Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 338 - July 1884
The call to prayer for all had brought in as its basis the character of God as Saviour as shown in the gift and mediation of Christ, the testimony of which goes forth at this time to all mankind; as none could so well bear witness as the apostle Paul, and. this in the Gentile field so emphatically his own,. alike for preaching and teaching.
This naturally leads to the detailed injunctions that follow, gracious interest about men with God, guided by competent wisdom, power, and authority from Him who appointed him to the testimony.
"I will then that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting; in like manner also that women in seemly deportment adorn themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with braids, and gold or pearls or costly apparel, but, what becometh women professing godliness, by good works" (ver. 8-10).
It is not merely gracious acquiescence but active wish or will. It is apostolic direction. "I will then that the men pray in every place," not all the constituents of the assembly, but the men in contrast with women. This is of great moment. Title to pray belongs to "the men" as a whole, not to women; for public prayer is in question. There is no thought of a' particular class among the men; yet is the apostle regulating the house of. God. Prayer, then, is not restricted to the elders, even when elders were in full form. It belongs to "the men." Nor has it only to do with gifts, though of course gifted men might forma large part of such as prayed. And this is so true, that the apostle adds "in every place." It may lie that there is no allusion to a different practice among the Jews or the heathen. Certainly there is no truce of polemic purpose. Nevertheless christian practice is most evident in the words—the fullest liberty for prayer on the part of "the men," and this not in private- only but in public.
The direction entirely coincides with the spirit of 1 Cor xiv. Only there the assembly is prominent which had been shown in chapter xii. to be formed by the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. Here the ruling of the apostle is more general, as marked by "every place." It would be a false inference, instead of holding both, to set the one (as people often do) against the other. There is complete liberty for "the men," but absolute subjection to the Lord1 who acts by the Spirit and leads thus to the glory of God. Man is incompetent to guide the assembly. The Lord ought to be looked to, and in fact is "in the midst" of those gathered to His name, as Matt. xviii. 20 shows: another scripture of the highest importance for the saints, as the resource of His grace for even "two or three."
Not that the Jews were so restricted in the synagogue as many suppose. Scripture furnishes proof that in the early days of the gospel considerable latitude was left to take part in reading or speaking, and it is to be supposed in prayer. But Christianity, while it supposes liberty, brings in immediate responsibility to God as it was founded on the Divine presence in a way altogether unknown to Judaism, not to speak of the heathen. It is most instructive therefore to observe that, where scriptural order is laid down most precisely, the apostle himself rules liberty for "the men" to pray "in every place." Who abrogated it? It is impossible to deny that this apostolic direction has no place in christendom. It would seem disorder en the most important occasions. One official has the title ordinarily in every place. He may associate with himself one or more of a certain rank ecclesiastically. Hence it is not open to "the men " to pray "in every place;" and accordingly no man of right feeling would think of invading the imposed regulations of such societies. Nothing therefore can more distinctly demonstrate that a revolution, somehow or another, has intervened; for modern order is irreconcilable with apostolic. And this is quite independent of "gifts," for prayer is never in scripture treated as a question of gift. Undeniably our Epistle treats of godly order, when it was in all its purity and fulness, when apostles were on earth still, and elders were or might be in every church, and "gift" abounded in every form; yet prayer "in every place" was open to "the men." Now, on the contrary, the exercise of such a title would utterly clash with the order of every denomination in christendom. The question therefore is one of the greatest importance, not practically alone, though never was prayer more needed, but as a matter of principle; for surely all christians are called to walk according to the latest revelation of truth. We ought every one of us to be where an apostolic direction, plain beyond controversy, can take full effect.
What can be thought of the statement that "it is far-fetched and irrelevant to the context, to find in these words the christian's freedom from prescription of place for prayer"? It is far better to own the truth, like Chrysostom and Theodoret, etc, of old, or like Erasmus, Calvin, etc. in Reformation times, even if it condemn our ways. "Far-fetched" it is not, but the unforced and sure meaning of the sentence in itself, whatever be people's practice. "Irrelevant to the context" it is nut; for what can be more proper, after exhorting prayers to be made of whatever- character, to lay down liberty of praying for at least "the men" "in every place"? The scriptural doctrine of the church, and its history in apostolic times, confirm not its relevancy only, but also its immense moment, and prove that such a practice must have been until the habits which sprang up at a later post-apostolic date made it seem disorderly. Prayers on public occasions were thenceforward confined to the-ordained officials; But from the beginning it was not so; as we read here, it was the apostle's will that "the men" should pray "in every place."
But right moral condition is carefully maintained, "raising up holy hands, without wrath and doubting," or perhaps "reasoning." The holiness expressed iι that of pious integrity, not of a person set apart, δσίους not ἁγίους. It did not become men at the time conscious of evil net duly judged to take so solemn a a part, if any, in the assembly. Again, if the evil were known to others, such a part taken must be an offence to their consciences. But the highest motive of all is that which should never be wanting, sense of the presence of the Lord, and of the state which befits each of the saints so sovereignly blessed in His grace. Hence "wrath" too is expressly forbidden. Unseemly if it intruded into any action of a christian kind, it 'vas peculiarly unbefitting for one who was the mouth-piece of all in prayer.. So also "doubting" was most unseasonable there, being more or less a contradiction of the dependent confidence which is expressed to God in prayer. If souls lay under any of these disabilities, it became them to seek restoration of communion with God: else public praying might become a positive snare through a hardening of conscience in such circumstances. Thus subjection to scripture in the church, where duly carried out iii private and public, ever tends to true happiness and holiness; which form is apt to destroy, especially when the form is based on tradition opposed to scripture.
"In like manner that women also adorn themselves with modesty and sobriety." The Lord in no way ignores women as the Rabbis were apt to do; nor were they pushed into an unseemly or even shameless prominence as in heathenism. Public action was not their place. The word is that they should adorn themselves "in seemly deportment," which includes not dress only but bearing. And hence it is added, "with modesty acid sobriety," that shame-fastness which shrinks from the least semblance of impropriety, that self-restraint where all inwardly is ruled. The apostle does not hesitate to deal plainly and unsparingly with the common objects of female vanity in all ages, "not with braids (that is, of hair), and gold or pearls or costly array." This ought to settle many a question for an exercised conscience. Take the last only. How often do we not hear a plea for the most expensive attire on the ground of its economy in the end! But those who are waiting for Christ to come need not look §ο far forward. Negations, however, do not satisfy the mind of the Spirit; "But what becometh women professing godliness, by good works." Such is the adorning that the Lord approves; and women have therein a large and constant sphere, δι’ ἔργων ἀγαθῶν "by means of good works," not here καλῶν (honourable, right, fair) as in Matt. v.16; Gal. vi. 9; 1 Thess. v. 21; but ἀγ. as in Gal. vi. 10; 1 Thess: ν. 15, of which we have an instance in Dorcas (Acts ix. 36). Where intelligence takes the place of this activity in good, sorrow soon ensues for others, and later on shame for themselves. Real spiritual power would have hindered both; whereas vanity likes and encourages this practical error, to find its intelligence all wrong in the end. If blind lead blind, both will fall into a pit.
1) The Received Text has the article here which all the best MSS discard; and rightly, for "the" women as a class hare no such title predicated of them, but they, are called on individually to please the Lord by heeding His servant's word (persona of that sex).