What does 1 Timothy 2:9 mean?
ESV: 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,
NIV: I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,
NASB: Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive apparel,
CSB: Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel,
NLT: And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.
KJV: In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
NKJV: in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,
Verse Commentary:
This verse begins the second main section of chapter 2, which extends to the end of the chapter at verse 15. The theme is that of the role of women in Christian worship. When believers gather together, how should women function? The first statement made by Paul here uses the term hōsautōs, meaning "likewise." Paul has just made mention of prayer and its importance. Women, therefore, are to share in similar godly actions as the men of the church. What Paul says here, then, is not a unique principle for women as much as a specific application for women.

Specifically, this refers to how women dressed and cared for their hair. Then, as now, church gatherings were not an appropriate time to dress seductively or for attention. Clothing styles vary, and tastes change based on time and culture. All the same, how women (and men) dress should be appropriate for worship of God.

Second, women were not to focus on "braided hair." This is another comment requiring careful cultural understanding. Paul's point is not that certain hairstyles are necessarily sinful; rather, the message and the motives are. In the culture of Ephesus, braided hair was a luxurious status symbol. In that era, it required much time and financial costs. This was the equivalent of modern hairstyles requiring significant time and cost. Those who put so much energy into hairstyles suggest that their emphasis is on themselves, rather than on worshiping God.

Further, Paul addresses fancy clothes and flashy jewelry. These items are mentioned because of the focus on using money on self rather than to help others (1 Timothy 6:10). Once again, no particular piece of jewelry, or clothing, is being called out as explicitly sinful. The message and effect have to be considered. Then, as now, worship services are not intended to be treated as a prom, social event, or a party where women—or men—"dress to impress." These are times to worship God and focus on Him. Self-promoting clothes not only distract others from the point of a church gathering, they distract the one who is overly concerned with their appearance.
Verse Context:
First Timothy 2:9–15 is one of the more hotly-debated passages of the New Testament. This section provides instruction on the role of women in the context of Christian worship. Despite some phrases which are unclear, the core message is fairly well-defined. Women are not to focus on dramatic appearance or behavior, but to put their efforts into godliness and good works. Women are also not to override the spiritual leadership of men. Understanding the cultural and scriptural context resolves most objections to the text, but this passage remains a source of contention in the modern church.
Chapter Summary:
In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy to lead his church in prayer, including prayers for government and worldly leaders. This flows naturally from the Christian view of humanity, which sees all men as loved by God and in need of the same salvation from sin. A large portion of the chapter is taken by Paul's comments on the role of women in worship services. Rather than focusing on flashy clothes and dramatic behavior, women are to be modest and godly. In addition, women should not take on specific spiritual leadership roles reserved for men.
Chapter Context:
In chapter 1, Paul charged Timothy to hold fast against false teaching. In chapter 2, Paul begins to lay out the practical steps a church needs to take in order to prevent false doctrine from taking over. This begins with prayer, including prayers for leaders outside the church, so Christians can be left in peace. Paul also explains the separation between the roles of men and women in worship services, which should be read in the context of his comments in chapter 3.
Book Summary:
First Timothy is one of Paul's three ''Pastoral Epistles.'' Paul's other letters, such as Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are meant for a broader audience. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are written to specific people whom Paul is advising on how to best lead their local churches. These three letters present a close look at the form and function of church leadership. First Timothy, like 2 Timothy and Titus, is less formal and systematic, and more personal. This gives great insight into the way pastors, deacons, and elders ought to prioritize their time and energy.
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