It has been said that Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:8, and following, are restricted in application to the public worship service of the church. That when Paul says, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting…,” that he is referring to the conduct of the worship assembly and that it should not be applied outside that setting.
However, there is nothing in the text itself that would require such an understanding of Paul’s admonitions here. The best that anyone can do to show such an application is to appeal to the word, or words depending on the English translation you’re using, “everywhere” (NKJV).
It is claimed by some that the word “everywhere” is “a technical term” that specifically refers to the places of worship where the church assembles. Really? And, how exactly would I come to that conclusion?
As I have shown in this series of articles studying biblical words, the best way to understand a Bible word is to see how the Bible uses that word. So, lets see if the Bible uses the Greek term translated “everywhere” in specific reference to the physical place of worship for the assembled church. It shouldn’t be hard to find such a reference because this specific term is only used four times, including 1 Timothy 2:8.
The first use of this specific Greek term is found in 1 Corinthians 1:2. “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.”
The exact same three word Greek term is used in this verse and translated as “in every place.” According to those who claim that this term specifically refers to the worship assembly — or physical location of the worship assembly — this would have Paul expressing the fellowship relationship of the saints as being restricted to the worship assembly. That is, “sanctified” and “called to be saints” together only in the public worship assembly.
Obviously, that is not what Paul is talking about and not what he is referring to by the term “in every place.” No, those who are sanctified — called to be saints — are in fellowship with every other child of God everywhere and all the time that they are living in harmony with the will of God (cf. 1 John 1:1-4).
So, just like 1 Timothy 2:8, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to understand the term “in every place” as referring specifically and limited to the worship assembly of the church.
The next use of this term is found in 2 Corinthians 2:14. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”
To really get a clear picture of what Paul is referring to when he says “in every place,” we need to include verse 15. “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
He goes on to say that, to those who are being saved, the fragrance of God’s knowledge is the aroma of life and, to those who are perishing, it is the aroma of death. So, is Paul talking about preaching in the worship assembly of the church only or is he talking about preaching to people “everywhere” in his evangelistic work?
In verse 12 it is clear that he is talking about his mission work. No one could rightly limit the preaching work of Paul to the worship assembly only. Yet when someone tries to make the term “in every place” refer strictly to the worship assembly that is exactly what they are doing. Such an understanding of “everywhere” is clearly wrong.
This term is also used in 1 Thessalonians 1:8. “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.”
Again, according to the application of some, Paul would be telling the Thessalonians that he was thankful that they were sounding forth the word of God in the places of church worship only. No, that is not what Paul was expressing thanks over!
His thankfulness — his appreciation — for the church at Thessalonica was because they were spreading the word of God “everywhere.” They weren’t keeping it boxed up in the church building, so to speak. Verse 7 says that the Thessalonians were examples to the believers in how they spread the word of God, even in the face of “much affliction” (cf. Acts 8:4).
Barn’s Notes says, “The word rendered “sounded out”…refers to the sounding of a trumpet (Bloomfield), and the idea is, that the gospel was proclaimed like the sonorous voice of a trumpet echoing from place to place … Their influence had an effect in diffusing the gospel in other places, as if the sound of a trumpet echoed and reechoed among the hills and along the vales of the classic land of Greece” (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: I Thessalonians to Philemon, ed. Robert Frew [London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885] 14).
So, when we get to 1 Timothy 2:8, the last use of this specific term in the New Testament, it becomes clear that the principles of male spiritual leadership are in no way limited to the “places of worship” or the “public worship assembly” only.
Paul appealed to the order of creation itself to establish the basis for his teaching here (1 Tim. 2:13). There is no reason whatsoever, just from the biblical text, that one would believe Paul’s teaching here was limited to a specific place. As a matter of fact — maybe the basis for another word study — the word “modest,” in 1 Timothy 2:9, is the exact same word translated “of good behavior” in 1 Timothy 3:2.
So, are elders only to be “of good behavior” in the worship assembly or “everywhere” all the time? The answer is obvious! You cannot arbitrarily limit the application of biblical principles to appease worldly political correctness and still live in harmony with the will of God (cf. Gal. 1:10).
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or [email protected]