Monday, 27 November 2017
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 1Timothy 2:8
We now begin a passage which contains Paul’s commands, which are more and more spoken against in the church. Because of his words, he is called a chauvinist and a misogynist. Some arbitrarily claim that the passage only applies to a certain time, but not today. To others, the words are said to be irrelevant to the true workings of the church. On and on go the attacks against his directions in this passage, and on and on those attacks are misguided and will be dealt with by the Lord Himself when He judges those in the church for not adhering to His word.
For now, Paul begins this section with, “I desire.” Paul uses the word boulomai which is translated as “I desire.” It “is a strong term that underlines the predetermined (and determined) intention driving the planning” (HELPS Word Studies). Rather than “desire,” Paul’s words give the sense of “I resolve.” As the apostle to the Gentiles, whose writings determine church-age doctrine, Paul is resolving that the conduct he now writes about be set. These are not words isolated to the church at Ephesus, nor are they words which are isolated to the culture of the time. Rather, they are words which form instruction for the church at all times. Paul, bearing the authority granted to him by Christ Jesus, is laying down church doctrine.
His resolved decision is now stated, “therefore that the men pray everywhere.” He is addressing public prayer within the group who meets as a church. It is in this context that he writes his thoughts for proper conduct. The word for “men” here is one which indicates males only. It is preceded by an article, and thus it rightly reads, “the men.” The word “everywhere” is literally, “in every place.” In every place that the church meets, it is the men who are to conduct the prayers. The idea of “every place” means that the church is not restricted to simply meeting in a particular building, but it is free to worship anywhere and at anytime. However, when the church meets, it is to be conducted as Paul outlines. The men are to conduct the prayers.
The reason for Paul’s rendering of this may stem from the practice of women prophesying and praying during the early church period as is recorded in Acts. Like the bulk of the book of Acts, the words are descriptive of what occurred as the church was becoming established. They are not prescriptive, nor can they be used as a basis for what should be done in the church at later times. Instead, Paul’s letters provide what is prescriptive. If Paul’s letters are not followed, then the church is not acting in obedience to the set directives authorized by Christ Jesus Himself. Understanding this concerning prayer, that of men being those who are to pray, he then adds in, “lifting up holy hands.”
The phrase is unique in the New Testament. The idea of lifting up holy hands means “pure hands.” It is reflective of the attitude of prayer found in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Old Testament. A few examples to explore would be Psalm 24:4, 28:2, 63:4, 119:48, 134:2, & 141:2. The term is used to show that the prayers are undefiled because the person is undefiled. If one’s hands are “unclean,” it indicates active sin. If one’s hand are bloody, it indicates a person who has shed blood or even committed murder. If they are clean, it indicates purity in the person. Whether one actually raises their hands or not is less on Paul’s mind than what the term signifies – purity of heart and openness towards God. However, the lifting of the hands continues to be an outward demonstration of the inward purity desired by the Lord, even to this day.
Paul then continues. He states that the men should pray “without wrath and doubting.” Again, he uses a combination of words which is found only here. “Without wrath” clearly shows that there is a connection between the heart which is angry towards others, and the acceptability of prayers before God. When we bear wrath in our hearts, it is as if a wall is built up between us and God. The “holy hands” are proven to be tainted with the presence of an unholy attitude. This “wrath” is tied to the next word. The translation of “doubting” does not give the proper sense of what is being conveyed. A word such as “disputing” or “dissension” is what is intended. There is not to be an attitude of dispute mingled with the wrath. Instead, when prayers are offered, they are to be humble and heartfelt. The idea here can be seen in two contrasting prayers which might be given in a church –
* “Lord, we have a brother in the church who is intolerable. We are angry at his attitude, and we are tired of his childish behavior. We pray that you will judge this offender and bring ruin upon him and those like him.”
* “Lord, our hearts are broken today at the lack of fellowship which has arisen in this holy place. There is strife and conflict, and we have been unable to resolve it. Our heart’s desire is that peace be restored, felicity return, and true Christian fellowship be felt between those who have been divided. Hear our prayer, O God. We turn to You for Your kind hand of grace and help. Amen.”
The difference is one of the heart, and this is what Paul is addressing for “the men” as they make their prayers and petitions to God.
Life application: There is nothing wrong with women praying to God. However, in the gathering of the saints in a church setting, Paul has directed that prayers be conducted by men. There is nothing discriminatory about this, but rather it is what is ordained by God, and through the hand of the apostle Paul. May our churches pay heed, and be conducted according to these prescriptive words.
Lord God, You have ordained certain roles for men in the church. They are set and defined by Paul in his letters. His words are doctrine for the church age, and they are set to ensure proper functioning of the church which You have established. How sad it is that many churches attempt to justify blurring the lines of what is determined, and to ordain those who are not authorized to be ordained. What a giant rebellious streak has grown in our churches, and which continues to grow in them today. How displeased You must be with our disobedience. Help us to put aside our pride, and to accept Your word as set doctrine. Surely with this, You will be pleased. Amen.