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We previously laid a biblical foundation that male and female were created equal, so now we can deal with those scriptures that appear to ban women from ministry position in the church. There seem to be only two scriptures that appear to support the ban on women in ministry.
1 Corinthians 14:34 – “Let your women keep silence in the Churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.”
1 Timothy 2:11-12 – “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Literal interpretations of these verses seem to support the view of some pastors that women have no place as ministers, teachers, bishops or pastors except over other women. Remember the statement I made in Part I that the Bible cannot be read like a novel or storybook and we must view scripture in context and consider – what is being said, by whom, to whom, and in what context?
In 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12, Paul cannot be addressing women who were in ministry, but rather those in the congregation who were out of order. Why do I conclude this? There is ample evidence in the Bible that supports this conclusion, much of the evidence from Paul himself. There are many women identified by scripture who were all in influential positions of leadership in the early church. Let’s take a look at some of this Biblical evidence.
Romans 16:1-7 – “I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you; for she hath been succourer [one who stands by in case of need] of many, and of myself also. Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks; unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Phoebe, as used by Paul, the designation “sister” implies a spiritual relationship. In 1 Corinthians 7:15; 9:5, Paul calls the believing husband and wife, “the brother and the sister.” Young Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith.” Phoebe, then, was a member of a spiritual family in which the relationship is based upon the redemption of Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. How or when Phoebe became a Christian and a sister in the Lord, we are not told. What is evident is the manifestation of her sisterly love and labors among her sisters and brothers in Christ. “our sister” is a term indicating her Christian status. Phoebe was not only a member of a spiritual family, but she was also “a ministrant of the Church” In Cenchrea, or by today’s standards, a Deaconess. In fact, we can safely assume that Phoebe was one of the first, if not the first, deaconess in the Christian Church. She was beloved of Paul and many other Christians for the help she gave to them and she filled an important position of leadership. Wouldn’t it be a difficult stretch of the imagination to say that this woman fulfilled her duties as a Deaconess without ever speaking in the church as suggested by the verses noted in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy?
Paul often mentions Priscilla and her husband Aquila with great respect, and this was a couple that had it all together. Together they were pastors of a church in Ephesus, and were responsible for teaching the full gospel to Apollos. We are informed that they both taught Apollos, and pastured the church together. In fact, Priscilla is sometimes listed ahead of Aquila when their names come up. This has led some to speculate that of the two, she was the primary teacher and her husband oversaw the ministry. One of the most impressive aspects of the spiritual influence of Priscilla and Aquila was their deep knowledge of Christian truth. The eloquent and fervent Apollos with all of his brilliance and power suffered a sorry limitation as a preacher. He knows only “the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25). He knew nothing of salvation through the cross. The larger truths of the Gospel of Redemption were as yet unknown to him. Priscilla and Aquila followed the crowds who went to hear this most popular and persuasive preacher. As they listened, Priscilla and her husband detected the negative defects of the preaching of Apollos. Apollos knew the truth but not all the truth, and so in their quiet way, with all humility, Priscilla and Aquila set about correcting the apparent deficiency of Apollos. Inviting him to their home they passed no word of criticism on what they had heard him preach but with consummate tact instructed him Biblically in the truth of the crucified, risen and glorified savior. Apollos became so mighty in the Gospel that some of the Corinthians put him before Peter and Paul (1 Corinthians 1:12). If we cannot be great, by God’s grace we may be the means of making others great. At any rate, we see here a woman in a very prominent position of teaching and pasturing. (Other references to Priscilla and Aquila are Acts 18:2, 18; Romans 16:3, and 1 Corinthians 16:19).
Philippians 4:2-3, I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord and I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other of my labourers, whose names are in the book of life. The Scripture is silent on the genealogy and family association of these two women who, after their conversion, became co-laborers with Paul in the Gospel. Here we see reference to two “true yokefellow” [an associate or companion] and who labored with Paul in the advancement of the gospel.
Romans 16:7 – “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsman, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” In this verse we see Paul sending greetings to Andronicus and Junia, his “fellow-prisoners” who are of note among the apostles. Junia is a woman’s name. In some modern translations, an “s” has been added (Junias) because the translators were so sure a woman could not be an apostle, that they assumed a copyist had accidentally dropped the “s.” However, the proper male ending would have been “ius” not “ias.” No church commentator earlier than the Middle Ages questioned that Junia was both a woman and an apostle.
Though there were other women throughout the Bible in positions of leadership, such as prophetesses, evangelists, judges, leaders, etc., the above references should be enough to establish that women were indeed a vital and normal part of church leadership. Paul expected women to speak in the church or else why would he have given the directive in 1 Corinthians 11:5: – “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” It would have been useless to give directions for women who were speaking in the church, if they were never allowed to do so. Furthermore, if Paul believed that all women should never teach or speak in church, why does he commend many women who did just that?
FINAL PART IV NEXT SUNDAY
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