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Women in Paul’s Ministry

Guest blogger Melanie Hunley surveys the important roles of women in the ministry of the Apostle Paul.

God does not use men alone to accomplish His purposes. Both men and women are created in God’s image, and both have been used mightily by God throughout the Scriptures. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:28) There are three traditional pairings, and they reflect the three basic social divides of hostility within the first century A.D. in the Roman Empire. Paul’s declaration would have had no less actual social impact than an American preacher’s statement in the 1950s that “in Christ Jesus there is neither Black nor White” would have had. (Martel 20)

The conflict between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2:11–14 demonstrated that the declaration of “neither Jew nor Greek” had social implications in the life of the church. Paul’s letter to Philemon has similar implications for “neither slave nor free” in asking Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in the Lord just like Paul. “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.” (Philemon 1:17) Paul’s declaration about male and female had implications too on the life of the church. The point is not that God created differences between male and female, but it is that one’s gender does not determine the participation in the kingdom because we are created in the image of God. “I don’t see Scripture ever calling for someone to apologize for how God made them in order for them to better fit into the body of Christ.” (Martel 20)

Paul states the equality of men and women in Christ in two passages in 1 Corinthians. “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:3–5) Paul makes it clear that sexual relations between a husband and wife are mutual and equal in respect and in rights. Such a position grew out of the love of Christ and was directly opposite to the popular Jewish and pagan opinion in the Roman Empire that the husband had all the sexual rights over his wife. “In the Lord, however, 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)

Paul also includes a strong assertion of the mutuality of men and women in his discussion about head coverings.  The discussion of head coverings for women in 1 Corinthians 11 implies that women, as well as men, engage in prayer and prophecy.  The participation in prophecy is the highest gift in the Church because it is the means of edification, encouragement, and comfort in the Church (1 Corinthians 14:3). Such edification is the purpose of the Church’s life together and constitutes the exercise of authority and teaching in the Church. Paul concludes the first part of his discussion on head coverings by stating “For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.” (1 Corinthians 11:10)

Paul’s letters also mention twelve women by names who were coworkers with him in his ministry. This evidence of women in the ministry is often neglected.  Four women are known as leaders of house churches: Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Nympha (Colossians 4:15), Apphia (Philemon 2) and Lydia (Acts 16). Paul stated that four more women “work very hard” in the Lord’s ministry.  These included Mary whom Paul speaks of by saying, “Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you” (Romans 16:6); and Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis whom Paul says, “Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.” (Romans 16:12).  Although Paul does not tell us specifically what these women did, they obviously influenced the kingdom in a way that Paul felt they should be recognized as workers of the Lord in the divine writings.

In Romans 16:3–4 Paul greeted Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife team are mentioned six times in the New Testament. Many scholars believe it is significant that Priscilla is usually mentioned first, since the cultural pattern would be to name the husband first. (Kantrowitz 43) This may indicate that Priscilla was the more important or visible leader and may suggest that she had a higher social status and/or more wealth than Aquila. Paul indicated that he and the Gentile churches were indebted to the both of them. Paul designated Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” a term he used regularly for other leaders in the Church as well.

In Philippians Paul mentioned two more women, Euodia and Syntyche.  “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2–3)  These women had their names written in the book of life which meant they had accepted Christ as their Messiah and we presume were working to spread the gospel.  In view of Acts 16:11–40 it is not surprising that two such women leaders emerged in the Philippian church.

Phoebe is usually assumed to have been the one who delivered Paul’s letter to Rome.  She was designated as “a servant of the church in Cenchrea.”  She is warmly commended by Paul to the Roman church (Romans 16:1–2).   “Servant” may refer to a deacon, a term that sometimes designated administrative responsibility in the Early Church. In his epistles, Paul most frequently applied the term to any minister of God’s Word, including himself (1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21). He also called Phoebe a “scorer” or “helper” of many (Romans 16:2); this term technically designated her as the church’s minister or leader, most likely the owner of the home in which the church at Cenchrea was meeting. (Keener 12)  Paul regularly used this term “servant” to refer to persons clearly understood to be ministers of the gospel such as Christ (Romans 15:8) and himself (1 Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23, 25).  With that in mind, Phoebe should be understood as the minister or leader of the church in Cenchrea.

Paul identified Andronicus and Junias as “outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7), an expression that includes them within the apostolic circle. Junias is a male name in English translation, but there is no evidence that such a male name existed in the first century AD. In early translations of the Bible, Junia was used in a feminine manner. “Indeed some scholars even see Paul’s instruction to ‘greet one another with a holy kiss’ as an innocuous way of forcing these subgroups to acknowledge each to the faith.” (Capes 173) The Greek grammar of the sentence in Romans 16:7 means that the male and female forms of this name would be spelled the same. (Harney 68) Thus, one has to decide on the basis of other evidence, whether this person is a woman (Junia) or a man (Junias). This topic is highly debated.  I would strongly like to believe Junia is a female, but I struggle with the verse where Paul says, “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me.” (Romans 16:7) It would not have been socially acceptable for a male and female to be in prison together.  However, it was not until the later translations that Junia’s name changed to Junias.    “Paul is making it clear that Junia is a minister of the Gospel in her Church.” (Wright 11)

These thirteen women surveyed Lydia, Chloe, Nympha, Apphia, Mary, Persis, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Priscilla, Euodia, Syntyche, Phoebe, and Junia provide clear evidence from Paul that women did participate in the gospel ministry, as did men. Paul’s common terminology made no distinctions in roles or functions between men and women in ministry. (Harney 17)  “Today we should affirm those whom God calls, whether male or female, and encourage them in faithfully learning God’s Word. We need to affirm all potential laborers, both men and women, for the abundant harvest fields.” (Keener 13)




Capes, David B., Rodney Reeves and E. Randolph Richards. 2007. Rediscoverying Paul. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL.

NIV/The Message Parallel Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 2002.

Harney, Sherry. 2010. Real Women Real Faith; Life Changing Stories from the Bible for Women   Today. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.

Martel, Sarah. “The Role of Women in the Church.” Relevant Magazine. June 18, 2003. Page        20-21.

Schnabel, Eckhard J. 2008. Paul the Missionary. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL.

Kantrowitz, Barbara. “The Bible’s Lost Stories.” Newsweekly. December 7, 2003. Page 42-45.

Keener, Craig S. “Was Paul For or Against Women in the Ministry?” Enrichment Journal. June    2012. Pages 12-13.

Wright, Jared. “Sabbath Sermon – Junia: Inside Out.” Spectrum. August 4, 2012. Page 11-14.

Is Faith in God Reasonable?

The debate between Dr. Craig and Dr. Rosenberg on Feb. 1 was so lopsided as to be laughable. Not only did our group laugh out loud at Dr. Rosenberg, we realized he gave up at the beginning of the debate! No one thought he won, tied, placed and barely showed. The judges voting was as follows: 4-2 for the panel; among the Purdue audience it was 1390-303; and among the Internet voters it was 734-59.  What is disturbing is that ANYONE thought Rosenberg won. He didn’t even COMPETE and he said as much in his opening statement. When I ran the numbers 33% of the judges thought Rosenberg won, 17% of the Purdue audience and 0.07% of the Internet audience. It just shows you that higher education (judges) doesn’t produce accurate results. The real score was 100% to 0%. It was a TKO. Only the twisted mind of a liberal academic could find any reason to vote in favor of Rosenberg.

Jesus Loves Religion

One of the popular notions about Jesus is that he “hated religion.” Like several other misconceptions, this occurs when the definition of religion is confused with the emotions of religious people.

Jesus was not opposed to religion during his earthly ministry. His family circumcised him on the eighth day, according to the Law. The family made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, such as the one when Jesus was 12 years old. As an adult, Jesus prayed, he fasted, he paid the Temple tax, he apparently worshiped at the Temple and he certainly made required pilgrimages to Jerusalem. He famously observed the Passover meal. He read Scripture and perhaps most disturbing to modern anti-religionists, he attended Synagogue services weekly, “as was his custom”.

This list could easily be elaborated in numerous ways, but suffice it to say that Jesus was a very orthodox Jew of the first century.

Anti-religionists often cast Jesus as a man who was all about love and forgiveness and nothing else. This is what I term the “hippie Jesus”. This is a non-judgmental Jesus and a Jesus that doesn’t require any dedication to church services, tithing, Bible study, or any other disciplined use of the believer’s time. But this is not the model that Jesus of Nazareth set in his own life.

What did Jesus object to within the religion of his day? He opposed hypocrisy and oppression of the underclass by the religious leaders. This hypocrisy was evidenced in the way he overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. He was outraged that they were making outrageous profits from the exchanges with worshipers. This made them a “den of robbers” in his eyes.

Jesus also frequently confronted Pharisees for their hypocrisy related to table fellowship and rules of association. The Pharisee who prayed loudly and with uplifted eyes was thankful that he was not a sinner. Yet he was rejected by Jesus in favor of the man whose prayer was, “Be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus reminded his host once that he did not even offer to wash his feet when he entered into the home, yet a sinful woman bathed his feet with tears. Jesus did not like the attitudes of such haughty people, but he never once condemned the institution of the Jewish religion.

Near the end of his earthly life, Jesus proclaimed that he would establish a church and the night he was betrayed he gave the church its first sacrament: the Lord’s Supper. Unlike the Jewish institution, the church did not have the same formal structure of religion and law the way that Judaism did, but it had its own. In fact, it is probably best to call the early church a Messianic Judaism. They still continued to observe prayer times. They still met at the Temple and probably engaged in some of the traditional rituals. They still observed Jewish dietary laws and they kept separate from Gentiles. The first sacrament instituted by someone other than Jesus came on the day of Pentecost when Peter called on the people to repent and be baptized. Acts tells us that they established an early pattern of religion subsequent to everything Jewish they continued to observe. They listed to the Apostle’s teaching, to breaking bread (fellowship meals and probably the Lord’s Supper as well), to fellowship, and to prayer. So we see at the outset that there was a hierarchy of education within the church: the Apostles.

Church government did not stop there. They adopted the Jewish model of elders for leadership, developed the office of deacon, recognized the offices of apostle, evangelist, teacher, and others. They eventually broke down the barriers with the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry. The church had rules that were to remain in effect from Judaism, such as sexual mores. Others like circumcision and unclean foods faded away while baptism was normal for everyone. We find songs, hymns, and spiritual songs on the lips of Christian worshipers and we find that there were regular church meetings on the first day of the week in the early morning hours where they partook of the Lord’s Supper.

Much more could be said but let this be enough to demonstrate that Jesus loved and embraced religion. He gave us a religious institution and we have carried on its tenants: weekly meetings, prayer, scripture, leadership, fellowship, singing, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. It’s not religion that Jesus opposed, it was the misuse of religion. So, if you ever wake up on a Sunday morning and find it hard to get motivated to get up and get to church, you’re quite normal. Just think, if Jesus could crawl out of bed and walk to the Synagogue every Sabbath, “as was his custom”, then you can probably do it to. Church is more than just a place, some money, and some songs. It is a way of life. Proper religion is a way of life as well. It is doing things because they are right for us, right for our families, right for our friends and neighbors, and most importantly pleasing to God.

Is the Material World All There Is?

In September 2012, during his visit to The University of St Andrews in Scotland, Dr William Lane Craig delivered a lecture entitled “Is The Material World All there Is?” followed by audience Q&A. In this lecture Dr Craig outlined seven reasons to think that the material world is not all there is but, quite to the contrary, that the material world contains “signposts of transcendence” pointing towards the truth of Christianity.