What place do women have in the service of God? Are they relegated to minor supportive roles? Insignificance? Unimportant in the grand scheme of God’s work? Consider what the Scriptures say about the service of women.
Her Place in the Scroll
There are three books written about, or to, women. They are: Esther, a Jew; Ruth, a Gentile; and 2 John, written to the elect lady (and the church of God). So in these three we have the three branches of the human family. In the book of Esther, we see the usefulness of a woman by her influence on her husband for good. In Ruth we see the value of character and its results. In 2 John we learn the value of a woman’s home and hospitality.
Then, there is one chapter in our Bible which highlights a virtuous woman. In this chapter, Solomon concludes his treatise on virtues by embodying them all in a woman and showing the far-reaching effects of her character on others.
So far, an impressive start for the place of women in the service of God.
Women the Scriptures Extol
Think as well of women the Scriptures extol. Consider the honor roll of Romans 16. Eight, or perhaps nine, are women whom Paul appreciates or commends. What of Acts 16 and Lydia and her home in Philippi? She used her home for the furtherance of the work. In Acts 18 we see the wise private counsel of Aquila and Priscilla; what a support to her husband. There are also other Scriptures which mention the service of Priscilla. In Philippians 4 there are women who labored with Paul in some form in the gospel.
This is only a brief and partial listing of women in the New Testament. You could add Mary and Martha, Dorcas, Mary, Anna, Elizabeth, and others. Each played a unique and significant role in the work of God, but each within a sphere defined by the Word of God.
Word of God and her Role
There are perhaps three spheres in which a sister moves and has influence. The first is her
Role in the Home
What she does in the home she does as “unto the Lord” and as such represents genuine service – by faith – to the Lord.
The raising of children is done for the Lord. Think of 2 Timothy 1 and Eunice and her influence; then of Hannah and Samuel; Jochebed and Moses. There was the influence of godly women on sons who were kings. We can read of Wesley’s mother and her prayer life for her family.
Women who raise their children according to divine precepts and standards are living “by faith.” Any time the truth of God guides behavior, it is a step of faith.
Hospitality marks godly women in their service for God. It may not seem like there is much glory and excitement linked with dirty dishes and a much-used kitchen, but it has been the means of blessing to many assemblies. The elder who is apt to teach is linked in 1 Timothy 3 with his hospitality; it suggests that a lot of teaching is done around a meal. The reality, however, is that the wife is the real entertainer.
Little appreciated by most are the sacrifices a wife makes for her husband and the assembly. Every man who has been useful in God’s assembly has had a wife who made sacrifices to enable him to be the man he is.
Role in the Assembly
Titus 2 tells us that the older sisters are to be teachers of the younger sisters. What is the teaching here? In verse 3 the word does have the connotation of teaching (didasko), but in verse 4 it is “to recall to senses,” and is a different word (to be sober). The areas in which she instructs seem to be mostly related to home and family life. This would take place in the private sphere and not be part of a sister’s meeting. You cannot have an assembly meeting without the government of the assembly; also, the absence of the brethren does not suddenly free you from the restrictions of 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2.
Women are particularly suited to teaching Sunday school. With the innate sensitivity which God has given women, and the wisdom and care for children native to every woman’s heart, this sphere is uniquely theirs. Some object to a woman teaching, but a Sunday school class could hardly be considered an assembly meeting with small children, both boys and girls, speaking freely, asking and answering questions.
Her role in the assembly is also linked with the influence of her character. She gives character to the assembly and to the prayer meeting (1Tim 2). Her dress and deportment, when consistent with the prayers of the assembly, adds weight to the prayers of the brethren. She displays that she is willing to obey God; and her dress and attitude emphasize the spiritual and eternal. The thought in 1 Timothy 2 is not that her imposed silence and submission are punishment for her part in the fall, but that God is restoring the order of headship He instituted in creation.
She has also been given the service of prayer and personal work. But consider as well the sermon she silently preaches. Her submission and head covering in the gathering of the saints preaches to angels (1Cor 11:10). It would actually be wrong to begin a new assembly if there were no women available to make up part of the fellowship. Headship, an important truth, would not be fully displayed without women as part of the assembly.
Role in Society
Finally, consider her role in society in general. To her has been afforded the sphere of the home as her base of operations. From here she can move in good works to the neighbors and others in the assembly. She can be engaged in personal work, inviting mothers and neighbors into the home for opportunity to witness to them personally.
While Scripture defines the role of our sisters, affording public participation and public gift to the males, it does not limit in any measure the usefulness of our sisters or limit the honor and pleasure they can bring to the Lord Jesus from their service. God desires women, with their unique capability, to fill spheres defined by Scripture; the Spirit provides the direction.