Chapter 24: GOD ASSIGNED A SPECIAL
ROLE FOR WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
by James O. Baird
There is a great deal of
confusion today as to woman's role both in the home and in the church. This
uncertainty provides a good opportunity to study afresh what the Bible teaches
on the subject. As the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim.
3:15), it is most important that the church reflect Biblical truth about woman's
HOW JESUS DEALT WITH WOMEN
A good place to begin a study
of woman's role in the church is with the earthly ministry of Jesus. We
understand, of course, the church did not begin while Jesus was on earth
(Matthew 16:18), but after he ascended into Heaven (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; Acts
2:1-4). Nevertheless, we can learn something about women's role in the church by
studying how Jesus considered them during his earthly ministry.
We know that none of the
apostles were women (Matt. 10:2-4). However, some of Jesus' closest disciples
were women. Luke 8:2-3 mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and "many
others" who helped provide financial support for Jesus and the apostles as they
went about preaching. Later, when the apostles fled the crucifixion scene in
fear, certain faithful and sorrowing women remained to watch his death on the
cross (Matt. 27:55-56).
From these and other references
in the Gospels we learn that Jesus in no way dealt with women as being inferior
to men as far as being his disciples was concerned. In selecting men rather than
women to be his apostles, he did make some distinction in the roles men and
women should fill. These two basic principles, i.e., (1) equality of worth in
Christ's sight, and (2) difference in role assignments for men and women, were
clearly taught in the early church, and should, or course, be reflected in the
WOMAN'S ROLE IN THE CHURCH
When the church began on the
Day of Pentecost, women, as well as men, came into it in great numbers (Acts
5:14). There were no distinctions made in conditions of membership between the
sexes. Furthermore, the importance of women to the whole church is reflected by
the concern which the early church had for widows who needed care and help (Acts
The good works of women are
frequently mentioned in Scripture. Dorcas is cited as an example of faithful,
loving service (Acts 9:36-39). Lydia is revealed as being a woman of great
hospitality, "constraining" Paul and his company to abide in her house (Acts
16:1-15). Phoebe is described as a "servant of the church that is in Cenchreae"
(Romans 16:10). The many good works of women in the church is further reflected
as Paul describes the qualifications for women who were to devote full time to
Christian work and to be supported by the church. In 1 Timothy 5:9-10 these
qualifications included widowhood, being sixty or more years of age, having no
kin of their own to support them, and being "well reported of for good works."
These good works were then stated as (1) bringing up children, (2) showing
hospitality to strangers, (3) washing the saints' feet, (4) relieving the
afflicted, and (5) diligently following every good work.
Woman's role in the private
teaching of God's Word is also referenced in Scripture. In Acts 18:26 Priscilla,
with her husband, Aquila, privately taught a good, but misinformed preacher (Apollos)
"the way of God more accurately." Titus 2:4 commands older women to train
younger women in Christian living.
A key verse in understanding
the importance of women in the eyes of God is Galatians 3:28, "There can be
neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male
and female, for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus." In the world of Jesus' day,
there were sharp distinctions among people by which they looked upon each other
as inferior or superior and, because of these differences, separated themselves
from each other. These differences included religious background (Jew and
Greek), special status (slave or slave owner), or sex (male and female). Paul
wrote that none of these distinctions was valid as far as worth is concerned. He
did not mean, certainly, that when one became a Christian he or she ceased to be
a man or a woman, a slave or a free man, a Jew or a Gentile. None of these,
however, should cause separation , because all are of equal preciousness in
DIFFERING ROLES FOR MEN AND
Although the church is to hold
unswervingly to the view that women and men are equally valuable in the eyes of
God, it must also reflect the New Testament teaching that men and women are to
fill different roles in the church.
For instance, in the Lord's
plan for church government each congregation is to be led by elders and deacons
(Philippians 1:1). In listing the qualifications for elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus
1:5-9) and for deacons (1 Tim. 3:12) being the "husband of one wife" is
mentioned. This obviously excludes women from these roles; only men are to be
elders and deacons.
Although women can teach
privately, as we learned from the example of Priscilla, women are forbidden to
teach men publicly (1 Tim. 2:12). The common practice today of women being
accepted as preachers is not a practice approved in the New Testament and should
not be practiced in the church (1 Cor. 14: 34).
The great emphasis today on the
rights of women should not cause Christians to question the Lord's forbidding
women to assume certain roles in the church. Even if no reasons for this action
were given we should accept by faith what God has revealed. Some reasons,
however, were given. Consider the following:
1. Woman's role in the church
reflects the original act of creation in which man was first created (1 Tim.
2. Woman's role in the church
reflects that it was the woman who was first deceived by Satan and fell into sin
(1 Tim. 2:13).
3. Woman's role in the church
is closely connected to her unique role in the home. Woman alone can give birth
to children (1 Tim. 2:15). The man must care for and provide for his wife and
love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). The woman's willing
submission to her husband is most likely to call forth the best of his care
(Eph. 5:22,33). In order for there to be the greatest amount of happiness in the
home, God has established different roles for men and women in the home. This
difference is likewise to be reflected in the church.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
In summary, we have found: (1)
The church should teach what the Bible states about the role of women,
regardless of what others are teaching and practicing. (2) Christ accepted women
as his followers on the same basis as men, although he appointed no women
apostles. (3) Women were among the earliest members of the church and an
important part of its life. They were outstanding in their abilities to extend
hospitality, to help provide for the needy and to express serving love which is
to characterize the church as the family of God. (4) In God's sight men and
women are to accept each other as being of equal value because God respects both
equally. (5) God has ordained there are certain roles in the church which a
woman cannot fill, and has given reasons why he made this distinction.
The church must uphold what God
has set forth in this and all other matters.
How do we know that women were
among the followers of Jesus while he was on the earth? Give the Scripture.
How do we know none of the
apostles were women? Give the Scripture.
What is a Scripture which
teaches women were members of the church in Jerusalem?
What woman is mentioned in Acts
9 as an example of one helping the needy?
What woman is mentioned in
Acts16 as being one who provided outstanding hospitality?
How do we know women are not to
be elders and deacons? Give the Scripture.
Are the reasons the Bible gives
for not permitting women to teach publicly, reasons which are based on passing
social customs or more permanent reasons? Look up the verses which deal with
this subject and discuss your conclusions.