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Women and New Testament Ministry


“Now this man had four virgins daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:9)


This reference to Philips daughter’s each exercising the gifts of prophecy makes clear that women did bring God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit and that such ministry was fully accepted by the early church. This is reinforced by Paul in 1 Cor 11:5, where he directs that women may prophecy.

It is puzzling why the place of a woman in ministry is contested by some in the church. Women had an equal place in the Upper Room, awaiting the Holy Spirit’s coming and the birth of the church (Acts 1:14).

Then Peter’s prophetic sermon at Pentecost affirmed the OT promise IN Joel 2:28 was now to be realized: “your daughters” and “maidservants” would now share fully and equally with men in realizing the anointing, fullness, and ministry of the Holy Spirit, making them effective in witness and service for the spread of the gospel.

 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days”.  (Joel 2:28-29)

Though the place of men seems more pronounced in the number who filled leadership offices, there are not any direct restriction of privilege.


  1. The direct mention of Phoebe as a deacon (Rom 16:1).

  2. John’s letter to an “elect (chosen) lady” with instruction concerning whom she allows to minister in her “house” (a designation for early church fellowships, 2 John);

  3. 1 Cor 1:11 and Phil 4:2, where Chloe and Euodia seem to be women in whose homes believers gather. The method of designation suggests they were the appointed leaders in their respective fellowships.


1 Corinthians 14:33b-36 contains the injunction by the apostle Paul that women should keep silence in the church. This text has given rise to the controversy as to whether women should participate in church public activities or in its leadership. In the contemporary church, attitude to this rule varies from one denomination to another. While in the Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal folds women are generally included in the hierarchy of church leadership, many of the mainline churches still practice male domination, basing the doctrine on the Pauline injunction. An examination of the history of the Jews reveals that women had a very low status compared to men. They had very little or no chance to participate in religious leadership. However, the ministry of Jesus marked a change in the male-dominated social structure in that he related freely with women, treating them on equal basis with men. Paul built on this foundation, having many women as co-preachers and leaders of the house churches, which would contradict a literal interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36.

However, the text is best understood from the perspective of the Greek term ekklesia in its popular context where it refers to the assembly of a Greek city-state. In such assembly women were not permitted at all to speak. In other words, the text originated from a society in which ordinarily women were not allowed to participate in public discussions, but in the Christian similar assemblies they were permitted based on the brotherhood associated with the new religion. However, in the Corinthian church women were abusing this privilege by disrupting church services, which warranted the order by Paul. This means that the crucial issue in it is the disorderliness being caused by the women, and not the participation by them. Therefore, in this text it was not the intention of the author to establish a doctrine disallowing women from participating in church public worship, or in church leadership. Paul would rather have the women silent in the church than allow them to disrupt its proceedings. It is a doctrinal error to exclude women from church leadership and participation in other spheres based on 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36. Women constitute the greater percentage of the congregation population; giving them the opportunity to participate in church leadership would provide the church with more hands in evangelism and expansion.

Clearly, women did speak – preach and prophecy – in the early church (see 1 Tim 2:8-15)

The acceptance of women in a public place of ministry in the church is not a concession to the spirit of the feminist movement. But the refusal of such a place might be a concession to an order of male chauvinism, unwarranted by and unsupported in the Scriptures.

Charmaine Tomè (Pastor)                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Naomi Teaching and Healing Ministries

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