Spirit-Led Woman

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Lie No. 7: Women are not equipped to assume leadership roles.

The most common mistake we make in biblical interpretation occurs when we take one isolated verse and build a doctrine around it—even if the verse seems to contradict other passages. This is often what we do with 1 Tim. 2:12, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” (NASB).

Most theologians believe that this passage was addressing an isolated situation in Ephesus. They came to this conclusion after studying the myriad of references in the Bible to women in spiritual authority. The Old Testament records that Deborah was a judge over Israel—and God blessed her leadership in battle (see Judg. 4-5). Other women who held authority over men include Miriam, Huldah and Noadiah.

Jesus issued His first gospel commission to women (see Matt. 28:1-10), and both men and women were empowered to preach on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Priscilla, Chloe and Phoebe were leaders in the early church, and one woman, Junia, is called an apostle by Paul (Rom. 16:7).

The promise of the prophet Joel was that “sons and daughters” would prophesy after the Holy Spirit was given to the church (Joel 2:28, emphasis added). Yet we have taken one misunderstood verse from Paul’s writings and used it to negate hundreds of other passages that support the full release of women into ministry.

Lie No. 8: Women must not teach or preach to men in a church setting.

Since 1 Timothy 2:12 obviously contradicts the overall biblical endorsement of women in authority, how are we to understand it? What is Paul actually saying in this passage?

In their book I Suffer Not a Woman, Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger explain that certain cultic worship practices involving female priestesses of Diana had invaded the first-century church. These priestesses promoted blasphemous ideas about sex and spirituality, and they sometimes performed rituals in which they pronounced curses on men and declared female superiority.

What Paul was most likely saying to the Ephesians was this: “I do not allow a woman to teach these cultic heresies, nor do I allow them to usurp authority from men by performing pagan rituals.” He was not saying, as some Christians have assumed, “I do not allow godly Christian women to teach the Bible.” In his day, Paul would have been thrilled to have had more skilled women who could teach the truth!

Lie No. 9: Women are more easily deceived than men.

This idea has been taught by twisting the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:14, which says, “It was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (NLT). Some have suggested that because Eve was tricked by the devil, women have a stronger propensity toward deception. Others have gone so far as to insist that women are to blame for all the evil in the world and are therefore under a greater curse than men.

No respectable Bible scholar in the church today would promote such a view. The Bible clearly states that Adam and Eve were both held guilty by God for their disobedience, and they were both punished. In 1 Timothy, Paul cited the creation account not to place extra blame on Eve but to refute a bizarre teaching that was circulating in Asia Minor.

In the first century, Gnostic heretics were mixing Christianity with paganism. One of their teachings stated that Eve actually liberated the world when she disobeyed God and gained secret knowledge from the devil.

Paul was not teaching that women are more prone to deception. He was explaining that what Eve did was not right, and that the Christian view of the creation was that Adam and Eve sinned when they listened to the serpent.

Women are certainly capable of spreading deception because they have a fallen nature as men do, but there is no evidence that they have greater gullibility. That view is rooted in demeaning stereotypes and prejudice.

Lie No. 10: Women who exhibit strong leadership qualities have a “spirit of Jezebel.”

Once I was listening to Bible teacher Cindy Jacobs speak at a prayer conference in Colorado. When she approached the pulpit, two men who were sitting in front of me turned to each other and began to pray softly.

“Lord, we bind the power of the devil from bewitching this audience,” one man said, adding, “We bind the power of Jezebel in the name of Jesus.” These men believed that the crowd would automatically come under a spirit of deception when Jacobs taught them—simply because she was a woman.

How absurd! Was Barak “deceived” when he took orders from Deborah? (See Judg. 4:14.) Did baby Jesus come under a harmful influence when Anna prophesied over Him? (See Luke 2:36-38.) Was Apollos spiritually emasculated when he submitted to the teaching of Priscilla? (See Acts 18:26.) Of course not!

To associate godly women with Jezebel, a wicked Old Testament despot, is unfair and offensive, yet men in the church today often pin Jezebel’s label on strong, anointed women because they feel threatened by them.

Let’s stop the insults. If a woman is using manipulation to usurp authority or if she is spreading heresies, then she certainly deserves the Jezebel label—as do men who do such things. But women who walk in spiritual integrity and preach the Word of God with power deserve our respect.


J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His latest book is Fearless Daughters of the Bible.

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