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The Role of Women in the Ministry



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The Role of Women in the Ministry...................................................................................2
The Debate about Women Roles in the Ministry...............................................................2
Why There Is a Debate about Women Roles in the Church..........................................3
Various Views on the Role of Women in the Church.........................................................4
Biblical Basis of the Roles of Women in the Ministry........................................................6
The basis in Jesus Ministry...........................................................................................6
The Basis in the Early Church........................................................................................7
The Basis of Creation.....................................................................................................9
Examples of Biblical Women and Their Roles in the Ministry
Position of the woman in the modern church

The Role of Women in the Ministry

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In the contemporary generation, democracy has matured, such that gender
equality is being practiced in most places. One issue that has troubled democracy for a
long time is the lack of gender equality. Women have been the most unfortunate in this
case whereby have been segregated on various grounds, including their roles in the
church. Segregation of women is an issue that troubled theologians, especially when it
comes to the roles women play in the church. Essentially, women are supposed to have
the same role in the society as men. Even most countries have enacted laws to ensure
women takes up at least a third of the roles available. However, the Bible does not
provide such favors and even early apostles, such as Paul claimed that women must be
quiet in the church. Nevertheless, the word of God is supposed to treat everyone
equally because everyone is considered a child of God. At the same time, the word of
God needs not to be misinterpreted. This means that there is a need for a clear
understanding of the roles of the women based on accurate biblical and historical
interpretation, which is the main focus of this paper.
The Debate about Women Roles in the Ministry
There exist various views about women's roles in the church, which has triggered
various debates on the issue, such that the issue has become secular. The debate
about women's roles in the church comes as a result of failure to make a distinction
between things that matter, based on the word of God. Many people have quoted the
text of Paul in 1Timothy and in 1Corinthians to claim that women are not supposed to
partake in the certain roles in the church. However, this has been done without
considering things that matter and thus the debate has not been productive.

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Why There is a Debate about Women Roles in the Church
The debate on the roles of women in the church has arisen because of confusion
in two areas. In the first place, there is a confusion arising from lack of distinction
between structure and authority in the church on one hand and an outstanding gift of
individuals in the ministry. In the second place, there is a misunderstanding of the
position of woman in the home in relation to the position of women in the church. The
church of the New Testament is not an amorphous mob, but rather an organized
institution founded on a given authority, organized in a hierarchical way. This implies
that the church has differentiated roles that trace its origin on the words of Jesus Christ,
who said I will build my church.1 This implies that, it is His church, organized based on
His directions. As a result, Jesus Christ Himself trained its leadership consisting of the
twelve disciples, who were all men, and put them in place to represent His authority.
This implies that the first church was birthed on the leadership of only men. Even later,
during the times of the apostles, there was no woman apostle, which raises the question
of the role of women in the ministry.2
It is possible to conclude that during the time of Jesus Christ, women did not
have a high position in the society and thus it would have been prudent for Jesus to
establish His church based on the culture of that time. However, this could not have
been the case because Jesus did not put into considerations the traditions of men
because He did what needed to be done rather than what people were thinking. This
means that it is clear that the authority of the church was founded on the apostles, who

Mathew 16;18
Batchelor, Doug, God's Role for Women in Ministry, 2010, derived from: http://www.amazingfacts.org/medialibrary/book/e/2/t/gods-role-for-women-in-ministry.aspx

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are men. However, women had specific roles they played alongside men in the ministry.
They were gifted in these roles, and this has been misconstrued with the authority of the
apostleship bestowed on men.
Various Views on the Role of Women in the Church
Several authors have offered their views on the roles of women in the ministry,
and most of them seek to erase the confusion arising from the issue. Dr. John
MacArthur claims that women were followers from the beginning. However, Satan
bypassed the authority of a man and told the woman how they were supposed to relate
to one another in carry out the instructions of God. MacArthur claims that the first
ministry was that of obedience to the word of God, in taking care of the creation. 3 This
ministry was bestowed upon the first man Adam whereas, the first woman, Eve, was
supposed to be the helper. However, Eve decided to play the headship role whereby
she was explaining their mandate on earth in relation to the commands of God.
However, she ended up being confused by the serpent because she did not understand
her role clearly. This resulted in sin entering the world and the situation highlighted the
dangers that results from misplacing roles. MacArthur argues that Satan had used the
proper authority, he could not have convinced the man to sin. This implies that replacing
the position of man in the ministry can be disastrous.
Robert Saucy, a seasoned theologian, claims that women are not to be wholly
above men in the ministry. He claims that the Bible is clear on the authority of man and
the duties of women in the ministry and thus he prohibits running churches on the
supreme authority of women. Saucy claims that women can be pastors or occupy any

MacArthur, John, Different By Design,(Chariot Victor Publishing: Colorado Springs, 1994), 48.

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position in the ministry, but they should be accountable to men in some way as the final
authority of the church on earth. For instance, it will be a disaster to have a woman as
the Pope of the Catholic Church. Saucy uses the analogy of marriage whereby
inasmuch as both men and women plays equal parenting roles, but the man remains
the head of the house4.
Tim Bayly and Hugenberger claim that discussing the spiritual commands
relating to the role of women in the ministry can sometimes mislead the church. They
claim that the contemporary church is keen on eradicating any stumbling blocks,
including some unclear spiritual commands likely to bar women from taking up any roles
in the church. However, they claim that such stand is very dangerous and can
destabilize the church. Nevertheless, Bayly and Hugenberger states that as long as a
woman is gifted by God, she should be allowed to perform in the gifted role. This means
that authority and gifts should be the distinguishing factors when discussing the roles of
women in the ministry. Bayly and Hugenberger claims that there is a reason why the
apostolic authority was bestowed on men only, even though were some effective
women at that time5.
Stephen Lowe claims that women should be allowed to serve in any capacity in
the ministry, and this should not be dictated by the culture or the traditions prevailing in
the society. Lowe claims that some section of the text in the Bible written by Paul was
meant to serve the culture of that time. However, the situation has changed and even

Saucy Robert, Women's Prohibition to Teach Men: An Investigation into Its Meaning and Contemporary Application,
Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society,vol. 37, no. 1, 1994, 95.
Hugenberger, Gordon, Women in Church Office: Hermeneutics or Exegesis? A survey of Approaches to 1 Tim 2:816, Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society vol. 35, no. 3, 1992, 342.

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Jesus Christ was not distracted by the cultural circumstances. 6 This implies that women
are not bound by any law and they are allowed to serve in the ministry as long as they
are gifted.
Biblical Basis of the Roles of Women in the Ministry
From the foregoing analysis, it is clear that women have special roles in the
ministry, and this can be well understood by considering various Biblical basics. Such
considerations involve women's roles in the time of Jesus, women's roles in the time of
the early church, and women's roles during creation.
The Basis in Jesus Ministry
During the time of the ministry of Jesus, women were believed to be inferior and
subordinate in almost every area of life. The home was there place and they were
required to be good mothers and wives, but could not participate in any public activity. A
Jewish historian called Josephus said that the law holds that a woman is inferior to man
in all things. However, through His actions and teachings, Jesus asserted that worth
women are and valuable equally as men within Gods service and love. One area where
Jesus challenged men was on disputes regarding sexual relations. During this time, the
right to divorce belonged to men exclusively who would use any reason to justify
divorce. This grieved Jesus and He never tolerated such male chauvinism. This made
Him recall the concept of one flesh written in Genesis 2:24 about the intention of God in
marriage matters, as well as a mutual partnership. Cases of sexual sin were accounted
to women, but Jesus overturned this by telling the men that looking at a woman lustfully
was equivalent to committing adultery in the heart. Jesus rejected any laws that

Lowe, Stephen, Rethinking the Female Status/Function Question: The Jew/Gentile relationship as Paradign,
Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 37, no. 1, 1991, 65.

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declared women as unclean as it was in the beginning. For instance, He allowed a
woman who had suffered from menstrual bleeding for twelve years to touch His garment
and he recommended her faith. In this case, Jesus was positioning women to their
rightful roles in the ministry.
Teachers of the time of Jesus were not allowed to teach women, but Jesus
taught them and even included them in the groups of the disciples who were committed.
According to in the information in Luke 8:1-3, several women were part of the
bandwagon of Jesus Christ and therefore, they played a role in His ministry together
with the disciples. Women were also present during the crucifixion and burial of Jesus
Christ, as well as on the morning when Jesus resurrected. Jesus asserted the worth of
disciples and being obedient to God, over the natural role of a mother. That is why He
says that His mother and brothers are people who hear the word of God and exercise
it.7 He added that blessed are the people who hearken to Gods word according to Luke
Inclusion of women in his activities molded them to be His witnesses as they
recognized Him as the Savior of Mankind and as the risen Lord. It was also the
Samaritan woman who took responsibility to evangelize in her town and the gospels
indicate that the first people to declare Jesus resurrection message were women
disciples. It is well known that Jesus had male disciples, but it has not been realized that
women disciples were also devoted to the ministry and these women included Mary the
mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene as well as the other Mary, Joanna, Salome,
Susanna, and Mary of Bethany.

Luke 8:21

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The Basis in the Early Church
It is clear according to the book of Acts that women were present in the first
church and they participated in the churchs growth and expansion. The group of the
disciples who waited for the Holy Spirit filling in Jerusalem also entailed women. Luke
comments that women were part of the number that kept expanding leading to the early
church growth. During the time when Paul persecuted Christians, women were also part
of the church. Women are also mentioned severally in the book of Acts about how they
used to spread the church and some of them include Lystra, the widows in Joppa,
Damaris in Athens, the wives in Tyre, a Berea woman who was prominent, and Priscilla
in Corinth, and many more.8
On top of documenting the increased women's presence in the early church,
three more significant items are presented in the accounts of Acts. The first item is the
fact that when the Holy Spirit came down to fulfill the word of God according to Joel
2:28-32, both women and men were present. In Acts 1-2, Peters interpretation of the
events was that the Pentecost symbolized the last days when the Holy Spirit was to be
poured to both women and men and make them prophesy. The events written in Acts 2
have been the key arguments in support of women's ministry throughout the modern
church history.
The second item is the participation of women in establishing the Philippians
church. Paul began the Philippi church with a group of women that met outside the city
gate regularly for prayer. Lydia was one of the leaders of the places of prayer that was
called a synagogue. Together with her family, Lydia played a significant role in the

Feldmeth, Nathan, and George Ladd,Women in Ministry, 2008, derived from: http://www.fuller.edu/womeninministry/

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establishment of the Philippians church. This shows that women were very active in
ministry during the time of Paul. Third, Priscilla is also indicated as a woman who was
important in ministry. It is under Priscillas advice together with her husband Aquila that
Apollo became an excellent teacher in the church.
The Basis of Creation
Basically, the partnership of men and women was founded by God Himself
during the creation time and in the church ministry. To begin with, Adam was created in
Gods own image and it is through His image that God identified human beings as a
male and a female. Moreover, after Gods creation, He gave both women and men the
mandate to take care of all that He had created. Therefore, the genders were created to
be partners, but not to subordinate women and with the men claiming to be superior.

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Batchelor, Doug. "God's Role for Women in Ministry." Amazing Facts. 2010. Web. 13
Jul. 2013.< http://www.amazingfacts.org/media-library/book/e/2/t/gods-role-forwomen-in-ministry.aspx>.
Feldmeth, Nathan and George Ladd. "Women in Ministry." Fuller Theological Seminary.
2008. Web. 13 Jul. 2013.< http://www.fuller.edu/womeninministry/>.
Hugenberger, Gordon. "Women in Church Office: Hermeneutics or Exegesis? A survey
of Approaches to 1 Tim 2:8-16." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
35.3 (1992): 341-360.
Lowe, Stephen. " Rethinking the Female Status/Function Question: The Jew/Gentile
relationship as a paradigm." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37.1
(1991): 59-75.
MacArthur, John. Different by Design. Colorado : Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.Print.
Saucy, Robert. "Women's Prohibition to Teach Men: An Investigation into Its Meaning
and Contemporary Application." Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society
37.1 (1994): 79-97.

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