Living the Quiet Life (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

1 Timothy 2 is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament, primarily because of the potential abusive applications of the second half of the chapter.  It has been used to silence the voice of women in the church, despite the very clear Pauline teaching that in Christ there is neither male to female.  Perhaps the situation is clouded by American political debate over feminism and the role of women in the church. Before getting to the really controversial section, I want to set the context of the chapter.

Quiet LifePaul’s main point in 1 Timothy is that the church ought to conduct itself in a way that is honoring to God and attractive to outsiders.  In order to honor God, Paul insists that Timothy guard the truth of the Gospel and train others to keep that deposit of truth faithfully.  In this section of the letter, Paul tells Timothy that the local church must conduct meetings in such a ways as to gain the respect of outsiders.  On the one hand, this means praying for authorities, but more problematic is Paul’s concern that the behavior of some members of the congregation run the risk of repelling the outsider, the Greek or Roman who needs the Gospel.

The reason Paul gives is that the Christian community would be seen as dignified and worthy of respect (v. 3-4). Paul wants his churches to be models of a dignified “quiet life.”  What is a peaceful (ἤρεμος) and quiet (ἡσύχιος) life?  This sounds a bit Amish from our modern perspective, but these two words are Greco-Roman virtues.  Socrates was a model for the Greeks of calm in the face of peril, (Theon, Progymnasmata, 8; Rhet. Graec., II, 111, 27 f.) and rulers ought to be calm (Xenoph. Ag., 11, 2. 6. 20; Isoc. Or., 2, 23; TDNT 6:646).

In a Greek papyri dated to the sixth century A.D. (P Oxy I. 1298) a father repudiates a betrothal because he wishes that his daughter “should lead a peaceful and quiet life” (εἰρηνικὸν καὶ ἡσύχιον βίον διάξαι, MM, 281). While this is dated well after the writing of 1 Timothy, a similar use of the The word appears in PsSol 12:5:  “May the Lord protect the quiet person who hates injustice; may the Lord guide the person who lives peacefully at home.”  This is a Jewish text, probably reflecting the Pharisees, predating Paul by about 100 years.  The writer parallels one who is quiet (ἡσύχιος) and lives peacefully (although the more common εἰρήνη is used).

Paul also describes this idea life as “godly and dignified in every way.”  Both words would be idea virtues in the Greco-Roman world as well as the Christian or Jewish. The word “godly” is the common word εὐσέβεια, and was used by Diogenes Laertius (third century A.D.) for “the pious follow sacrificial custom and take care of temples” and was common used in the Aeneid to describe “pious” people (BDAG). The word translated ‘dignified” (σεμνότης) The word is often translated with the Latin gravitas.  It is often associated with “denotes a man’s visible deportment.”

This command is not unusual in the Pauline letters. “live a quiet life” is similar to Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonica 4:1-12.  In that context, there were individuals who were not working to provide for their own needs.  The ultimate motivation for living in a quiet, dignified manner is that the outsiders will see this and “come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Since the quiet, dignified life was a virtue in the Greco-Roman world, any chaos or discord in the church would drive people away from the Gospel. With this “quiet dignified life” in mind, Paul then turns to a problem in the Ephesian churches which is disrupting that kind of life and potentially bringing shame on the church.

But this is not a problem limited to the ancient world. Do Christians today make it their ambition to live a life worthy of the Gospel by “living in a quiet, dignified manner”? There are far too many examples of Christians living un-quiet, undignified lives which dishonor God. What are some practical ways Christians can live the “quiet life” in contemporary culture?

9 thoughts on “Living the Quiet Life (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

  1. I believe that people that truly love and understand the teachings of Jesus do make it their ambition to live a life worthy of the Gospel by “living in a quiet, dignified manner” (1 Tim. 2:2). Throughout the entirety of his ministry, Jesus desires His followers to find peace and rest (Matt. 11:28-29). In contemporary culture, one way for Christians to live quiet lives is to attempt to not be so busy. As Americans, we constantly feel the need to be busy with something, and do not find the time to simply be at peace and rest. Another way is by selflessly giving without asking for anything in return. There’s a quiet, peacefulness about this type of generosity, in comparison to the “loud” giving of some. Leading lives in which they find contentment in relationships with God and others, and by helping and serving other people is another example. By not being consumed with constantly obtaining new and better things, it serves Christians better to lead “quieter” or perhaps, “simpler,” lifestyles. As Christians, we are to lead this type of life because “God desires for all people to be saved; and Christ Jesus died as a ransom for all people” (TTP 276).

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  2. I think these two virtues were ingrained in American values at least up until the 1960s. For me it explains why I prefer not to live in a neighborhood where the neighbors sit outside and talk until all hours of the night. A quiet, clean neighborhood in which your neighbors don’t hang out in the street swilling beer–that’s what I like. I think that that may be a little of what Paul is talking about in this passage.

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  3. To live a quiet life is to live in a way that does not demand unneeded attention. Don’t mettle in things that you don’t need to. There is a time to stand up for something but there is also a time to just live quietly and pray for our leaders. In the first couple of verses Paul is urging them to pray for people and in particular they are to pray for their leaders. Paul then instructs them to live quiet lives (1 Timothy 2:1-2). I think that within this context, Paul is asking that his readers not be a nuisance to the leaders and to other people. In this way they please God. Longenecker explains that this is a theme of universality in that God wants all people to be saved and that they have a duty to pray for all people (TTP 276). In his second letter to the Corinthians he describes Christians as bringing an aroma of knowledge about Christ (2 Cor 2:14-15). I think that Paul wanted them to be the type of respectable people that caused a person to consider Christianity. Rather than protesting one thing or another, perhaps we would be better off to quietly live our lives in such a way that causes people to be curious about the gospel.

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  4. I don’t think we were meant to live a quiet life. Although we should know when the right time to intervene is and times to let things be. We have to know the times that we should and shouldn’t and just pray for whoever is in the difficult situation. Now Paul does say that they should live a quiet life in the beginning part on 1 Tim. 2. Paul is mainly asking that we not be a bother to the leaders and the other people. And this really is a way that people can please God. Longenecker explains to us that we have a duty to pray for all people. There is a time when we have to realize that maybe a quiet life is something that we should consider. This is because maybe the things that are happening are things that we should just pray for the situation.

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  5. I think that we do not necessarily need to live a quiet life, but to live a life that is not full of unnecessary attention and also, we should know when to be quiet and let things go.

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  6. I disagree with Paul in this manner. I feel that people have become too complacent with being quiet, enough to the point that we are no longer willing to stand up for what we believe when people are challenging our beliefs. Paul is just confusing because I’m not sure what he means in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 where he wants all prayers to be lifted to everyone. It’s like Paul contradicts this notion of being quiet in our lives. We need to share the gospel with everyone, not keep it to ourselves.

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    • You disagree with Paul? Aren’t you disagreeing with Holy Scripture then? As Peter put it: “…our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-16). If Paul is confusing to you, maybe it’s not his fault, as Peter says above. I don’t see how prayer contradicts living a quiet life. Living a quiet life is not the same as keeping your mouth shut about the gospel. You can live a quiet and dignified life that doesn’t annoy others and still talk about the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. I think you just misunderstand Paul’s meaning of living a quiet life. God bless you as you read and pray.

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