main message of 1 Timothy 2 is that we are to correct and restore the men and women overseers who go astray. The male overseers were arguing, the female overseers were overtly showing their wealth, and both groups needed to be corrected.
The final verse says 'she' or 'a wife' or 'a woman' will be saved through childbearing and then switches to the plural: if 'they' continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. Bruce Fleming suggests the woman in 1 Timothy 2:15 relates to the woman, Eve (17). The plural refers to all women, who are, like men, saved through the childbirth of Jesus. Bruce Fleming explains the true meaning of Genesis 3:16 is that God blessed women by multiplying their ability to conceive.
Several English translations show the final verse using the plural throughout, saying 'women' or 'all women' will be saved through childbirth if women continue in faith and self-control. These translations do not acknowledge the possibility that a woman is afraid and wants to be saved physically as well as spiritually. Some build on the idea that women will be saved by having children if they continue in faith and good behaviour. For example, women will be saved 'by having children' (CEV, ERV), 'women will be preserved if they...' (AMP), and 'women will be saved by having children if they keep...' NIRV. Other interpretations clarify that women are saved 'through the birth of the divine Child' (AMPC), women 'will be saved through the birth of the child if they lead respectable lives' (GW, NOG), 'her childbearing brought about salvation, reversing Eve (MSG). In other words, as sin entered the world with Adam and Eve, sin is overcome by Jesus if we continue in faith. The Living Bible actually infers God intentionally cursed women with pain and women's actions bring salvation: "God sent pain and suffering to women when their children are born, but he will save their souls if they trust in him, living quiet, good, and loving lives."
Patriarchal readers have been reluctant to see that 1 Timothy corrects the angry and arguing men and tells harsh, undisciplined husbands to be faithful, loving, and self-controlled. A new reading tells men to resolve a woman's aggressive behaviour by addressing her fear, letting her learn, and giving her reassurances of God's faithfulness.
Traditional interpretations of this chapter put forth the following viewpoints:
Paul is upbraiding or correcting women for teaching and having authority over men
a woman will be spiritually saved by giving birth and by good behaviour
all women will be spiritually saved by the birth of Christ if they are quiet and obedient
childbirth will make all women suffer but it will not endanger their spiritual salvation
These views require false interpretations of other passages including:
Salvation by grace only relates to men
God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
Jesus is a mediator for men and not women
Christ's work as a mediator or path to God is for anyone who believes (John 3:16, John 4:14).
Women are spiritually saved through obedience to men and through bearing children.
Neither women nor men are saved by their own actions, but by God's grace (Titus 3:5, Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-10, Galatians 2:16, Philippians 3:9)
God commands women to have children
God never commands women to have children. God blesses both women and men with the ability to have children when they unite (Genesis 1:22 and 28).
God wants women to suffer in childbirth
God did not curse women with childbirth and does not want humans to suffer. God warned Eve of multiplied effort in working the cursed soil and in bringing forth children.
Women must never have authority over men. Men may hold authority if they meet other criteria. Men may overrule, usurp power, dominate others.
Women (and men) are not to assume authority by usurping power, overruling or domineering. Chrisitans are to be loving, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23). It does not mean a woman cannot have any authority but that she cannot force her authority on others. Jesus calls all believers to show their light (Matthew 5), and Paul says all believers are called to freedom (Galatians 5:13), a woman ought to have authority over herself (1 Corinthians 11:10-12), and husbands and wives should yield authority to one another (1 Corinthians 7:4, Ephesians 5:21).
1 Timothy 3: Church Leadership
The writer quotes a saying that if anyone longs to be a church overseer, it is a noble goal (1 Timothy 3:1). A translation that adds "man" and "he" is adding an idea that is not in the original Greek. For example, a less accurate translation would be "if any man desires to be a church overseer, he desires a noble task." Several English translations make this passage appear to exclusively address males, using ten or more male descriptions or pronouns. Women are only excluded from roles as priests, pastors, bishops, and overseers when we translate the Greek word [tis] meaning "all humans" or "anyone", as "men" or use a male pronoun. Marg Mowczko points out that there are no words in Greek indicating that only men can be overseers (18) or church leaders.
At the top of the list of qualifications to be a church leader, Paul, or an imitator of Paul, says the overseer must be blameless, the husband of one wife. The original 'man of one woman', if taken literally, would mean no single or remarried men could be overseers, bishops, or elders. In ancient Rome, a widow who did not re-marry was called the ‘wife of one man’.
Realistically, 'man of one woman' means 'faithful in marriage'. This does not prohibit female overseers, just as it does not prohibit male overseers who are single or married for a second time. It means that if they are married, they should not be adulterers but be faithful in marriage.
The church leader must be able to manage their own household well (v. 4), which also does not exclude women. While most households had a male in charge, women were not excluded. There are several women in the Bible who are called heads of the house, including Lydia, Nympha, Phoebe, and Martha of Bethany. Paul tells women to be good household managers later (1 Timothy 5:14). Nijay Gupta, in Tell Her Story, reports that approximately 25% of households in the first-century Roman world were managed by a woman.
The church overseer should see that their children are obedient and respectful. This does not mean an overseer must have children, but if they do have children, their children should behave responsibly. Both the mother and the father are responsible for raising their children.
The list in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is not exhaustive but advises leaders should be sober, modest, honest, hospitable, and good at teaching. They should not be violent, greedy, quarrelsome or domineering. The list applies to both male and female church leaders or overseers.
The writer then says 'in the same way' or 'likewise' deacons must be honest, unselfish and faithful in marriage, worthy of trust and respect. Paul then goes on to say 'in the same way' or 'likewise' the women are to be honest and faithful in all things. He is addressing women who are deacons, not wives of deacons (1 Timothy 3:11). In his book, Tell Her Story, Nijay Gupta suggests the word deacon does not describe a servant or subordinate, but a person who provides ministries to the assembly. The characteristics to be a deacon are similar to those of an overseer, and they should have a clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:8-10).
Paul concludes his instructions about deacons saying they must be faithful in marriage and manage their households well (1 Timothy 3:12). The writer explains that those who serve well will strengthen their faith (1 Timothy 3:13).
My biblical fiction, Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, tells stories of women in the Bible who were leaders at home and in the community. It shows women as faithful and devoted disciples, patrons, and apostles. It sets an example for women and men today to be free to follow God's call for their lives.
Paul hopes to visit Timothy but writes so that Timothy will know how to lead God's household, which is the church of God. Paul quotes another saying, this one that describes the great mystery that Jesus appeared in the flesh, declared righteous in spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on and taken up into glory.
1 Timothy 4: Godly Training Has Double Value
Again, the writer reminds Timothy that some will abandon their faith and follow false teaching from those who do not listen to their good conscience. Among these false teachers, Paul mentions those who forbid marriage and promote virginity or celibacy, possibly referring to the woman in 1 Timothy 2. Paul also criticizes these false teachers for telling people to abstain from certain foods and observe Jewish dietary laws. Paul says God makes all things good through prayer (1 Timothy 4:1-5). He seems to be referring to Jesus's words that people are not made impure by the food that goes into their mouths but by the words that come out of their mouths (Matthew 15:11). In the same way, you can tell a good teacher not by their gender, but by their words and actions, the fruit of their heart (Matthew 7:15-20).
Paul encourages Timothy as a good minister, nourished on truth and following good teaching. He discourages Timothy from the godless myths and legal restrictions. Paul quotes another saying, that physical training has some value, but godly training has double value, both in this life and in the afterlife (1 Timothy 4:6-10).
Paul encourages Timothy to teach the truth entrusted to him, setting an example in word and in conduct, and not letting anyone look down on him because of his youth. He tells Timothy to keep publicly reading the Scripture, preaching and teaching. He reminds Timothy to use his gift, given through prophecy when the elders laid their hands on him. Paul encourages Timothy to be diligent and persevere, to save both himself and those who listen to him. All believers are likewise called not to neglect our God-given gifts, but to use them to bear good fruit.
1 Timothy 5: Women and Men Are Both Financially Responsible
Now, the writer gives specific instructions that Timothy treat the gathering of believers as his own family. Treat older men with respect, as if they were your father, treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.
Older Widows: Recognize those who are in need. The widow who is really in need puts her hope in God and is celibate, fully dedicated to Christ. These widows should do good deeds, show hospitality, wash others' feet, and help those in trouble. If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should take care of their own family. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).
Younger Widows: Do not have them take a vow of celibacy because they may later want to marry and break their pledge. A young widow may learn to be lazy, spreading false myths or gossip from house to house, turning people to follow Satan. It would be better for them to remarry, have children, and manage their households so that they won't give a reason for our opponents to slander believers.
The writer acknowledges women who manage their own households, have assets or income and are not under the care of a male guardian. If a woman is taking care of widows, she should continue to do so, freeing the church to help the widows who are really in need. Female and male believers are held equally financially responsible for providing for their relatives (1 Timothy 5:8 and 16). In my career as a financial advisor, I saw it is essential for women to be educated not only in domestic management but also in asset and financial management and trained for a career and for income and budget management.
Elders and those who do public speaking and teaching should be paid, as workers deserve their pay. Here, the writer recommends that any accusations against an elder should be confirmed by two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19). This verse has been used to shelter or hide abusive pastors or priests today since many sexual allegations do not have a witness other than the aggressor and victim. However, the very next verse exhorts Timothy to let everyone see that you discipline those who are sinning in order to keep others from impropriety. Timothy is not to prejudge or show partiality to protect the elder. The good works will be obvious, and bad works will eventually come to light (1 Timothy 5:17-25). This echoes Jesus's promise that everything that is hidden will eventually be found out, exposed in God's light (Luke 8:17).
1 Timothy 6: Run to Righteousness
Those who are slaves should respect their masters so that our teaching won't get a bad reputation (1 Timothy 6:1-2). This statement does not apply to wives obeying abusive husbands for the sake of the church's reputation. Wives are not slaves to husbands; in fact, women were often masters in charge of slaves and servants. Paul states otherwise that for those who are 'in Christ', there is no longer male and female. The goal is to keep God's name honoured and not reviled by unbelievers. It is better for the reputation of the Christian church to condemn abusers than to protect them.
This passage is unlike Paul's references to slaves in other letters. Paul refers to the household code of slaves obeying masters, and immediately reforms saying that for those 'in Christ', masters likewise need to respect their slaves as brothers, since both serve the true Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1, Ephesians 6:9, Philemon 1:15-17). However, in 1 Timothy 6 and in Titus 2, the author seems to be telling slaves to obey their masters without a corresponding instruction to reform a master's behaviours towards slaves. This change could indicate the writer is not the Apostle Paul, or it could show a change in thinking from the early to the late first century. Apparently, some Christian slaves had been disrespecting their Christian masters, treating them as equal brothers, and their poor work ethic did not glorify God. In his other letters, Paul tells believers to work heartily, as for the Lord and not for human bosses (Colossians 3:23)
The letter tells Timothy to be alert for false teachers or anyone teaching something that doesn't agree with what Paul has entrusted to Timothy. False teachers think they will gain money from godliness, but true gain comes from godliness and contentment. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and some have turned away from the faith because making money became their goal (1 Timothy 6:3-10). Tell the wealthy not to put their hope in their earthly riches but to hope in God who provides everything. Tell them instead to be rich in good works and generous with others. This mirrors James in telling us to show our faith through our actions (James 2:17). It also echoes Jesus in telling them to build up treasure in heaven (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
The writer warns about people who are conceited and obsessed with debates, creating jealousy, conflict, and verbal abuse. Timothy is to avoid godless discussions and false teachings, which can lead people away from the faith. Timothy is to run away from such things and instead run towards righteousness, faithfulness, and holiness. Timothy is reminded of his confession of faith in front of many witnesses to motivate him to obey what he has been taught (1 Timothy 6:11-16). The writer tells Timothy to protect the teachings that have been handed to him in trust and turn away from ideas that are falsely called knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20-21).
In summary, this is a private letter to Timothy, who is in charge of the church in Ephesus. It opposes sexually exploitive or abusive behaviour by heterosexuals or homosexuals. It encourages women to learn correct doctrine so that they are less vulnerable to false teachers and alleviates a woman's fears of childbirth and temptation to turn to Artemis for safety. It gives many characteristics to watch for in selecting good church leaders. It encourages women and men to be good managers of wealth, taking care of widows, and managing their households. It does not prohibit anyone from leading or speaking based on gender. It encourages Timothy to live in godliness, to stop the community from spreading false doctrine, and to teach them to live in godliness.
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Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include: