Previously, in former posts here we’ve examined Paul’s instructions concerning the gospel – that it should be guarded, celebrated and fought for. The church is surrounded by people who don’t know Jesus and we are on a great mission to save lives. How do we do that? Firstly, we pray – so says Paul in the previous seven verses. Now, in this larger section (1 Timothy 2:8-15) Paul sends instructions on how the church glorify God when they come together. It’s probably one of the most contentious passages in the new Testament and goes again the prevailing wisdom of our day. “Our culture is terribly twisted on the issues of gender and sexuality, and the pressure for the church to compromise and confirm on these issues is great” – David Platt. The issues of identity strike at the core of who we are. So, having spoken to the divisive men in the church Paul now addresses the distracting women in the church.
9 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, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
1 Timothy 2:9-10
So, in order for the church to pray well and stay on mission Paul instructs the women of the church to not distract others from this one pursuit. Clearly there are some cultural norms that Paul is addressing here but the basic challenge for women is this: do not draw attention to physical beauty. “Their clothing should not have sexual overtones” (Ryken). The heart should say “what best demonstrates a humble hearted devotion to the worship of God?” rather than “make makes me look good?”. The adorning that Paul is encouraging is that “make-up” of the heart which is godliness, or “god likeness”.
Women, when you look in the mirror, look for good works. “Let you light shine” says Jesus in Matthew 5, because when people see your good works they will give glory to God. This is the precise context that Paul is writing in. If you want people to come to know Jesus and for your prayers to be effective to that end – focus on good works rather than good looks.