Sometimes when I am presented with an important teaching, I need a little help to flesh out exactly how this new concept applies to where I’m at. As such, I love it when a speaker moves from the theoretical to the practical.
Paul has just given Timothy instruction on the importance of the believers in Ephesus to lead a tranquil and quiet life, a life that is characterized by both godliness and dignity. This kind of life will stand out to those outside God’s family and will serve a launching pad for telling others about Jesus. (see 1 Timothy 2:1-7).
Thankfully, Paul moves quickly to give Timothy instruction for how the believers in Ephesus can display these characteristics.
1 Timothy 2:8
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.
The first task for the men is to lead in prayer. The importance of this task in each family and within God’s family cannot be understated. Since the men are to act as the leader and High Priest for their family, as well as provide leadership within the church, their individual connection to God must be a top priority.
Paul’s practical instruction also comes with specifics about their posture and attitude in prayer – both of which reveal the focus of their heart toward God and others. While lifting up…hands in prayer was a common “prayer position” in ancient days, it was more of a symbolic gesture meant to convey the person’s inner openness to God. Throughout Scripture, a person’s hands are also symbolic of their activities, and Paul description of lifting up holy hands suggests that as the men pray, the offering of their daily actions are undefiled by sin and free from wickedness.
When a man focuses on devotion to prayer and godly conduct, and does them without anger or argument, the world will plainly see the difference God can make in a man’s life.
Paul also has specific instruction for the women in the Ephesian church so that they, too, know how to best represent God to the culture around them.
1 Timothy 2:9-10
Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense; not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God.
Keep in mind that these instructions were written to believers. These women, especially the wealthy ones, would set an example within the church family. If an unbeliever comes in with little means, they could begin to wonder if you have to be rich in order to be saved. Another potential issue could arise if another believer has little means, they could conclude that they aren’t favored by God because others have so much more to display. Additionally, there is a risk of division among even the affluent believers. The exorbitant displays of wealth among them will cause problems as egos rise as they try to outdo one another in dress, hairstyle, and jewelry.
Paul’s contrast here is really between works and wardrobe. How is a woman displaying her understanding of value within God’s family? The ancient upper class women would spend an excessive amount of time on their elaborate hairstyles and expensive apparel; these things would draw attention to themselves rather than to the God they claim to serve. Paul says that a woman’s value isn’t in the perfection of her outward appearance, rather her beauty comes from her decency and good sense. Both of these lead to a reputation of good works and point others toward God.
Paul’s directions to both groups cut against our natural, self-promoting tendencies…which is precisely why the world will notice the difference God makes in a person’s life.