This is Part 2 of my Women in Authority series. For Part 1 click HERE.
Before I jump into this issue headlong, I might as well address the elephant in the room: 1 Timothy 2:11-14:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
If we were honest, I’d say women for centuries have bemoaned these four verses. How do we reconcile these very black and white verses with what we feel to be true in our hearts and with what we see elsewhere in Scripture? No matter what Bible translation you look them up in, you’ll see that the meaning doesn’t change and it’s crystal clear. I’ve often circled around to these verses and wondered to myself What was Paul thinking?! I’ve searched out my heart high and low, near and far, deep and wide because never – never – do I want to be in rebellion before God. And I know that to deny His word, ignore it, turn a blind eye, or try to manipulate it to fit my own preferences is rebellion, plain and simple.
I’m bringing up these verses first thing because I know they are the “go-to” verses regarding women in ministry and authority, and I know that as many of you continue reading this series it is these verses that will be floating around in the back of your mind. I think, though, that there is more to these verses than meets the eye; and I think it behooves us to dig deeper and explore the social, cultural, and situational context in which Paul was writing. And we will. But before I dig deeper into these verses, I want to plow some ground that I believe will help us with that exploration.
Center Stage: The Serpent and the Woman
We know it’s true. Eve gave into temptation. Not only temptation, but she was utterly deceived. She heard just enough truth in the serpent’s words to convince her (and there was truth – Genesis 3:22 says Adam and Eve did become like God in their new-found knowledge of good and evil). She fell. And along with her all of humanity, including her husband. The result, as we know, was a curse upon Satan, a curse upon the woman, a curse upon the man, and even a curse upon the ground.
God cursed Satan by proclaiming that He would put hatred between him and the woman. The result of that hatred would be generations of the woman and her offspring crushing Satan’s head and Satan striking at her heel. It should be noted that crushing a serpent’s head would almost definitely bring about its death, while his striking at her heel would hinder and harm, but not bring about destruction. Even in God’s curse there was mercy for mankind. Of course, we know that the woman’s seed – her offspring – while encompassing all of humanity to follow, most importantly included Jesus, the One who would ultimately defeat sin and death.
It’s interesting to note, as well, that a direct interplay occurred between Satan and the woman, but no such interplay occurred between Satan and the man. It’s worth noting, then, that the curse upon Satan and the woman included an ongoing, generational interplay between the two – an interplay that did not initially occur between Satan and Adam. It cannot be denied, then, that Satan has a special interest in destroying women. They are the life-givers of every generation. She brings about his destruction with every generation she produces who serve the Lord. She plays a critical role in whether or not that generation will seek the face of God. She doesn’t do this by being silent. She doesn’t do it by being a passive “baby machine.” She does it by opening her mouth and declaring with authority the truth of God, the character of God, the love of God, and the justice of God within her circle of influence – be that her home, her extended family, her job, her community, or her ministry.
Satan wants her silenced. He wants her restrained. He wants her powerless. He endeavors to distract and weaken her and desires she remain lost. He wants her to birth another generation who are silent, restrained and powerless. There is hostility between him and her. It’s not a passive emotion. It’s active and volatile. It’s ongoing and relentless. He won’t give up.
Satan is a master at taking a little bit of truth and twisting it to lead us down a path that will carry out his own ends. And Eve’s offspring – the women and the men – are just as capable of being deceived. When it comes to woman’s authority – her role in the home and in church, her position in ministry, the use of her spiritual gifts – Satan has done well at times to pull the wool over our eyes. He’s convinced many a man, and a few women, too, that a woman’s place is beneath the man in all things, rather than by his side. He’s convinced us that she should be quiet and should never be “in charge.” He’s done his level best to encourage generation after generation to keep woman “in her place.”
He relentlessly seeks to hinder, harm, and silence her.
And I’ll be so bold as to say that every person who has been tricked by this deceit is just as guilty of sin as was Eve.
So what is woman’s place? We really can’t understand where she falls on the “authority scale” if we don’t understand who she is and the part she plays on the eternal stage. We’ll explore this in my next post!
Keep reading – Part 3.