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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 2

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

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Some scholars deny that this chapter records regulations with regard to the public services of the churches, but the vast majority agree that Paul’s purpose is clearly that of laying down instructions for conducting the public services of the congregations. As David Lipscomb stated it, "He laid down rules for the men in the public worship, and then gave rules for the women."(F1) Wallis referred the chapter to "the public worship";(F2) Nute said it stressed "the importance of public prayer";(F3) Spence was sure that the thing in view here is "prayers offered by the congregation."(F4)

However, more is covered in this chapter than prayer regulations, for the entire aspect of Christian assemblies is the subject of Paul’s instruction, even including guidelines for the proper dress and adornment of the worshipers. Moreover, the Christological passage (1 Timothy 2:5-7) is in no sense a parenthesis, being related to the great mission of the church in its outreach to all people, and the stress laid upon this in the public prayers.

Verses 1-2

I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, may be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.

I exhort therefore … This form of the apostolic command does not alter the force of it, which has the meaning of "I command." Paul is not revealing here that which would please him, but that which is the will of God.

First of all … This indicates the primary importance of the public prayers of the church, and not necessarily that public prayers should be first in the order of worship. Paul’s use of "first" throughout all of his writings generally has the meaning of "the first thing I wish to write." However, by this initial stress of the prayers, the primary importance of them is surely indicated. "Prayer in all its forms should occupy a central place in the church’s service of worship."(F5)

Supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings … The general meaning of this is "all kinds of prayers"; and, as Lenski put it, "Here are four words for prayers."(F6) And, as Spence said:

Many attempts, some of them not very

happy ones, have been made by

grammarians and commentators to

distinguish between these terms, each

of which denotes prayer.(F7)

The supplications are petitions addressed to God; prayers include petitions but also thanksgivings, adorations, etc.; intercessions are usually thought of as pleas upon behalf of others; and the thanksgivings are expressions of gratitude and appreciation for blessings God has already bestowed, no prayer, in any sense, being complete without thanksgivings.

For kings and all that are in high place … Here is only a glimpse of the Christian philosophy with regard to civil government, a teaching which Paul spelled out in detail in Romans 13:1 ff. The true Christian stands for law and order, any government being far better than none at all. Nero was at the time of Paul’s writing the emperor; and, as Dummelow put it, "The apostle’s instruction shows that the prayers of the church are to be offered for bad rulers as well as for good."(F8)

All that are in high place … This includes all who are in authority regardless of rank, taking in the administrative assistants in government as well as heads of state. The intense missionary thrust of this whole passage is inherent in the repetition of "all" throughout the passage, as well as in the missionary reference in 1 Timothy 2:7.

That we may lead a tranquil and quiet life … Christians are not to be revolutionaries in the sense of that word today, although the influence of the gospel, properly advocated, can and does have a therapeutic effect upon the entire society. Tranquillity and quietness are inherent traits of the true followers of Jesus Christ.

In all godliness and gravity … The first noun here has reference to the discharge of religious duties; and, according to Lenski, gravity refers to "dignified and worthy conduct toward our fellow men."(F9) There is also evident in these verses the reason for offering prayers upon behalf of governmental authorities. Such rulers as kings can, by their mistakes, bring untold sorrow upon all their subjects, as well as rich blessings through righteous rule. Therefore, the church should never forget to pray for such leaders.

Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to eat grass with the beasts of the field for seven years in order to learn the lesson that "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men" (Daniel 4:25); and it is feared that many today are in need of learning the same lesson. Christian prayers are therefore a means of putting into God’s hands an instrument for overruling the affairs of human kingdoms for the benefit of God’s children.

Verse 3

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

God himself is the Saviour of all people; and "This passage emphasizes the universality of the sufficiency, applicability and offer of the gospel to all men."(F10) "This" in this verse applies first of all to the prayers commanded to be offered, and also includes the contemplated results in the quiet and peaceable life granted to Christians as a consequence.

Verse 4

who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Who would have all men to be saved … It is the will of God that all men should inherit eternal life; but it is also the will of God that people should do so through acceptance of Jesus Christ, and persons refusing to do that must forfeit the inheritance. Another factor that enters into the consideration is the will of man, God having granted to all people the freedom of their will; and, where man’s will is unresponsive and rebellious against God’s will, there can be no salvation. God DESIRES the salvation of all, but the RESPONSIBILITY for accepting that salvation rests squarely upon every man. As Nute said, "This verse must not be stressed to support a numerical universalism."(F11)

Verse 5

For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus,

As David Lipscomb noted, the reference to Jesus Christ as a man is in the present tense, despite the fact of this having been written after the ascension of Christ, indicating that our Lord did not cease being a man when he rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God. In like manner, he did not cease being God when he descended for the purpose of the Incarnation.

One God … With great difficulty, the Hebrew people were finally taught the truth of monotheism; but, in spite of many lapses, they came in time, following the Babylonian captivity, to accept the principle completely. However, they failed, even then, to appreciate the truth that God is the God of all people, not of Israel alone; and there is always the tendency for people to think of God as THEIRS and not the God of all. This paragraph is charged with the truth that God is God of all. Lenski rejected the American Standard Version translation of this verse, affirming the meaning actually to be:

One (is) God, not two or more. One also (is) Mediator for God and men, not several. Nor should these two facts be separated, for they have been joined in 1 Timothy 2:3 where "our Saviour God" joins them; and they are again joined here. This Mediator is Mediator "for this one," namely, for God and men.(F12)

One mediator … There are exactly as many mediators as there are God, namely, only one; and here is the end of any alleged legitimacy for invoking saints, or even the Virgin Mary, in one’s petitions to God.

Verse 6

who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times;

The actual meaning of this somewhat obscure passage has been often disputed, but it would appear that the timeliness of the testimony is what Paul emphasized, calling to mind the words of Titus 1:2. It was in the mind of God "before the world was" to redeem humanity; and as Paul said in another place, "When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4). Thus, "the testimony" of Christ to the fact of God’s willingness to save all people was borne by the coming of Christ "in the fullness of time." The "fullness of time" also marked the testimony of the apostles themselves, as indicated in verse 7.

Who gave himself a ransom for all … This ranks with Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 among the great "ransom" passages of the New Testament. Our Lord literally gave himself, in that no one took his life away from him, but he laid it down of his own accord (John 10:17-18). There are no less than seven centers of initiative which are discernible in the crucifixion of Christ; and thus it is proper to say that: (1) God crucified Christ; (2) Christ crucified himself (gave himself willingly); (3) the Jews crucified him; (4) the Romans crucified him; (5) all mankind crucified him; (6) Satan crucified him; and (7) every man crucified him. A study of these is very rewarding. See in my Commentary on Romans, pp. 137ff.

The inestimable worth of our Lord Jesus Christ is apparent in that a ransom must have equivalent value to that which is ransomed or redeemed; and that Christ’s death was a sacrifice equivalent to the value of the entire race of mankind is inherent in the comparison.

Verse 7

whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth, I lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

The definite and emphatic missionary outreach of these first seven verses is supported by 1 Timothy 2:5-7, the "all men" of 1 Timothy 2:4 being inclusive of the Gentiles specifically mentioned here. The reason that "all men" were to be publicly prayed for by the church (including the Gentiles, of course) was stated in the Christology of 1 Timothy 2:5 and 1 Timothy 2:6. Since there is but one God, the God of all people; and since there is but one mediator between God and all mankind, the church should diligently pray for all people, especially in view of God’s willingness and desire that none should perish but that all should come "to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

Come to the knowledge of the truth … Some deductions of the most far-reaching nature come to view in a passage like this. People do not already have "the knowledge of the truth," absolutely demanding that those who are to be saved must first be taught the truth. This whole paragraph is keyed to Paul’s command that prayers be offered in all congregations for all people.

Verse 8

I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing.

Paul here restricted the offering of public prayers in Christian assemblies to men, as distinguished from women; and this is fully in keeping with the teachings of the New Testament elsewhere, and with the general practice of the church throughout many centuries. The fact that present social attitudes may be opposed to what is taught here cannot possibly be of any permanent importance. In the current era, society has degenerated into a very permissive attitude toward every kind of immorality, violence and crime; and, in such a social climate, there may very well be more and more individuals and even churches that will reject the teachings of the apostles and proceed to do as they please. These studies are not directed to the task of accommodating the rampant unchristian philosophies and behavior encountered on all sides today.

As Lenski said:

In 1 Timothy 2:8, "the men" are in contrast with all who are women (1 Timothy 2:9). This difference is not felt in English; but in the Greek this is plain. The men only, and no women whatever, are to do the praying in the public worship of the congregation.(F13)

I desire therefore that men pray … This is improperly translated, despite the fact that it CAN mean this. "The Greek word is [@boulomai], which in Hellenistic Judaism conveys a note of authoritative command."(F14) A better rendition would be, "I demand that the men do the praying everywhere, etc." In this light, it is futile to suggest that Paul’s words in this place are merely expressing a preference.

The men … Not only does this contrast with "women" (1 Timothy 2:9), but it also contrasts with "church officials, elders, ministers, deacons, etc." Although these are not mentioned, it is clear that the right of offering public prayer did not pertain exclusively to ministers, priests or others of any special class. "All male members of the church had an equal right to offer prayer and were expected to use that right."(F15)

Lifting up holy hands … This is not a prescription demanding any posture in prayer, but:

It is merely an allusion to the ancient practice of presenting the uplifted hands in respectful petition to God, as in Nehemiah 8:6; Psalms 141:2 and Lamentations 3:41.(F16)

Without wrath and disputing … Hervey speaks of a number of instances cited by Chrysostom in which angry and vindictive prayers were offered to God against personal enemies with such expressions as "so do to him … smite him … recompense him, etc."(F17) As Chrysostom said of such prayers, "Do you pray against your brother? Your prayer is not against him, but against yourself."(F18) Certainly, all who approach God in prayer should do so with humble and contrite hearts, conscious of such sins and shortcomings as mar every soul in the sight of God.

Every place … This applies to the universality of Paul’s apostolic instructions in this letter. Wherever any church pretends to follow Christ and the teachings of the apostles, these instructions are to be received and honored. Chrysostom pointed out that there is also here a denial that worship is to be confined to any certain place, as in the temple, for example, under Judaism.(F19)

Verses 9-10

In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works.

Adorn … in modest apparel … Every year, there are publications of the list of "best dressed women." Best dressed for what? They are misguided indeed who think that the most expensive, or the latest, or the most fashionable attire is in any sense "best"; and there have been many instances in which it was worst." As Barackman said:

Note that Paul did not say "careless" or "shabby." There is no virtue in offensive untidiness. What he meant was the kind of apparel that becomes a woman whose first concern is to be a credit to Christ.(F20)

"Neither is Paul insisting on drab dress. Even this may be worn with vanity; the very drabness may be made a display."(F21)

Perhaps the best comment on this passage is the writing of the apostle Peter who gave instructions along the same line, thus:

Your beauty should not be dependent upon an elaborate coiffure, or on the wearing of jewelry or fine clothes, but on the inner personality — the unfading loveliness of a calm and gentle spirit, a thing very precious in the eyes of God (1 Peter 3:3-4; Phillips).

The inherent good sense of the church in all ages has permitted and approved the wearing of some ornaments, as for example, gold wedding rings; and there can, in fact, be no authority whatever in these passages for the imposition of a church-administered dress code. Even the gold, pearls, etc., mentioned are not prohibited, but downgraded. The true ornament is not such things, but the spiritual loveliness and beauty of genuine Christianity. As Kelly observed:

We are true to the spirit of these passages when we say that the dress of Christians at public worship should be marked by simplicity and taste, but it does not follow that the church should attempt by specific rules to regulate the dress of her members.(F22)

Through good works … The nature of the good works mentioned here is elaborated in this epistle a little later (1 Timothy 5:9).

Verse 11

Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection.

This is far superior to the translation "learn in silence" in the King James Version; because no requirement whatever of silence is imposed in the worship of God. The quietness in view here is that of due acceptance of authority, respect for God’s rule of prohibiting women from taking over the public worship, and the quiet acceptance of their womanly role as childbearers and mothers of the human race. Certainly, in the asking of questions in dialogue teaching situations, and in such things as the singing or responsive readings, women do not violate this passage by their participation in such things.

Verse 12

But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.

To teach … refers to public teaching in the worship. As Nute said:

This prohibition in no way contradicts Titus 2:2-3; it relates to teaching in the church in the presence of men and to the fact that authority in matters concerning the church is not committed to women.(F23)

It is upon this verse that the office, either of elder, deacon, or evangelist, must, in the light of New Testament teaching, be denied to women. The wisdom of this is inherent in human nature. Satan, in many instances, has succeeded in creating the impression that Christianity is something merely for the women and children, and not for men at all; and, where such a prohibition as this is denied, the tendency would be to make Satan’s lie the truth.

Nor to have dominion over a man … This rule is not unreasonable nor capricious. Every entity must have a head, and the headship of man over the family and in the church is by divine appointment. Evil men who do not believe in God, thus rejecting any thought that there even is such a thing as "divine appointment," find it difficult to accept this; but those who believe in God and his word receive it joyfully. In the next two verses, Paul spelled out the reason for God’s investiture of family headship and church authority upon men, and not upon women.

Verse 13

For Adam was first formed, then Eve;

Paul’s endorsement of the Genesis account of creation is inherent in this argument. Adam and Eve were not merely mythical figures of the remote past, but the progenitors of the human race. Moreover, they did not "evolve" from lower creation together, but Adam was made first; then Eve was formed of a rib taken out of his side.

Adam’s being the first formed, and having an existence before Eve was created, gave him priority in creation. Furthermore, Eve was created as his assistant and helper, one suitable for him; and, if both Adam and Eve had respected this God-given arrangement, the human family might still have resided in the Garden of Eden. The disaster came when Eve became the leader instead of the helper and led her husband into the tragic fall of the entire race. But this is not all. Eve proved to be incapable of leadership, as outlined in the next verse.

Verse 14

and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression:

The argument here is that Adam was not deceived, whereas Eve was deceived, thus exhibiting a serious flaw that disqualified her from being the head, or leader. That quality of women being easily deceived is alone sufficient to justify the appointment of men as elders and evangelists, and as heads of the family. As Lenski observed on this verse, "This fact is not complimentary to women."(F24) We are living in an age that exhibits a widespread rejection of God’s teaching on this question, but the teaching remains clear enough. As Loy said (quoted by Lenski):

There are effeminate, long-haired men who claim the rights of women, and masculine, short-haired women who claim the rights of men; and, in virtue of the good sense with which the Creator has endowed humanity, they become the laughingstock of the sober-minded in both sexes.(F25)

Verse 15

but she shall be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.

All kinds of fanciful interpretations of this verse have been advocated; but, in all probability, "child-bearing" is a synecdoche for "the entire status of women in their relationship to God and men." Dummelow was correct in seeing the meaning thus: "The woman shall be saved by keeping simply and faithfully to her allotted sphere as wife and mother."(F26) There is no reference to the birth of Christ, nor to any promise of salvation based solely upon the biological function of child-bearing.


It is a gross mistake to view the natural capacity of women for being deceived as in any manner whatever a reflection upon womankind. It is positively her most adorable characteristic. Fully half the marriages on earth would never have been contracted, except for this utterly feminine and absolutely delightful quality of being easily deceived.

There is no use for anyone to deny this, because women see it clearly enough in their sisters, if not in themselves; and every woman who has ever tried to dissuade a love-struck daughter from marrying "the son of Ahab" is painfully and tragically aware of it. But the human race would be bankrupt without such a trait in women, an absence that would take all the romance out of life!

But are there not historical examples of strong-willed, powerful women, impossible to deceive, who now and again have held the rod of empire or the affairs of state with great ability? Yes indeed! But exceptions do not make the rule. Wherever such leadership exists in women, it is still a masculine trait; and wherever the opposite of it appears in men, it remains a feminine trait. Nature produces a two-headed calf now and then, but that is not the rule.

And, are there NEVER any occasions where women should, through circumstances, take the lead! Indeed there are. In 1918, before this writer became a Christian, he attended a country church made up, in the forced absence of all the men, entirely of women; and Miss Anna Lou Estes Black, the local school teacher, presided at the Lord’s table, led the singing, dismissed the congregation and brought the Sunday lesson, usually by reading from the Bible.

The glory of women is to achieve their ends without being charged with leadership and authority; and those precious angels called women who are willing to trade their natural, God-given status for one of authority and leadership are inevitably short-changed in the transaction. Apostolic wisdom is behind the admonition of this chapter, and it should be earnestly heeded by all.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 2". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-timothy-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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