Women and Church Eldership

1. THE GENERAL MINISTRY OF ALL BELIEVERS

Every human being, regardless of age or gender, should be involved in serving God as a "minister" or diakonos. Rom. 13:4 & I Tim. 1:12 and esp. I Pet. 4:10-11. And every Christian person (at his or her baptism) has been anointed and appointed to the general ministry or office of all believers. See: Ex. 19:3-8; Num. 11:29; Joel 2:16,28-29; Acts 2:17,38-39; Matt. 28:18-19; I Cor. 12:13-20,26; Eph. 4:4-5,1213,16; I Pet. 2:9. See too Martin Luther, as quoted in the Reformed Ecumenical Synod's 1968 Report, p. 152; Belgic Confession, arts. 28 & 31; and Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 32.

By virtue of this general ministry, all Christians are to be Christ's prophets and priests and kings. So all female Christians too are to be Christ's prophetesses and priestesses and queens in everthing they do. I Pet. 3:7 & I Cor. 10:51 with. Eccl. 3:113 & 5:18-20 & 9:7-10. See too Dr. F.N. Lee's Principles of Biblical Church Government (especially the section on "The Office of All Believers").

2. THE GENERAL MINISTRY OF ALL "SISTERS IN CHRIST"

Godly Christian women conscientiously occupying the general office of all believers, do wonderful work for the Lord and His people. One need only think of many of the very "elect ladies" mentioned in Scripture (cf. II John 1,5,13).

For Sarah was the very "mother" of all truly Christian women — even as regards Sarah's respectful obedience to her husband Abraham (cf. I Pet. 3:6 & Heb, 11:11). The penitent Rahab risked her very life to further the extension of God's Kingdom (Josh. 2 cf, Heb, 11:51 & Jas, 2:25). Under the blessed influence of her godly motherin-law Naomi, Ruth even abandoned her own nationality — in order to become an ancestress of Jesus (Matt. 1 & Ruth chs. 1 to 4). And Esther Queen of Persia risked even her own dethronement — rather than not protest the persecution of the people of God (Est. 4:14-6).

Moreover, Mary the mother of Jesus gladly accepted the slander of evil men in exchange for the great privilege of bearing the Saviour in her own body. Luke 2:34-38 & John 8:18-42. Too, Mary Magdalene and Johanna and Susanna and many other women "ministered" to the Lord Jesus with their possessions and through their services — both during His lifetime and after His death. Luke 8:2-3 & 23:56 to 24:10. Both the female tentmaker Priscilla and the wealthy businesswoman Lydia placed their homes at the disposal of Paul and other preachers. Acts 16:14,15,40 & 18:2-26. And Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois gave that dedicated preacher his first infant groundings in the God-breathed Scriptures which they themselves had absorbed. II Tim. 1:5 & 3:14-17 cf, I Tim, 2:15 & Tit, 2:4-5.

WOMEN AND CHURCH ELDERSHIP

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3. THE TRIPLE MINISTRIES OF THE SPECIAL OFFICES

Yet in addition to the above GENERAL office or ministry of all male and female believers, there are also three SPECIAL offices or ministries. These all seem to root in the munus triplex or trip1e office of the man Christ Jesus' prophethood and kingship and priesthood. And these three special church offices are: the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments; the Ruling Eldership; and the Diaconate. Cf. F.N. Lee's Principles of Biblical Church Government, and especially the sections "What Is A Church Office?" and "The Triune God and the Triune Office." Cf. Luke 4:18.

4. THE DIACONATE AND DEACONESSES

As regards the Diaconate, it is clear that all of the first New Testament Deacons were males, even though elected to care for neglected widows. Acts 6:1-8 cf. I Tim. 3:12. Yet even in apostolic times, it would seem that certain qualified Christian ladies helped the male Deacons — in the ladies' own AUXILIARY ministry as what were soon called 'DEACONESSES'. Cf. I Tim, 3:8-11 & 5:9-11 & Rom. 16:1-2 with Pliny's mention of a diaconissa or "deaconess" in his A.D. 112 Epistle to Trajan.

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