Unfortunately almost every woman I have ever known either has been, or is currently, a slave.
I know that might be shocking or offensive to you, but please bear with me. No, I’m not talking about slavery to sin in the more general sense; I am talking about something much more specific. Just like any other form of widespread slavery, the slavery I am talking about is so prevalent that it has become an accepted way of life. When slavery becomes the norm, the slaves often lose their sense of freedom and accept their bondage as ‘normal’ life.
I have observed three major areas in which satan seeks to enslave a woman. While not all women are enslaved in all three areas, almost every woman I know has been, or is currently, enslaved in one or more of these areas. If you are a woman, you will probably be able to relate to one or more of these areas of enslavement. Sadly, many assume this ‘slavery’ is their God given destiny. Out of all the articles that I have written to date, This has been the most difficult for me.
I. The Physical Slavery Of Women
Make no mistake about it, Satan hates women. Yes I know he hates men too, but he has a very special hatred for women. The woman represents something very special, and Satan knows it. Before the foundations of the world were ever created, inside the very heart of God a Bride for the Son was being selected. This beautiful bride is a woman (church), and this ‘woman’ (church) will give expression to the very one who was destined to crush Satan’s head (Christ). I believe the physical ‘woman’ is a reminder to Satan of the nature of Christ’s heart for His bride, and of his own defeat. Consider this statement by the LORD to Satan from Genesis 3:15:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed (the world) and her seed (Christ)…
That ‘enmity’ between Satan and the woman can be seen all throughout history. As the scriptures tell us in Ephesians 6:12, the root of everything is spiritual. There is a spiritual darkness that seeks to enslave women. The seed (or offspring) of Satan is the world and all of its ‘systems’. A simple study of world society at any time or place throughout history will quickly reveal how the women of that society have been exploited or enslaved in some way. The enslavement and exploitation of women seems to be a never ending epidemic.
For all the anthropologists out there that have bought into the misconception that societies and communities are slowly ‘evolving’ regarding the treatment of women, nothing could be further from the truth. Aside from the political and economic strides that women have made in modern times, the slavery and exploitation of women is at a all time high. Without going into this subject, women are the chief victims of today’s pop and porn culture.
The sex slave and human trafficking industry is the largest form of slavery the world has ever seen. It goes on in front of us in our cities at this very moment. I have no doubt that you have unknowingly met and interacted with women who are enslaved in this way already. These women slaves are hidden from us in plain sight. While this is a huge problem today, astoundingly it is only an outward sign of a much deeper spiritual issue that can be traced back to the fall of mankind in the garden and the assault on a woman’s true identity. This brings me to my second point…
II. The Slavery Of Sisters In Christ
By ‘sister’, I am referring to women who are in Christ. Believe it or not, I believe the slavery of our sisters in Christ is a much deeper epidemic than the slavery of women in pop culture because this kind of slavery is much more difficult to see. The lies that sustain this kind of slavery are widely accepted and continue to be taught by many well meaning, but mistaken, preachers and Bible teachers.
Satan’s offspring is the world’s system (Genesis 3:15). While most of us think of the world’s system as an economic or political system, there is a ‘system’ of the world that many have a hard time seeing. The world’s system that I am referring to is the world’s ‘religious’ system.
As I mentioned before, all the ‘systems’ of the world seem to have a special hatred for women because of what she represents. The world’s religious system is certainly no exception. Just like in global society throughout history, if you look at the history of the world’s religions, you will see this same pattern of enslavement and domination of women. Although Christ came to set His Bride free, even a casual study of church history will demonstrate that the reality of the world’s religious ‘system’ has unfortunately crept into the body of Christ and has deeply assaulted the identity of our sisters.
Upon closer examination, I have come to realize that most of what is taught and believed about our sisters in Christ have not come from Jesus Christ, but the author of the world’s fallen system.
The Role Of Sisters In The Church
There is a great promise in the Old Testament about a future day that was coming that was, frankly, quite radical for a Middle Eastern, patriarchal society to comprehend. Consider this passage:
It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29, NASB)
This promise, written before Christ, completely goes against the grain of the culture it was written in. This promise seems to indicate that God will reveal and express Himself through a group of people equally, irregardless of their age or sex. Again, this idea might not seem like a big deal to us, but to them it was a foreign thought as this promise was written to a male dominated patriarchal society.
When Jesus came on the scene, His treatment of women was revolutionary. Unlike any other religious figure or rabbi, the close community of people that lived and traveled with Jesus were made up of men AND women (Luke 8:1-3). In addition to this, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to break cultural traditions simply to engage women in conversation. In the gospels, some of the most profound conversations and demonstrations of worship were with women. The first person that Christ revealed Himself to after His resurrection was a woman! Remember, all of this was done in a patriarchal male dominated society.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ’s followers after the resurrection on Pentecost, male and females were equally affected in the same company. What was the explanation for what was happening? That’s right, Joel 2:28-29!
Without getting into an entire theological discourse about New Testament ‘prophecy’, there is one thing to keep in mind. Prophecy is concerned with the revelation and testimony of the person of Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:10). Once we understand this, we’ll see that most of what gets passed off as ‘prophecy’ is anything but prophecy. That is another subject for another day, however.
in light of Joel 2:28-29, we can see that it is the destiny and role of brothers and sisters in Christ to express and testify of the person of Jesus Christ. This is exactly why New Testament church gatherings were participatory. Both men AND women testified of Christ publicly during their church gatherings. Christ is so big that He must be expressed by all the members of the body! This is why prophecy is the only gift that Paul encouraged all the believers to engage in (see 1 Cor. 14:1, 24-31).
In addition to this, Paul also taught that the fleshly distinctions that formerly defined our identity are now null and void in Christ. Consider this passage:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28, NASB)
Again, to us, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to Paul, this was a radical departure of everything he knew in his Jewish life. In Christ, our fleshly distinctions no longer prevent us from testifying and expressing Him. Throughout Paul’s letters in the New Testament, he publicly names prominent men AND women of influence in the church. Again, this is right in line with Joel 2:28-29 that is fulfilled in Christ.
With that said, Paul seemingly made some statements that seemed to depart from this. For brevity’s sake I’d like to look at just one passage that has been the source of much heartache for women and their ability to contribute to the body of Christ.
A Woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (1 Tim. 2:11-13, NASB)
In all honesty, this passage has always made me cringe. It simply seems so out of character for Paul and the New Testament church. I have also come across several people who, because of this passage, have reduced their wives into second class citizens who can only express themselves behind closed doors with other women. This is very similar to the way women function in Muslim societies as well.
A biblical scholar named Jon Zens has written an entire book exclusively to address 1 Timothy 2. I can honestly say that this has been the most informative and eye opening book that I have yet to read regarding the New Testament role of women and the cultural background behind passages like 1 Timothy 2 and others that have been twisted and used against women.
If we only knew the context and history of the New Testament, we would never be able to take a passage of scripture and use it to assume and teach a reality that simply did not exist in the New Testament. Because of this ignorance of the New Testament, preachers week in and week out stand behind their pulpits and preach from the Bible while at the same time promote a religious system that looks nothing like the New Testament church. Jon’s book on 1 Timothy 2 is very helpful in this regard.
The passage mentioned above in 1 Tim. 2:11-13, and a few others, have been used to assault sisters in two ways:
1. 1 Tim. 2 has been used to silence women from expressing Christ in corporate church meetings where both men and women are present.
This is very unfortunate, and is absolutely NOT Paul’s intention at all. Many translations badly translate or interpret ‘quiet’ or ‘quietly’ as silence. This is false. Sisters are NOT to be silent in corporate church meetings, rather they are to testify of Christ right along with their brothers in Christ.
Paul wrote the letter of 1 Timothy to Timothy who was spending time with the church in Ephesus. Timothy was an apostolic co-worker of Paul who traveled with him to plant churches. He was NOT the ‘Pastor’ of the church of Ephesus as many mistakenly assume. A simple understanding of the story and context of the New Testament makes this clear.
Paul left the Ephesian church after spending a significant amount of time with them, but he asked Timothy to stay there to help the church deal with some problems they were experiencing. There was a faction in the church that had introduced false teaching. As a result, there was quite a commotion stirred up. Paul therefore urges Timothy to instruct ALL the members of the church to live a ‘quiet’ life and to stay away from meaningless disputes. (1 Tim. 2:2).
Obviously, this did NOT mean that the whole church had to take a vow of silence. That would be ridiculous. How would they express Christ? The Greek word used in 1 Timothy 2:2 that was addressed to the whole body is the word ‘hesuchia’ which means ‘quietness’. Paul wanted the whole body to lead a peaceable and ‘quiet’ life.
There was, however, also an issue with a faction of women who had introduced false teaching into the church. They were refusing to mutually submit themselves to the body and were causing much commotion. As a result, Paul addressed the same instruction he gave to the whole body in 1 Timothy 2:2 specifically to those women causing issues in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
The word used for ‘quiet’ and ‘quietly’ regarding his instruction to the women in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is EXACTLY the same word used a few verses earlier to instruct the whole body in 1 Timothy 2:2. Again, it is the Greek word ‘hesuchia’ which means ‘quietness’. This applies to both women AND men as 1 Timothy 2:2 was addressed to men as well. Paul simply repeated this instruction to the women specifically because of what was happening in the Ephesian church, NOT because he was introducing a more severe form of ‘quietness’ on the women. That is simply a ridiculous assumption.
2. The passage in 1 Timothy 2:12 has been twisted to restrict women from teaching men or making leadership decisions in the church.
1 Timothy 2:12 has been incorrectly translated from the Greek language. What we read in the English translations of the Bible are bad translations. There really is no other way to explain it. The traditional, but faulty, translation of 1 Tim. 2:12 is this:
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (NASB)
This is an outright incorrect translation of the Greek word ‘authentein’. The Greek word ‘authentein’ is mistakenly translated ‘to excersice authority over’. ‘Authentein’ has no history of ever being translated in such a way. In the common Greek, the word ‘authentein’ literally means ‘to dominate; to get one’s way’. It means ‘to dominate for the purpose of getting one’s way’. This is a very important distinction! 1 Timothy 2:12 should be understood this way:
But I do not allow a woman to teach for the purpose of dominating or getting one’s way over a man.
Wow, that puts things in perspective when we understand what was actually happening in the Ephesian Church! The city of Ephesus was the center of a religious system devoted to the goddess Artemis. The temple of Artemis is considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. In this religious system it was taught that women were superior to men because Artemis, the daughter of the mythical Greek god Zeus, was born before her brother Apollos (also a Greek god).
Temple life and practice devoted to Artemis worship was dominated by women. Artemis was considered the goddess of fertility and protection of women during child bearing, and a lot of the religious practices that occurred in that temple involved illicit sexual activity. In this system men were dominated by the women through the use of manipulation and sensual behavior.
Many of the people in the Ephesian church had come out of the Artemis cult and brought these tendencies into church life. The woman were used to teaching for the purpose of manipulating and dominating men. Because of their background, they were used to sensual religious behavior. This is why Paul addressed this issue head on by saying that women teaching for the purpose of dominating and having authority over men is not correct for church life, nor was provocative outward appearance to be used by women for the purpose of manipulation and control. All of this was regular practice by women in the temple of Artemis.
By Paul singling out women here, he was in no way asserting that it is conversely ok for men to teach for the purpose of dominating or getting their way over a woman, however. This is addressed elsewhere in scripture (Matthew 23:8-12, 1 Peter 5:1-3, etc…). I also wrote an article that specifically addresses the non-hierarchical nature of church leadership. You can read it by clicking here.
1 Tim. 2:11-12 is also commonly twisted and used as the ‘anti-women pastor’ proof text. What the ‘anti women pastor’ crowd doesn’t realize, however, is that the institutional concept of ‘Pastor’ that is based on hierarchy is not only not acceptable for women, it is also NOT acceptable for men as well! That is another subject for another day however.
Many mistakenly use the passage in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 to deny our sisters the ability to teach or make decisions along side of the brothers in church life. Sadly this is a major problem even in many ‘house church’ circles as it is in the institution. When this occurs in the church, it is simply a sign that specific group has not been built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and also does not understand the context of 1 Timothy. In Christ, male & female are one, and the church should reflect this New Covenant reality (Gal. 3:28).
To contrast the emphasis of the teaching within the Artemis cult that women were superior because Artemis (a Greek goddess) was born first before her brother Apollos (a greek god), Paul reminded them that Adam was formed first before Eve, and that she was deceived (1 Tim. 2:13-14). Paul was certainly NOT communicating the belief that women are second class or inferior to men, he was simply correcting the pagan mentality that was coming into the church from the prevalent Artemis cult in Ephesus.
Knowing the context in which scripture was written is vitally important. Because most believers in Christ are ignorant of the context of the New Testament, passages like 1 Timothy 2 are commonly twisted and abused to assume and create a reality that simply did not exist, and is inconsistent with New Testament church life. It is for this reason that I strongly urge you to obtain a copy of Jon Zens’ book that I linked to above. He goes into much more detail about this, and also examines other passages of scripture that are commonly abused to restrict sisters in church life. This brings me to my last point…
III. The Slavery Of Wives
What was meant to be a beautiful picture of Christ and His Bride has become a twisted picture of control, guilt, and manipulation for far too many marriages. How could what was meant to be so beautiful become so destructive and enslaving to women? Here are three reasons why:
1. The unwillingness of husbands to submit to their wives…
I know that you may be thinking ‘Aren’t wives supposed to submit to their husbands?’ The answer is yes, but husbands are likewise to submit to their wives as well! Scripture does not teach that this is a one way street. In Ephesians 5, Paul instructs the church to be filled with the Holy Spirit. What flows from that in Ephesians 5:21 is the command to be subject to (or submit) mutually to one another in the fear of Christ. The command in verse 21 to be mutually subjected to one another applies to the whole church. This obviously includes husbands and wives as well.
Remember, because of the context in the city of Ephesus regarding the cult of Artemis and the specific issues that church experienced with women, Paul repeats this command to wives in Eph. 5:22. In the Greek, the word for ‘be subject’ is not actually there in verse 22. The idea that wives are to be subject to their husbands is tied to the verb in Eph. 5:21 that says that the whole body is to be subject to one another. Just in case some women think they are exempt from this (as was the case in the Ephesian church), he also applies the command for the whole body to mutually submit to one another to the husband wife relationship as well. Ephesians 5:22 literally reads:
“Wives, to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
Again, this statement in verse 22 is simply a carry over from the command to the whole body to mutually submit (or be subject) to one another in verse 21. To think that there is an exclusive command for wives to only submit to their husbands, while husbands should not submit to their wives is a complete misunderstanding of the intent of the passage. Unfortunately, this is commonly taught with devastating affects for many wives.
2. A False Understanding Of Headship
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…(Eph. 5:23, NASB)
When many think of ‘Head’ they think of control, or ‘authority over’. The reason many think this is because that is the hierarchical system that we have always operated in. There is no hierarchy in the Godhead, however. The Trinity is a community of mutually submitted persons who exist for one another in the highest form of sacrificial love.
The biblical understanding of Headship is not about control or authority over, but about the giving of life and undergirding of the Bride. As the Head of the church, Christ does not manipulate or control His Bride. As the Head, He lays down His life for the Bride.
He, as a servant, comes to undergird her and to give her His life, expression, and prominence.
That’s what Christ, as the Head, does for His Bride. This is completely different than a hierarchical view of headship that seeks to control, manipulate, and restrict. Christ is not a controlling husband that squelches the life and expression of His bride.
While the husband wife relationship was meant to be a beautiful expression of Christ and His Church, a hierarchical understanding of headship keeps wives enslaved and does much damage to this picture of Christ and His Bride.
3. The Insecurity Of Husbands
If you have ever been around an insecure coworker or boss, you probably know that the person who is insecure feels they must overshadow you and ‘out do’ you. Because they feel threatened by you, these kinds of people will attempt to put a ‘lid’ on you. This is exactly what we see in regards to the religious leaders’ attempt to silence and kill Jesus.
In the same way, many Christian husbands have a deep seated insecurity. Much of this is rooted in an incorrect hierarchical view of headship. They feel they need to shine brighter than their wives in order to be the ‘head’ of this relationship. Unfortunately, this leads to many husbands literally putting a ‘lid’ on their wives through the use of guilt, manipulation, and sometimes even violence. Many times wives, who themselves have bought into a hierarchical view of headship, have put undue guilt on their husbands for not ‘out shining’ them spiritually. This is tragic, and is the opposite of Christ.
Christ is a picture of ultimate security. There is no competition between Christ and His Bride. Christ knows who He is. As a matter of fact, Christ is so secure in who He is that He specifically has chosen to put His Bride on display to the entire universe.
She is the one who expresses Him!
Christ, as the Head of His Bride, enables His Bride to be His expression by receiving His glory (John 17:22).
She, as His body, is the one out front and on display.
An insecure husband is simply not capable of this. Can you imagine the wives that would flourish and be put on display to shine brightly if only their husbands were secure in their own identity?
I would like to conclude this article by telling you the four reasons why I felt compelled to write this article.
1. Because women are suffering and are physically being enslaved because of a false identity. Women are a special picture of the Bride of Christ. The Lord desires to set the captives free. (Luke 4:18-19, Gal. 5:1)
2. Because the church cannot fully express Jesus Christ unless the sisters are fully functioning in the body of Christ. Sisters in Christ must reject the twisting of passages like 1 Timothy 2, and others that are mistranslated and taken out of their proper context. They must KNOW their identity in Christ.
3. Because I believe many women, like men, are called to the apostolic work of foundation laying and church planting. In the New Testament, there were women who functioned as apostolic workers as well as men.
It is estimated that in China today, 80% of all apostolic church planters among the ‘underground’ church are women. (this is not simply because men are not available). I’m convinced that there could be many women who are called to such work, and they will need to know that this is a very real possibility for them.
4. Because you are a beautiful and vital part of the Body of Christ, and Christ wants you to be His display!