Biblical Ministries for Women


3 P. Schaff's History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971, III sect. 52, pp. 259-61. 4 Council of Chalcedon: can. 50. 5 Schaff: op. cit., III, pp. 261-62.


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Elsewhere (Institutes IV:3:9), Calvin further declared that this same passage Rom. 12:7-15 includes also references to "those who had devoted themselves to the care of the poor and the sick. Such were the widows of whom he [Paul] makes mention in the Epistle to Timothy (I Tim. 5:10). For there was no public office which women could discharge, save that of elevating themselves to the service of the poor."

In his Commentary on First Timothy (5:9), Calvin referred to "widows" who "must be sixty" before "being supported at public expense" as working Deaconesses. Indeed, he added that "it was intolerable that they should declare themselves to the service of the Church, if there still remained any likelihood of their being remarried…. They, on their side, should be employed in ministering to the poor — as far as their health allowed."

For these Deaconesses' "communities were not intended for leisure or lazy inactivity, but to help the poor and sick until the women were worn out and could honourably rest in retirement. Thus, to have them prepared to perform such an office, he [Paul] wants them to have had long experience of the duties belonging to it, such as: labour and diligence in bringing up children; hospitality; helping the poor; and other works of charity….

"No woman should be accepted, whose age would ever lead her to desire marriage…. It was not at all necessary that women who were still young should be admitted into the order of widows. Experience had shown that it was a dangerous and harmful practice."

Indeed, in his Institutes (IV:13:19), while discussing I Tim. 5:9-15, Calvin stated that "Deaconesses were appointed…to perform the public ministry of the Church towards the poor…. They…vowed celibacy…only so that they might be free from encumbrance in executing their office." See section 10 below.

9. Appointment to special office only where gifted (and where those gifts were developed)

All Christians have some or other Spiritual gifts, and all Christians occupy some or other Spiritual office. Spiritual offices may be either non-ecclesiastical or ecclesiastical. Non-ecclesiastical Spiritual offices include those of Magistrate, Police (wo)man, Husband, Wife, Schoolteacher, Schoolchild, Political Party Secretary, Bowls Club Chairperson, etc. Ecclesiastical offices include those of Believer, Deacon, Elder, Preacher, Deaconess, Theological Professor (Doctor or Teacher), etc.

The mere possession of the relevant gift of the Spirit (such as that of governing) does not in itself imply that the thus-gifted one thereby automatically functions as an officer — or even that he or she has a right to be installed in that office. Just as not all single persons who desire to marry, ever get married; and just as not all married couples who desire to have children, ever actually become parents — so too not all who desire church office, ever actually fill it.

Thus in Ex. 4:24-50, Zipporah's ability to circumcise, and even her actual administration of that Sacrament — although exercised with the unbiblical approval of her negligent Preacher-Husband Moses — did not and could not constitute her


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permanent appointment to the office of Minister of the Word and Sacrament. Cf, F.N. Lee's Have You Been Neglecting Your Baby? Similarly, the mere possession of the Spiritual gifts of judgment and of prophecy — no more at all implies appointment to the Eldership or to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, than the possession of all the qualifications to be an Apostle implies that Joseph Barsabas Justus had an inalienable right to be appointed to the Apostleship in Acts 1:16-26. Thus, Deborah "the prophesying woman" or 'ishshaah nebiy'aah — was indeed gifted remarkably. She also "administered Israel" or shoof taah eth-Yisraa'eel in Judg. 4:4 cf. 5:lff,

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