Did you know that in Scripture, God speaks directly to us as women about how to listen to our pastor’s sermon? 1 Timothy 2:11 says: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.”
Now I know this is a lighting rod of a verse here. It is an often misunderstood and misapplied passage of Scripture and there is no way to adequately address the controversial points of interpretation in this brief post.*
But as the Literary Study Bible suggests, it is “useful to identify the underlying principles and attitudes that Paul commends (especially studiousness and submission).” What two qualities should characterize our attitude toward the Sunday morning sermon? Studiousness and submission.
In all the debate about what “quietly” means, what is often overlooked is the imperative in this verse for women to “learn.” We are to come to church as learners. We are students, and we should be eager to learn from God’s Word through the gift of preaching.
First this command addresses those of us who may admit we don’t have a strong appetite for the study of theology. Maybe you think of yourself as more creative and artsy, not a big reader or academically inclined. But while it is true that God has given us all different gifts, interests, and personalities, when it comes to God’s Word we should all be should all be learners, we should all be studious.
We should all be graduate students on Sunday morning. Our mindset should be that of the enthusiastic student—on the edge of our seat, absorbing all that God would have to say to us, poised to listen, digest, and then apply what we hear throughout the week. And if a love for doctrine does not come naturally to us, lets ask God to produce in our hearts what only he can: a Spirit-born love for the preaching of God’s Word.
But this command cuts both ways. It also has something to say to the naturally studious among us. Maybe you have extensive Bible knowledge or have even been to seminary. Or maybe you have grown up in an excellent church and have sat under the teaching of a more experienced pastor than the one who is currently preaching. Maybe you have led Bible studies or are considered to be a gifted teacher of other women.
For all of us, Paul’s insistence that we come to church to “learn” may help correct a temptation to spiritual pride that “puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). It reminds us that we are all to sit under the preaching of God’s Word, not first as “teachers” but as “learners.” We are to bring our hearts in submission to the Word of God and this is a good and intentionally humbling exercise for us, which is exactly how God has ordained it to be.
This is not to say, of course, that we check our discernment at the door or that we never humbly offer a suggestion or critique to our pastor. But it does mean that we come to hear the faithful preaching of God’s Word as humble learners, eager to sit under the authority and instruction of God’s Word.
“In all the other contexts in which we teach and admonish one another and speak the word of Christ to one another (Col. 3:16), we are much more likely to submit and not evade by endless discussion, if we have as our top meeting priority (alongside prayer) sitting together under the preached word.” ~Christopher Ash
So let’s ask ourselves: Do we come to Sunday morning service eager to learn from God’s Word through our pastor’s preaching?
God Himself is eager to teach us through His Word. What an exciting classroom!
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16-17
*For those interested in a thorough treatment of this passage, I highly commend Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, ed. Kostenberger, Schreiner, Baldwin.