The Role of Women in the Church
Introduction: There continues to be a
major movement under way that is drastically affecting and changing the role of women in
the church, even, to some degree, the Lord's church. Women have an assigned role and also
limitations (I Tim. 5: 14, Tit. 2: 5; I Tim. 2: 12-15, women are not to be leaders in the
local church, I Tim. 3: 1, 2, 4, 5, cp. Eph. 5: 22-24). In this study, we shall
particularly focus our attention on what the female Christian can do in regards to the
I. Women in the church, a beneficial reality.
A. Some have concluded that because women have a primary domestic role and are expressly limited in the spiritual realm regarding the church that women are to be spiritually passive. This view is patently false (Consider how I Corinthians 14: 34 is misunderstood. If taken without any understood qualification, Paul would be restricting all women in the assembly from emitting a sound, meaning of Greek, "keep silence." The women appear to have been the prophet's wives who were causing confusion in the assembly by asking questions of their husbands, see context, vs. 29-35).
B. Like everyone else, women have to live morally, grow in the grace and knowledge of God, and remain faithful to the Lord (there is no justification for limiting commands such as the following to males only: 2 Corinthians 7: 1; Colossians 1: 10, 2 Peter 1: 5-11; Jude 21).
1.They too will appear before the judgment seat and be rewarded according to what they have and have not done - 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12.
C. The assembling of the saints and worship services are only a small portion of one's duty that involves the church. There are many other responsibilities in the areas of benevolence, edification and evangelism (the sum total of the work of the local church) that are fulfilled by Christians as they live their daily lives serving God. These actions strengthen the church and, in fact, they are often the measure of just how strong a church really is. We must remember, though, that a woman functioning in an individual manner does not automatically involve the local church, there is a difference between individual and collective action, I Tim. 5: 15).
D. The New Testament is replete with helpful women who strengthened men and churches. Let us mention just a few.
a. Phoebe (Rom. 16: 1, a servant of the church in Cenchrea).
b. Priscilla (Rom. 16: 3-5, Priscilla and Aquilla were fellow workers with Paul.
c. Romans 16:12 also lists women who were helpful to Paul. Concerning Tryphena and Tryphosa, Albert Barnes makes the following comment:
"These names, with the
participle rendered 'who labour,' are in the feminine gender, and these were probably two
holy women who
ministered to the sick, and who, with Persis, thus by example, and
perhaps by instruction, labored to promote the spread of Christianity. Pious females then,
as now, were able to do much in their proper sphere to extend the truths and blessings of
the gospel" (Barnes on the New Testament, Vol. 4, pg. 335).
II. What can women do in the church (both in the distributive and collective
sense use of "church")?
A. In the matter and act of public worship.
1.Women are to assemble as part of the local church (cp. I Cor. 14: 23, Heb. 10: 25).
a. Women are to partake of the Lord's Supper (I Cor. 11: 23-29, Acts 20: 7).
b. Women are to give of their means (I Cor. 16: 1, 2, discuss how both husband and wife are to be involved in the contributing of their means).
c. Women are to sing praise to God and edify others (Col. 3: 16, Eph. 5: 19).
d. Women are to pray (notice the qualification in I Timothy 2: 8, Greek, "men only." Women pray, though, through the male who leads the prayer in the assembly, cp. I Cor. 14: 16).
e. Women in the matter of preaching are not to be public proclaimers to and over men, but they also have the responsibility of attentively listening and making application (I Tim. 2: 12).
2.Women play an important role in the assembly in the matter of order (I Cor. 14: 33, 40). The mother is usually the one in charge of the children. However, the father should contribute a strong disciplinarian presence that can add control to the matter of children in the assembly.
B. In the area of Edification.
1. Edification means the spiritual building up of the members (Eph. 4: 15, 16, notice each member is to contribute to the over all edification).
a. Women can teach children, especially their own, as did Lois and Eunice (2 Tim. 1: 5).
b. Older women can teach younger women how they are to conduct themselves (Titus 2: 3-5).
c. They can encourage those who are discouraged and even compliment the strong (tell them they are doing a good job, cp. I Thes. 5: 14). Women, being often more verbal, can many times know the right thing to say to encourage a brother or sister who is struggling from the loss of a loved one, sickness, family problems, or even spiritual weakness.
d. Again, in the matter of edification in the assembly, women can help create a learning environment by the disciplining and control of their children.
C. In the area of evangelism or teaching the lost (I Tim. 3: 15).
1.Women, like men have the responsibility of teaching others (Acts 8: 1,4, 18: 26, notice that Priscilla played an active role in teaching Apollos).
a. A woman can certainly teach other women, both saved or lost (cp. Tit. 2: 4, 5).
b. The Samaritan woman, when she heard the truth about Jesus, went and told everyone (Jn. 4: 28-29, 39, 42, stress the difference in this example and the express teaching of I Timothy 2: 12).
c. There were women who assisted Jesus in his teaching (Mk. 15: 40, 41, Lk. 8: 1-3). Euodia and Syntyche labored with Paul in the gospel (Phil. 4: 2-3). As such they partake of the result (Phil. 4: 17).
d. Women can be a good example (Matt 5: 16, 1 Pet. 3: 1-4, cp. 2 Cor. 3: 2).
e. Women can host Bible studies in their homes (cp. I Cor. 16: 19).
D. Women in benevolence.
1. Benevolence is important (Jas. 1: 27; Matt. 25: 34-40). Again, the scriptures distinguish between individual and church (involving the treasury) benevolence (cp. I Tim. 5: 4, 16).
2. The natural attributes of women quite often make them very capable in this area. The woman cooks, keeps the home, visits the sick and needy (cp. Prov. 31: 10, 13, 15, 19, 20). Such matters as food and clothing are often involved in assisting the truly needy.
a. Dorcas was one known for helping needy widows - Acts 9:36-39.
b. 1 Timothy 5:9-10 tells of the elderly widow who can be taken into the number (supported). She had to have been benevolent. In the case of church benevolence, it is often the women, under the deacons, who assist in particulars such as food and clothing (see "Deacons, Their Work and Qualifications" for a study of "deaconesses," scroll down to the addendum.)
Conclusion: Women in the church are very important, but are too often relegated to positions of insignificance. Just because God has assigned to women a specific role that contains limitations in relation to men, does not mean that women are any less important (stress Proverbs 31: 10, her "price is far above rubies"). (For additional study material, click on, "I Timothy 2: 8-15, an Exegesis" and "An Exchange on the Role of Woman.")