Preparation for Worship
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. (1 Tim. 2:8-10)
Paul had encouraged Timothy to pray for all races and classes of men because it was the will of the God and Savior of all men. It was specifically Paul's ministry to be an apostle to the Gentiles (vs. 1-7).
Paul here urges men everywhere to pray. Because there is one God and one salvation in Jesus Christ, all men must approach God in the same way. The mere fact that Paul encourages prayer everywhere, especially among Gentile believers, was an idea foreign to Jewish thinking. To Jews, all prayers went up from Israel, specifically from the temple. The assumption behind such an idea, of course, was that Israel was closer to God and had an intercessory role.
But Paul breaks out of such narrow thinking because there is "one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (vs. 5). All races, nations, and classes of men can come in faith to God through Christ. He not only allows them but instructs them to approach him as "Father." This urging of Paul for men everywhere to pray reflects his doctrine of the church and his desire for those who might resist. Paul knew it was time for a theology of the church freed from the parochialism of Hebraic exclusivism. Malachi had foreseen a time when God's name would be great among the Gentiles (Mai. 1:11). Christ had told the woman at the well in Samaria that soon the location of true worship would be a moot issue (Jn. 4:21). Paul's instructions were not just an admonition on proper prayer, but an exhortation that prayers be offered everywhere.
The lifting up of hands is an ancient sign of prayers being offered to heaven. It represents our lifting up our prayers to a God that dwells on high, who is not earthly. Holy hands denotes holy hearts, minds, and consciences ready for worship and prayer. Isaiah had told the Hebrews that God would not hear their prayer because their hands were bloody and not pure (Is. 1:15).
Men are to lift up their hands "without wrath and doubting." Two interpretations of these words have been proposed. One is that Paul is referring to murmurings against God. This would include impatience with our lot and doubt of God's providence. If that is the primary intent, Paul is saying that men must pray with a confident faith. A second view is that Paul is commanding that men be at peace with other men without anger or strife. This may have been an instruction to reconciliation and may have referred to a particular dispute or tension between Jew and Gentile. If this is the intent, Paul is saying that if men look to their own purity before a holy God, their differences should resolve themselves.
If the men are specifically commanded to lift up their hands and hearts to God, women, though not leading in the church, must also prepare themselves to join in (see Ac. 1:14). One particular fault is warned against — preoccupation with dress. Paul's solution was that modesty, humility, and self-control be the rules, not show and pretentiousness (particularly before God).
Men may have been offering up the prayers; but women had to prepare themselves, just as celebrants are to examine themselves prior to partaking the Lord's Supper. Modesty, humility, and self-control were internal controls. This must be emphasized because many see the specifics of braided hair, gold, pearls, and costly array and make them a pretext for external pietistic rules (usually expanded well beyond Paul's short list) of false "spirituality." Unless we see the limits on dress as coming from within the believer, rules can become a preoccupation.
There are limits to acceptable dress, but these limits cannot come from legislated controls, which quickly become outdated and irrelevant. The character of the believer must limit and direct dress. It is this meek and quiet spirit which is an ornament of great price in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4).
Dress ought to convey godly modesty, but the real ornament of a godly woman is her good works. Clothes do make a statement about the wearer. But more than taste or affluence, they reveal the heart, mind, and character of the person.
Topics: Biblical Commentary, Church History, Church, The, Epistles, The, Family & Marriage, New Testament History