BIBLICAL MINISTRIES FOR WOMEN (Part 1)
|Depiction of Lydia of Thyatira|
1. The general ministrv of all baptized believers
Every truly Christian person was anointed and appointed and called to the general ministry or office of all believers at his or her baptism. Matt. 28:19 & Acts. 8:12 cf, Ex.19:3-8 & Num, 11:29 & Joel 2:16,28-29 & Acts 2:17,38-39 & I Cor. 12:13-20,26 & Gal. 3:27-28 & Eph, 4:4-5,12-13,16 & I Pet, 2:9, See also Martin Luther, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Westminster Larger Catechism.1
By virtue of this general ministry, all Christians are to be Christ's prophets and priests and kings at all times and in everything they do. Hence, all female Christians too are “heirs together” with all of their Christian brothers, and are themselves to be Christ's prophetesses and priestesses and queens -- all the time. I Pet. 3:7 cf. I Cor. 10:51 & Eccl. 3:1-13 & 5:18-20 & 9:7-10. Cf. also F.N. Lee’s 1977 Principles of Biblical Church Government, and especially the section there on The Office of All Believers. Indeed, every human being should be involved in serving God as a “minister” alias a “servant” of the Lord. Rom, 13:4 cf, I Tim, 1:12 & I Pet. 4:10-11.
2. The general ministry of all “sisters in Christ”
Godly Christian women conscientiously occupying the general office of all believers, do wonderful work for the Lord and His people. One need only think of many of the very “elect ladies” mentioned in Holy Scripture (cf. II John 1,5,13).
For Sarah was the very “mother” of all truly Christian women -- even as regards her respectful obedience to her husband Abraham. Cf. I Pet. 3:6 & Heb. 11:11. The penitent Rahab risked her very life to further the extension of God's Kingdom. Josh. 2 cf, Heb. 11:51 & Jas. 2:25. Under the influence of her godly mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth even abandoned her own nationality -- in order to become an ancestress of Jesus. Matt. 1 & Ruth chs. 1 to 4. And Esther Queen of Persia risked dethronement -- rather than not protest the persecution of the people of God. Est. 4:14-16.
Moreover, Mary the mother of Jesus gladly accepted the slander of evil men in exchange for the great privilege of bearing the Saviour in her own body. Luke 2:34-38 & John 8:18-42. Mary Magdalene and Johanna and Susanna and many other women “ministered” to Jesus with their possessions and through their services, both during His lifetime and after His death. Luke 8:2-3 & 23:56 to 24:10.
Both the female tentmaker Priscilla and the wealthy businesswoman Lydia -- placed their homes at the disposal of Paul and other preachers. Acts 16:14,15,40 & 18:2-26. And Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois gave that dedicated preacher his first infant groundings in the God-breathed Scriptures which they themselves had absorbed. II Tim. 1:5 & 3:14-17 cf. I Tim. 2:15 & Ti., 2:4-5.
3. The triple ministries of the special male offices: Preacher-Elder-Deacon
In addition to the above general office or ministry of all male and female believers, there are also three special male offices or ministries. These all seem to root in the “triune office” of the male Christ Jesus and in His prophethood and kingship and priesthood. Cf. Luke 4:18.
Now these three special male church offices are: the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments; the Ruling Eldership; and the Diaconate. See F.N. Lee's Principles of Biblical Church Government -- and specially its two sections ‘What is a Church Office?’ and ‘The Triune God and the Triune Office.’ Thus, according to the infallible teachings of Holy Scripture, all Preachers (in the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments) and all Governors (in the Ruling Eldership) are to be suitably-qualified adult communicant males. I Tim. 2:7 to 5:7 & Tit. 1 :5-13. And so too are the Deacons (in the Diaconate). Cf. Acts 6:1-8 & Phil. 1:1 & I Tim, 3:12.
4. The Biblical Diacomate of male Deacons: often helped by auxiliary fulltime Deaconesses
It must be noted that the first New Testament Deacons were all males -- even though elected to take care specifically of neglected widows. Acts 6:1-8 & 7:2,21 cf. I Tim. 5:8-13. Yet even in apostolic times, it is certain that specially-qualified Christian ladies helped those male Deacons. And they did so in the ladies' own fulltime auxiliary church ministry -- as Deaconesses. Cf. I Tim, 3:8-11 & 5:9-11 & Rom. 16:1-2.
Thus the same Paul mentions “the women” qualified to assist the male Deacons in I Tim. 3:8-11. Indeed, it is them whom he probably mentions again in 5:5-16, where they would seem to be mature women and especially diligent widows sixty years old and above. He also describes “our sister” Phebe not only as a patroness or “a succourer of many” but as “a diakonos of the church at Cenchrea.” Rom. 16:1-2.
Again, in the church at Lydda, Peter encountered the woman Tabitha or Dorcas who, by making “coats and garments” for impoverished widows, helped them in a similar way to the manner in which the first all-male Deacons did. Acts 9:56,59,41 cf. 6:1-8. Thus, not only the male Deacons but so too the “women” who obviously helped them, were to be respectable; unloquacious; circumspect; trustworthy in everything. I Tim. 3:8-11 cf. 2:9-11. Deaconesses* tasks apparently included especially: caring for widows and orphans; showing mercy to the sick; providing hospitality; and succouring many. I Tim. 3:8-11 cf. 5:3-16 & Jas, 1:27 & Rom. 12:4-13 & 16:1-2.
To be continued.