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Women in the Early Church

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We are so blessed that God has gifted each of us special gifts to be used in His church. Here are some great examples of how Godly women used their gifts in God’s early church. As we search these Scriptures and take them to our hearts today, we can still follow their examples to be the Godly women that He needs us to be in today’s church.

Apphia – Philemon 2 Hosted believers in her home. “And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:”  It is believed that Apphia was Philemon’s wife and Archippus was Apphia’s and Philemon’s son, and a leader in the church that met in Philemon’s home. Apphia played a crucial role in carrying out the desires that Paul expressed for Onesimus, as a new believer, because as the mistress of her home, she was also the supervisor over household slaves.

Damaris – Acts 17:34 – Responded to the Gospel of Jesus. “Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”

Dorcas – Acts 9:36-42 and Proverbs 31:20 – She reached out to the poor and needy. “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.”; “She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.”

Elisabeth – Luke 1:39-56 – Served as a mentor or spiritual mother to Mary of Nazareth and undoubtedly to many others. “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.”

Lydia – Acts 16:11-15 – Supported Paul in his ministries. “Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”

Mary Magdalene – Mark 16:9, 10; 1 Peter 3:15 – Proclaimed the Gospel. “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.”; “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

Mary of Nazareth – Luke 2:19; Acts 1:14 – Mary prayed. “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”; “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

Older, Mature Women in the Church – Tutus 2:3-5 – Were and are to teach younger women and new women believers about Godly character and home responsibilities. “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

Phebe – Romans 16:1, 2 – Was a courier for transporting one of Paul’s letters to the church in Rome. And as we can see in verse 2, she was known as a “succourer” of many – Someone who gives help in times of need, distress or difficulty. “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.”

Priscilla – Acts 18:18, 26 – She and her husband traveled throughout the country doing evangelism and missions. They also taught the learned Apollos. – Romans 16:3-5a – They suffered for their faith, and held church in their house. “And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow…And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”; “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.”

Women of Wealth (yes it is God’s desire for His children to be wealthy as it is all His anyway, and He blesses us so that we may bless others) – Mark 15:40; 16:1; Luke 8:3; 23:55-24:10; Hebrews 6:10 – They supported Jesus’ work; their generosity was a blessing to the Kingdom work. “There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;…And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.”; ” And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”; “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.”; “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Godly Women

 

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Martha – A Busy Hostess With a Heart for Serving

Jesus often went to the home of Martha, who was apparently single, whether by choice or circumstances, and living in Bethany with her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus. John’s comment shows that Jesus and the family from Bethany were close friends – John 11:5 “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Martha seemed to enjoy her gift of hospitality and her probable position as the older of the two sisters.

Three scenes appear to reveal Martha’s intense personality, which the Lord faced with loving firmness, as recorded by Luke – Luke 10:40 –  42 “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Martha’s irritation with her sister led to a confrontation with Jesus, because she blamed Him for Mary’s lack of assistance. As one with a servant’s heart, I can totally understand how Martha must have felt stressed under her heavy workload and also very unappreciated and taken for granted as she did all the work alone. Those who choose to sit and listen do not always consider where their meal will come from nor who it is that is laboring for them. However, Jesus’ response was a loving response, and was not a condemnation of Martha’s servant’s heart nor was it a rejection of her zealous and gracious hospitality. He simply asked her to reconsider her priorities, to make her choices on the basis of eternal values instead of immediate pressures, and He suggested that she allow Mary to make her own choices. I think it would have been better for Martha if she had solicited all the help she could beforehand so that she, too, could enjoy sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teachings.

Several months later, Lazarus became ill while Jesus was traveling many miles away. Although the sisters sent for Him, by the time the Lord arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was dead, and had been buried for four days. Ignoring the custom of mourners to remain in their homes, Martha took the initiative to meet Jesus as He approached the town and to confront Him about her brother’s untimely death to Jesus’ delay in reaching Bethany – John 11:20, 21 “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Here we see Mary’s submissive personality by following the custom of the day and staying home to mourn for the traditional time required. Not so with Martha! I like how she threw custom to the wind and followed her heart to seek answers to questions she could not understand in her human mind. And with trusting faith, Martha acknowledged Jesus’ power over death in verse 22 “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” While she could not understand why Jesus did not come right away and heal her brother, she believed there must be some reason for it and that of course Jesus could ask His Heavenly Father, and He would not deny Jesus the power to bring Lazarus back to life. Jesus explained that He Himself was the Resurrection. She agreed and saw an immediate manifestation of her faith in her brother’s resurrection in verse 44 “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”

The third glimpse of Martha was reported by John – John 12:2 “There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” The simple fact that Martha assumed hostessing duties once more confirms the fact that her uncommon talents were being used. Undoubtedly, she had become a disciple who experienced God’s power in practical service. Jesus, as well as countless others, needed the physical refreshment of Martha’s warm hospitality. She did not consider her homemaking responsibilities as worthless drudgery. She obviously loved her home and she counted it joy to pour her energies into the efficient management of her household. Martha is a touching reminder to every woman of the balance between fellowship with the family and the work necessary to meet their mundane/everyday needs.

I Peter 4:8-10 “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Godly Women

 

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Phoebe – A Significant Servant

Romans 16:1-2 “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.”

Phoebe, here spelled “Phebe,” was a Gentile Christian from the port city of Cenchrea. Her name, derived from Greek mythology, means “pure” or “radiant as the moon.” Paul described Phoebe as a “servant” (Greek-diakonon) and “helper” (Greek-prostatis). She may have been a patron of some sort.

In Greek cities, rulers routinely appointed patrons to look after the interests of foreigners. Therefore, Phoebe may have functioned in an official capacity to protect the rights and meet the needs of Cenchrea’s numerous foreign visitors and resident Jews. She was obviously a person of significance who used her wealth and influence in the service of the Christians there.

On this occasion, Phoebe had traveled to Rome, possibly on a business trip. Paul, knowing that she would pass through Corinth, took the opportunity to write to the Roman Christians. This letter commended Phoebe, its bearer, to the church in Rome. Paul knew that the Roman Christians would be able to provide Phoebe with hospitality and fellowship, as well as with advice on the state of Roman politics and law.

Paul spoke highly of Phoebe. He introduced her to the Roman Christians as “sister, “servant,” “saint,” and “succourer.” Though the word here translated “servant,” it also transliterated as “deacon,” note both generic and technical usages of the word. The Greek root means literally “one who ministers or serves.” Of course, taken in that sense, the word describes not only Phoebe and other “deaconesses” in the early church, but also countless women who have given and do give themselves untiringly to the work of the Kingdom through ministries within the local church.

However, the word is also used by some in a technical sense to describe a functional ecclesiastical office such as assigned to Stephen – Acts 6: 1-7 “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” This office was created to equip a corps of Godly saints to meet physical and social needs so that the apostles would not be pulled away from the primary ministry of the Word – Acts 6:4 “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Phoebe and other women like her ministered where needed, they did not “preach” God’s Word as the men did. They did work that freed the men to accomplish God’s spiritual work. Women are blessed with great help-meet skills as I believe God intended.

Certainly, in the New Testament sense of deacon or deaconess, women can find ample opportunity for service with or without an official title. On the other hand, if deacon or deaconess is considered a position of official spiritual leadership, there are other passages for consideration – 1 Timothy 2:11-15 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” And, 1 Timothy 3:8-13 ” Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

In any case, Paul noted that Phoebe was a highly capable Greek woman of significant social status, and apparently through the Gospel, she had also overcome the pagan origins of her name to gain status–in Paul’s eyes–as a pure and radiant light for Jesus.

Phoebe was blessed with much, and after her conversion to a born-again child of God, she used her means to further God’s Kingdom!

“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”

Proverbs 31:30

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2014 in Godly Women

 

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