Christian Husbands, Christian Men, Christian Women, Church, Church Elders, Discerning Christian Women, Discerning Women, Discernment, Do not be deceived, False doctrine, False teachers, Pastors, Sound Doctrine
Confession time: Sometimes – OK, often – I think my brain works more like a man’s than a woman’s. You’ve got a problem? Suck it up- here’s the solution. The mall? A perfectly horrifying way to ruin a Saturday. And why do we have to hug people hello and goodbye when we see each other multiple times a week?
I’ve always been more comfortable around men, and when I was single, I had mostly male friends. They’re generally¹ less mysterious and easier to figure out than women, and they don’t usually play those manipulative emotional games some women can be notorious for. If a man says he wants a cheese sandwich, there’s no hidden “you don’t bring me flowers often enough” meaning there. He just wants a cheese sandwich. I like that. It’s pretty much how I operate.
Which makes me the perfect person for God to plunk down smack dab in the middle of women’s ministry, right?
God just has this way about Him of stretching us and growing us beyond our comfortable little confines. I used to be terrified of walking into a room full of women (They’re so unpredictable! You never know when a big emotional scene might break out!) But after years of teaching and discipling women, developing close friendships with women, serving and ministering to women, I now walk into that room and see precious sisters, created oh so tenderly and intricately by God’s loving hands.
God purposefully and intentionally made each woman unique, but with common traits and perspectives that bind us together as sisters and differentiate us from men. And because men aren’t wired by God the same way women are, sometimes they’re just not going to get the way women think about things, approach people, or respond to issues. Sometimes (shopping, flowers, hugginess) that’s no big deal. They can shrug their shoulders, extend grace, and make space for the women in their lives to think, feel, and react differently than men would without really taking the time to understand why.
But there’s at least one biblical issue women respond to differently at the core level of their spiritual DNA than men do. And men, it’s crucial that you get it on this one. You’re the pastors. The elders. The husbands. The fathers. The ones responsible before God for leading your churches and your families in doctrinally sound spiritual growth. You’ve got to get this for the sake of the girls and women you lead:
Women respond differently to false teachers than men do.
And, ladies, we need to understand this about ourselves, too.
It started, not with the advent of modern feminism, or the church age, or even the Fall. It started in the Garden.
Genesis 3 begins…
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman…
Have you ever wondered why the serpent approached Eve instead of Adam?
Before sin entered the world, before that snake in the grass even thought up his dastardly plan of deception, there was a void in the world. None of the animals or birds could fill it. Neither could Adam. God determined that, in order to make His creation complete, there was a need for woman to fill that void. So He reached down with His own two hands (so to speak) and personally crafted a woman.
God had made both animals and Adam out of cold, dead dirt. Not so with woman. God made woman out of soft, warm, living flesh, already coursing with life. God made man to tend the ground from which he had come. God made woman to tend the man from which she had come.
And in the same way God used a different method for creating man and woman and gave them different modes of work, He also gave them different mental and emotional makeups.
God created women with some incredible strengths. Women are usually much better nurturers than men. We’re often better at negotiating, compromising, and making peace between opposing parties. We’re more sensitive to what others are going through and how to treat people in a kind and compassionate way. We bear up under certain pains and stressors better than men do. We’re usually better communicators than men. And, frequently it’s much easier for women to trust, love, and give the benefit of the doubt to others.
And along with those unique strengths come unique challenges that we have to watch out for and that men need some insight about.
We’re kinder and more compassionate, so we have to be careful about people who would take advantage of that. Nurturing is great for raising our children, but if we baby them all their lives, that’s not healthy. Being trusting is a fantastic character trait, but it’s imperative that we be vigilant not to put our trust in the wrong person.
Could it be that the serpent approached Eve instead of Adam because he thought she would be more trusting, give him the benefit of the doubt, and thus be easier to deceive?
First Timothy 2:14 echoes this idea. In 1 Timothy 2:11-14, God explains that women are not to teach men or exercise authority over men in the gathered body of Believers – the church. He gives two reasons for this in verses 13-14. The first reason (13) is the Creative order: “Adam was formed first, then Eve”. God’s second reason is in verse 14:
and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
It’s interesting that verse 13 refers to the specific woman, Eve, but verse 14 uses the more generic term “the woman.” Are women, as a whole, more likely to be victims of deceivers than men are? Scripture seems to point us that direction.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul warns Timothy that people – including those in the church – will become more and more degenerate during the last days. There will even be those who have an outer facade of godliness but are not operating by the power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (5). In other words: false teachers. Verses 6-7 tell us that among these false teachers are those…
…who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
In verse 16 of this same chapter we read that “all Scripture is breathed out by God,” and we know that God never makes mistakes or chooses His words haphazardly. So we know there’s a reason God uses the words “weak women” here. Not weak men, not weak Christians, not weak people – weak women. God graciously gives a warning to women not to be taken in by these false teachers, and an exhortation to men – particularly pastors, since this is a pastoral epistle – to protect the women of their churches and families against those who would prey upon tenderhearted, trusting women.
One reason these women are weak is that they’re led astray by various passions. Today, the word “passion” or “passionate” often has a sexual connotation, but that’s not the only meaning, especially not here. Dictionary.com defines passion as “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate; a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” Merriam-Webster says passion is, “the emotions as distinguished from reason; a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.”
As with so many other valuable characteristics God has blessed women with, passion is a two-edged sword. God wants us to have a passion for holiness, pursing Christ, and biblical ministry to others, but we have to be extremely careful to steward that passion with the reins, bit, and bridle of discernment and knowledge of the Scriptures. Otherwise, we will pour our passion – our powerful and compelling loyalty, enthusiasm, fondness, and love – into the wrong teachers and doctrines.
Which brings us full circle to Eve, because that’s where her train jumped the tracks.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Notice the serpent doesn’t invite Eve to something blatantly evil. “God knows…” “…you will be like God.” He’s tempting her to do something she thinks is godly. Then Eve takes her eyes off God and His word and looks instead at the tree.
🍃It was good for food– The fruit would satisfy a felt need. It was practical. She and Adam needed supper. Here was an easy solution. And, besides, it looked delicious and nutritious.
🍃It was a delight to the eyes– The fruit appealed to Eve’s sense of beauty. It looked good to her.
🍃It was to be desired to make one wise– Eve had a passion to grow in wisdom and godliness, and this beautiful, appealing, practical, attractive fruit seemed, in her eyes, the best and most enjoyable way to reach that goal.
This is the same way women are being deceived today. The attractive “tree” (Ever notice that most false teachers are at least somewhat physically attractive – “a delight to the eyes”?) extends a branch with lovely-looking, supposedly nutritious fruit on it which she says will lead to godly wisdom and growth (even though her teaching conflicts with God’s written Word). And it’ll be delicious too. Those who bite the apple will feast on love, positive thoughts, encouragement, and self-esteem-building teaching. It’s too appealing to the woman’s senses – and she’s too weak in her knowledge of Scripture and her desire to obey it – to pass up. She succumbs to the passions of her senses, plucks the fruit, and eats.
And then a fascinating phenomenon begins to take place. The weak woman feeds her passions with the fruit of false doctrine, and then she begins to pour that passion – that intense, compelling loyalty, love, fondness, and enthusiasm – into the false teacher herself. As anyone who has ever tried to gently open a devotee’s eyes can attest, hell hath no fury like a confronted Beth Moore disciple. I have seen women defend their favorite false teachers – against clear Scripture, mind you – with a viciousness I’m not sure I could muster to protect my own children against physical harm.
Men may enjoy a particular false teacher, but women worship them.
And this is the crux of the difference that men rarely grasp when the topic of discernment comes up. I’ve talked to countless pastors who don’t understand why simply preaching and teaching sound doctrine from the pulpit and in the Sunday School class isn’t sufficient to protect their churches from the infiltration of false doctrine and false teachers. This is why.
Maybe a man will hear hear a biblical truth, realize the preacher he’s been listening to conflicts with it, and simply walk away. A woman won’t. Because, not only has the teaching a woman listens to inextricably wrapped its tentacles around the very core of her soul, she has also formed an emotional bond with the teacher that’s almost impossible to break. She loves her. And she will nearly always choose that loving, bonded “relationship” over biblical truth, giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt and making excuses for her every step of the way.
The Holy Spirit gets it. He understands the power false teachers wield over weak women and the destruction false teaching in general brings upon the church, so He inspired Paul to write Titus 1:9:
[A pastor] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Pastors who only preach sound doctrine are only doing half their job. And notice that this verse doesn’t merely say to “rebuke teaching that contradicts sound doctrine” in a generic sort of way. It says rebuke “those who” contradict it. “Those who” are people. Specific people. People with names.
Many pastors and teachers don’t want to name names of false teachers. They’ll quote false teachers, allude to them, describe them, and drop hints as to their identity, hoping against hope their church members will figure out who they’re talking about and stop following them. But they don’t want to call specific names. I understand the fear of naming names. It opens pastors up to attack by the aforementioned disciples of false teachers. I’ve experienced their venom, and believe me, nobody wants to go through that.
But guys – pastors, teachers, husbands – I’m telling you the women you’re preaching to, the women who are in the tightest clutches of false teachers aren’t getting it. They are not going to hear your veiled allusions to “some Christian authors who say…” or “the pastor of one of the largest churches in America teaches…” and think you’re talking about the false teacher they’re following. They think you’re talking about somebody else. The guy their neighbor is following. That crazy preacher on TBN. But not my favorite Southern Baptist “Bible” study teacher who’s a best seller at LifeWay and is touted on social media by well known pastors.
It takes courage – manly courage – to stand up in front of your congregation, class, or wife and warn them against specific false teachers, but that’s what godly men – who love the women in their churches and families and want to see them spiritually healthy – do.
We need your help, men. The church needs your help. Your family needs your help. Please get this so you can help other “Eves” not to be deceived and weak women to become strong followers of Christ, not false teachers.
¹If it’s not abundantly clear from context, please understand that I’m speaking in generalities in this article. Naturally, individuals vary.