Paul’s use of “I am not allowing” in 1 Timothy 2:12 has caused a lot of speculation regarding his reasons for disallowing certain activities. In this post we are going to look at this phrase very carefully.
The first thing that we can note is that Paul is not appealing to an existing law. Paul does not say “God’s law is not allowing” as if God had already set up a law that restrained women from using their spiritual gifts. Paul also does not say “God does not allow you to let a woman… ” as if Timothy is under a law that he may have been disobeying. What Paul clearly says is “I am not allowing…”
What is even more curious is that there is no other verse in the entire Scripture like this one. Nowhere does a man of God state that he doesn’t allow something. God’s prohibitions are never put in the personal will of the man of God. They are always by God’s authority. So why did Paul use his own authority in 1 Timothy 2:12?
In 1 Timothy Paul tells Timothy ‘you do it’ a number of times. In chapter 1 verse 3 Paul tells Timothy to instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines. In chapter 5 verse 11 Paul commands Timothy to refuse to put younger widows on the widows list lest they later desire to marry and in chapter 5 verse 19 Paul commands Timothy not to receive an accusation against an elder except for the required two or three witnesses. In chapter 5 verse 20 Timothy is commanded to rebuke an elder who continues to sin and in chapter 6 verse 17 Paul commands Timothy to instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited.
So why doesn’t Paul continue his pattern of commanding Timothy to “do” things and instead Paul lifts up his own authority in 1 Timothy 2:12 saying “I am not allowing”? May I suggest that Paul is giving his own apostolic authority to Timothy to act in a very sensitive situation.
Timothy was a young man who in his youthfulness would have had a difficult time going past another man’s wife in order to stop her from teaching. In that culture a man’s home and family was his own responsibility alone. If you were going to deal with a man’s wife, you needed to go through the husband. But if the man of verse 12 was another “Adam” character who was saying and doing nothing about his wife’s deception, who could interfere? Paul could.
In the church Paul had the apostolic authority to go around the husband to stop the deception and false teaching of the wife. By Paul saying “I am not allowing” Paul is giving his authority to Timothy to act on his behalf in one of the most uncomfortable tasks that Timothy had to accomplish. It was one thing to command the false teachers to cease and desist and to publicly rebuke elders who will not stop sinning, but how does this single young man rebuke another man’s wife? Paul takes the heat off of Timothy by making this one task a little easier by providing Timothy with the use of Paul’s authority. Paul is not allowing…