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Women in the Old Testament and the Church

What place do women have in the church?

Both man and woman were made in the image of God. It was a woman that was taken from the side of Adam to be a suitable mate, as Adam was made first. Woman is called a “helper” to man, this is more than being an assistant, a “helper” (`ezer-help) means a co-worker. When it comes to women and the concept of submission in the Bible, it does not imply that she is inferior to man in any way, but she is ordained to have a different position in relation to man, each having distinct roles.

Although women were treated in history in an inferior way, this does not mean that those who did so were obeying the commands of Scripture. There is huge difference in the way the Pharisees treated women in Jesus’ day and how the Bible instructs us to treat women. Certain Jews prayed in this time period, thank God I’m not a dog, a gentile or a woman (one reference-Menahoth 43b-44). This shows there attitude was not following the Biblical precedent, as God gave to man a woman to be a necessary helper alongside him. Historically women have played an important part in the history of Israel and God’s plan. When Israel was enslaved in Egypt it was because of the determination of the Hebrew women that disobeyed the Pharaoh’s command to kill the newborn boys that brought in their deliverer.

Distinctions were always made between men and women during the Old Testament period. The women were not required to attend the annual festivals only men were (Exod. 23:17; Lev.23-- three times a year men had to attend the feasts Deut.16:16). Women were permitted to attend if they chose to do so (1 Sam. 1:9, 21-22). The Mosaic Law recognized women’s responsibility was at home as wives and mothers to the family. However this did not exclude women from religious service. We see women served at the door of the Tabernacle (Exod. 38:8). Both men and women contributed their valuables for use in the building of the Tabernacle (Exod.35:22, 25, 26). The Laver for ministry in the court of the tabernacle was made of brass from the mirrors of the women only.

Scripture teaches that men were always to be the spiritual leaders of the family but women were able to share in this role alongside their husband. Women were able to consecrate themselves with the vow of a Nazarite (Num. 6:2), just like men. Women shared in the sacred meals and great annual feasts (Deut. 16:11,14); in wedding festivities (John 2:1-3); in the fellowship of the family meal (12:3). They shared in offering sacrifices, as Manoah’s wife did (Judges 13:13-14); the women were graced by theophanies just as men were, Ex: Manoah’s wife (Judges 13:3-5,9); Hagar (Gen. 16:7; 21:17), Sarah (18:9-10).

In the Old Testament the office of priest was limited to men of the priestly line (Ex. 28:1; Num. 18:1-7). No women among the Levites were involved in the priesthood. However the office of prophet in the Old Testament was not limited to men, there were a few women that were called to be “prophetesses,” God’s spokesperson, as were the prophets. Miriam (ca. 1400 B.C. Exodus 15:20) was the first prophetess to the nation Israel, then Deborah (Judges 4:4-7); Isaiah’s wife was also a prophetess (725 B.C.) (Isaiah 8:3). There were female prophets in the early New Testament times, we see this with Philip, “Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses” (Acts 21:9).

The women were present in services to hear the Word of God (Neh. 8:2-3), and engaged in music ministry (Ex. 15:20-21; 1 Chron. 25:5), women sang and danced in worship and often celebrated before the LORD with singing, dancing, and tambourines (e.g., 1 Samuel 18:6; Psalm 68:25), and prophesy often included instruments1 Chron.25:1-3, prophecy was also often sung as the Psalms were inspired words put to song. The “daughters of music” (Eccl.12:4) were singing women, but they were not included in the temple choir. In Exod.15:19-21 Israel’s first prophetess (Mariam) led the women in timbrel, dancing, and singing the same song of Moses which is the most ancient praise song that we know of. The Hebrew indicates Moses probably led the men and Miriam the women--the two groups responding alternately, singing the first verse as a chorus the song of Mariam. We can understand the modern customs of the East, where the dance is accompanied with singing and the sound of the timbrel, is still led by the chief female of the company, the rest imitating her movements and repeating the words of the song. Miriam and Deborah composed the two oldest pieces of literature preserved in the Bible, which are regarded as literary masterpieces (Exodus 15 and Judges 5).

Deborah was a prophetess who ruled Israel. Judges 4:4: “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.” Because men would not assume their responsibilities, God raised up and used a woman. God will put a woman in charge when men are lazy and cowardly. Anytime the leadership of men is dispensed with and women rule over men, it is a judgment. Isa.3:12 “As for My people, children are their oppressors, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, And destroy the way of your paths.” Deborah brought shame to the Israelite men as they had fear so that none dared to assume leadership. Deborah shamed Barak, the military commander of Israel’s army, for his failure to assume the leadership God had given him, he refused to advance against Sisera without her presence and commanding influence (Judges 4:8). After she mediated God’s command to him to join battle with Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army, Barak replies: “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” Deborah responded, “Very well...I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this (full of fear) the honor will not be yours, the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.” The LORD raised up this woman, who was full of faith, to disgrace the men of Israel for their lack of faith, because it was not appropriate for unfaithful men to take the leadership of the nation.

We find that women were not anymore trustworthy than the men with God’s revelation, as they were also false prophetess’ among them (just like there were false prophets among men) (Ezek.13:17-23.), Noadiah (ca. 450 B.C. Nehemiah 6:14).

Huldah (640 B.C. 2 Kings 22:13-20), during the reformation of Josiah, his workmen, who were repairing the temple, found the Book of the Law that was neglected during the previous generation under King Manasseh. Josiah directed five leaders to inquire of the LORD about the book. They went to the married prophetess to verify the book, as her contemporaries were not in Jerusalem at the time. Most scholars believe Jeremiah was not living in the vicinity but in house in Anathoth. Also Zephaniah was too young at this time. Huldah’s husband had a place at court (he was keeper of the wardrobe) so they probably were more acquainted with her than the others so she was trusted. This unique circumstance shows us that God will use a woman instead of a man when it is necessary. He is not bound to use men “only” but is flexible, if need be.

Moses said that he wished that all would prophecy, “Oh, that all the Lords people were prophets and that the lord would put his spirit upon them!”(Numb.11:24-29). This will be fulfilled at the end of the age prior to Jesus’ second coming when God does pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. As Peter quoted the whole section of the prophet Joel at the first Pentecost in Jerusalem, “Your sons and daughter will prophecy” (Joel 2:28).

New Testament times

The social practice of women taught by the religious leaders in Jesus’ day was anything but favorable or liberating. These religious rules were written down after the first century in the Mishna and Talmud. These books give us some insight into practices that were already accepted by the religious leaders at the time of Jesus’ ministry.

It is forbidden for dogs, women or palm trees to pass between two men, nor may others walk between dogs, women or palm trees (Pesahim 111a). Gentile women were considered even lower than a Jewish woman as she was designated an animal (Kerithoth 6b and Berakoth 58a). Women were to be shunned in public social contact. From the Mishna tractate Abot, 1,5: “Engage not in too much conversation with women. They said this with regard to one’s own wife. How much more does the rule apply to another man’s wife? As long as a man engages in too much conversation with women, he causes evil to himself, for he goes idle from the study of the Torah, so that his end will be that he will inherit gehenna.” Imagine living with this kind of attitude of fear of damnation for a conversation.

The women did not have the right to be public witnesses in court cases. “Though the woman is subject to the commandments, she is disqualified from giving evidence” (Baba Kamma 88a). The Jewish historian, Josephus, records the attitude toward women of his time in Antiquities 4,219: “Let not the testimony of women be admitted because of the levity and boldness of their sex.”

Restrictions on both men and women went far beyond the Scripture, but for the women it was far worse. “An unmarried man must not be a teacher of children, nor may a woman be a teacher of children”(Mishna Kiddushin 4,13).Women were not allowed to be taught the Torah publicly despite that it was allowed in the Old Testament period (Josh. 8:35; Neh. 8:2-3). Restrictions applied to any public reading of Scripture in the Synagogue (Megillot 73a) and they were unable to pronounce the benediction after a meal in the home (Mishna Bereshit 7:2). Women were restricted from orally communicating the Torah to others, even to children. From the tractate Sota, 10a: “May the words of Torah be burned, than that they should be handed over to women.” In Sota 21b it is written, “Rabbi Eliezer says: Whoever teaches his daughter Torah teaches her obscenity.” Women were not allowed to be educated in the same schools as men. They could not learn the Torah by themselves nor along with the men. This was practiced in the Second Temple period of Jesus’ time and in synagogues afterwards; they were separated from men in the service. This practice is continued today among Orthodox Jews. Although today in most areas of Judaism (the reform side) much of this has changed considerably.

These religious limitations were not always found in the Old Testament. This is why Jesus reacted so strongly against the teachings of the fathers (elders Mk.7), because they were not Biblical. Women being accepted in Jesus’ ministry was certainly not the practice of the Rabbis of His time. “One is not so much as to greet a woman.” (Talmud bBerakhoth 43b). Jesus’ attitude toward women in His ministry becomes a liberating factor against these types of religious practices that were accepted in his day. Jesus often did the forbidden in the religious practice of the Pharisees by ministering to both women as well as men that were off limits. He conversed with the Samaritan woman at a well, (John 4:1-42 that was an unaccepted practice for a male and rabbi of His day.) Even his disciples in v:27 “came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman”, as they were taught not to talk to a gentile woman in public. He instructed her and revealed Himself to her as the Messiah and she went forth with the message.

The Rabbis (tradition of the elders) taught that women were intellectually inferior and incapable of studying the Torah. When Jesus was in the house of Mary and Martha, (Luke 10:38-42), as Martha went about her daily chores he instructed her that Mary had actually “chosen that good part” by sitting and learning (Luke 10:42). Jesus did not condemn Martha for going about her household duties, but commended Mary for a better ministry, her desire to learn the Word.

It was never God’s intention to exclude women from being servants, ministering in His kingdom. Jesus never spoke of women as being inferior to men. They were always honored in His teaching and were not often used as negative examples. Instead He used the men who were to be leaders for His examples in correction. At least twice in His sermons Jesus used the example of a woman to rebuke the faithless men of His generation: the widow of Zarephath to the men of Nazareth, Luke 4:25-26, and the Queen of Sheba to the Pharisees, Luke 11:31. More than twice in His parables Jesus used an illustration with a woman to illustrate the faith and resolve they were to have: The persistent widow who troubled the judge in Luke 18:2-8 and the woman searching for the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10. In another parable a woman was used negatively as the church, hiding three measures of meal.

Jesus gave the women, who were often neglected by the teachers, a place of assurance and hope. We see this in the example of the immoral woman who was able to repent without fear of ridicule with tears of thankfulness by crying on Jesus’ feet and drying them with her hair. It was a woman who anointed the head of Jesus as he sat at supper in the house of Simon the leper, something no man would do. He rebuked Simon for not doing so (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37).

Mary had no apprehension to anoint His feet with costly perfume, risking the rebuke by others. It was because Jesus accepted them all, not some. Because of his acceptance they were moved to repentance and followed.

When Mary anointed Jesus for his burial with expensive oil, even his disciples complained about the waste. “For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her”(Matt 26:12-13). I never hear of this being done along with the gospel presentation. Certainly she deserves recognition in her bold sacrificial act, as she was conscious of what the disciples were not: his forthcoming death. Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus listened carefully to his teaching, and understood better than many of the disciples. How far removed the Church has come in its recognition of women by not mentioning her faith and devotion in sermons. The only one we often mention is Mary Jesus’ mother. Her boldness continued, as she was also one of the women who went to retrieve his body for burial.

Jesus’ condemnation of adultery and divorce did not isolate women as the Pharisees did (Matthew 5:27-28; 19:3-10). Women who were ostracized from society because of immoral practices were restored to righteous living finding a new devotion to God (Luke 7:37-50). The woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) Jesus treated impartially, as He protected her in front of her accusers. The hypocritical religious men were quick to pronounce the sentence of death upon her without obeying the law (most likely one of them was involved). Jesus rebuked them, for the law commands to bring the guilty man along with her. He gave her forgiveness and said, “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11) she was restored. His compassion and fair treatment of women won many women disciples who followed Him and ministered along with the disciples (Luke 8:1-3), and accompanied Him and the disciples on their journeys through villages that sometimes had danger (Luke 8:1-3).

The women were the only ones who followed him to the cross except for John; the women were brave enough to stay there out in the open  while the men stayed away hidden. They took part in the burial, as only one man came forward; they were able to observe the exact location of his tomb to go back again Mt.27:61. Women were not only the last ones at the cross, they were also the first ones at the tomb. Jesus showed Himself to women first, and they were instructed by an angel to proclaim the resurrection Mt.28:1-8. The women believed the resurrection before the men. Mary Magdalene, a known sinner was the first woman privileged to tell them. The men when they heard the testimony of the women said “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (Luke 24:11). As the joke goes-- He revealed Himself to women first because He knew they would talk and couldn’t keep it a secret. In Judaism because of the Pharisees teaching they did not believe women were reliable witnesses. Jesus purposely used the women because of their faith, courage, despite this teaching of unreliable witnesses. Psalms 16:11 says, “The Lord giveth the word: The women that publish the tidings are a great host.” This was first fulfilled when the women went to the tomb and came back with the good news that the Lord had risen from the dead. This continues with the women being part of giving the gospel out, as evangelists. Although Mary Magdalene is sent by the angel to tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to the male disciples (Mt 28:7-10), after the resurrection it is the men who are gathered together and specifically instructed in the apostolic commission to bring the gospel to all people (Mt.28:16-20; Mk. 16:14-15).

Ever since Eve God has used women in some important roles. A short summarization of the importance of women in history can be like this: A woman was the first to sin (Gen. 3:6). A faithful woman was chosen for Christ’s birth to reverse the sin. God brings back honor to women as they were the last persons to see Jesus on the cross (Mt. 27:55,56) the first to be at the gravesite (Mk. 15:46,47; Lk. 23:27,28) and first to see the risen Lord and tell the story to others (Mk. 16:9; Jn. 20:14-18). So women were not ostracized from participating in key roles in God’s redemptive history, despite Eve’s failure.

After the resurrection Mary the mother of Jesus was among the 120 who continued in prayer in the upper room and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:13-14). In 1 Cor.15 Paul mentions 500 witnesses of the resurrection, some which would certainly include women. The women were among the first Christian converts in Samaria (Acts 8:12); the first convert in Europe was a woman, Lydia of Thyatira, who showed hospitality in her home for Paul and a meeting-place for the infant church (16:14). Women suffered equally with men in the early persecutions of the church. In reference to Saul, “if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2). Throughout early church history women were martyred just as men were. Their heroism, and faith withstood the same tortures and cruelties produced by pagan Rome. Christian women such as Blandina, Potamiaena, Perpetua, and Felicitas etc. became known martyrs among the women. They may not be known as well as the names of Ignatius and Polycarp but they were defenders of the faith and stood side by side facing death through persecution. Such courage was exhibited by Agathonica, a pious woman, who suffered martyrdom at Pergamopolis, in Asia. (Reference-Foxes book of Martyrs).

Many a woman was the influence to convert their husbands to Christ. Both Poland and Russia became Christian when their rulers accepted the faith of their Christian wives. Clotilda’s conversion of Clovis made France Christian. The marriage of Bertha, another Christian princess of France, to Ethelbert introduced Roman Christianity into England, which became the established religion when Edwin, in turn, was converted through the influence of his Christian wife. The process culminated, in the 19th century, in the long, prosperous, peaceful, Christian reign of Victoria, England’s noblest sovereign. (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia)

The women received spiritual gifts along with the men and served in them faithfully. In the Epistles the apostolic greetings give them a place of honor in the church at Rome. Paul’s closing salutations of his Epistles sends greetings to at least eight prominent women active in their faith and Church: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary “who bestowed much labor on you,” Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Julia, and the sister of Nereus (Romans 16:1,3,6,12,15).

The apostle Paul commended Lois and Eunice, grandmother and mother of Timothy, whose “ genuine faith” instructed Timothy from the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15). Like the women in Proverbs 1:8 “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” including her in instructing the child in the home. Much of Proverbs has warnings to men about women that are immoral, the harlot, the seductress, the contentious woman, yet Proverbs has wisdom personified as a she. And Proverbs 31 teaches about the productive woman, a virtuous woman. V.26 “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Prov. 31:30 “a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” She was praised because she worked at helping and supporting her husband.

We find the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 are not just men. They include Sarah (v.11), Moses’ mother (v.23), and Rahab the former harlot (v.31). Of course there were women included in the genealogy of Christ that did not originate outside the Hebrew faith. Women have had much influence for Godliness in history and need to be recognized for their important work.

Wherever the gospel was introduced to a culture the result was women’s social status being raised. Christianity does not oppress women, but liberates them. We can see this example from the first century. However God still has an order that was implemented from the fall that is necessary for the Church and home to follow to function correctly. By upholding this order we are submitting to His leadership. But not maintaining this order we are ignoring and even rebelling against God’s Word.

Women and Ministries to serve in

Women are mentioned throughout the Bible, and we need to see it in the context it was written. Treating men and women equally does not automatically put them in the same roles of leadership. Luke writes of the important role that woman played on Paul’s second missionary journey when he established the church in Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 16:13; 17:4, 12, 34; 18:2). The Apostle had a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come and help him (16:9), when he arrived he found women in prayer and they became Paul’s first converts (vs. 11-15).

Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, Euodia, Syntyche are mentioned as “ministers” (diakonos), “co-worker” (sunergos), and “missionary” (apostolos) one who was sent out, but not as a foundational apostle like Paul, or the others who laid the foundation of Christ for the Church, and wrote Scripture.

Paul mentions 8 women in Rom.16, and makes comments specifically on the work of five women Mary, v. 6; Priscilla, a fellow worker, (not co- leader or elder) v.3; Tryphena and Tryphosa, v. 12; Persis, v.12). The mother of Rufus Paul calls his mother as well, obviously meaning a close relationship (v.13).

Some use Phoebe as a clear example of a woman deaconess. “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea” Rom 16:1-2 Phoebe is here termed “a servant”(diakonon, diakono), which is often used as a general term for one serving.

While all Christians are servants, not all hold the title of a deacon in the Church. The New Testament does not call the deacon’s position an office like pastors/teachers, evangelists, prophets or apostles. It can be a gift, a gift of service. In the same way the gift of singleness would free someone up to be of more service to the Lord than someone who is married with the responsibility of a wife and family. This does seem to indicate Phoebe was a deaconess, a servant. However a deacon does not have authority, but is one who is under authority, (men or women) usually the elders. Paul writes that one of the requirements for being appointed a deacon is that they must be “men of dignity” (1 Tim. 3:8). Women (v. 11) are to be reverent able to receive instruction, which means they are under authority. So this cannot mean she, as a deacon, was over men.

When Deacons were first appointed in the church in Acts 6:2-3, they were not to teach but to serve the people thus allowing the elders to study and teach the Word. So they picked 7 men filled with the Holy Spirit. This was to set in order the things of the Church and the apostles approved of them by laying hands on them v.6.This began a new position in the church which brought more freedom to the elders. Because of this the Word of God increased v.7 in the region. So the first deacons were helpers of the Twelve. A deacon would look after the physical needs of the church’s people.

Some use 1Tim. 3 to promote women deaconesses. If women are called deaconess how would we reconcile the qualification in 1 Tim. 3:12 “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” Because one can be called a servant, not holding an official office of a servant in the church. The fact is we are all supposed to be servants, but some seem to be specifically servants for the elders.

The Greek is specific in describing who the participants are, gune - a woman; a wife: and aner- a primary word for a man (properly as an individual male) a husband (Strong’s Concordance). Gune primarily means a female and its secondary use would be a wife. This passage is in the context of marriage that the husband is a deacon. So most have interpreted this verse to mean the wives of deacons; in the plain reading of the text, those women who are married must have control in all things like the husband. In 1 Tim.3 some of the requirements are, “not given to much wine, nor greedy for money” is repeated from v.3 for men who desire to be an elder and Paul says likewise for deacons in v.8.

1 Tim. 3:11 “Likewise their wives…” There are three views on this 1) it refers to deaconesses. 2) It refers to women who work with deacons. 3) It refers to the wives of deacons. “Likewise their wives’ means he has been speaking about men and is now giving qualifications for how their home is run, lest people have an accusation against the deacon because of the way the wife is living. Just as the qualification for an elder in v.5 they are to govern their household well or he would not be able to govern the church.

This may not exclude his speaking of wives who are to be a help to their husbands. Their wives are to be in the role of submission as stated as temperate and in other epistles (Titus 2:5 “obedient to their own husbands so the word of God may not be blasphemed”). They are to be ruling their household as stated in 1 Tim. 3:12 “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife” This most likely this refers to him not being divorced as a believer, it concerns marital fidelity, not having more than one wife by practicing polygamy as some did then.

There is no Scripture reference saying a woman is to be married to one man, reversing the order of 1 Tim.3:12. This same injunction is repeated in Titus 1:6 for men and 2:3 for women who will be teachers to younger women. In Titus 1:5-7, Paul states,For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward.” So we see this was the consistent standard for all the churches. Deacons do not rule over, but are servants. So Phoebe did not hold an official office of deacon that would be functioning as leadership in Rom 16:1-2.

Could there be any exceptions? Yes, but they are not promoted as a church order in the Scripture. There was a group of females who were to “teach” other females, and superintended that part of the church, as mentioned in the New Testament; and their existence is affirmed in early church history. They appear to have been aged and experienced widows, who sustained a fair reputation, and capable to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced; this is mentioned in 1 Tim 5:3,9-11; Titus 2:4. The Apostolical Constitutions, book 3 says, “Ordain a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministries toward the women.”

Pliny’s letter to the Emperor-110 or 111 A.D does mention deaconesses in the eastern churches. So if there is to be an official position and we accept the Apostolical Constitutions, it is to women only, not to men. Are there other references in church history to women ruling over men in the church, yes. But again we need to go back to what the bible consistently and clearly says.

Deacons are a serving position, not an authoritative one. So if a woman wants to deacon she can as long as it is understood it is not a ruling position but of servitude.

Women in ministry today

The New Testament does teach that both men and women receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit without any distinction to their sex of male or female. God expects women to do ministry as men do ministry. However it is matter of in what capacity they serve. In our time women in ministry has become a huge issue. Certainly women deaconesses (servants) are able to look after certain matters that men deacons cannot. However deacons are not a teaching or ruling position, but one strictly of service.

Titus 2:1-5 “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things-- that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Although women can’t hold the office of pastor they can have the gift of teaching, their gift would be used in the church to instruct other women, and exercise authority over the children along with their husband.

There are many Christian churches that forbid women in ministering in almost any capacity. Then there are many Christian churches that have allowed women in the office of pastors and elders in the church. Is this the Biblical position? I believe the Bible teaches us that women are not to be elders or in ruler-ship positions exercising authority over men. Older women are instructed by the Apostle Paul to specifically teach the younger women. While I believe they can be teachers in a Bible class or study along with a man, when an official church service is held, they are not to be pulpit teaching and shepherding/governing the whole flock. Women are allowed to serve and teach but not over men in New Testament church meetings, but over women. Then there is the issue of husband and wife pastoral teams who share the pulpit. When it comes down to it, often woman as a team pastor with their husband means twice the salary for them both. Think about it. As a pastoral team it is rare that a woman working along with her husband does not ask to receive pay. If not, I commend them, for that is the way it should be. A pastor should receive adequate pay so that the wife does not have to work, that is, if their lifestyle is modest as the Biblical requirements state. This does not mean no woman is to be paid for her work, but I’m specifically addressing joint pastoral leadership not a secretary or another ministerial role. One of the strong points in a ministry team is that many a pastor would do well to have his wife accompany him along in counseling another woman or a couple. This would prevent anything improper from taking place. For the most part women should be counseling women, not men counseling women alone or women counseling men alone.

Evangelism of the gospel began the day Christ rose by the women who went the tomb. Women can do the work of evangelism.

Priscilla and Aquila, Andronicus and Junia were both husband and wives in ministry. But to say they were husband and wife as co-pastors is to assume a lot when there is no evidence of this. Acts 18:26: “So he (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” It was both a husband and wife together who more fully explained Christ to Apollos, not a woman separately. This does not mean God would not honor a woman correcting a man, but the pattern for evangelism is that they were sent out by two’s. Also we need to note this is not teaching in a church service but helping a separate individual who was evangelizing and teaching but lacking in some Christian doctrine. They both were involved in teaching him so facts on Christ he was lacking.

In Rom.16:3-5 we find the church meeting in Priscilla and Aquillas house, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.” This does not mean that they were a husband and wife pastoral team. Because there were churches hosted in a woman’s house does not imply the leaders of the church were also women. In Acts 12:12 we see the church meeting in Mary’s house praying, but there is no reason in assuming Mary as the leader of the house church. A woman can have a Bible study in their house but this does not automatically make her the leader of that study. There is also a difference with Bible study and an official church meeting with pastors and elders present.

Women Apostles

Rom. 16:7 “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note (outstanding) among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” They once shared prison with Paul. Junia is the name of a woman, the wife of Andronicus. Some point to this verse showing that Junia, a woman, is among the apostles. Some have assumed Junia is really Junias a name of a man to smooth out the theological problem of her being called an apostle. But does it actually say she is an apostle? It actually means they were ranked well among the apostles for their labor; it does not mean there were women apostles. The Greek (Greek: en tois apostolois) means “outstanding in the eyes of the apostles,” not “outstanding among or as being an apostle with the other apostles.” They had a high reputation and were distinguished, respected by the apostles, and known to the other apostles. This was used in a general sense in the same manner Epaphroditus is called a fellow soldier and messenger Phil.2:25. This verse in Romans 16 is far too ambiguous and a stretch to establish a doctrine of female apostles in the technical sense. Certainly Paul is not assigning Junia the same position of the twelve; that he himself had. Even if Paul meant she was apostle, he would have to be using the word apostle in a non-technical sense, not in the manner of the twelve, but referring to her as a “messenger” or “missionary” (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25). This would certainly fit his teaching and the Biblical revelation. However, if Junia is an apostle, then so are Andronicus, and the others.

Paul says they were “in Christ before me” pointing out their labor going on before his. Paul may be recollecting their labor of help when Priscilla provided lodging when he started the church as Corinth (Acts18:1-3) and Lydia did as well (Acts 16:15). The apostle Paul makes mention elsewhere of others worthy in there labors, which seems to bring sense to this verse, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life” (Phil. 4:3.)

Jesus did not select any female apostle; all the apostolic positions in the New Testament are men. There is no clear example of a female apostle given in the New Testament.

Here is why Jesus appointed all men to be apostles- “These twelve disciples Jesus sent out and commanded them”, Matt. 10:5. Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, John 6:70. “And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits” Mark 6:7. “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also” Luke 10:1. Each time we see the number 12 it is used for the apostles that were handpicked and all men. Even when we see the church years later during its development in Acts 6:2-3 “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” It is then they appoint servant helpers to free them up to pray, study and teach. The twelve gathered the disciples and picked men who would serve under them so they can be devoted to the Word of God. This was keeping to the creation order and the effect of the fall as Paul explains in 1 Tim. 2:11-14.

It is later we find another apostle is added, Paul. Yet Paul makes a very specific statement in 1 Cor.15:8--he calls himself the last of the apostles. So we can see that the 12 disciples were men and we can safely assume the other 70 disciples chosen were all men, not women either, (though the Bible is silent on this); we find the same instructions were applied to both the 12 and the 70. Most find this concept of the 70 rooted in Ex 18:21-26 where Jethro gave the advice that Moses select “from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times” V.24 “So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said”(Num.11:6,25). [note: the number 70 is probably the most consistent number used in Scripture next to the numbers 40 and 12.] Also we find this in Deut.15:16 where wise men were appointed and they are made captains over thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens. Also we see only 12 apostles picked by the lamb are acknowledge in heaven “Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”(Rev. 21:14).

Women Pastors

“If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (1 Tim.3:1). The word “office” means one serves as a superintendent in “service” by “ministering”, or “work.” In other words, “the work of an overseer.”

Greek .epi, “over,” skopeo, “to look or watch” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).

“Elder” was the Jewish term and “bishop was the Greek for the same office, both these terms are interchangeable. “Elder” was often used as an older man, and “bishop” is the word for his office (work), or ministry as an overseer. So the qualification meant a man who is mature. In Acts 20:17 Paul called the elders of the church. They were mature spiritual men who were the leaders in the Church. In every instruction the elder, deacon, bishop, or overseer is instructed to be male, a husband of one wife. It is the men who are singled out as the overseers? The Scripture is following the creation order of God from the Genesis account. A pastor has authority over the church as a husband has authority in the home. Women are forbidden to exercise such authority over a man through the Church or home, therefore they cannot be pastors over a local church or apostles over churches, both exercise authority over great number of men. The reason is that men would in both the home and church accountable to women, a reversal of the creation order. Eve was not to watch over Adam but Adam was to watch over Eve. It is important to note that Jesus did not choose women as His apostles and the apostle Paul’s instruction of the leading and teaching ministry in the church gives the responsibility to men (1 Tim. 2:11-15). There were no women apostles, as all the apostles were men. The biblical standards for pastoring apply only to men as well (1 Tim. 3:2-4; Titus 1:5-9). This does not mean by having different positions they cannot work harmoniously work together in ministry, they can. To their husband as the pastor or to another, but they cannot be the authority leading the church

The letter of 2 John is addressed to “the chosen or elect lady,” some claim this is a letter written to a woman ruling over a church. That this is not written to the church as a whole, because the chosen lady is distinguished from her children (2 John 1, 4), and the “chosen lady” refers to a woman who has authority over her children. This authority sounds similar to the office of elder,

2 John is addressed to “the chosen or elect lady” some assume she was a women elder ruling over a church. they connect this with women elders in Titus 2:3 as he mentions older women. (translations render this word “older women,” elder- presbutis; feminine- an older woman: a feminine rendering of the term presbyteros (elder) that in Titus 1:5 refers to in a church office. 1 Tim.3 says the same thing as Titus 1:5 “ordain elders in every city” and these were male (this is made clear is his mention in 1:6-7, they are to be male). The elderly women are probably meant as aged, as Titus 2:4 makes clear their ministry “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children”, “obedient to their own husbands.”

The “chosen lady” may be someone who has hosted the church in her house, as did other women or someone who has brought many to know the Lord. But we need to notice the letter is written to both her and her children. Her children may be a reference to her family, except for the fact that no epistle is written to families but to churches. Some have argued that because John introduces himself as elder and not apostle that it is to an individual. The “chosen lady” in 2 John is most likely not an individual woman but a reference to a local church as part of the greater body. John uses the second person plural in verses 6, 8, 10, and 12. The plural demonstrates that he is not writing to one person only; he is writing to an entire church. He ends the epistle in v.13 with the children of your elect sister greet you, so we have two elect sisters, two churches. So the “elect lady” seems to imply the premise that a church is meant. However even if this is written to a woman hosting a meeting in her home it does not mean she is the pastor. In 3 John he addresses the letter specifically to Gaius about the church and mentions in v.9 he previously wrote to the church and recommends Demetrius to replace Diotrephes.

One of the favorite passages that women use to prove women are allowed to be leaders is found in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek (pagan or gentile), there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

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