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Men, Women, and Worship

In 2006, a team of researchers studied two elementary schools at recess. One had a fence around their playground, the other did not. The children from the unfenced playground stayed more packed together and closer to the teacher. The children in the fenced playground roamed the whole space, feeling free to explore. Having clear boundaries encouraged more freedom and creative play.

The Ephesian church was troubled by controversy. False teaching in the church was throwing the congregation into a state of confusion. Paul sent Timothy to bring order back to this beleaguered church. In this section of the letter (2:1–3:13), Paul was setting up boundaries for propriety in public worship. Here Paul commanded believers what to do and what not to do.

In verse 8, Paul commanded men to lift up “holy hands” in prayer. And they were to do this “without anger or disputing” (v. 8). In verse 9, Paul addressed women in the congregation. He urged them to dress modestly, not flaunting wealth or status with their expensive clothing. They were also instructed to learn “in quietness and full submission” (v. 11). This command mirrored other instructions to men who were being disruptive (see 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:11–12). Paul further commanded, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man” (v. 12). The Moody Bible Commentary notes that Paul was not prohibiting all teaching by women, but “the authoritative teaching of the Scriptures that is associated particularly with the office of overseer or elder.” Paul’s statement in verse 15 suggests an order established at creation.

>> Paul understood that public worship worked best when boundaries were in place. We are to conduct ourselves in ways that honor God and inspire outsiders to follow Christ. For a more detailed examination of this passage, see The Moody Bible Commentary.

BY Ryan Cook

Dr. Ryan Cook has taught at Moody Bible Institute since 2012. He earned his bachelor of arts in Bible and Theology from Moody and his master of arts in Old Testament from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He has worked in Christian education and served as a pastor in Michigan for seven years. During his time as a professor at Moody, he earned his doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary. He now lives with his wife, Ashley, and their three children in the Chicagoland area.

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