The Equality of Men and Women

A walk through the Scriptures

Translations: Kiswahili


In 2016 at various times, three young women who had just graduated from a Christian secondary school in East Africa accompanied us separately to conferences.

At some stage I said to each young woman, "Whatever you do, make sure you marry a man who will not beat you."

I was astounded when each one gave the same response. "If I do that I won't be getting married."

Six years later, after one of the early "Equality" conferences I was chatting with a pastor about the teaching and the fact that, in God's eyes at least, a man can never lift up a hand against a woman.

"But what if she does something wrong?" he asked.

"What if the man does something wrong?" I replied.

He had no answer to that, but God does.

Scroll past the Table of Contents below to get to the notes, or jump to an item by selecting it from the list. As with all teaching, anywhere, you are strongly encouraged to search and read the Scriptures, as well as the verses listed.


For thousands of years men and women have been treated differently, not just because of their different roles, but because the male gender has been seen as having more intrinsic value than the female. Men and boys have also used their superior physical strength to control and get advantage over women and girls, but is this what God designed or intends to happen? 

Note 1: The Hebrew word “adam” (pronounced “ah-dahm”) has become a male name in English, but in its original, Hebrew usage can refer to or mean four different things:

1.  Mankind in general (that is, males and females), Genesis 1:26,27

2.  The first man who was the husband of Eve. Genesis 3:21

3.  The first created human being, in the image and likeness of God, containing both male and female components, from whom woman was taken when Eve was created.    Genesis 2:7,18, 21, 23

4.  A male, any man in general. "Therefore 'adam' (a man) shall leave his mother and father..." Genesis 2:24. 'adam' the man. the husband of Eve, was speaking prophetically into the future for all time.

The Hebrew text, and English and other language translations, do not separate or readily identify these meanings, but we can learn to recognise what is meant by looking at the context. In some verses I have substituted the Hebrew form “adam” to help clarify the translation.

Note 2: The Creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 differ in certain areas. Genesis 1 is Hebrew poetry, a summary of God's Creation, designed to show the orderly and methodical manner and completeness of what God did. Genesis 2 is prose and focuses on the creation of mankind as the pinnacle of God's work, and adds greater detail as to how the separate man and woman came about.

Genesis 1 shows clearly that woman was not an afterthought because man was lonely or needed a helper - it shows that woman, as a separate entity, was always a part of God's plan.

1.  Men and women were equal at Creation.

"God said, Let Us make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness." Gen 1:26. 

There is no hierarchy between Father, Son and Holy Spirit - They have different functions but are united in spirit. (See point 4 for a brief description of what each member of the Godhead does.) In this sense there is also meant to be no hierarchy between men and women, where one has the right to dominate over the other.

2.  Equal in authority and position.

“...and let them have complete authority over (everything) v26

"And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…" Gen 1:28-30

Both were given the same authority and blessing, equally and without division.

3.  Not beneath him or above him, but beside him, from a place close to his heart 

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon “adam”, and while he slept He took a very small part from his side and closed up the flesh instead of it. And the part of his side which the Lord God had taken from “adam”, He built up into a woman and brought her to “Adam.” v21

It wasn't a rib because, since this was a part of Creation, that would have left man with one less rib on one side. The Hebrew can mean “a very small part.” 

4.  The original “man” of Genesis 2:7 was not a man as we know it, but a composite psychological being containing both male and female components.

In a similar way God the Father has male characteristics - provider, protector, while Holy Spirit has recognisable female characteristics - helper, teacher, comforter. Jesus, the Son of God, as well as being the saviour of the world, is the bread that came down from heaven, the door, the light of the world, the good shepherd, and so on.

After waking up from his deep sleep that first human recognised that a substantial part of him was missing and could now be found in the person presented to him as his companion. He also saw a distinct physical connection between them. Only after woman was removed did that first person become a male person as we know it.

“Then Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of 'adam' (mankind).’” Gen 2:23

For Eve that had great impact, great meaning. She was still in “adam” and was a part of the decision-making process when “adam” (including the Eve or woman part) rejected the dog, the horse, the ox, the cat as a companion. Instead, when “adam,” now a man as we know it, chose this special, enhanced part of him, she knew how much more value she was to him than these other creatures.

Contrast this with men today who beat their wife with a stick or fists like they would an animal. They will have no answer, no justification when Jesus asks that question, only a fearful expectation of judgement.

This leads to:

5.  Woman was not created FOR Man, as some teach, but was taken OUT OF the original, dual-person, single-body Mankind.

 Woman was removed from that first person for the benefit of both of them: 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

They were created and separated for each other.

6.  The man was equally involved in “the fall” of mankind.

Adam was right there while Eve was being tempted. He watched it all but remained silent, probably to see what would happen. 

How do we know this? Anyone who has ever had a girlfriend or boyfriend knows that, after a certain time, you become inseparable. It just is not believable that these two people, made for each other, would have so quickly gone their own ways. 

How also do we know Adam was there with Eve during the temptation? Unlike when God turned up later and had to call for them, Eve did not have to call for Adam.

“...she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate.” Gen 3:6c

Many versions read like this:

“...and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”

7.  What happened when Eve took the fruit and ate, and when she gave to her husband?


Nothing happened when Eve took the fruit and ate - nothing happened when she gave the fruit to her husband!

At this stage the situation was still partly savable. Adam could trust in what was in his spirit and call on God for help - He would have had a solution - or he could follow his eyes, his senses, his own desires, because it appeared that nothing bad had happened or would happen.

8.  Only after Adam ate were the eyes of them both opened.

Only after Adam ate was mankind in trouble.

“THEN the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;” Gen 3:7a

Compare this with the previous verse, 6c:

“...she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate.” 

There was an expectation that Adam would protect Eve from harm and evil - that's why her mistake, by itself, did not result in harm. Men have an added responsibility to protect their wife and children from harm of any sort.

Even more importantly men today still have a responsibility to protect any other man, woman or child from any harm, especially sexual assault, rape, fornication (sex outside of marriage) and adultery.

Instead, through many means men are taught that women are their property and available to be used and exploited at any opportunity. Men are taught to be predators of women, not protectors. Women become their prey instead of their protected sister, mother, daughter or friend.

Many men will sleep with a woman or girl until she becomes pregnant, at which point they move on to another partner because they don't want the responsibility of raising the child, or the financial and personal commitment that is involved. Women sometimes have multiple partners, one after another, who father one or more children with them, in the vain hope that one will be faithful. Neither position is good. 

Instead, the Biblical model for families is to "Raise up a child in the way that he should go." (Proverbs 22:6) That requires the relationship security of a stable marriage and a job to support the family in housing, food and education before acting in a way that could bring a child into this world.

On Judgment Day Jesus will ask, “Why did you do this to My sister? Why did you treat My Father's daughter in this way?” Or, "Why did you not provide for your children?'

We know this from God’s interaction with Cain, and Cain's strange response to God’s question, “Where is your brother?” Gen 4:9

He replied, “Am I my brother's keeper?” 

That's a rhetorical question which demands the response, “Yes,” and it applies to everyone, everywhere, at all times.

“Yes, I am my brother/my sister's keeper. I am meant to look out for him/her.”

This needs to be taught to children from the earliest age. It needs to be continually emphasised as boys, especially, are growing up.

It becomes the man's responsibility to take care when and where he places his seed; it becomes the woman's responsibility to protect her seed garden from random plantings.

8a. Jesus Also Taught That We have a Responsibility to Protect Others, Especially Children

Incidents of rape, sexual abuse and physical abuse towards children and young men and women are becoming commonly known these days.

Physical abuse describes things like harsh punishments (beatings, denial of food, clothing, shelter).

Sexual abuse involves looking, touching, groping, unwanted comments, placing a person in a position where they fear for their safety or position unless they provide a sexual favour to an aggressor; or where they are introduced to sex talk or play acting or manipulation.

The effect of this on a victim is generally extremely serious and can lead to life-long struggles with alcohol or other drug use, depression, oppression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sicknesses, pain and the like. 

While forgiveness plays an important role in setting victims free, it does not mean that the offender should be allowed to continue offending. Where possible, people guilty of sexual offences as described above should be reported and dealt with under law to prevent there being more victims.

Simple, yet powerful methods for setting victims and offenders free can be found in the section Dealing With Problems.

Jesus put it this way:

"Whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him (the offender) to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Matthew 18:6 (Note that a similar reference in Luke 17:1-2  is applied to leading anyone, not just children, into sin.)

This is a very strong figure of speech, which is not meant to be taken literally. Jesus is saying that to offend against a child, especially, is such a serious offence with such a serious penalty on Judgment Day that the offender should do anything and everything to stop offending.

9.  When God came down into the Garden to help them in their distress, even though He knew Eve took the first pick, He called to Adam, and questioned him first.

“But the Lord called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?” Gen 3:9

There is always a man, somewhere, who can take responsibility for a woman. Not ownership, but responsibility. Not control, but concern. Not restriction, but release, to be who she is meant to be in God. 

Ownership gives a command = “You have to do what I say.”

Responsibility = “It’s not right or safe to do that. Let me help you.”

Control takes away someone’s decision-making ability = “I don’t care what you say, you are not allowed to do that.”

Concern shares the burden = “If you do that it could affect both of us.”

Restriction places limits on what someone can do in God = “I won’t allow you to take up that ministry role.”

Release sets someone free to follow what God has prepared for them = “If God has called you to do that then I will help all that I can.”

Ephesians 5 has more about this.

10.  God's questions were designed to draw Adam (and Eve) out, to give them an open atmosphere to clear the air and bring healing. 

Healing comes when we take responsibility for our mistakes.

“Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you you should not eat?” v11

Here was Adam’s chance to take responsibility - the outcomes would have been different. Instead, he blamed God and Eve.

“The woman You gave me, she gave me the fruit and I ate.” 

Eve blew her chance as well, but instead of blaming God, she blamed the devil. In the African situation it's the same as blaming witchcraft for a problem. We know from Proverbs 26:2 that a curse or some other problem cannot come upon us unless we give it reason or place.

“...the causeless curse shall not alight.”  

In straight English we would say, “Unless you have done something wrong, no curse or misfortune can come upon you.”

“The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” v13

In reality neither Adam nor Eve were “tricked” - they both were keen to try what they had been warned was dangerous and deadly.

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11.  In the full series on Genesis 1-3 we show how God was not angry or disappointed with what Adam and Eve did.

For the moment just consider these verses:

“God is not a man…” Numbers 23:19  He doesn't have the same sort of negative reactions to unexpected situations like we do.

God “knows the end from the beginning.”  Isaiah 46:10. We are not helping Him bring His plans to pass - they will come to pass in spite of what we do. Instead, He is helping us fulfil our dreams and plans according to His provision.

The Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) do not accurately portray or completely convey the nature, character and intentions of God.  God's actions and thoughts are seen through the eyes of fallen man without the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Consider this: In Mark 2:27 Jesus declares that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of man. However, in reading the Old Testament it is hard to reach that conclusion. For example, shortly after the Law was given a man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath and was taken outside the camp and stoned to death. (Numbers 15:32-36)

Thereafter it appears that a law meant to enhance life was used by religious leaders to restrict life. We need to read carefully, with our eyes open.

12.  Contrary to what most people think, if we look carefully in Genesis 3 we will see that God did not punish Adam and Eve. 

Instead, God told them what the enemy would now be able to do to cause problems for them. The penalties they would suffer did not come from God, but from the enemy.

Consider Death.

When God said to Adam “in the day you eat of it you will surely die” the Hebrew words are using two figures of speech. He did not say “on the day you eat of it I will kill you.” “In the day” means “once you eat of it.”

Nor was He saying, “On the day you eat of it you will die spiritually.” There is no such thing as “spiritual death.” You cannot kill a spirit, spirit is eternal, which is why the enemy spirits will eventually be confined in a fiery pit, not destroyed. We can easily get the idea that God is an angry God by human standards but He “has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11.  2 Samual 14:14b puts it clearly, like this: "...and God does not take away life." 

Nor does the false idea of spiritual death mean separation from God because of sin, otherwise He could not have subsequently appeared to Adam and Eve, or Cain, or Abraham, or Jacob, or Paul and others. The stories of Nebuchadnezzar and the Syrian commander Naaman, and Paul's teaching in Romans 2 show that God is constantly connecting and communicating with unredeemed people. Otherwise, none of us would have made it!

Unfortunately, Adam and Eve had no idea what death was because, as yet, there was no death in The Garden. Instead, like us, they were meant to trust God and follow His instructions or wisdom, rather than try to find a way around what He had said.

We must take our primary teachings from the writings connected with the New Covenant.

We know that Death does not come from God.

Jesus said, “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come to bring life.” John 10:10.  

Whatever teaching Jesus brought came from God; in contrasting life with death He showed that God was into life, while the enemy were into death. The enemy themselves don't get to kill people directly - instead they arrange and manipulate circumstances that produce sickness, accident, loss, destruction and death.

John expressed the same idea like this: “God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.” “Light” is a synonym for “everything good;” “darkness" is a synonym for “everything bad.” In other words God has nothing to do with accidents, sickness, loss, destruction, general pain or death. (Pain which is used to warn us of danger, like touching something sharp or hot, comes from God.) 1 John 1:5. 

Paul put it this way: “The last enemy to be overcome is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:26. An enemy does not come from God.

And so that warning sentence in Genesis 2:17 reads, “Once you do what I warn you not to do, the enemy will have control over your life, which will end in death.”

13.  There was no shift in responsibility, no variation in severity between the man and the woman when God declared the result, the outcome of their failure. 

There was a shift in direction, though, because He warned or showed how they would suffer in their particular areas of responsibility.

“And to the man He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you.” Gen 3:17

Look carefully at those words.

Looking at verse 6 we can see that no words passed between Eve and Adam when she handed him the fruit. Instead, God is pointing to the fact that Adam listened to his wife talking with the enemy and did nothing about it. That made it so much easier for him to take the fruit when he was meant to reject it.

God did not say, “I have cursed the ground.” He was saying that a curse had taken effect once they did things their way rather than His way. Once they stopped listening to God and followed the enemy, the Adversary became the primary authority over them and everything that had been in their control.

For the first five days of creation God was in control. On the sixth day They placed mankind in control of everything, operating under Their (God’s) authority. 

While Adam and Eve did everything within the guidelines God had set, all would be well. In reality there was only one thing they shouldn't do - doing that thing had a penalty that DID NOT come from God.

What is a curse?

The books of Genesis and Numbers (especially 22-24) teach that a blessing is words or actions that are good or beneficial, while a curse is words or actions that are bad or harmful.

According to James 3:10, “Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” We don't need a pastor or bishop to bless us or someone else, nor do we need a witch, wizard or witch doctor to curse ourselves or someone else: our own mouths will do it.

God continues to explain to Adam what would happen.

“You will have to work hard all the days of your life to get the ground to produce for you. You will have to deal with thorns and thistles. When you die your body will return to the dust from which it was made.” Paraphrase of Genesis 3:17-19

Where did the thorns and thistles come from - did God create them now to make things difficult for Adam as a punishment?

No, of course not. There was no eighth day of Creation - thorns and thistles had always been there, under control, but now that Adam and Eve were out of control, everything that had been given to them to control would also be out of control.

What about Eve?

Based on the nature and character of God as taught and explained by Jesus, and based on what happened to Adam as explained above I believe that Genesis 3:16 should read like this:

“Because you discarded Our order in Creation, your act of creation, giving birth, will be painful because you are now in the hands of the enemy.” 

While it is true that many, perhaps most births are painful and stressful - “with spasms of distress you will bring forth children” - I know of at least two women who gave birth in just a few minutes with no great effort.

14.  The last part of verse 16 is generally seen as God’s changed plan for them because of their mistake, but this is not so.

Once again, as with Adam, God was not stating His desire or setting out a punishment for them, but simply explaining that, since they had yielded their allegiance to the Adversary, the devil, their relationship with each other would now be distorted

“Your desire will be toward (some commentators see the Hebrew as “against” instead of “toward”) your husband and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16c

This was never a part of God's plan, neither before The Fall nor after. 

If we are in any doubt we must let our Scriptures, the New Testament, not the Hebrew Scriptures, have the final say:

“For God is not a God of confusion and disorder but of peace and order.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

We know that many women choose to challenge their husbands over things, probably because the husband is not fulfilling his role to love selflessly as explained in Ephesians 5:25-33. This presents as being against, or aiming toward, their husbands. This is not God's way. Ephesians 5:33 says that the wife should respect and honour her husband. We will consider this in more detail later.

In the same way God never intended any man, anywhere, to rule over his wife. Ephesians 5 makes that very clear, but this is also shown dramatically in the Hebrew Scriptures. When any man, anywhere, in any position, rules over a woman that is the work of the enemy.

How do we know from scripture that God did not change His plan for or His view of the equality of men and women?

God NEVER changes His mind or His plans:

“God is not man that He should lie, or the son of man that He should change His mind (repent).”  Numbers 23:19 (ESV) 

We tend to see God from our point of view; instead, we are meant to see us from God’s point of view. God is not a man.

“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie or change His mind (repent); for He is not a man, that He should change His mind (repent).”  1 Samuel 15:29 (AMP)

In both original languages, Hebrew as used in the Old Testament and  Classical Greek as used in the New Testament, the words used that are translated “repent” literally mean “to change your mind.” They do not mean “to turn from sin.”

Isaiah 31:2  “And yet He is wise...and does not take back His words.”

God says something because He has established it - it either is now like He says it is or it will come to pass as He says it will.

“For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.].” Romans 11:29 (AMP)

The Amplified Bible often explains concepts that might not otherwise be clear - this verse is a good example of that.

15.  God's plan for Adam and Eve DID NOT change after what we call “The Fall” in Genesis 3

In Genesis 5, which is a summary of events over the first 1650 years of mankind on Earth, we can see God's view of the relationship between men and women had not changed.

“This is the book of the generations of the offspring of mankind (or adam). When God created mankind (or adam) he created him in the likeness of God.” v1

This first “man” was completely in the likeness of God, but once woman was taken out of man (Genesis 2:22-23) neither was as completely “in the image and likeness of God” as that first, composite person who contained both male and female components. 

Then, in Genesis 5, the story continues according to the sequence and pattern shown in Genesis 2:

“He created them male and female, and blessed them, and named them both adam (man or mankind) at the time they were created. v2

For God there was no difference between them in position, no difference in hierarchy, either before or after the Fall. There was an obvious difference in function (the man could not have children and the woman was not meant to work the fields), but not in authority or relative position.

They were still equal before God. They were still equal in authority over creation.

16.  The New Testament, our primary document for the New Covenant in which we live, is equally clear about the equality of men and women before God.

 Paul writes in Galatians 3:

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.” v26

This verse does not exclude women because of the words used. A woman is a daughter of God. A child is a child of God. This verse is designed to show the close, family status of our relationship to God, not that men are pre-eminent. We are all, whether male or female believers, God’s children.

“There is now neither Jew nor Greek (gentile, a person who is not a Jew), there is neither slave nor free (this verse does not endorse slavery), there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” v28

Very obviously we still have male and female genders, we still have Jews and non-Jews (different racial identities), we still have different social groupings (but we are never meant to have slaves).

This verse is saying very clearly that we are all one, and equal in Jesus.

17.  Peter summarises this equality very well in 1 Peter 3:7

“In the same way you married men should live considerately with [your wives], honouring the woman as the weaker but realising that you are joint heirs of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

If we are joint heirs then we are equal in status before God, and that equality was always meant to be carried over into society, the home and the church.

18.  Like Paul, Peter heard from Holy Spirit on this tricky teaching.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands…” 1 Peter 3:1a. ESV

Paul put it like this in Ephesians 5:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” v22 (Note that quite a few translations leave out this important, qualifying term, the word 'own.') 

Once again one word stands out which changes the meaning of the sentence. How does this apply?

Years ago I would see women approach the pastor after the service and ask his advice, instead of asking their own husbands at home as Paul advises elsewhere. (1 Corinthians 14;35) They were asking advice from someone else's husband, not their own.

19.  However, some of Peter's earlier statements are coloured by ignorance and the social standards of his day.

His previous verse, where he commends Sarah for calling Abraham lord (master) is an example of misunderstanding and shows that he is ignorant of a long-held biblical principle that what is described (written about) is not necessarily prescribed (given as a prescription to follow).

“For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.”  1 Peter 3:5-6a. ESV

If we were to require women to follow Sarah that would give men the right to follow Abraham and have sex with their wife's maid or perhaps her best friend, or send their wife off to have sex with another man to win favour with that person. Abraham did the latter twice. (See Genesis 12 and 20.)  Awful, ungodly stuff that shows how far men had strayed from God's plan and intentions.

20.  Paul has some good things to say about the relationship between men and women, and he has some bad things to say.

To get an idea of his style of argument or reasoning let's look at 1 Corinthians 7. We will also see here that he sometimes teaches his own ideas, which are separate from and not necessarily God's ideas.

“But to the married people I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife is not to…” v10

Then two verses later he expresses it another way:

“To the rest I declare, I, not the Lord, that if any brother…”

This means that when he uses the personal pronoun “I” he could be talking under his own authority or under God's authority. We have to then compare the content with the rest of scripture.

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21.  Paul gives some restrictive instructions to women in 1 Timothy 2

In verses 4-6 he shows that the basis or foundation of his ministry is in Jesus, in God. Then he goes on:

“I was appointed…”  v7

“I am speaking…”  v7

“I do not falsify…”  v7

“I desire therefore…that men should...”  v8

“Also that women should…”. v9

In these verses the repetition of the personal pronoun “I” strongly suggests that this teaching comes from Paul rather than God.  Paul's idea of the role of women is also quite far from God's idea that they are equal in authority and blessing. It gets worse.

“Let a woman learn in quietness, in entire submissiveness.” v11

“I allow no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to remain in quietness and keep silent.” v12

Again, this looks like Paul's ideas, not God's, except for one thing: woman is not meant to have authority over man. This is completely true. At Creation Adam and Eve were given authority over everything on the earth, in the sea and in the air, but not over each other.

That also means that man is not meant to have authority over woman.

22. But what about 1 Corinthians 7:4, where Paul seems to say that a woman does not have authority over her own body?

The first part of this verse has been used to argue that a man has a right to have sex even when his wife does not wish to. Does it really say that, is that what God intends?

"For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband; likewise, also the husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife." v4

Authority is the ability to start or stop something by using a command, instruction, statement, comment, glance, gesture or even, in some situations, just by being present somewhere. Authority never uses force or threats.

In this case it means that if the husband indicates through words or actions that he wants to have sex with his wife, since she has authority over his body she is entitled to say to his body, "No, not today," or "No, not now," or whatever. It really is that simple.

In verse 6 Paul states that this is not meant to be a command, but a concession. To concede means to yield something from a position of strength to someone who is weaker. In other words, the stronger person gives in to the weaker.

23.  Some of Paul's instructions were based on his own, faulty or incomplete understanding of scripture. Why did he place these restrictions on women? 

Here is one of Paul's wrong ideas:

“For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” 1 Timothy 2:13; see also 1 Corinthians 11:8

Not so. The first human was a composite containing both male and female components, in the full image and likeness of God, where Holy Spirit contains elements we normally associate with woman - helper, comforter, teacher. (Genesis 1:26.)

Once woman was taken out of the first human creature God created (Genesis 2:21-23) neither of them were in the full image and likeness of God like the first human was. Nor are we.

Eve was taken to the man once she was completed. We don't know whether he was awake while she was being formed or not, but from verse 21 we know that God closed up Adam's side before He completed Eve.

Eve wasn't an after-thought, she was a part of God's plan all along.

24.  Here is another of Paul's wrong ideas:

“And it was not man who was deceived, but woman who was deceived and fell into transgression.” 1Timothy 2:14

Not so.

According to Genesis 3:17 Adam listened without intervening as Eve spoke with the tempter. He (Adam) allowed the temptation to take place and he participated in it. He was doubly tricked, on his own, not by Eve, because when she tried it and nothing bad seemed to have happened, he went ahead also.

25.  Even though God knew the sequence of events He called to the man first, because he was primarily responsible for overseeing everything.

The key point in all of this is that nothing bad happened until Adam took and ate. That makes him doubly responsible. That makes Paul's argument for the ongoing repression of women wrong, because it is based on faulty observation.

26.  The church was meant to free women from the imbalance imposed on them by unredeemed man over the first four thousand years. 

It was this same Paul who wrote in Galatians: 

“For freedom we have been set free - do not again submit to a yoke of bondage.” v5:1

Was it only men who were set free, or women also?

27.  In Ephesians 5 Paul paints a beautiful picture of the way marriage is meant to work. 

Let's go to the last verse, a summary.

“However, let each man of you love his wife as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” v33

As Emerson Eggerichs points out in “Love And Respect," by nature - that is, under the old nature fostered by the enemy - men respect their wives but don't practice the sort of self-sacrificing love asked for by God in Ephesians 5. In the same way women, who generally perform many acts of love for their man, frequently don't give him the respect that men thrive on. This verse is meant to correct that.

In Ephesians 5:33 there is no suggestion of lordship of one party over the other.

28.  In Ephesians 5:25-30 Paul paints a special picture of the love that a man should have for his wife by comparing this with the love Jesus has for us (the church).

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” v25

In other words, husbands are meant to give themselves up for their wives. Do you know any husbands who do this?

“...that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” v26

Sanctify means to set something apart. Our wives are to be set apart (regarded as being clean) before God.

“ that he might present the church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” v27

In other words, Jesus treats the church (that's us) as if it has no flaw, not even a tiny problem. Jesus doesn't yell at us, or beat us, or give us jobs outside of our specification. He does not complain to God about us. He does not treat us as if we are doing the wrong thing - nor should a man treat his wife like that.

“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” v28-29

A godly husband will look after his wife and care for her like he cares for himself. He will love her as if he is loving himself.

29.  Verse 23 talks about headship. Instead of looking at Paul's example of headship people seem to just assume that it means control or final say.

“The husband is head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” v23

How does Jesus head up the church?

Does He rule over it with firmness, or an iron fist, with punishment for those who don't listen or don't follow His plans?

No, of course not. As the head He has given us everything we need to know; as the head He has given us all the tools we need to get the job done. As the head Jesus asks us to get the job done as we see fit.

Headship equates to leadership. My head, my brain does not order my body parts around but normally provides a safe, healthy and harmonious place for my body parts to rest and work in.

30.  What about “As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands?” 

(See verse 24).

In the Old Covenant the king controlled his subjects. Under the New Covenant the King gives all of us equal status with Him: “You are all sons (and daughters) of God through (your) faith.” (Galatians 3:26)

Once again this is not a question of rule or dominance, but a statement of leadership direction. A husband and wife should function as a team. That requires commitment and restraint from both parties. That means that a wife will not submit herself to the leadership and guidance of a pastor or fellowship group leader, rather than her husband.

31.  The biggest mistake that people make is separating and excluding verse 21 from verse 22 and the rest of this section.

In the many times that I have heard preachers in the West expound on this topic I have only ever heard them start with verse 22, and from a version which leaves out that most important word "own":

“Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord.” 

The addition of the word “own”, which is in many of the original manuscripts, changes the meaning of the sentence, just as it does when Peter uses the same words in his own treatment of this subject.

The overwhelming message that was brought forth in any of these messages was this: “Wives, you are under the control of your husbands and they are the final authority in your household and your life.”

The problem with that idea is that it is out of touch with the rest of scripture, and verse 21.

In talking about the New Covenant that was to come Jeremiah said this, as if God was talking:

“I will put My law within them, and on their hearts will I write it. And they shall no more teach each man his neighbour and each man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me.” Jeremiah 31:33-34

Under the New Covenant sealed in Jesus' blood, each one of us has a direct connection with each member of the Godhead - no one needs to intercede or reach out on our behalf. No one is meant to act as a priest on our behalf to "present" us before the Lord as under the Old Covenant.

We need to read Ephesians 5:21, which begins this new section of teaching, to put verse 22 and the verses which follow into context. (See examples below.)

32. Connection: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  

That means husbands to wives, wives to husbands.

Neither submission nor subjection are meant to give control to the other person. Submission and subjection give permission and tie a couple together. Paul puts it like this:

"Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman." 1 Corinthians 11:11

Here are those two Ephesians 5 verses together as they, like husband and wife, were always meant to be:

"Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ."  v21

"Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord."  v22 (Emphasis added)

The fact that many Bibles place these two complementary verses in completely separate sections (which does not occur in the original documents) suggests that men are translating according to their existing biases, to fit their existing world view or doctrines, rather than according to the original subject matter before them.

To continue in this topic click Problems below:

33. Dealing with Problems 

Extra Material Below: How some Bibles lay out this important section in Ephesians 5:21-22

Typical layout for an original document

Note that an original manuscript would be just in Classical Greek, without an English translation underneath. Note also that the letters are all in capitals and run together with no spaces between words, no sentences or paragraphs, and with no punctuation, either. This is The Concordant Literal New Testament in interlinear form - their standard translation is much easier to follow!

Typical Bible layout for centuries

This is a screenshot from The Amplified Bible, which sets every verse on its own. Early versions of TAB (before 1987) are wonderful tools because they generally retain the layout of figures of speech in the original form they were written in. For more information on the importance and use of figures of speech, see E W Bullinger's "The Companion Bible."

Rare Bible with correctly placed subject heading

Very few Bibles with subject headings get it right in this important section of Ephesians 5. Here is the way the New Living Translation handles it: correctly, of course! I was given this Bible recently and opened it for the first time really just to check this section. What a pleasant surprise. Sadly, they missed the word "own."

All-too-common incorrect placement of subject heading

No original source documents have subject headings, and to put one in the wrong place, splitting up a continuing theme around submission, is careless at the very least, and possibly something else as well. At least they included the frequently-omitted word, "own."

Why "Equality?"

Since December 2021 conferences in East Africa have concentrated on "The Equality of Men and Women." As pointed out in the Introduction to that article this is a teaching sorely needed on that continent. Not only there, but here in the West as well we have a huge bias against women in all areas of church and state, society, employment and the business world. 

One acute area that this presents in the West is sexual assault, in particular of women and children, by males.