A recurring theme in 1 and 2 Timothy is how these false teachers and their heresies affected women. We see this theme come up in at least three ways.
First, some women disdained marriage and refused to remarry (1 Tim 5:14–15). This disdain for remarriage likely stemmed from false teachers’ heresy of forbidding marriage (1 Tim 4:1–3). The church needed to be reminded that God created marriage as good and as something for which to be thankful (1 Tim 4:4–5).
Second, other women were weak in their faith and were led astray by sinful passions. Their downfall took place in part by the sinful encouragement of false teachers who took advantage of them (2 Tim 3:1–7). These false teachers and women should have been like Timothy who followed Paul’s teaching and example of godliness (2 Tim 3:10–12).
Third, some women were attempting to teach and exercise authority over men, something Paul forbade (1 Tim 2:11–14), but the heresy behind these actions is not as clear as what we have seen described above. It is possible that this heresy was similar to what Paul dealt with in 1 Corinthians 15. It seems the Corinthians thought that the resurrection was complete since it was only spiritual in nature and would not include a physical resurrection in the future (1 Cor 15:12). If this was the case, they would have seen marriage and gender roles as insignificant, perhaps because they exaggerated the fact that people will not be married or given in marriage after the resurrection (Matt 22:30).
Ephesus knew this same type of heresy. The false teachers Hymenaeus and Philetus taught the resurrection had already taken place (2 Tim 2:18). This heresy may have been present earlier before Paul wrote 1 Timothy. If so, we may be able to see why gender roles would have been dismissed and why women would have felt the right to teach and exercise authority over the church. If they thought the resurrection was complete in every way, they may have also assumed that how men and women were relate to each other had changed as well.
Whatever their reasoning may have been, Paul answered this dilemma in two ways from Genesis 1–3. First, God created man and then woman (Gen 2:18–25). This order implied that Adam was the head of the home and that Eve was created to be his helpmeet. This male headship was to be reflected in authority structure of the church as well (1 Tim 2:13). Second, when Eve exercised headship over Adam, sin was the result (Gen 3:1–7), an illustration of what could take place when men and women do not follow the roles that God has given them (1 Tim 2:14).
Heresy creeps into the church in many ways. The false teachers in Ephesus especially took advantage of women. Let us all be on our guard to watch our lives and doctrine for the sake of our own salvation and others (1 Tim 4:16).
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.