This is a piece, a little piece, of a booklet I purpose to put in print. I’ve jumped into the midst of it. This isn’t the opening. The narrative I mention is Genesis 1–3 about which I have things to say before I get to what follows here.
God bless us all with what each of us needs most.
Bearing in mind that this is the narrative of God’s word that Paul sends us to in 1 Timothy2:7-15 and 1 Corinthians 11:2-3, 8-12 perhaps we need to stop this talk about Paul being a misogynist (a woman-hater) or that at least he demeans women. This Genesis narrative to which he sends us is filled with rich truths about the glory and power and position of women in the eyes of God and His servant Paul.
Paul doesn’t patronize women by telling them how sweet they are. See Philippians 4:2 and his blunt remarks in 1 Timothy 5:11-15 about younger women, capable, but who would wish to be enrolled as widows to receive church sustenance. He knows some of them and how injurious they had been and can be to assemblies. It’s easy enough to read a text like 1 Timothy 5:11-15 and call it harsh. I do see that but when we are forced to deal with actual cases in difficult circumstances even gentle people have finally to speak plainly and put an end to behavior that undermines a truly good ministry to the needy. Think of situations when individuals, local help organizations and local government has had to call a halt to irresponsible “benevolence”?
If such a text were all Paul ever said about women we might have reason to wonder about him but he was not at all slow in praising women. See Romans 16 with its Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Junia (rather than Junias), Phoebe, Julia, Tryphena and Tryphosa (likely sisters), and Nereus’ sister, and Rufus’ mother. And in 2 Timothy 1:5 there’s Lois & Eunice. And remember, in 1 Timothy 2 & 1 Corinthians 11 Paul sends his readers/listeners to a Genesis section that glorifies women and in Romans 16:20 he addresses one of Christ’s congregations in terms borrowed from what Genesis 1, 2 and 3 says about womankind.
He urges Titus to encourage women, older women, to teach (Titus 2:1-5)! He knows women have power and influence in the Christian congregations so he takes an entire chapter to tell the Ephesian church (1 Timothy 5) to see they are respected, provided for and given the opportunity to serve the God they have given their lives to.
I wouldn’t at all class Paul as a “romantic” (in the usual use of that word) but if you consider his life and his speech about God, His purpose and the People He gathers around Him for an assault against evil powers, we can with ease view Paul as a “knight of God”. That’s “romance” on the broader stage.
He rides into towns and situations like a Don Quixote, armed with no weapons but a glorious gospel, willing to shed his own blood on just about every street they beat him in. He didn’t think he was wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the invisible realms (Ephesians 6). He speaks of his weapons not being weapons of the world (lies, slander, secret agendas or brutality and cruelty). He speaks of Christians as those who tear down forts of folly and all manner of evil imaginations with the intention of bringing them captive before the feet of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:1-5)
He is able to speak to congregations he founded and worked with at his own expense (tent-making) and speak of how gentle he was with them as he spoke the truth and how he came to love them (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 3:1, 5 illustrates). They would have known it was lies if it was, but because he and they knew it was true he poured out his heart.
This is the man for whom multiplied millions down the centuries thanked God, even when they were living truly troubled lives. It’s fair to guess that this is the man who has had more profound influence for good on the world than any other teacher and who wrote letters that have shaped entire countries as well as inspiring individuals in millions to Christ-like self-giving and what he gets from fierce critics in this day is nothing but scorn and derision.
This is the man that preachers and professors used to eagerly listen to and long to understand and teach. This is the man who professors and teachers not long ago made and (even now continue to make) a living by expounding on his teaching. Paul—the man unceasingly used by God until he was worn out and gladly ready to lay his exhausted body down (do see, please, Corinthians 6:4-10 & 11:1-11). Paul, the man who was used by God to found universities with the name “Christian” attached is now by many of those professors dismissed with a shrug. “He’s like the rest of us,” one man said, “he said things you believe and others you don’t.”
Dear God, hasn’t something sinister crawled into our social fabric & current interests and now it even parades itself as biblical scholarship and feeds itself on the failing faith of the young and inexperienced and thrives in the dark as its power grows. And it grows to the point where a flamboyant professor of a Christian University that Paul helped to build, fervently announces to young and old at another Christian University Paul helped to build: “Paul was wrong! He was wrong!” before understandingly giving liberty to the young and inexperienced with, “And you might think he was wrong about women and sexual orientation.”
We don’t worship Paul but we certainly do worship the Lord Jesus who personally chose Paul to be His faithful witness and teacher and trusted him with the truth to do that. And if Jesus is Lord—and He is—He sees and hears all. We’re sure of this so we don’t have to be overanxious. Paul, the maligned, offers this assuring word: “The foundation of God stands, having this seal: ’The Lord knows those who are His.”
(2 Timothy 2:19)