In this specific post, though I will not go into great detail on all women in Scripture, I wanted to give a decent overview of how God has used women within the setting of Scripture. Some of these accounts are quite amazing and I believe they point to the fact of God’s ultimate new creation intention of mutual-shared ministry relationships amongst both men and women.
Miriam – She was a prophetess who led a song of victory after the Israelites redemption from Egypt (Ex 15:20-21).
Deborah – Though many people only recognise Deborah’s civil role in leading the army of Israel, thus, trying to prove that her role gives no precedence for leadership within the church, it is interesting to note that she was called a prophetess as well (Judg 4:4). Not only that, if we read her story in the full context of Judgges 4-5, we can assume she had more than just a civil or military role, although that gave her enough authority. She was the leader of the Israelites. She was not an exception when we consider the Scriptures we have and how God has used women regularly throughout Scripture and history.
Huldah – Not a well-known name, but she, too, was a prophetess and we see her activity in 2 Kgs 22:14-20. She prophesied with some authority!
Mary – Though I don’t want to necessarily form a sense of veneration towards Mary that I believe is over the top amongst Roman Catholics, we must note her role in the Saviour’s life. God could have worked this out in many other ways. But He chose to use a young woman (despised in that culture) to bring His Son into the world. We see her prophetic song in Luke 1:46-55.
Anna – We read about her in Luke 2:36-38. She was a prophetess and vs38 makes a reference to her speech activity, which we can only assume included prophecy.
Luke’s emphasis of women involved in Jesus’ ministry – see Luke 8:13; 23:49; 24:10.
Mary Magdalene and other women – We have a group of women who were the first to see the resurrected Christ. They were sent to the eleven (minus Judas Iscariot) to tell them He had risen (Luke 24:10). Thus, they were, in a sense, the first apostles (‘sent ones’). Imagine this happening within some circles today! It was scandalous then and now.
Priscilla/Prisca – Priscilla had a very significant teaching role, especially in the Ephesian church. We see Paul’s greeting to the couple in 2 Tim 4:19, showing their role in the church in Ephesus. We also read in 1 Cor 16:19 that the church met in their home, which likely meant that they were the leaders of that church. Finally, we see how they both took aside Apollos and explained to him the things of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-28). Thus, they would have both been teaching and instructing Apollos, who himself became a great leader in the early church. And it is interesting to note that, in the six times the couple are mentioned together, four of the times mention Priscilla first. This probably points to her stronger measure of gifting, maybe even referring to her strong teaching role.
Philip’s four daughters – Philip, who was one of the seven appointed in Acts 6:1-6, had four daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9).
Phoebe – She had a special role in the church in Cenchreae (Rom 16:1). It was probably more than leading the children’s ministry, hence Paul mentioning her.
Nympha – A church met in her home (Phil 4:2-3). In those days, the church would probably gather in someone’s home if they were the leader.
Euodia and Syntyche – Though these two women seemed to be having some kind of disagreement, Paul says that they both had ‘laboured side by side’ with him (Col 4:15). It’s doubtless that this points to some significant ministry role.
Junia – Though much debate exists around her name (should it be Junias, a male version of the name) and whether or not she was actually an apostle, it seems most likely that she and her husband, Andronicus, had a significant apostolic ministry together (Rom 16:7). Also, check out Scot McKnight’s new book, Junia Is Not Alone.
As you can see, even in this brief overview, there were women used in major ministry roles amongst God’s people – prophetic, teaching, leading and even apostolic. This was not only about leading other women or children, though that is a worthy ministry. This included some roles with a strong sense of ministry amongst the body of Christ and the world.
Shall we give the same opportunities today?