Pages

Monday, January 14, 2013

Learning Godliness

Learning Godliness

What has gone before...

Paul asked the women in the Ephesian church to examine how their dress and adornment should genuinely reflect what is in their hearts.

The word for "adorn" means to put in proper order, implying all that is deeply essential. "Modesty" means bashfulness toward men, or awe towards God, closely related to respect or reverence. "Self-control" means soundness of mind, or sanity.

A woman who dresses simply, modestly and inexpensively, must depend upon personality in order to impress or attract others. Without skin-revealing dress or expensive decoration, a woman must express strength and goodness by her words and actions.

Paul is not forbidding braided hair, gold, pearls or expensive dress. Rather, he's emphasizing the need to allow God's Holy Spirit to develop within us the inner qualities of respect, modesty and self-control, expressed by good works. We cannot rely upon outer appearances to make us "good" or "valuable".

Moving on...

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness." 1 Timothy 2:11 (ESV)

Paul began this letter to Timothy with a rebuke of the teachers in the Ephesian church who were swerving away from genuine love, caring little for purity, good conscience and sincere faith. He named two of the teachers, both men, Hymenaeus and Alexander.

Chapter two of his letter began with a call to prayer, asking the church to pray in four, specific ways, always toward the goal of peace, quiet, godliness and dignity.

Paul implied that all people, including kings and leaders, lack peace and quiet, godliness and dignity. Now, Paul has returned to that theme, focuing on the needs of the women in the Ephesian church.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Examine verses one through four again. Is Paul implying that prayer will allow politics to bring peace and quiet? Or is Paul urging the church to pray for everyone, including kings as well as themselves, pleading with God for the inner peace and quiet that we all often lack? What is there about the nature of women that may especially tend toward a lack of quietness?

Paul implies that the women in the church exhibited the same lack of genuine love as the men, but they expressed it differently. Their beautiful, bright clothing disguised hearts of disrespect and recklessness, with little desire to help those in need.

Now, Paul suggests that the women were part of the distorted, false teaching that the church was experiencing.

LEARN: manthano (to learn, in any way)
What is "learn" and why is it best that women learn quietly and submissively?

Paul used the word "learn" in another letter, in a way that sets "learning" near the top of a series of experiences:

"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:9 (ESV)

PRACTICE: prasso (to "practice", to perform repeatedly or habitually)

LEARNED: manthano (to learn, in any way)

RECEIVED: paralambano (to receive near, to associate with, to assume an office)

HEARD: akouo (to hear)

SEEN: eido (to see or know)

Paul places "practice" at the end of the list, as if it is the ultimate goal or object of all the other experiences. But the remaining actions seem to be arranged in descending order of importance or affect.

  • "Practice", a lifestyle or habit, depends upon the experience of "learning".
  • "Learning" depends upon being willing to come near to, or associate with.
  • "Receiving" depends upon the ability to hear and see.
  • "Hearing and seeing" are the first steps toward learning and practicing.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? School, training, classrooms and study have been a part of all of our lives, beginning from a young age. What have you discovered about the way you learn best? When asked to prepare for a test or certification, or to study for a change in work, have you recognized a sequence in your learning, going from simple hearing and seeing, to learning and practice? Which step is most important or essential for you?

The only undefined link in this chain of development is that of "learning". How is "learning" different than practice or habit? Why did Paul command women, not men, to "learn" quietly and submissively?

In reality, developing a practiced habit, a lifestyle, depends upon a mix of experiences, at different times, in different ways. A person will see a portion of truth, hear another, put them together, see something else, begin to practice one aspect of the truth, hear something new and so on.

But there remains the fundamental progression: "seeing" can be literally looking at something, or it could be mentally considering. "Seeing" is essential as a first step, but people often will go no further than casual observation or curiosity. The thing looked at affects them little or not at all.

The same can be said for "hearing". "Seeing" and "hearing" are both gateways to our mind and heart, but it is easy to allow only fleeting access to our minds and heart, ushering the "new truth" out quickly when it seems to promise little reward or interest.

"Receiving" is a huge step forward. After seeing or hearing something new, a person will "receive", or desire to step nearer, to examine it more carefully, to spend time thinking about it, exploring all its potential and influence.

At this point, "learning" may develop. The exploration, research, meditation and consideration are not in themselves "learning", but they may immediately lead into "learning".

What is "learning"?

It seems reasonable to conclude that "learning" is the bridge between study ("receiving") and practice. We can call that bridge, "skill" or "ability". After seeing and hearing something new, a person might carefully study that new truth, coming to the point of acquiring a skill or ability that applies that truth.

"Learning": the ability to demonstrate a new skill or ability.

This definition fits well with theories of education, but it also fits well with the Bible. Several instances of "learning" occur in the New Testament, supporting the idea of changed behavior or applied skill.

"Go and learn what this means, - I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. - For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:13 (ESV)

Jesus connected "learn" with "go", implying that merely hearing His words would not lead to "learning". Action, outwardly observable behavior, must be experienced before "learning" can occur.

Jesus urged Christians to "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me," (Matthew 11:29)..."Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me," (John 6:45).

Jesus taught in the temple for the first time, causing the Jews to marvel:

"How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" John 7:15 (ESV)

"Learning" requires study ("receiving"), and learning is expressed or validated by the ability to do something new, such as teach.

"They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!" Ephesians 4:19-20 (ESV)

Here, Paul connected "learning" with behavior. Paul expected that the Ephesian Christians would demonstrate that they had "learned" Christ by behaving in a way different than that of those who have rejected Christ.

One final example of "learning":

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

Paul was not saying that he had merely seen or heard of the notion of contentment. He was not saying that he was studying the concept of contentment. He had alreadly gone through these basic steps toward learning. He's saying that he's arrived at the point of "learning" contentment because he knows that he's able to act contentedly. God has allowed Paul to develop the ability to live contentedly, therefore Paul says that he has "learned" contentment.

Truth, whether the Gospel or natural science, is not "learned" in a classroom or temple. Truth, to be learned, must be acted upon in the world, among real people, within real-world conditions.

Children and grandchildren are to learn (develop the skill of) godliness by caring for the needs of parents unable to earn their own livelihood (1 Timothy 5:4). Christians are to learn the skill of good works, helping those in urgent need, and being fruitful (Titus 3:14). Jesus learned obedience, not by memorizing Scripture or completing a study guide, but through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).

Women in the church are to demonstrate their skills of godliness and good works, quietly with all submissiveness. This would have been a radical change for the women in Ephesus. To this point they had been learning all the wrong things, far removed from quietness and submissiveness.

"Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not." 1 Timothy 5:11-13 (ESV)

Young women in the church had seen and heard, not truth, but temptation. They became captivated, not by Christ's love, but by the world's pleasures. They studied and meditated, not on doctrine taught by Christ, but on the delicacies and depravities of uncontrolled passions. After eagerly receiving the savor of temptation, they learned the skills of sensual gluttony, idle time-wasting, gossip and meddling.

We will come later to this same passage, but for now, look at the skills the women had learned:

PASSIONS: katastreniao (to become voluptuous against, full of sensual delight that disregards all else)

MARRY: gameo (to wed, emphasizing the ceremony, rather than the relationship)

ABANDONED: atheteo (to set aside, to disesteem, neutralize or violate)

IDLERS: argos (inactive or unemployed, lazy, useless)

GOSSIPS: phlyaroa (a garrulous person, a prater, a chatterbox); from phluo (to bubble)

BUSYBODIES: periergos (working all around, officious or meddlesome)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? If "learning" is the result of "receiving", or study, where do women "study" to learn the skills of sensual delight, wedding ceremonies, idling, gossipping and being busybodies? What opportunities do women in our church have for study in godliness? What opportunities do women have in our church for "learning", or demonstrating godly skills?

This then, is the context in which Paul found the women of the church in Ephesus. As they were depending upon bright, beautiful clothing to cover their immodest, irreverent, disrespectful hearts, the women were learning, or demonstrating, the skills of noisy, reckless social excitement. They found disobedience to be sensually satisfying. They revelled in dominating and manipulating others.

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness." 1 Timothy 2:11 (ESV)

QUIETLY: hesychia (stillness, desistance from bustle or language); from hesychios (keeping one's seat, sedentary, still, undisturbed and undisturbing); probably from hezomai (to sit) or echo (to hold)

Bright, beautiful dress can disguise and distract a woman, leading her to act superior to others, encouraging her to be disrespectful and uncontrolled. Loud talk, forceful meddling and insatiable desire for sensual pleasure without geniune relationships based upon love...these are all skills that will ruin a Christian woman.

Paul is revealing the hearts of the women in the church and pointing them toward the rewards of learning skills of godliness. Confronting one of the primary skills of sin, loud and endless chatter and disruption, Paul calls Christian women to develop the skill of stillness, the ability to sit calmly and immerse herself in God's Word and His Holy Spirit's presence.

Paul is not issuing a blanket command forbidding women to refrain from discussion or questions or comments in church. Rather, he is directing women to demonstrate two specific spiritual skills: stillness and submission. These were the two skills lacking in the woman of Ephesus.

SUBMISSIVENESS: hypotage (subordination); from hypotasso (to subordinate, to obey); from hypo (under, beneath or through) and tasso (to arrange in an orderly manner, to assign or dispose)

Literally, "submissiveness" means to arrange one's self under or beneath another. Obedience to another is the same a submission. Deferring to another's desires or needs is submission. A soldier submits to an officer's leadership. A nation submits to its king.

This second spiritual skill, submissiveness, is controversial. In our culture, submissiveness is a negative thing, almost a hated notion. The early founders of our country rejected submission to Great Britain. We regard submission as a weakness, as compromise, as surrender to a stronger, but hated, force. We "submit" to torture. We "submit" requests for assistance. Angry, insecure men abuse women by forcing them to "submit" to their control.

Submit is a four-letter word in our dictionary.

How is "hypotage", meaning subordination, used elsewhere?

Paul wrote a compassionate letter to another church, that of Corinth, rejoicing in their generosity in serving others in need.

"The ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others." 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 (ESV)

The members of the Corinthian church submitted themselves to the needs of others, genererously. Their submission flowed from their deeply held faith in Christ. The word "flow" means to or into, implying that the Christians submitted to the gospel and gave generously.

Every description of this act of generosity recorded in Paul letter to the Corinthians indicates that the charitable contribution was given freely, as a willing gift, with cheerfulness and thanksgiving. "Submission" here has no element of compulsion or control. The act of giving money to those in need was a joyful opportunity to express faith in Christ as Savior and Sustainer, and Paul called it "submission".

That which motivates your behavior, that which you love to follow and demonstrate by your actions, is that to which you have submitted.

Submission is glad obedience.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? There is much in the world which directs our lives. Describe some of the things to which we all must obey, whether spiritually or physically. What experience have you had with refusing to submit to one thing because of a desire to submit to something better or stronger? Since we all must submit, especially to Jesus Christ, why did Paul single out women for this specific reminder to be submissive?

Another instance of submission:

"If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task...He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?" 1 Timothy 3:1,4-5 (ESV)

We will dig into this passage later in our study of the Book of First Timothy. For now, look at Paul's use of the word "submissive".

A father is expected to "manage his household" and "keep his children submissive" in the same way as he would "care for God's church".

MANAGE: proistemi (to stand before, as in rank; to preside or practice)

KEEP: echo (to hold, as in possession, ability, relation or condition)

CARE: epimeleomai (to care for, physically or otherwise); from melo (to be of interest to)

Children, by definition, are not adults. They are weaker physically, with little ability to provide for, or protect, themselves. Fathers are expected to stand before their children, using their strength, time, ability and passions to care for them until they themselves become adults.

The father's responsibility to stand up and care for his children requires obedience on the children's part. They must allow their father to fulfill his responsibility to them. They must avoid hindering or frustrating his goal of providing and protecting them.

Children must submit to their father's providence and protection.

Faithful and compassionate providence and protection are inherent acts of love. If conducted with dignity, a father's leadership of his children will be a cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. Submission, for the children, will become synonymous with safety and security.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What examples can you give from your own experience of expecting obedience from your children in order to protect or help them? Have you had experience with your expecting them to obey in order to protect or help you? At what point would submission to you as a parent become the wrong thing for your children to do?

Paul required fathers to keep their children submissive, but to do it with dignity.

DIGNITY: semnotes (venerableness or probity); from semnos (venerable or honorable); from sebo (to revere or adore)

"Dignity" means to be worthy of respect and admiration, mingled with awe.

It is impossible to to admire someone who stomps on you. It is ludicrous to imagine respecting someone who is cruel or manipulative, selfish or violent.

Bad men have long abused children, women and peoples, demanding their surrender and calling it "submission".

It is not submission.

It is not submission if it is not out of dignity.

It is not submission if it does not result in protection and providence, compassion and care.

Submission is meant to be a glad response to an authority's loving provision and protection.

Paul describes an instance in his own life when he refused to submit to someone pretending to be a provider and protector.

Paul had been preaching to Gentiles for fourteen years when he returned to the Christian leadership in Jerusalem for a "conference". The leaders had expressed concern that Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was straying from the established teachings of Christ.

Paul was happy to meet with the other apostles, and the conference went well, with the Hebrew Christians completely supporting Paul's theology, especially concerning the practice of circumcision. Paul believed circumcision was a Jewish rite, not essential to salvation and the the gospel of Christ. The assembly agreed...most of them.

"Even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in — who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery — to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you." Galatians 2:3-5 (ESV)

"False brothers", enemies of Christ disguised as Christians, attempted to control Paul, commanding obedience to circumcision, cloaking their tyranny with religious labels of "truth", "tradition", "holiness" and "authority".

Paul rejected their "providence and protection". He immediately realized that their demands were opposed to Christ's teaching. He understood their desire for control, their hatred of Paul's freedom in Christ, their fear of losing influence and power within the church.

Paul refused to submit to ungodly demands.

How does this relate to women?

The church in Ephesus was weakened, divided and confused by its leadership. Men were using heresy, fantasy and genealogy to manipulate and control the church. Women were using beauty and seduction, unending chatter and confrontational distractions to control the church.

Paul charged Timothy to set things right.

Men were to return to purity, good conscience and sincere faith, using God's Word lawfully, in godliness. Women were to become beautiful on the inside before dressing beautifully on the outside. Women were to allow God's Spirit to calm their hearts and turn their passions and desires toward Him. Women were to allow men to fulfill their godly responsibilites toward them: standing before their families, protecting and providing for them.

A man and a woman, with their children, are a model, a reflection of all creation.

"The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. - Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. - This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:23-33 (ESV)

Submission is to be a willing, joyful acceptance of God's sovereignty, God's protection and providence. A woman gladly allowing her husband to be the Protector and Provider of her family is an expression of her faith in God as Protector and Provider over all.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? A woman is not a child, unable to provide for, or protect, themselves. From what does a women require protection, and what does a husband provide for his wife? What are some common mistakes made by women regarding the concept of submission? How might a woman mistakenly hinder or prevent her husband from fulfilling his responsibility to provide for and protect her?

Submission is not only for the woman:

"Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:18-21 (ESV)

Submission is not only for the family:

"Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." 1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)

"You who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for - God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)

It does seem, however, over-harsh for Paul to forbid women to teach:

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." 1 Timothy 2:12 (ESV)

TEACH: didasko (to teach); from dao (to learn)

EXERCISE AUTHORITY OVER: authenteo (to act of oneself, to dominate); from autos (self) and hentes (a worker)

This prohibition suggests that the women in the Ephesian church were actively and purposely controlling and disrupting the church. The context creates an image of war between men and women, each side using whatever skills or weapons were most advantageous at the moment.

Paul lists two specific activities: teaching and exercising authority. The two activities are closely connected. Paul is not prohibiting women from teaching in general. Rather, he is prohibiting women from teaching in a way that dominates men. Notice the modifying clause: "she is to remain quiet." This implies that the meetings had degenerated into a shouting match between men and women, or perhaps a practice of heckling from the audience, challenging and confronting the speakers.

The word translated as "exercise authority over" occurs only this one time in the Bible. Biblically, no man, or woman, is ever encouraged to "exercise authority over" others. No one is told to "exercise authority over".

Paul was very careful not to "exercise authority over" others:

"Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith." 2 Corinthians 1:24 (ESV)

This is solidly based upon the teaching of Christ:

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant." Matthew 20:25-26 (ESV)

Thus, Paul was not rebuking the women in the church for teaching, but for using teaching to dominate and control the church...precisely the same wicked motive demonstrated by the men in their use of heresy, fantasy and genealogy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What experience have you had with teachers who seemed to use their position and authority in order to advance themselves, rather than serve their students? In the Ephesian church, both men and women were abusing the office of teaching, but only women were commanded to cease teaching. Why?

There must be a single leader in every family, as well as in church. A car cannot have two drivers, no matter how well-intention each may be. From the beginning God established order.

"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Genesis 2:18 (ESV)

Adam, the First Man, was created in the beginning. Eve, the First Woman, was created next, as a helper, as someone that would complete Adam. Where Adam was weak, Eve would be strong. Together they would form Mankind, the First Family.

Adam was the Namer, the Initiator, the Leader. To Adam belonged the responsibility to protect and provide for Eve.

Eve's decision to eat of the forbidden fruit was an act of her own, a form of domination over Adam. Without seeking his counsel, disregarding his responsibility to protect and provide for her, she took it upon herself to defy God.

Ultimately, both Adam and Eve joined in rebellion against God's command, and both suffered consequences that persist to this day. For the woman, God decreed consequences that directly touch her original sin of "exercising authority over":

"To the woman he said, - I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Genesis 3:16 (ESV)

DESIRE: teshuqa (a longing, as if stretching out for); from shuq (to run after or over, to overflow)

RULE OVER: mashal (to rule)

God's response to Eve's sin intensified His original plan: Eve would be Adam's helper, yet would be filled with a longing to dominate him. Her heart would focus intently upon what she could not, and should not, have: authority over Adam.

Here we see the genesis of the sin that Paul was seeing in the Ephesian church. Women had rejected men as their protectors and providers. Instead, they were stretching their hands out to wrest control of the church out of the hands of their husbands. They were dressing provocatively, flirting immodestly, chattering incessantly, shamelessly pursuing sensual pleasure and heckling the men, challenging them for control of the speaker's platform.

They were addicted to feminine power and influence.

Paul offers compassionate hope, however. He points them to godliness, to seeing God as their Protector and Provider, allowing time for quiet prayer and meditation to make them beautiful on the inside.

Encouraging them to allow their husbands to fulfill their God-given responsibility to protect and provide for their family.

Encouraging them toward faith and love and holiness.

"She will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." 1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Only a woman can have the insight necessary to answer this question: How could childbearing have a good effect upon faith, love, holiness and self-control? Have you experienced spiritual growth as a result of childbearing? What experience for men would be comparable to childbirth?

Why would Paul connect childbearing with salvation?

SAVED: sozo (to save, deliver or protect); from saos ("safe")

THROUGH: dia (through, as the channel of an act)

CHILDBEARING: teknogonia (childbirth or parentage; maternity or the performance of maternal duties); from teknogoneo (to be a child-bearer, a mother); from teknon (a child, as something produced) and ginomai (to cause to be "gen"-erated, to become, or to come into being); from timoreo (to protect one's honor, to avenge or inflict a penalty); from time (a value, money paid; valuables, esteem or dignity); from tino (to pay a price or penalty)

It is certain that "saved" does not refer to eternal salvation in Christ. Rather, it connects directly with the context of a woman submitting to her husband, allowing him to be her protector and provider. In some way, childbirth and child-rearing will help a woman learn, or develop the skill of, faith, love, holiness and self-control. Childbirth can restore a woman to God's original intention that she complete her husband, that she become a "fit" helper for him.

Paul suggests that childbearing can "save" a woman from uncontrolled sensuality, irreverence and wicked works.

"Save" is frequently used to describe physical deliverance, apart from eternal, spiritual salvation in Christ.

The disciples in the capsizing boat called out to Jesus to "save" them, meaning physical deliverance from drowning (Matthew 8:25). A woman reached out to touch Christ's garment, certain that she would be "saved" from her disease (Matthew 9:21). Hanging on the cross, Jesus was mocked for His apparent inability to "save" Himself by escaping the crucifixion (Matthew 27:42). Paul warned the sailors to remain with their ship in order to be "saved" (Acts 27:31).

In none of these examples would it be reasonable to consider "saved" to refer to eternal, spiritual salvation and regeneration in Christ. The meaning of "saved" must be determined by context.

Childbearing cannot in itself satisfy God's righteousness, but it can provide circumstances in which a woman develops the spiritual skills of faith, love, holiness and self-control...skills which are essential to eternal, spiritual salvation in Christ.

A related situation is described in Paul's letter to the Corinthian church. Paul responded to the question of how a Christian can live with an unbeliever in marriage. He encouraged the Christian in each instance to remain with their spouse, if possible.

"If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband...For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?" 1 Corinthians 7:13-14,16 (ESV)

It would be completely unbiblical to think that marriage alone can bring eternal, spiritual salvation to a person. But a godly relationship, even between unbelievers, can lead to hearts that become skilled in holiness, which can lead to salvation. A wife cannot eternally "save" her husband, nor the husband his wife, but they can help each other learn (develop the skills of) holiness, which God can use to save them.

Paul concludes this chapter with an encouragement to the women, that they "continue" in faith, love, holiness and self-control.

CONTINUE: meno (to stay)

Each of the following verses include the words "abide", "continue", or "remain", all translated from the same Greek work meaning "to stay". For each verse, in what experience or action are we to continue, and what will be the reward?

John 15:4-5

John 15:10

1 Corinthians 7:20-24

1 Corinthians 7:39-40

2 Timothy 3:14-15

1 John 2:24

Rachel at Work, by Alan Levine, Creative Commons