1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling; also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion' (2:8-10)

The apostle has spoken in a general way about Christian prayer and witness. Now he has more to say about prayer in the Christian congregation and the right ordering of the life of the congregation. He gives particular instructions concerning the work of men and women, and their positions in the fellowship of the church.

a. The place of each

It is the duty of men, in the normal way, to give leadership in the work of the church, and especially in its ministry. In verse 8 the apostle says that it is the men who should lead the prayers of Christian people; in verse 11 he says, 'Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.' We have similar instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35. This is a general rule, but there may be exceptions to it. Two things are clear about the ministry of women in the New Testament. First, there seem to have been deaconesses, who probably did similar work among the women to that of the deacons among the congregation generally (see 3:10, 11 and Romans 16:1). Secondly, there seem to have been exceptional women teachers or 'prophets' who had a ministry among men as well as among their own sex. for example, we read of Priscilla's ministry as well as her husband's (Acts 18:18, 26; Romans 16:3), and we read of the four daughters of Philip who prophesied (Acts 21:9). There were always some women like these, true ministers of God's Word, pioneer missionaries, or those with a particular task to do as messengers of God. Yet the general rule is that the regular ministry of the Word of God in a congregation, and the leadership of the congregation, are both duties given to men.

b. A word to men

When verse 8 says that men should take the lead in public prayer, it also adds a word about the kind of lead which they should give. How should they say prayers? 'Lifting holy hands' - not that the position of prayer matters, but this lifting of holy hands symbolizes that the leaders have come to God 'holy', cleansed from sin, and determined to stay clean. They should also come 'without anger or quarrelling'. A man cannot lead others in prayer if he is full of anger towards them, or if he has just been quarrelling with them (Matthew 5: 23, 24). The man who leads God's people must be a man of peace, and so a true witness to the gospel of peace. How greatly bitterness or an unforgiving spirit can hinder Christian people in their witness to Jesus Christ!

c. A word to women

This is a word about dress. It is a temptation both to men and women - but perhaps especially to women - to dress in a way that attracts attention to them. It is especially a temptation when we go to public places - even to church. Paul is not setting down rules concerning a woman's dress: but he does say that a woman's true beauty, the greatest beauty that she can show to others, is not in her dress but in her character. Her beauty is seen not in the 'gold or pearls or costly attire' that she puts on, but in her 'good deeds' (read also 1 Peter 3:3, 4). There are three guiding principles given in verse 8 concerning dress. Firstly, the woman should dress 'modestly', not for display, to draw attention to herself, or using for dress money intended for housekeeping or for the work of God. Secondly, she should dress in 'seemly apparel', not drawing attention to her sex, but dressing in a way that is wise and discreet. Thirdly, she should dress 'sensibly'. She should be wise about her clothes, dressing decently, but not giving clothing too great a place in her life and thoughts. These three principles will be followed naturally by a woman who realizes that the greatest beauty she can ever have is the loveliness of Christian character, shown in acts of kindness to others, and in care for others. Christ will shine through such a life and the beauty will be His.


Lord Jesus, may Thy beauty be seen in our lives, the beauty of holiness, the loveliness of good character, and the grace of love and unselfish service. May we each accept the place and the work given to us, and so bring glory to Thy name, attracting others not to ourselves but to Thee. AMEN.

Note. The Bible speaks of several postures for prayer - standing, kneeling, bowing the head, lifting the eyes to heaven, prostrating on the ground. Each has a meaning and each is good. The lifting up of the hands to God shows dependence upon God and expectation of His blessing. But as the Bible often shows, it is not the particular posture, but the attitude of heart and mind that is important in prayer, See 1Samuel 16:7, for example.

Further Study. 1. Consider other Bible passages that make it dear that sin is a hindrance to prayer and that we can only come to God with a cleansed heart (Psalm 94: 3, 4; 66:18; Isaiah 1:15, 16; 59:l-3).

2. Compare with these verses 1 Peter 3:3, 4, and also James 2:1-4, and consider further what principles should guide both men and women in the matter of clothes. What temptations may come to us over the way we dress?