In our prior feature lesson, we studied I Timothy 2:8-15 and noted that there are certain things that Christian women cannot do if they are to please God. Here are some of the key points from that lesson:
So, we've considered the negative--what a woman cannot do if she intends to please God. Today, I want us to concentrate on the positive: What a woman can do. It needs to be emphasized that although God has placed some limits upon women regarding leadership and authority, this does not mean that women are of less value to the church than men. Those who believe such are seriously mistaken. I believe the early church benefitted greatly from the contributions of women. For example, in just the church at Rome we read of:
It is unlikely that Paul would have mentioned these women had they not been great servants in the kingdom of God. These women had a significant impact for good upon the church. It is still true today that the diligent labor of Christian women can accomplish much good and growth for the church.
But, some may wonder: "How can that be? How can women accomplish much good or growth for the church if they are limited in what they can do in public assemblies?" In truth, public assemblies should be a small part of the overall work of a congregation. There is much work outside the assembly that must be done if a church is to grow. Women are often in a position to provide much of this needed work!
Let us now focus our attention upon three broad areas in which women can contribute mightily to the growth and success of the local church.
1. A WOMAN CAN BE BENEVOLENT.
Benevolence is an essential work. Doing good unto others is a mark of pure and undefiled religion according to James 1:27. Women are especially well-equipped "to visit orphans and widows in their trouble." Ministering to brethren who are sick, poor, imprisoned, etc., is a service rendered to the Lord Himself as Matthew 25:34-40 teaches - "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."
All Christians, women no less than men, are to be involved in this work. James 2:14-16 - "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he [or she] has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him [or her]? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" The same basic point is made in I John 3:17 - "But whoever [whether male or female] has this world's goods, and sees his [of her] brother in need, and shuts up his [or her] heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him [or her]?"
Not only are women able to do works of benevolence, but they are well-suited for such. They bring a grace and beauty to the task that men typically cannot. The unique attributes of femininity lend themselves well to this work. Mercy and compassion are almost second-nature to women, and mercy is one of the gifts the Lord has given to His church (cf. Rom. 12:6-8). Women often possess skills through which benevolence can be rendered; for example, making clothes--as Dorcas did for needy widows. As I read about Dorcas, ask yourself: Does she sound like a valuable and important member of the church? "At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. And since Lydia was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them" (Acts 9:36-39). Dorcas was a powerful influence for good in the church. Some examples of modern-day benevolence would include: cooking for others, babysitting, ministering to the sick, extending hospitality, etc. There are so many great ways to serve others if we only pause to consider their needs and humbly offer our help as we can.
Women who might be financially supported by the church late in life were to be known or "well reported" for good works of benevolence (e.g., raising children, lodging strangers, serving others, relieving the afflicted, etc.; I Tim. 5:9,10). Any work that a woman does in the area of benevolence is a powerful contribution to the work and reputation of a local church!
2. A WOMAN CAN EDIFY.
Edification is an essential work. It involves building up the body of Christ, through the work of every member. Ephesians 4:15,16 teaches - "But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--from whom the whole body being joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
Edifying others entails following divine instructions like:
Although some men were known for their work in this area (e.g., Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement; Acts 4:36), certainly many women excel at edifying others also.
Women can do much to edify the church through formal teaching of others. Grandmothers and mothers can teach children, as Lois and Eunice did Timothy (cf. II Tim. 1:5; 3:14,15). Older women can and should teach younger women (cf. Titus 2:3-5), especially where there are women who come into the church who have not enjoyed the benefit of a godly mother or grandmother. Women must edify others in this way in order to please the Lord.
Women can also edify the church through informal words of encouragement. It has been said that men are natural producers, but women are natural nurturers. There is much truth to that. With so many dysfunctional families and emotional problems today, the gift of encouragement and nurturing possessed by many women is essential. Many teachers and preachers have been helped by godly women encouraging them in their work. As I have said before, I would not be where I am today if it weren't for the edification of my mother and wife. There is a special need for women to see themselves as teachers of young people and other women, and as encouragers of men in their work of preaching the gospel. Where women are involved in the work of edification, their contribution to the work of the local church does not go unnoticed!
3. A WOMAN CAN EVANGELIZE.
Evangelism is an essential work. To evangelize is to obey the "Great Commission" given by the Lord to His church (cf. Matt. 28:19,20). It is to share the gospel of Christ with others in an effort to make them disciples who will fully submit to the Lord's will. The gospel is God's power to save, so it must be shared with everyone (cf. Rom. 1:15,16;Mark 16:15,16).
Evangelism is a work that can be done by everyone, to varying degrees. We learn from Acts 8:1,4 - "At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles...Therefore, those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word." Without doubt, both men and women were scattered. Although men would have exclusively preached the word publicly, women certainly taught the gospel to other women and children. Women can do much in the area of evangelism without ever teaching publicly over men (which God does not permit). They can help support those who preach the gospel, as did Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna (cf. Luke 8:1-3). Additionally, they can provide much needed hospitality for evangelists, as did Lydia (cf. Acts 16:15).
Women can tell others about Christ without exercising authority over them. Consider the example of the Samaritan woman, who was instrumental in converting many people to Christ. John 4:28-30,39-42 reads:
"The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 'Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' Then they went out of the city and came to Him...And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all that I ever did.' So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, 'Now we believe not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.'"
This woman helped lead people to Christ without exercising authority over any men. Her example should be followed today and tremendous good can be accomplished.
Then there was Priscilla, who, with her husband, provided a place for Paul to stay during his ministry at Corinth (cf. Acts 18:1-4). She and her husband taught Apollos at Ephesus, helping him to understand the way of the Lord more perfectly (cf. Acts 18:24-26). Priscilla hosted a church in their home (cf. I Cor. 16:19; Rom. 16:3-5)--perhaps even in two different cities.
Even without a word, godly women can lead others to Christ, including unbelieving husbands - "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear" (I Pet. 3:1,2). Many souls have been saved and churches started, no doubt, through the evangelistic efforts of godly women!
Dear friends, there is certainly much that a woman can contribute to the work of the local church without ever leading the assembly or exercising authority over a man. She can pray, which is no small thing. Beyond that, there is a wide range of activities women can engage in without going beyond the limitations placed upon them by God. The true measure of a local church is not defined only by what occurs in the assembly. It includes what the members do day by day, in the home, at work, and in the world. It involves the amount of benevolence, edification, and evangelism that takes place on a daily, personal basis. When godly women are active in the service of the Lord, using the unique talents and opportunities given to them, souls are: saved, strengthened, and cared for in times of need. The Lord's church is made stronger, and the kingdom of God is expanded in the world by the wonderful labor of Christian women.
May there always be a surplus of women in the Lord's church like Mary Magdalene, Dorcas, Lydia, Priscilla, Lois, Eunice, and of course, Phoebe - "I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also" (Rom. 16:1,2). May we never take for granted nor denigrate the valuable service rendered by our sisters in Christ but receive and encourage them in a way worthy of the saints!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.