Seven Women’s Ministries in the New Testament

Article
12.10.2019

The New Testament reveals how women served Jesus, the church, and the Great Commission. This is relevant for at least three reasons: first, the role of women in the church is often depicted as an exception, not an expectation. Second, to focus exclusively on the eldership, which is limited to men, distracts from the otherwise diverse and rewarding ministries that both genders engage in. Third, it’s possible the church asks too little of our Spirit-filled sisters given their plentiful gifts and vitally essential partnership in the gospel.

To that end, here are seven ways we can encourage women to use their spiritual and material resources.

1. As Generous Patrons

For centuries, wealthy people have sponsored artists so they can focus on their masterpiece instead of trying to pay the bills. In Luke 8:1–3, we learn that Jesus and the disciples had patrons, and they were often wealthy women. Luke tells us Joanna and Susanna were among “many others” who “provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:3).

Similarly, Paul’s ministry was financed by women (Romans 16:2). A deaconess named Phoebe is identified as Paul’s “patron” (ESV), or “benefactor” (NIV), a term that literally means defender or protector. She also used her money and influence to help the missionaries fulfill their calling. Others—like Prisca (Romans 16:5) and Lydia (Acts 16:14)—volunteered their homes. These remarkable and brave sisters are rarely mentioned. But it’s clear that God entrusts wealth to women, and they can joyfully utilize it in support of the gospel.

2. As Hard Workers

Several men worked diligently with Paul, but many women did too. They are “workers in the Lord” such as Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis “who has worked hard in the Lord” (Romans 16:6, 12). Going a step further, Priscilla and Aquila were essential partners, left behind to maintain the church when Paul departed for a different city (Acts 18).

3. As Edifying Teachers

Some women have the gift of teaching, deploying it in prudent and acceptable ways to certain audiences in the church. In Luke 2:38, Anna the prophetess is introduced as a woman who served the Lord by staying in the temple and worshiping. She would also teach the people, and “to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Mary sings a theologically rich song in Luke 1:46–55 that has become a source of constant encouragement and teaching for the church. Timothy received training from his godly grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice in the doctrines of the faith (2 Timothy 1:5). We know this at least meant instruction in “the sacred writings” which made him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Mature women who can serve, teach, and disciple are essential in any healthy church. Sometimes, women like Priscilla are even used by God to help influential men like Apollos and “explain the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

4. As Faithful Evangelists

Even though Philippians 4:2–3 is an admonition, Paul is clear that both Euodia and Syntyche “labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers.” This was evangelistic effort, and one that bore fruit through the faithfulness of these women.

To this number we can add Lydia, and even the woman at the well from Samaria as the first to bring the gospel to their own family and towns. One of the most profound examples is Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus chose to be the first to witness his resurrection. She was entrusted with bringing the good news to the disciples that first Easter morning (John 20:18).

5. As Courageous Partners

Romans 16:3–4 mentions Priscilla and Aquila again, this time as “fellow workers” who “risked their necks” for the gospel. This is followed by a commendation of Junia in 16:7, who worked so closely with Paul that she suffered as a “fellow prisoner.” That’s extreme commitment, and it proves that Paul didn’t mind having women at his side during a dangerous mission for the gospel. He ends Romans with warm and personal greetings, deeply thankful for the service and sacrifice of women.

6. As Empathetic Caregivers

Jesus was often in the company of women who “followed him and ministered to him” including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome (Mark 15:40–41). Women comprised his ministry support structure.

In 1 Timothy 3, the word “ministered” is translated “deacon.” Some of these women appear again in Mark 16 when they arrive to serve the Lord by anointing his body after the crucifixion. At the end of Romans, we also read about Rufus, a man with a remarkable mother (and father, since he was the one who carried Jesus cross). Paul says she was like the adoptive church mother, and like a mother to him as well (Romans 16:13). Tabitha was likely the same kind of woman, “full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 9:36).

7. As Worthy Examples

Godly women in the church are called to teach and train younger women (Titus 2:3–5). They even have biblical examples to illustrate the goal (1 Peter 3:4–5). We are familiar with the woman described in Proverbs 31, an archetype of feminine character and productivity. However, even the routine faithfulness of Spirit-filled women can bring multigenerational benefits.

Women must never underestimate the value of demonstrating character worthy of imitation. The body of Christ is a community deliberately nurturing the next generation, and women play a pivotal role in that sacred trust.

CONCLUSION

Healthy churches should encourage women to excel still more in what they’ve been described in Scripture as already doing. God has manifested himself in his image bearers. Some attributes are more pronounced in men, others in women. If the church will identify, empower, and celebrate that, then our churches will be healthier because the image of God will shine brightly through all his children.

By:
Jonathan Rourke

Jonathan Rourke is the senior pastor of Tri-City Bible Church in Vista, California.