The next two verses (13 and 14) explain Paul’s instruction in verse 12. They read, “For Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.” Let’s first discuss these verses based on the Patriarchal Complementarian viewpoint that verse 12 forbids a woman from teaching and holding authority over a man, while condoning (or even authorizing) a man to teach and have authority over a woman. Of course, it is difficult to contort verses 13 and 14 into reasons supporting this line of thinking. As we discussed in Genesis 2, order of creation does not carry authority with it. In fact, God’s order is consistently reversed in which the younger or later receives the blessing. What is really difficult to reconcile, however, is verse 14. Adam was not deceived by the serpent, but Eve was. This fact, to the PC mind, qualifies Adam to hold authority. However, Adam not being deceived must mean that he was intentionally choosing rebellion against God (sin and evil) with his eyes wide open, desiring the evil and separation from God for his own selfish purposes. And that is what is supposed to qualify him (and all men subsequently) to hold authority? Even if Adam’s bad choice were not the case—even if Adam had chosen well while Eve remained in a fog—how in the world would that qualify all males to be authorities? Are males immune from deception? Will all females be deceived as males see through clearly? Is a too trusting nature a propensity of gender that must be guarded against so that the female is by God’s law not allowed to think, reason, and decide? No. There is no possible excuse for making such a ruling. PCs have gone from making Adam the representative head to making Eve a representative head for deception. God doesn’t work that way (as we’ve discussed earlier). And that is not Paul’s argument.
Rather, these verses are not meant to defend male hierarchy. The verses are meant to attack the false reasoning of the Ephesians’ false religion. As we discussed, women in Ephesus were regarded as the premier spiritual ones—religiously astute based on the myths regarding origin and goodness among the gods. Gaia was first and Uranus came after her and from her. But no, Paul shouts back, the truth is that it was Adam—the male—who was created first, then Eve from him (v. 13). The false religion said the male gods were evil bumbling fools being deceived constantly resulting in loss of their control (e.g., Uranus and Cronus). But no, Paul responds again, the truth is that Adam was not deceived; rather, it was Even—the woman—who was deceived. And not only was she deceived, she also did evil; she also transgressed (v. 14).
By these examples Paul is not trying to lift males into hierarchical authority. By his examples, Paul is merely tearing down the falseness of the world’s way, barring the door from allowing such shaky reasoning from entering the Church. The Ephesians were elevating women in a false hierarchy of religious authority and threatening to bring that into the church. Paul resisted. And his reasoning here remains as it always had been: God’s people should be “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph 5:21).
Paul’s statement at the beginning of verse 15 is a play on words (or rather, ideas) against the false religion and in favor of Christianity’s greater truth. The Ephesians considered Artemis a goddess of fertility, praying to her during pregnancies for health and safe delivery. Paul’s statement counters Artemis’s influence. He had been talking about Eve, so he makes reference to Genesis 3:15 which shows that Eve (and then all women) will be saved through childbearing all right—specifically, by trust in the child born to be the true Savior of the world (an allusion to Eve’s seed mentioned in Genesis 3:15). He is the only authority for the Church.
Paul’s last summary line concludes this discussion. The salvation for women (his subject, but the statement is true of all) will come about for those who remain in faith, love, and holiness—his three topics:
Faith in the authority of Christ
Love as the attitude of all in the Church
Holiness as the adornment identifying us with God
Proceed making good judgment with these three, Paul says, in your spiritual walk.
We have now gone through all the major passages in the New Testament that Patriarchal Complementarians have confused in attempts to give males spiritual authority over females in the church. God’s word simply does not allow that attitude. In fact, all authority is given only to Christ (Mt 28:18). Some words in the New Testament may give us the idea of a hierarchy—words like obey, obedience, and authority itself. So let’s take a brief look at how they are used.
The Greek word hypakouo, is a word showing obedient submission. It is used in the Gospels to describe the wind, sea, and demons becoming obedient to the demands of Christ. It is also mentioned of the mountain that would move based on our command (Mt 17:20). Throughout the NT, the word is used to describe people who do or should be obedient to the faith, to the gospel, and to Scripture. Once in Acts it is used of Rhoda, the servant girl, who hearkens to Peter’s knock at the gate (Acts 12:13). It is also used of children in obeying their parents and of slaves obeying their masters. However, only once does it seemingly give the idea of submission of a God follower to another God follower, and that is in 1 Peter 3:6, where Peter tells us that Sarah showed this hearkening obedience to Abraham in calling him lord. But a broader look at the passage finds this section no different from Paul’s discussion in Ephesians 5. Peter discusses Christ’s submission for us in 2:21–25. He then quickly moves into 3:1–7 in which both husband and wife are told to act as Christ in submitting ourselves to each other. Sarah’s obedience to Abraham was a simple illustration Peter uses of that common submission. Therefore, we never find this word in the NT to set up one person or class of persons or functioning role of persons to have spiritual authority over any others in the church.
Another word is one we referred to in our 1 Timothy 2 discussion. It is exousia, meaning authority. This word can be used in personal power of choice, to express governmental authority, to show a right given to someone over another, and to show influence over others (as a charismatic person may hold authority over someone based simply by his influence). The only spot in the NT where it would seem to show God-given right of authority over another is in 2 Cor 10:8, where Paul uses the word in talking of his apostolic authority. But as we continue reading Paul’s discussion in chapter 10, we find him talking about this authority as an expanding scope of ministry. Thus, it is not a right of authority (which would not expand) but rather an authoritative influence which expands by virtue of people accepting the influence.
One final word we should discuss is peitharcheo, which means obedience to a ruler or superior. It is used for us to be in obedience to God and to his Word. It is also used in obedience to magistrates. But the one time of questionable use is in its verb form peitho in Heb 13:17. There we read, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Here, the leaders are pastors, and we are told to obey (peitho) them. However, our lexicon shows the word to mean to persuade or be persuaded by another, and I think that is the concept we should be getting from Heb 13:17. Notice that the author mentions the leaders in a sense of faithfully communicating the Word of God. They, in their sincerity, are delivering God’s Word as they, through their study, have found it. The presumption here in this verse is that the communication is true. Of course, there is not a command to obey falsehood. The NT constantly counters that. So the example being given is for those who receive direction from pastors to not simply dismiss it. The direction is brought into your life to examine, to think about, to evaluate, and, as truth, to be persuaded by it. This verse then is not the setting up of a hierarchichal relationship of slavish obedience. It is a call to examine carefully the exhortation of others—especially those who have taken on the responsibility of devoting themselves to providing such guidance. But it is not a call to obey simply based on the position or function.
To all leaders, the NT instruction is clear: don’t lord it over others (Mt 20:25–28); don’t lead in domineering authority (1 Tim 2:12); whoever is great will be your servant (Mt 20:26). The key to recognizing how to interact within the body of believers is to know Christ holds all authority and his kingdom is not like this world’s. The worldly kingdom has its community in constant vie for supremacy and control. Our direction is clear: we should be “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph 5:21).