Instruction 4: Women, Adorn Yourselves in Respectable Apparel, Modesty, and Self-control

By Adam Brown –

Paul’s second instruction to the Church is that we are to pray for all people (1 Timothy 1:1-7). His third instruction, that men are to lead in prayer without anger or quarreling (1 Timothy 2:8), was clearly related to the call for prayer. Likewise, Paul’s fourth instruction, that women are to adorn themselves in respectable apparel, modesty, and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9-10), is also related to the command that we pray for all people.

We find the fourth instruction in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:

. . . likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

At first glance, this instruction does not seem prayer-related. However, the first three words require that we link these verses to the previous material. In this case, therefore, 1 Timothy 2:9-10 are connected to 1 Timothy 2:8:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. . .

Notice that the first three words of this verse necessarily link it back to the previous passage, which is 1 Timothy 2:1-7. The thrust of 2:1-7 is that we are to pray for all people. Thus, both 2:8 and 2:9-10 are related to this instruction for prayer.

Whereas the relationship between 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and 2:8 is clear, the relationship between 2:1-7 and 2:9-10 is not as clear. The word “likewise” at the beginning of 2:9, however, tells us that 2:9-10 serves the same function as 2:8.

The logic of these three instructions, therefore, unfolds as follows:

  1. Pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1-7).
  2. Men, your anger and quarreling is disrupting the church’s ability to pray. Therefore, pray in all places by lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling (1 Timothy 2:8).
  3. Likewise, women, your outer appearance is disrupting the church’s ability to pray. Therefore, adorn yourselves in respectable apparel, modesty, and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Respectable apparel invites women to put themselves together according to personal style. Therefore, whatever we make of what is to follow, it is crucial we highlight that this is not an exhortation for women to make themselves un-beautiful.

Modesty addresses issues of sexual lust (particularly in men) and covetousness (particularly in women). It is very difficult to pray while being tempted toward lust or competitive covetousness. Therefore, women are to dress modestly for the sake of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Self-control focuses on social and economic concerns. Here, Paul elaborates: “with braided hair, gold, pearls, and costly attire.” Paul is not opposed to these things in and of themselves. The problem arises when those of a lower socio-economic bracket are made to feel unwelcome, unworthy, and out of place on account of the attire of wealthier women.

In place of immodesty and a lack of self-control, women are to clothe themselves in good works, which do not distract from prayer, but rather, foster the right environment for prayer.

Christ has called the church together to pray. Just as the anger and quarreling of the men disrupts prayer (1 Timothy 2:8), so also, the outer beauty of women threatens to disrupt this prayer. Therefore, women are exhorted to make every effort to support the prayer life of the church by giving greater attention to their inner-beauty than to their outer appearance. A women is to do this by intentionally cultivating character in her heart, rather than primping the appearance of her body.

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