“Adam was first formed, then Eve” has been used to keep women out of church leadership. We’ve covered five reasons why the statement quoted just now has nothing to do with church leadership, but this phrase deserves a bit more detailed investigation.
In this post, then, we’ll examine the complementarian view of women and the traditional interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. If the traditional view is right, then there should be good biblical support to back it up. But if there isn’t sufficient biblical support, then the traditional interpretation is wrong. Before you proceed to the argument below, prepare yourself for the possibility that the traditional view or perspective on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 can be wrong.
“Adam was first formed, then Eve”: Does Creation Order Determine Spiritual Giftedness?
This statement, “Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12) has been used to assert that “men should lead in the church because man was created first.” The implication behind this statement is that creation order determines spiritual giftedness. Since male was created first, males are the ones who get the spiritual leadership gifts such as teaching, preaching, and pastoring.
The statement is a hypothesis that deserves further examination, however. So, here’s the million-dollar question: Where is the claim in Scripture? Does Scripture support it? Where does it say in Scripture that creation order determines spiritual giftedness? Where is it written that the male gender leads in the church because the male was created first?
If you don’t see support for the claim in Scripture, you’re not alone because — news flash! — There IS no support for the claim in Scripture! Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God gives gifts “according to creation order.” Instead, Scripture teaches that God gives gifts “as He wills”:
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, NKJV)
The spiritual gifts, then, are given “as He wills,” that is, as the Holy Spirit desires to give them. Creation order says “males get certain gifts, females others,” but the Spirit’s prerogative says, “I give gifts as I decide: a man can preach, but so can a woman; a man can teach, but so can a woman. A man can pastor, but so can a woman.” In other words, if the spiritual gifts are up to the Spirit and not to creation order, then creation order is irrelevant when it comes to spiritual gifts. God can give the spiritual gifts to any believer that He wants to — a statement that is at odds with creation order gifting.
Complementarians, those who believe that women are to serve in non-leadership roles in the church only (leave the teaching, preaching, and pastoring to males), are those who claim that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 teaches that Paul is not allowing women to teach in the church because the male was created before the female and females are “trying to take the male’s place” by desiring spiritual gifts, such as the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (see Ephesians 4:11-16). However, Paul doesn’t say that. When Paul mentions those desiring to be teachers in 1 Timothy 1:
5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. (1 Timothy 1:5-6)
Paul says that there are some who have turned aside from the truth. Surely, this isn’t a good thing. Yet, some of these idlers “desire[ing] to be teachers of the law” (1 Timothy 1:7). They desire to be teachers, but Paul has no qualms with that. Paul doesn’t knock these women for desiring to teach. There’s nothing terrible about desiring spiritual gifts and desiring to do something great for God. It’s a bad thing NOT to desire the spiritual gifts, but desiring them is not sinister, evil, nor sinful.
Paul’s issue with those who want to be teachers is the nature of what they’re saying, the false doctrine they’re spewing. First, they “understand[ing] neither what they say,” a statement that refers to the fact that these women do not know how to distinguish truth from error. They also don’t understand “the things which they affirm,” meaning they approve of things that are bad — yet they don’t know how bad they are. They don’t understand what they’re assenting to. When you don’t understand what you’re agreeing to, you’ll agree to anything. Ill-informed believers make a perfect tool in the hands of Satan, especially when they’re sitting in teaching, preaching, elder, and pastoral positions in the church.
And the same Paul that didn’t condemn the female desire to teach is the same Paul that doesn’t condemn the female desire to Pastor, either. If a man or woman desires the office of a Bishop, he or she desires a good work. Notice that it’s a “good work,” not a “bad work.”
Paul nullifies the created order and its implications (1 Corinthians 11:4-12)
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:4-12, NKJV)
The discussion begins with “the woman for the man,” that is, the woman being created for the man and the man’s being created first. But Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11 end differently: today, the man is born through the woman. Though Adam was created before Eve, Eve gave birth to Cain, the first baby born in Scripture. Adam and Eve were created fully grown without all the developmental stages that lead from childhood to adulthood.
With Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11 that, whereas the first man was created before the first woman but now all men come through women, we see that Paul realizes the genealogical argument doesn’t hold up. In the end, though man was created first, man is now dependent upon woman for his earthly birth and thus, can’t exist independently without the woman just as the woman can’t exist independently without the man. Husbands and wives are not independent of each other in the Lord, which means that wives don’t have to wear a public sign of wifely submission on their heads (such as a head covering or even long hair).
When complementarians point to “Adam was first formed, then Eve” to assert male superiority and exclusivity in church leadership, they’re ill-informed and haven’t considered 1 Corinthians 11. You can’t make a sound or accurate argument if you only consider half the evidence.
Complementarians, those that believe women shouldn’t have leadership offices in the church, are those who want to make the rest of the evangelical world believe the exact opposite of Scripture. Scripture, written by the Holy Spirit Himself, says that the Spirit, He, the Author of Scripture (the men are called “writers”), gives spiritual gifts based on His own divine prerogative. He doesn’t have to justify to complementarians and those opposed to women why He gifted women in the first place. He doesn’t have to justify Himself because He is God and He does whatever He pleases. And He has been pleased to give spiritual gifts to both men and women because He made both to have dominion over the earth and to edify His church — the same Church of which Jesus Christ is the Head, not husbands.
When complementarians interpret “Adam was first formed, then Eve” as referring to the superiority of men and their exclusivity in church leadership, it’s a sign that they’ve not studied Scripture rightly, nor interpreted it rightly. And that’s offensive because it offends the One who has made us workman so that we’d “study to show ourselves approved” unto Him, so that we would be “workmen who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” as we’re told in 2 Timothy 2:15. He has made us to be believers who study the Word, who give our best effort to understand the Word, the 66 books of Scripture, that He has given us.
Sadly, much of the evangelical and broad Christian world is not living up to what God designed believers to be. And when it comes to the traditional interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, it’s clear to see that complementarians and the majority of evangelicals just haven’t done their biblical homework. Many believe women aren’t to teach, preach, and Pastor not because they know what the text says but because they have bought into the claim of a Pastor, professor, teacher, Deacon, or Christian friend whose opinion they trust. Few have rarely read opinions that differ from their own (though some have, it’s only fair to give those few their due credit for diligence), and many don’t seem concerned with it because they associate and congregate in churches that, THINK. JUST. LIKE. THEM. It’s not hard to see why traditionalists believe the way they do when you consider that many of them only associate with those who hold their same view on women in ministry. You can’t associate with birds of a certain feather and then wonder why you’re not a different bird altogether.
But, that’s their prerogative. And the Spirit has His own prerogative. They choose not to associate with others who could challenge them to think differently. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit continues to go about His work, equipping women, like men, for the work of the ministry. When you think about it, the only weapon the complementarian has in the women in ministry debate is his or her traditional, “we’ve-heard-it-all-before” interpretation. They certainly can’t force others to agree with them, nor tell the Spirit what He can and cannot do. He does what He pleases. He gives the spiritual gifts “As He wills.” Those three words (As. He. Wills.) are an exegetical impasse for the complementarian and anti-women advocate.
If the Spirit gives gifts as He sees fit, then creation order has nothing to do with it.