We know that none of the apostles were women (Matt. 10:2-4). However, some of Jesus’ closest disciples were women. Luke 8:2-3 mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and “many others” who helped provide financial support for Jesus and the apostles as they went about preaching. Later, when the apostles fled the crucifixion scene in fear, certain faithful and sorrowing women remained to watch his death on the cross (Matt. 27:55-56).
From these and other references in the Gospels we learn that Jesus in no way dealt with women as being inferior to men as far as being his disciples was concerned. In selecting men rather than women to be his apostles, he did make some distinction in the roles men and women should fill. These two basic principles, i.e., (1) equality of worth in Christ’s sight, and (2) difference in role assignments for men and women, were clearly taught in the early church, and should, or course, be reflected in the church today.
WOMAN’S ROLE IN THE CHURCH
When the church began on the Day of Pentecost, women, as well as men, came into it in great numbers (Acts 5:14). There were no distinctions made in conditions of membership between the sexes. Furthermore, the importance of women to the whole church is reflected by the concern which the early church had for widows who needed care and help (Acts 6:1-6).
The good works of women are frequently mentioned in Scripture. Dorcas is cited as an example of faithful, loving service (Acts 9:36-39). Lydia is revealed as being a woman of great hospitality, “constraining” Paul and his company to abide in her house (Acts 16:1-15). Phoebe is described as a “servant of the church that is in Cenchreae” (Romans 16:10). The many good works of women in the church is further reflected as Paul describes the qualifications for women who were to devote full time to Christian work and to be supported by the church. In 1 Timothy 5:9-10 these qualifications included widowhood, being sixty or more years of age, having no kin of their own to support them, and being “well reported of for good works.” These good works were then stated as (1) bringing up children, (2) showing hospitality to strangers, (3) washing the saints’ feet, (4) relieving the afflicted, and (5) diligently following every good work.
Woman’s role in the private teaching of God’s Word is also referenced in Scripture. In Acts 18:26 Priscilla, with her husband, Aquila, privately taught a good, but misinformed preacher (Apollos) “the way of God more accurately.” Titus 2:4 commands older women to train younger women in Christian living.
A key verse in understanding the importance of women in the eyes of God is Galatians 3:28, “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female, for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.” In the world of Jesus’ day, there were sharp distinctions among people by which they looked upon each other as inferior or superior and, because of these differences, separated themselves from each other. These differences included religious background (Jew and Greek), special status (slave or slave owner), or sex (male and female). Paul wrote that none of these distinctions was valid as far as worth is concerned. He did not mean, certainly, that when one became a Christian he or she ceased to be a man or a woman, a slave or a free man, a Jew or a Gentile. None of these, however, should cause separation, because all are of equal preciousness in Christ Jesus