1 Timothy 3:14-16 – Confessing the Mystery of Godliness

In the first part of this paragraph in 1 Timothy Paul stated the “mystery of godliness is great.”  He then defines what the mystery of godliness is in a series of confessional statements about Jesus. It is possible that each of these lines could be expanded more fully, unpacked from the brief three word statement into a short sermon. It is impossible to know for sure, but this short description of Jesus could have functioned like a creed. Many commentators observe these verses are likely an early church hymn or liturgy. We cannot know how any given early church gathering functioned, but it is not hard to imagine these lines repeated as a corporate confession of faith in who Jesus is.

Nicaea CreedPaul introduces these statements about Jesus with the word ὁμολογουμένως (homologouménōs). Although there is a significant textual variant which reads this as a verb, this is an adverb meaning “confessedly” or “undeniably” (BDAG), or “by common agreement, according to general consensus” (BrillDAG). Like the noun ὁμολογία, the word refers to an agreement or confession of allegiance. The word will eventually be used in the modern sense of a confession of faith such as the Nicene Creed.

Each statement is an aorist passive verb with a dative phrase (all with a preposition, except the third). Some take these as three pairs (NIV, NA26), with each pair contrasting heaven and earth. Others take the six items as two triads (ESV, NRSV),the first three lines focus on the life (and death) of Jesus and the vindication of the resurrection, the second triad focuses on his ongoing exaltation in the ascension and preaching of the gospel. Another option is that the six lines are chronological, from incarnation to Second Coming. The problem is that the final line is better associated with Pentecost than the second coming. (For a survey of the options, see Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, 500-2).

Manifest in the flesh. This short line refers to Jesus as God made flesh, the incarnation from birth to death. It is possible that this line only has post-resurrection appearances in mind, but it is not far from Phil 2:6-7, Jesus humbled himself to become human, “making himself nothing.”

Vindicated by the Spirit. While this could be a reference to the miracles Jesus did in the incarnation, it is more likely this is a reference to the resurrection. “Vindication” here has the sense of being proven right or innocent. While Jesus was executed as a sinner might be, God raised him from the dead, proving that he was in fact innocent.

Seen by angels. Consistent with the view that these phrases are post-resurrection, this may refer to the witness of the angels to the resurrection, or perhaps the exaltation of Jesus in heaven.

Proclaimed by the nations. This line refers to the ongoing mission of the church, presenting the gospel of Jesus to the world. Paul has in mind here his own mission of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. LXX Ps 17:50 (18:49 ET) has a similar phrase, “I will give confess you among the nations, O Lord.” There are many texts in the Hebrew Bible which describe the nations coming to Zion in the future eschatological age (Isaiah 2, for example).

Believed on in the world. Paul refers to the success of the mission to the nations, the gospel is being believed by the “known world.” In the traditional view of the Pastoral epistles, he wrote this after his work in Rome; if the letters were written later it still refers to the success of the Pauline mission to the Gentiles; as the church continued to use this as a confession of faith it was even more true that the nations were responding in belief to the Gospel.

Taken up in glory. This final line seems to refer to the ascension, although chronologically this is out of order. The verb ἀναλαμβάνω (analambanō) appears in Acts 1:11, two angelic beings state that Jesus was “taken up into heaven.” The ascension obviously occurs well before the gospel was preached to the nations and believed by the world, but it is the climax of the events of Jesus’s life.

The mystery of godliness is therefore a statement about who Jesus is, what he did, and what the church continues to do after the ascension of Jesus. What Jesus has already done provides the basis for the ongoing mission of the church. By the time 1 Timothy was written, this would include preaching the Gospel throughout the Roman world.

This climactic statement about proper belief and proper conduct naturally draws Paul back to the main subject of the letter, the specific problem of the opponents in Ephesus. There are elders in Ephesus who are not conducting themselves in a way that is honorable within the household of God and they may very well have some defective view about who Jesus was or what he did.

Book Review: John Frame, Nature’s Case for God

Frame, John M. Nature’s Case for God: A Brief Biblical Argument. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. 124 pp.; Pb.  $12.99  Link to Lexham Press

Frame says his goal in the book is to show forth the glory of God in the world God has made (13). The biblical foundation for the argument of this book is Psalm 8:3-6 and Romans 1-3, but Frame also refers to Paul’s preaching in Acts 14:15-18 and 17:22-31 as additional examples of natural theology. For Frame, natural theology is finding out about God in the world he has made (17), although in the book itself he does not provide a philosophical argument God exists from nature in the tradition of the teleological argument  

This book is divided into two sections. First, Frame argues for the existence of God from the “witness of the created world.” Based on Romans 1:18-20, he argues we can know some of God’s character from creation, his greatness, oneness, wisdom, goodness, and presence. This is not a traditional quest for the attributes of God in nature, Frame focuses only on the presence of one good, wise God as revealed in creation. He does not actually point out elements of creation which might point to the existence of God, rather he argues this view of God is rational.  

Second, Frame considers evidence drawn from “the witness of human nature.” Here Frame is interested in “four states of conscience.” First, the seared conscience is essentially the sin nature. Second, the accusing conscience refers to the human tendency to know something is right or wrong. Third, the awakened conscience refers to the practice of godliness once someone has become a Christian. Fourth, by the good conscience Frame refers to the evaluation of conduct and the Christian response with actions which please God. When I began to read the second section of the book, I expected something along the lines of C. S. Lewis’s moral argument for God’s existence. This seems to be what Frame has in mind, but two of his four states of conscience refer to post-conversion experience.

Like Frame’s Christianity Considered (Lexham, 2018), this is a very short book and clearly not a full philosophical argument for God’s existence. As a result, more advanced readers will find it frustratingly brief. Frame recognizes this and includes an appendix interacting with David VanDrunen’s A Biblical Case for Natural Law (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Acton Institute, 2008).

Chapters begin with the key Scripture and the book often prints key texts in the body of the chapter. Each chapter concludes with a few discussion questions and a bibliography “for further reading” (often to Frame’s larger works). The book has at least twenty-five pages dividing chapters and sections, so the body of the book is less than 100 pages of text. Some chapters are only a few pages, chapter 9 is barely a page.

However, for the layperson this book may answer some questions about how God has revealed himself in his creation. Frame presents some very difficult philosophical issues in a friendly and accessible manner.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

1 Timothy 3:2-7 – Elders Must Be Above Reproach

The qualifications for the overseer are moral virtues which would be worthy of respect in the Greco-Roman world. He must be “above reproach.” Along with verse 7, this is the controlling theme of the whole passage.  Paul will repeat this for all members of the church in 5:7 and 6:14.

The husband of one wife. Of all the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3, this is the most controversial in terms of modern application. It has been taken to mean that an elder must be married (rather than single or a widower) as well as an elder cannot have ever been divorced. In addition, most conservative churches will read this as “the elder must be a man.” Others understand this qualification as “having only one spouse.” It seems unlikely many early Christians polygamy (that was really only for the uber-rich like Herod the Great). But Paul’s point is the elder is to live a life that is worthy of respect. Someone who has a reputation for sexual escapades and messy divorces (as were common among the Roman elite) is not worthy of the noble task of being an elder.

 

Sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable. These four virtues are all common in Greco-Roman ethical texts.  Sober-minded (νηφάλιος) and self-controlled (σώφρων) in fact, are often associated with the cardinal virtues in the Greek world. To be sober-minded is to be level headed and in control of one’s passions at all times. Paul has already used respectable (κόσμιος) in 2:9 for appropriate dress.  To be hospitable is a virtue among both Greeks and Jews (φιλόξενος means “a friend of strangers.”) 1 Clement 12:3 (about A.D. 95) used this noun to describe Rahab, Epicticus combines hospitable with respectable to describe the fall of Alexander.

Able to teach. From this one exceedingly rare word (διδακτικός), elders are usually tasked with teaching scripture in church.   Philo (On Rewards, 27) used the word in a virtue list to describe Abraham, Yonge translates the word as “self-taught,” Rengstorf comments that Philo has in mind the virtue of Abraham “consisting or expressing itself in learning.”

Not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. These vices are all commonly rejected by virtually every society – no one wants a leader who is a violent, greedy drunk! A drunkard is a good translation since the emphasis is “one given to too much wine.”  Moulton and Milligan (496) offer several examples of drunkenness and violence, “I sinned and was drunken in the night, in that I maltreated the brethren” (P.Lond 1914.27), although this dates to A.D. 335.

The next phrase is related to drunkenness. “Not violent” (πλήκτης) is sometimes translated as pugnacious, a bully. The verbal cognate appears in Aristotle, Ethics Eud. 2, 3.  “Gentle” stands in contrast to drunken violence, although the noun could be translated as courteous or tolerant.  “Not quarrelsome” is a single word (ἄμαχος) which means peaceful (anti-war, put it is used in non-military contexts, including a grave inscription by a husband describing his beloved wife (Cos 3259). A “lover of money” is greedy (ἀφιλάργυρος), a virtue found in instructions to people from midwives to generals (BDAG).

The family of the overseer is important.  “He must manage his own household well.” This is far more than a single word, and Paul gives a reason for the elder to have a well-managed household: an elder is in charge of the household of God, if he is not faithful in his own family, he will not be faithful in the church either.  The verb (προΐστημι) means to exercise authority, or “be the head of” something, and the very is modified with the adverb “well.” On the one had, this could be taken to mean he is a good leader in the home.  Josephus (Ant 8.300) used the word to describe the wickedness of King Jeroboam, who did not appoint kind rulers who would “govern righteously.” But the verb can have the meaning of “have care for.”  In 1 Thess 5:12-13 this is the word used to describe the activity of the church leaders (they are to care for the needs of the church).  If a person does not take care of his family properly, why should he be trusted to care for the family of God in the church!

This description of a proper leader in the church opens up some problems for application, possibly because pastor’s children are held to a high standard and are often judged as little hellions. At what point does a pastor / elder use the behavior of their children as a measure of how well a pastor / elder has led in their home? This is something like the application of the Proverbs, all things being equal, raise up a child in the way they should go and they will not depart from it. But sometimes that does not happen and a child, through their own choices, seriously defect from the faith of their parents.  A bad child is not always the sign of a bad parent.

He must not be a recent convert.  Perhaps this is the problem with the overseers who have defected from Paul’s gospel, they were to quickly accepted as leaders in the church and were arrogant.  At least in the mid-first century, this might have been a real problem since it was probable that churches were established from only new converts. But by the early 60s it was possible that there were now second generation believers and people who had been Christians for many years.  Paul is advising that these mature believers be considered for leadership, not a recent convert.

The reason given is that they could become arrogant and fall into “condemnation of the devil.”  What does this mean?  Probably that the new elder would be judged like the devil, who also fell because of pride. How they “fall” might be a hint of the false teachers.  Their arrogance leads them to accept teaching that is outside of the faith passed from Paul to Timothy, they more easily accept new and innovative doctrines, perhaps of their own making, because they do not have the spiritual maturity to resist being on the “cutting edge.”

If these are the qualifications of a church leader, what kind of person is Paul describing? If this was a person who is “worthy of respect” in the Greco-Roman world, are these sorts of things still “worthy of respect” today? Are there culturally conditioned behaviors which might make a person less “worthy of respect” in a modern context which are not on this list? Perhaps there are some cultural values we might consider worthy which are missing from this list, should they be considered when discussing the qualifications of an elder?

1 Timothy 3:14-16 – What is the Mystery of Godliness?

This section of 1 Timothy is the center of the letter, perhaps the center of the three Pastoral Epistles as a whole. The main metaphor Paul has used throughout 1 Timothy is the church is like the household of God. Timothy is a pillar in that household and responsible for the spiritual life of other members of the household. Some people in Ephesus have rejected key doctrines of the faith and have developed some behaviors which are not scriptural. In order to argue against these opponents, Paul first describes what he calls the “mystery of godliness” before turning to some examples of the un-truth which the opponents are teaching.

Bible StudyPaul expresses his desire to join Timothy (3:14). This is fairly typical of Paul’s letters, he often expresses a desire to be there even if that is not possible in the immediate future. He is expressing his desire to work alongside Timothy, but even if he cannot be there Paul is confident that Timothy will be able to do the task to which he has been appointed.

Paul’s concern in 1 Timothy is that the churches in Ephesus see themselves as part of the “household of God.” If one is a member of a particular household, they must behave according to that household’s rule. Members of a Roman household had very clear roles and expectations. Fathers, children, and servants all had clearly defined roles in Roman society and it was honorable to do what was expected of you as a father, child, servant, etc.

In fact, it would bring shame upon a household if a father did not perform his role as leader of the family properly, or a child behaved in a way so as to dishonor on the family name. As an analogy, think of a powerful political family in America. Since the family name is well known, there are some things which a family member cannot do without bringing some kind of shame or scandal to the family, endangering their political aspirations. Paul has taught throughout this letter that people within the church are part of a new household, God is their father and they have a role to play within the order of the household of God.

Paul describes Timothy as a pillar in God’s household and the church is a “buttress of the truth.” The metaphor shifts from a household to a temple, with a foundation and pillars. Both of these metaphors refer to a building. Paul called Peter and James “pillars of the church” in Galatians 2, indicating they were the chief leaders. Here Timothy is the pillar and main support for the churches at Ephesus. A buttress or bulwark (ἑδραίωμα) is like a foundation; the verb is used for founding something on a good foundation.

While the church is like a pillar in the household of God, the church itself is built on the truth (v. 15). This is not unlike Eph 2:19-22, the church grows into a holy temple for God, built on the prophets and apostles (pillars?) and built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

In both cases the point of the metaphor is that the Church stands on the foundation of truth, that it is to guard and defend the truth of the Gospel against defections from the truth. This looks back to how Paul started the letter; in 1:3-7 he warned Timothy about people who were swerving from the truth, both in doctrine and practice.

True godliness begins with Jesus and his work on the Cross (3:16). Paul describes the godliness expected by a member of the household of God as a “great mystery.” He uses the word “confess” (ὁμολογουμένως) perhaps indicating that this short description of the work of Jesus was used as a public confession or doctrinal statement in the early church. The word has the sense of agreement, “this is something that we all agree on.”

This mystery of godliness is called “great.” While it is hard to know if Paul had this in mind, the riot in Ephesus in Acts 19 culminated in the Ephesian crowds chanting “great is Artemis” for hours. Rather than a great god like Artemis, Paul proclaims a living God, rather than a great temple like the temple of Artemis, Paul declares that the church itself is the household of God.

How is this a mystery? The word (μυστήριον)often refers to God’s revelation of something which could not be known unless it was revealed by God. It is the secret which the church guards, how to be “godly.”

1 Timothy 3:2 – Defining the Role of Elder

One of the problems reading 1 Timothy 3 is modern readers define the world elder through the lens of our modern church experience. While the office of elder does develop from Paul’s teaching in this passage, it is hard to say what we call an elder in churches today is the same thing Paul described in 1 Timothy. Elder boards in American churches tend to look quite a bit like boards which run large businesses. This is especially true for larger churches where a great deal of money and property is involved. Sometimes elders are appointed for what the contribute to the needs of the church. Unfortunately, some churches use financial contribution as a measure of what makes a good elder. Churches need accountants and people with a good head for running a business, so they tend to be appointed to a corporate elder board to run the business end of the church.

This is absolutely the opposite of Paul’s description of church leaders in 1 Timothy 3!

The overseer (ESV, Greek, ἐπισκοπή) was a kind of household manager. It was a “position of responsibility, position of oversight” (LN 35.40). In Septuagint, Genesis 50:24 used the word to translate פקד, a verb which is usually translated visit, but has the sense of look over and inspect something. Joseph says in the future, God will inspect Israel and guide them out of Egypt. In the history of the Greek language, the word was used for a wide variety of civil officials (TDNT 2:611 for examples). In the LXX the word occasionally is used to describe officers or rulers (Num 31:14, 2 Kings 11:15, Judg 9:28, Isa 60:17).

BishopIn the New Testament, the overseer appears to be the same as elder. A presbuteros (πρεσβύτεροι in Acts 20:28) generally refers to older men, but it was used as a technical term for an office in the synagogue prior to A. D. 70. As well as for members of the Sanhedrin. The term appears in Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22f; 16:4 with respect to the Jerusalem church, and in Acts 20:17; 21:18; 1 Tim 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1, 5 with respect to churches (whether Jewish Christian or Gentile).

Since the word “bishop” carries some (often negative) historical baggage, most modern translations use “overseer.” It is possible Timothy and Titus were both functioning as bishops, something like “pastors to the pastors.” They overseeing a number of churches. has sent Timothy to Ephesus to deal with a particular problem with elders who have defected from the truth and are behaving in a dishonorable way.

It is important to notice Paul never uses the word priest to describe the leadership of Christian churches. This would be highly unlikely for a Jewish-Christian writer since that language was never used to the synagogue. Essentially Paul is taking over the language of the leadership of the synagogues and using it to describe the leaders of individual house churches. In addition the word priest would man something quite different to a Gentile.

Paul is using a household metaphor which would have been understood by the members of the church. The Pastoral letters often use the metaphor of a household to describe the church and elsewhere Christ is described as a head (although of a body rather than the head of a household). If the church is like a Roman household, then members of the household may be appointed to manage aspects of the household or be given responsibility for what occurs in the household.

If Paul conceived of the leadership of a church as servants appointed by the master of the house, should church leadership be appointed for their business experience? How would the image of an elder as a household manage change the way the American church organizes itself? Is the corporate board model wrong?

1 Timothy 3:1 – A Noble Task

First Timothy 3 and 1 Titus 1 are well-known passages because the describe the qualifications for church leadership. We usually fret the most over the line about “one wife” and perhaps that the leader must have well-behaved children, but there is far more here than those two more controversial points.

TimothyLike the previous section, Paul’s main concern is that the church be organized and led in a way which gives it a good reputation with outsiders. This is also true in business: good reputations are hard to build, they take time. On the other hand, it does not take much at all to destroy a good reputation and develop a bad one.

If you have ever read a restaurant review online, you know that one bad experience can lead to a terrible review and potential lost business. One cranky customer who has bad food or poor service can leave a review (anonymously) online and scare dozens of people away. The same is true for church. A family might visit on a Sunday when things were not quite right in the nursery, the musicians were out of tune and didn’t really know the songs, or the pastor finished their sermon on the way to church. This visitor leaves unimpressed and never comes back, but they tell their friends they tried “that church” and it wasn’t very good.

But Paul is not talking about “church shoppers” in this text because this really did not happen in the first century. Paul is talking about leaders in a local house church who had a bad reputation with the community. Maybe they had some shady business practices or they were quick to bring lawsuits. Maybe they are known to attend the banquets at pagan temples and fully participate in debauchery. If the leader has a bad reputation outside the church, then they will bring their dishonor with them when the “desire to be an overseer.” To remedy this situation, Paul tells Timothy (and by extension, the churches) to appoint people to the office of Elder and Deacon who are qualified spiritually and morally for the task.

First Timothy 3:1 is another “trustworthy saying.” In this case it is not a theological statement, but that the person who aspires to be a leader in the church “desires a noble task.” Desiring to be a leader of a local house church is not a bad thing at all, it is a noble task, or a “good work” (καλοῦ ἔργου). To “desire” something (ὀρέγω) is not necessarily bad, Hebrews 11:16 uses the word for the desire to reach heaven. But the also word appears in 1 Timothy 6:10 for those who crave money and have fallen away from the faith. Josephus used the word to describe John of Gischala desire to set himself as a rule (Life, 70).

It is possible this opening line on  church leaders betrays the problem in Paul’s churches in Ephesus. It appears some people did not want to serve as leaders in the church. There are several possible reasons for this. First, perhaps the false teachers had created a situation where good people were not inclined to challenge them. They did not desire to become involved in leadership because it meant challenging these false teachers. A second possibility is the role of overseer or elder was not considered to be a role people wanted to do. It was not considered a noble task. It is also possible there were some who were capable and qualified but did not see themselves as “up to the task” of leading the church.

One serious problem for reading this passage is that we hear words like “elder and deacon” and immediately think of our modern church office of elder and deacon. This is anachronistic and does not help us understand Paul’s view of church leadership. If at all possible, it is best for us to bracket out modern church practice for a few minutes and try to read Paul in the context of first century Ephesus.

Disrupting the Quiet Life – 1 Timothy 2:8-10

Having described the “quiet life” as a Christian virtue, Paul now discusses two potential disruptions of that quiet life.

First, men are command to pray without anger or quarreling (v. 8). It seems odd that people would pray in the church “in anger,” perhaps continuing arguments they were having in the act of prayer. The noun Paul chooses here (διαλογισμός) does in fact focus on differences of opinion which can develop into an argument. In Luke 9:46 it is used for the disciples arguing among themselves over who was the greatest, in Phil 2:14 Paul uses it in conjunction with grumbling.

It is possible some people were using public prayers to condemn their opponents, continuing their dispute in prayer, when the opponent cannot respond immediately. Something like “Lord, open the eyes of my rather dull brother in Christ so that the Holy Spirit will teach him that clearly I am right and that he is wrong, may he repent soon of the sin of his stupidity in disagreeing with me over this minor point of theology.” It is possible some men in the church thought a public prayer was an opportunity to be a Roman Orator. Imagine someone imitating Cicero or a sophist in their public prayers!

Second, women are warned to dress modestly (v. 9-10). While this might seem to be a different topic, Paul is still talking about things which potentially cause disorder and chaos in during prayer. Paul makes a contrast between external adornments (jewelry, clothing hair styles) and godly, good works.

Amish Girls on Roller Skates

Amish Girls on Roller Skates

Paul does not forbid people from looking good in public, nor is Paul commanding woman not fix their hair, use makeup or wear jewelry. What he is concerned about is an over-emphasis on external beauty. The hair style Paul mentions is preferred by the fashionable, wealthy women, even though it is the exact opposite of the hairstyles found in public statues of Imperial women. He describes the jewelry as “costly,” one of the stronger terms he could have used in this case. Paul is not saying that women should not wear any jewelry, but that it should not be overly expensive.

Bruce Winter points out that “jewelry epitomized sumptuousness” and was often associated with a shameful woman. He quotes Juvenal: “There is nothing that a woman will not permit herself to do, nothing that she deems shameful, when she encircles her neck with green emeralds and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears” (Satires, 6.458-59, cited by Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 208). These clothes are adorned with gold and pearl, two very valuable items in the ancient world. The great whore of Babylon is adorned with “gold and pearls” (Rev 17:4). Jesus used a “pearl of great price” as an analogy for the value of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 13:45).

If someone is wearing expensive clothing, real gold and pearls, they would be dressed like royalty! In Paul’s churches there are supposed to be no difference between rich and poor. A woman dressed like this is flaunting her wealth or her family’s wealth.

Remarkably, this advice does not vary much from that found in Plutarch, in his “Advice to a Bride and Groom.” Like Paul, Plutarch points out that external adornments are nothing compared to a virtuous woman:

For, as Crates used to say, ‘adornment is that which adorns,’ and that adorns or decorates a woman which makes her more decorous. It is not gold or precious stones or scarlet that makes her such, but whatever invests her with that something which betokens dignity (σεμνότης, 1 Tim 2:2), good behaviour (εὐταξία), and modesty (αἰδώς, 12 Tim 2:9). Plutarch, Praecepta Coniugialia 26 (Moralia II, 141e).

The real problem with this verse is defining “modest dress.” It is possible one person’s modesty will offend someone. The same thing is true for wearing expensive clothing: is this a question of Walmart vs. Kohls vs. Target vs. the trendy shops at the mall? I imagine Amish women get accused of immodesty for wearing the wrong color snood. Think about the difference between what a teenage girl wants to wear and what her father wants her to wear! What I personally think is too fancy and expensive is going to differ dramatically from another person’s view.

It is also important to read this text as applying to both men and women. If a man spends an inordinate amount of attention on his clothing, hair, and makeup, or if he is focusing on his external appearance and not putting on godly, good works, then he is just as much of a distraction as a woman. Men dressing immodestly is not the problem in Ephesus (men have other problems), but the application seems to be clear. Both men and women can dress in a way that distracts others and is not worthy of respect from outsiders.

Paul does not give all people permission to point out what they think is an immodest display, or a person wearing expensive clothing. He is urging people to think about the effect that their clothing might have on other people when they wear it in a worship service. There is no permission given here for you to be a jerk about what other people wear.

The controlling idea is living a quiet, dignified life, whether women or men are in view. In both cases Paul wants his congregations to worship in peace, without distracting from the proper focus of worship, the One God who wants to draw all people to himself.

Like other elements of this chapter, it seems easy to draw application to contemporary practice (“dress modestly”), but that simple application is taken as a judgmental attack by snooty old people on whatever new and trendy fashion younger Christians are wearing to church. Is this simply talking about wearing skinny jeans or yoga pants to church? An additional problem is that what counts as modest is quite different in other cultures. How is this command to dress modestly part of living the quiet life? How can it earn the respect of outsiders?