Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
1 Timothy 2:11-15
These are not simply rules of attitudes and behaviors to control women. These are virtues that are to be embraced by all God’s people.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith we understand that God created male and female in His own image. He blessed them and placed them in charge as co-rulers over creation.
And it was very good.
By faith Eve, though she was the first to fall prey to the deceiver’s wicked schemes, was the first to receive mercy from God and the grace to become the mother of us all.
By faith Hagar, the dark-skinned African slave girl, when she had run away from her owners with her infant son and was rescued in the desert by God himself, became the first person to give God a name – El Roi, saying, “I have seen the God who sees me.” By faith, she raised her son under the blessing and protection of God, and her lineage produced a great nation as God had promised.
By faith Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.
By faith Miriam kept a watchful eye over her baby brother, daring to approach the princess and coming up with a plan to keep Moses in her family as long as possible. By faith she became a great prophet and co-leader of her people alongside Moses and Aaron as God delivered them from slavery.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
By faith Deborah, the great prophet and Judge, routed the Canaanite army and freed her people from their oppression. By faith Jael ended the life of the Canaanite General, thus insuring a victory for the Israelites.
By faith Ruth chose to leave her own homeland and join her mother-in-law as a peasant in the land of Israel. By faith she diligently took care of Naomi, showing her honor and respect. By faith this Moabite woman became the great-great grandmother of King David.
By faith Hannah prayed fervently for a son though she was barren. God answered her prayer, and by faith she devoted her son, Samuel, to the service of the Lord.
By faith Abigail intervened to stop two powerful, foolhardy men from declaring all out war.
By faith Huldah the prophet, when asked by King Josiah about the book of the Law found in the Temple, gave a message from the Lord that would spark religious revival for a generation.
By faith Esther became Queen of Persia and risked her own life to save the lives of thousands of her countrymen.
By faith Mary, the young teenage peasant girl from Nazareth, became the mother of our Savior, Christ Jesus our Lord. By faith all generations call her blessed because the Mighty One has done great things through her.
By faith Anna the prophet spent decades worshiping and praying in the Temple until the day the Messiah appeared. By faith she told everyone who would listen about the baby Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son.
By faith Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, chose to be counted among Jesus’ disciples rather than conform to the expectations of women in her day. By faith she was commended by Jesus for choosing the most important thing, the only thing that matters.
By faith Mary Magdalene, on the first day of the week, discovered the empty tomb, took the good news about the resurrection to the other disciples, and was the first person to have a personal encounter with the resurrected Lord.
By faith Lydia, a business woman and leader of the Jewish synagogue in Philippi, became the first Greek convert.
By faith Priscilla formed a preaching team with her husband Aquila, spreading the gospel of Christ across the Roman Empire. By faith she taught the way of the Lord more accurately to Apollos, who would also become an influential and respected preacher.
By faith Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchrea and a wealthy benefactor of Paul’s ministry, was entrusted with the task of delivering, reading, and explaining Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.
By faith Junia was considered outstanding among the apostles, risking her own life and safety to spread the Gospel throughout the Empire alongside her husband and Paul.
And what more shall I say? I don’t have time to tell about Joanna, Susanna, Philip’s daughters, Chloe, Euodia and Syntyche, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Julia, Persis, Tabitha, or Eunice and Lois. By faith these women, and more, were considered co-laborers for the Lord alongside Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Barnabas. They preached and prayed and prophesied. They planted churches and hosted churches in their homes. They were evangelists and teachers and deacons and missionaries. They were financial supporters of Jesus and of Paul. They were counted among the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and received the same outpouring of the Spirit that allowed them all to preach in various languages to the thousands gathered in Jerusalem that day.
Jesus healed women, respected women, engaged in deep theological conversations with women, and commended women for their faith. Jesus invited women into his inner circle of disciples and declared that all his female followers were considered his sisters. Women were the heroes in his parables. He first revealed his true identity as Messiah to a Samaritan Woman. His first miracle was performed at the request of his mother. The Canaanite woman was the only person clever enough to understand one of Jesus’ parables at the first telling. And it was the women who were entrusted with taking the news of Jesus’ resurrection to the rest of the disciples.
Matthew went out of his way to insert five women in the lineage of Jesus – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.
From the beginning women were created alongside men as equals. Both are bearers of the Imago Dei. Both are blessed to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, and to rule over all of creation as God’s ambassadors. As it was in the beginning, so it shall be in the New Creation, the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Bible is full of women who said and did amazing things by faith. If we’re not careful, we can overlook or ignore these women – just as men have been doing for centuries. But God is the God who sees. May we all see with His eyes.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Were there female apostles?
Did women work to build up and equip the church?
And who is it that calls people to these tasks?
Sometimes I feel like Jeremiah:
But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
I believe I have been called by God to ministry. To do any other thing would be to go against God’s will for my life. Yet we expect the women who are also called and gifted to sit back and hold it in, like a fire inside their bones.
We must ask ourselves…
Are we living under the curse of the Fall, plagued by power struggles, pain, oppression, dominance, and sin?
Or are we living as members of the New Creation, the Kingdom of God?
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
1 Corinthians 11:11-12
These women of faith who serve and lead God’s people are not the exception to the rule. They are the exceptions that PROVE the rule. God calls people according to their faithfulness, their gifts, and their willingness to serve, not according to their gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
And now, a blessing.
May we all, like Eve, receive mercy and grace from God, knowing that our past failures do not have to define us.
May we all, like Hagar, see the God who sees us at our weakest and lowest moments.
May we all, like Deborah, courageously face whatever battles God calls us to, no matter who else is with us.
May we all, like Rahab, put our trust in God rather than in our own culture and society.
May we all, like Huldah, speak truth about the Word of God, calling our community to revival.
May we all, like Mary, choose to sit at the feet of our Master rather than succumb to the busyness of life.
May we all, like Mary Magdalene, boldly proclaim the resurrection of our Lord to whomever will listen.
May we all, like Priscilla, be willing to teach the whole truth in order to correct falsehood or incompleteness.
May we all, like Fanny J. Crosby, make the worship of God our highest calling no matter what challenges we face.
(By the way, all the hymns this morning were written by a blind female teacher and poet from New York. She wrote more than 9,000 hymns in her lifetime. She has been teaching and inspiring us in worship for 150 years. “…when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” -Fanny J. Crosby)
May we all learn in quietness and submission, not assuming authority over each other but serving one another in love.
May we all find answers to our questions and continue these religious discussions in our homes.
May we all be men and women of faith of whom the world is not worthy. And may God never be ashamed to be called our God.