Question:

What is your opinion regarding Paul's instruction to Timothy regarding women in I Timothy 2? Is this instruction specific to the assembly or is it more general in nature? For example, some teach that a woman cannot hold a place of authority over a man in any situation, i.e. a Christian woman should not be in a place of authority in the workplace if she has men working under her.

Paul says in chapter 3 "I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God." Based on this, I believe that this instruction is specific to the assembly and that it would be a misapplication to apply it more broadly.


Answer:

You are correct to say we must look at the context to determine whether Paul's statements are general or specific to the worship service. Instead of jumping to the middle of the next chapter, let's examine the immediate context first.

Just before giving the instructions regarding teaching, we find: "In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (I Timothy 2:9-10). Do we conclude that the rules for modest dress only apply to the worship assembly? No, because the basis of this rule is because these are women who profess godliness. Godliness is not restricted to only the worship service.

But verse 9 starts out with "In like manner." So, let's move back to see what is discussed there. "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (I Timothy 2:8). Pray is something that takes place in worship, but it can also take place outside of worship. Here we find the word "everywhere" or more literally from the Greek "in every place." It seems apparent to me that Paul's statement is not restricted solely to the worship. Every man in every place is to pray without anger or doubt.

So let's look at the verses after verses 11 and 12. Here we find giving the reasons for the rule. "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (I Timothy 2:13-14). Paul appeals to the beginning of mankind to state why God wants this to be this way. These things are always true and do not only apply to the worship. Paul's qualification in I Timothy 2:15, "Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control," speaks of the raising of children, which again is not restricted to the assembly.

Chapter 3 shifts to the qualifications of Elders and Deacons. It is enough of a shift in topic that we cannot say it modifies what was stated in chapter 2. But even here the qualifications are from all of life and not just those displayed in the worship assembly.

But what you haven't address is whether "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (I Timothy 2:11-12) applies to all matters or only religious matters. I would argue the latter. The learning would be things dealing with godly matters and those so would the teaching. The forbidding of teaching over a man is not the male gender, but adult males as the qualification in verse 15 indicates. Therefore, I would not consider applying these verses to college professor teaching applied mathematics or to a manger in a company.

Consider Lydia, she was a seller of purple (Acts 16:14); therefore she ran her own business. There is no particular reason to conclude that all of her employees were female. Or consider the ideal woman in Proverbs 31:10-31), she buys a vineyard and plants it. Generally heavy outdoor work is done by male labor. Who directed the operation?

There are several lessons dealing with the verses that you should consider as well:
"Silent in the Churches"
"The Role of Women"
"Women in the Church"