Women and spiritual work
What is the role of women in spiritual work and in the church? What does the Bible say about the subject and the shepherd of the church?
In this writing we are going to examine the position of women in the church. The purpose is to examine what the Bible says about it, to examine verses that in some way are connected with this subject. We examine verses from both the New and the Old Testament. We will also examine some practical examples.
First we are going to examine our greatest need, whether we are spiritual workers or not. It is important that this need is met in everyone’s life because all other needs are small compared to it.
NEED – SALVATION.
Regarding spiritual life and eternity, it is most important
that we are born again, we walk in faith, we have been
forgiven, and we have fellowship with God. This concerns
both spiritual workers and those who are not engaged in
spiritual work. Someone who is a member of a congregation
might still not have experienced these things but can be
outside of them and on his way to damnation. In other words,
we could be members of a congregation, could have the
education of a priest, or we could come from a believing
home, but still be outside of the
Let’s study a related quote. Niilo Yli-Vainio wrote about people who want to seem Christian but who completely lack inner experience. They are unable to give a definite answer to the question of whether or not they are saved.
In the course of my spiritual work, I must have asked thousands of people if they were believers. An ordinary sinner admits, “Not yet.” But the convert beats about the bush and does not give a direct answer to a direct question. He wants to be a Christian but he lacks the internal experience. That is why he cannot really even lie properly. He does not want to deny – or admit – that something in his innermost being says that there is no assurance of what has been talked about.
Often the convert bases his faith on the supposed faith of his father or mother, on the church or on some Christian action or deeds, such as the baptism of child or partaking of the Communion. (1)
Are we in the faith? Based on the previous information, one should ask oneself the following question: “Am I in faith?” This question was asked from of some well-known an influential members of the Church (magazine Kotimaa 26 July 2007), and some of them were unable to give an unambiguous answer. This shows that issues of faith were in the dark for these people.
might ask how anyone could be a
if he cannot answer positively even this basic question. For
example, Pietism and other revivalist movements in
Therefore, regarding your own life, ask yourself whether or not you are really in faith, whether you have been forgiven, whether you have the assurance of salvation and Christ in your heart, or whether your faith is only theoretical and rational? It is good to present these questions to yourself because there is no use to take a stand on spiritual issues if you do not yet understand the main issues of faith and are outside salvation. We have to first reach a clear understanding, so that we can advise others later.
Let us look at a passage that addresses rational versus trusting faith. There is a difference between these two approaches. The person in the account stood in theoretical and rational faith for a long time but then he understood that it did not take his work to connect with God. You should also think about what your state is before God, right now. Tell God your current state, how you have responded to His will to save you, and that you now want to be assured of salvation. Don't ignore this thing that will affect your eternal destiny:
(...) This is why people demanded that one could not be in faith before having to accept doctrines, doctrines, DOCTRINES of the Gospel as a precondition for faith. But I had been guided to accept these doctrines rationally and firmly before my conversion. I was also told that I had to believe, and I answered that I do believe – and any claim or speech could not convince me that I did not believe the Gospel. And I was not and neither could be convinced of my mistake up to the moment of my conversion.
At the moment of my conversion or when I first time practiced faith, I saw my disastrous mistake. I noticed that faith is not a rational conviction of that the truths about Christ in the Bible are true but it is trust of heart in the person of Christ. I learned that God’s witness of Christ had to lead me to trust in Christ, to believe in Him as my Saviour, and that mere believing in the doctrines of Christ was a fateful mistake, which unavoidably left me to my sins. (...) Besides firm rational conviction being directed to His willingness and abilities, it would also be of utmost importance to go to Him, turn to Him and trust Him… (2)
WOMEN IN THE CONGREGATION. This writing is about the status of women in the congregation, so let's study this subject. The previous chapters were included to make it clear for everyone how important salvation is. We must be saved before we can give others advice about spiritual matters. We cannot show others where they have gone wrong or help them if we do not want to change our own lives. If we did this, we would be blind leading the blind, as Jesus put it when teaching about the Pharisees of His time:
- (Matt 15:14) Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Let's begin studying this subject by considering a couple of verses from the New and the Old Testaments:
The most negative verses. Clearly the most negative verses about the position of women in the congregation can be found from the Epistles to the Corinthians and Timothy:
- (1 Cor ,35) Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also said the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
- (1 Tim ,12) Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
Other verses. Even though the previous verses can give a negative idea about the position of women in the congregation, we should still examine the issue in the light of the whole Bible. Therefore, let’s examine the following verses:
Prophesying and prayer. The Bible indicates very clearly that women can prophesy and pray, activities that require speaking and that usually occur in a congregation. “But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” and “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” (1 Cor 14:3, 31).
There is no hint that it was forbidden; instead, it is shown as part of normal activity. In the early church, “daughters,” “handmaidens” and “women” prophesied and prayed together with others:
- (Acts -18) But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
- (1 Cor 11:5,13) But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered…
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray to God uncovered?
- (Acts 1:13-15) And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where stayed both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
- (Acts -16) And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to listen, named Rhoda.
14 And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
15 And they said to her, You are mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
(Acts 21:8-10) And the next day we
that were of Paul’s company departed, and came to
9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from
An illustration of how God has used women as well as men is found in the service of prophetesses written about in the Old Testament: Miriam (Moses’ sister), Deborah, and Huldah. The New Testament mentions Anna, who spoke and witnessed about Jesus:
- (Exo , 21) And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dances.
21 And Miriam answered them, Sing you to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea.
(Judges 4:4-6) And Deborah, a
prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged
5 And she dwelled under the palm tree of Deborah between
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of
Kedeshnaphtali, and said to him, Has not the LORD God of
- (2 Kings 22:14,15) So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelled in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.
15 And she said to them, Thus said the LORD God of
- (Luke 2:36-38) And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise to
the Lord, and spoke of him to all them that looked for
The fellow workers and friends of Paul.
In the New Testament, in the Book of Acts, we read Paul’s
references to women who were both friends and co-workers in
spreading the Gospel. One of them was Priscilla who is
always mentioned together with her husband,
- (Acts 18:1-3, 24-26)
After these things Paul departed from
2 And found a certain Jew named
3 And because he was of the same craft, he stayed with them, and worked: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at
25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom
- (Rom 16:3-5)
Greet Priscilla and
4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the first fruits of Achaia to Christ.
- (1 Cor 16:19)
The churches of
- (2 Tim 4:19)
Salute Prisca and
There are also other mentions of women as fellow workers and friends of Paul. In the Epistle to the Romans, Chapter Sixteen, Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea, is mentioned, as are Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, and others. More people are mentioned in other letters, too:
- (Rom 16:1,2) I commend to you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
2 That you receive her in the Lord, as becomes saints, and that you assist her in whatever business she has need of you: for she has been a succorer of many, and of myself also.
- (Rom 16:6) Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us.
- (Rom ,13, 15) Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which labored much in the Lord.
13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.
- (Phil 4:2,3) I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
3 And I entreat you also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.
- (Philemon 1:1,2) Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer,
2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Other verses. Many verses can be found in the Bible that lead us to conclude that women were active in spreading the Gospel and served God’s purpose. One of them is the Samaritan woman through whom many believed as she spoke about Jesus. Therefore, she got to be an evangelist and guide others to salvation.
Women who proclaimed the Word are mentioned in Psalms 68, verse 11; and it is mentioned in the New Testament that Timothy had probably heard the Gospel from his mother and grandmother, how the apostles had their wives along with them, and how the women served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting:
- (John 4:28-30, 39-42) The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and said to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
30 Then they went out of the city, and came to him.
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40 So when the Samaritans were come to him, they sought him that he would tarry with them: and he stayed there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his own word;
42 And said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of your saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.
- (Acts 8:3,4) As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
- (1 Cor 9:5) Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
- (2 Tim 1:2-5) To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of you in my prayers night and day;
4 Greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy;
5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in you, which dwelled first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in you also.
- (Tit 2:3-5) The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
- (Exo 38:8) And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the mirrors of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
- (Ps 68:11 Good News Bible 1992) The Lord gave the command, and many women carried the news
The pastor of a congregation – what is the ideal model? We can see in the Bible that the roles of shepherd, pastor and elder generally belonged to men. The Apostles and the first official servants in the early church were men. In some letters are mentioned the qualities such person should have. It is mentioned, for example, that they should have only one wife:
- (1 Tim 3:1-7) This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how
shall he take care of the
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
- (Tit 1:5-9) For this cause left I you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed you:
6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the disputers.
Women as God’s servants.
Finally, let’s examine a quote about how women have acted as
God’s servants. In such movements as Pentecostalism and the
Salvation Army, for example, women have played an important
role in spreading the Gospel in areas where there have not
been enough men. In the same way, in some congregations as
Thus, women can have similar talents as men and they are needed in the same way to do the work of Gospel. Millions of people go to eternity without ever knowing Jesus. The next quote refers to this important issue:
Helena Eerola was a famous and trusted
prophet in the past. Liida Myyrä was a very powerful
evangelist who in the last years of her life worked among
the emigrants of
We must say that the share of women evangelists in the
1. Niilo Yli-Vainio: Kristitty vai käännynnäinen, p. 21
2. Charles G. Finney: Voima korkeudesta (Power from on High), p. 126, 127
3. Ensio Mustonen: Vuoritien kulkija, p. 71
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!