Everyone Gets to Play, Women too

Every spiritual gift is available to women; when a gift is present, the church should do all it can to platform, make space and celebrate the women and the gifts God has given. I want to begin by talking about Mary Magdalene, whom Aquinas called “an apostle to the apostles.”

In Acts 1, the early church needed a new 12th apostle to take the place of Judas, the betrayer. The requirements needed to become an apostle was

  1. Taught by Jesus (Acts 1:21)
  2. Saw the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22)
  3. Called by Jesus to stand as a witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:24)

Matthias met the requirements and was called by Jesus to be “numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). Paul met these requirements and was an apostle. He saw the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:4-5; he was taught by Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12, 17); and he was called to be a minister of the gospel of grace (1 Timothy 1:12). Mary Magdalene meets these exact requirements.

In John 20, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb of Jesus and finds the stone rolled away and his tomb empty. She runs and tells the disciples, and Peter returns with her and sees an empty grave too. Peter leaves, but Mary stays. Two angels speak to her as she weeps, believing Jesus’s body has been stolen. Then, she turns and encounters the resurrected Christ. Her master commands her to tell the disciples that Jesus is alive. Mary traveled with Jesus and knew his goodness. She saw his resurrected body, and she was called to give witness to the resurrection. It seems likely that John is implying Mary had the gift of apostolic ministry.

Mary is an example that proves the point: the gifts are open to all his children, men and women alike. This giving of gifts to members of the church is a consistent theme in the New Testament. Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 12:14-21, 1 Corinthians 14:26, Romans 12:3-8, 1 Peter 4:10, and Ephesians 4:4-16 all speak about how gifts of the Spirit are to be used for the edification of the body. Since both Paul and Peter use a very similar formula in explaining gifts, this teaching was probably ubiquitous in the early church. Gifts are given without regard to gender. Men and women are given these gifts to help the church grow into maturity. Each can lead, admonish, teach, work miracles, and prophecy according to their gift. As Paul says in Romans, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” Ro 11:29.

Anna speaks to all who are waiting for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). Priscilla joins her husband in correcting Apollos (Acts 18:26). Phillip’s daughters Prophecy (Acts 21:9), Euodia, and Syntyche labored with Paul to spread the gospel. Mary Magdalene was the first to declare the resurrection of Jesus to the world (John 20:18). Phoebe is a deacon (Romans 16:1).

Further, women can prophecy[1] and teach in and out of church (1 Corinthians 11:5, 14:26-33). Women can teach, prophecy, shepherd, and evangelize (Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Peter 4:10-11, 1 Corinthians 12:14-21). Women and men are responsible for making “the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”[2].

Some of the most capable and gifted Christian leaders I know are women. Tracey Bickle, Annette Comiskey, my mom, and Calvary’s own Sheri Jager are just a few examples of fellow co-workers in the gospel. These women are not exceptions but exemplify the kingdom’s rule—everyone gets to play.

This post is meant to go with my post on elders. I have gotten some grief for the elder essay, which is good. I might be wrong; my wife says I am. Whatever might come of that, I want to ensure everyone understands that women receive gifts of ministry just like men. I celebrate these gifts and do all I can to ensure that each person, according to the gift God has given, is given ample room to do ministry work. It gives me joy to do it.

[1] ‘The gift of prophesying … is basically the explanation of the present in the light of the revelation of God. The closest term we would call it by today is “expository preaching,” unfolding the mind of God and applying it to the daily struggles of life. David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 235.

[2] Ephesians 4:16


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