Purpose of this Session
As we have witnessed, there are numerous examples of women used of God as His mouthpiece in the Old Testament. Without prejudice, what would one then expect in the New? Joel prophesied a day, and it is the day of grace when the Spirit is poured out, that both sons and daughters, servants and handmaidens would prophesy – speak in inspired utterance, preach under the anointing, declare the Word of the Lord (Joel 2).
Psalm 68, the very same Psalm that prophesies the five fold ascension gifts, also declares that a great host of women will declare the good news (Psalm 68:11 literal rendering).
Peter declared that Joel’s prophecy found fulfilment at Pentecost, and its outworking has been flourishing and bearing fruit ever since.
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:” (Acts 2:16-18)
Do we find evidence of these handmaidens and daughters of God prophesying in the New Testament accounts? With certainty!
Here are a few significant ministers mentioned in the New Testament:
a. The Son of God was born through a woman.
b. Four women are mentioned specifically in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile.
c. Jesus taught and commended women as well as men. Other Rabbi’s considered women incapable of grasping divine truths and refused to teach them (Luke 11:38-42). It is easy for us to miss the significance of these encounters in the context of the culture in which Jesus was ministering.
d. Jesus appreciated and allowed women to aid his ministry financially (Luke 8:1-3)
e. Much to the surprise of the disciples, Jesus ministered to the woman at the well in Samaria, who subsequently witnessed to the men of the city and brought them to Jesus (John 4)
f. Jesus honoured marriage as intended by God, thereby honouring women (Matt 19:3-11)
g. Women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb.
h. The first people to proclaim the resurrection were women (Matt 28:9-10)
Although Judaism was predominantly a man’s religion, disallowing women into the priesthood, the New Covenant has made every believer, men and women, priests unto God.
Some examples from the book of Acts include:
“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant (deacon) 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 a succourer of many, and of myself also.” (Romans 16:1-2 KJV)
Here is a woman commended by Paul as a servant (deacon, minister) of God. Clearly Phebe was involved in gospel work, and Paul encourages his readers to aid her endeavours in what ever way they can.
Catherine Booth quotes the writer Theodoret as saying “The fame of Phebe was spoken of throughout the world. She was known not only to the Greeks and Romans, but also to the Barbarians.” This implies that she travelled widely propagating the gospel in foreign lands.
b. In Romans 16 Paul mentions ten women’s names who were fellow-workers in the gospel.
These fellow workers are referred to as helpers, co-labourers, companions in labour, and work-fellows in Christ.
c. Paul makes it clear that both men and women may pray and prophesy in public meetings (1 Cor 11:5)
Incidentally, this affirmation of a woman’s right to speak in public meetings is in the very same letters that some use to try and silence them. The overwhelming evidence from Scripture bears out the place of women within ministry, compared to the extremely limited evidence of only a couple of controversial scriptures that appear to limit it, and even there proper contextual interpretation of these verses removes any argument against a woman’s right to speak and minister in the Church of Christ.
d. Euodias and Syntyche are called fellow-workers in the gospel (Phil 4:2,3)
e. Older women are told to teach the younger women the ways of God (Tit 2:4,5; 1 Tim 5:2)
f. John wrote to the ‘elect lady’ who apparently had a church in her house (2John1)
g. Both men and women were in the upper room and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:13-15; Acts 2)
h. Lydia was the first to covert to Christianity in Europe and opened her house to the gospel (Acts 16:14-15)
i. Chief women of Thessalonica were converted under Paul’s ministry (Acts 17:4)
j. Pricilla and Aquilla were a husband and wife team teaching the Word (Acts 18:24-26)
k. Philip had four daughters who were all known to prophesy (Acts 21:9)
l. Junia (Rom 16:7) whose name indicates that this was a woman, is called an apostle.
Junia is mentioned by early church leaders such as John Chrysostom (337-407) and Origen (185-253), who recognised her as both female and an apostle. Chrysostom wrote, “Oh, how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!”
m. Paul’s hall of faith in Hebrews 11 mentions women who believed God for great miracles (Hebrews 11:35) as well as other notable women of faith throughout history
To sum up briefly what we have considered so far, we can see that there is absolutely no scriptural grounds to disallow female ministry in the Body of Christ at any level. We find women evangelists, prophets, apostles, teachers, pray-ers. We discover women who believed God for miracles, and instruction to the church about how both men and women should conduct themselves in public meetings where they are released to pray and prophesy. We find church leaders, gospel workers, tongue talkers and elders of house churches.
In the light of this evidence, we will now consider the two verses that have caused so much consternation in the history of the church.