-- Understanding Ministry of Men and Women in the New Testament --
-- Also – An Example of the Elder and His Wife
Acts 18:2 (1-4) AQUILA AND PRISCILLA IN CORINTH.
Because of the persecution of Jews in Rome, this couple had recently come from there to Corinth. It was here that Paul made his first contact with them, through their mutual trade of tentmaking. They showed hospitality to Paul, and with him shared in the founding of the church of Corinth about 54 AD. The two epistles to Corinth were written about 57 AD. In the six times Aquila is mentioned in Scriptures, he is always associated with his wife Priscilla. It is probable that they had a church in their home in this city.
Acts 18:18 (18-23) PAUL TAKES PRISCILLA AND AQUILA FROM CORINTH TO EPHESUS.
Note that the wife is placed first in this reference. Paul valued her ministry in the Spirit in precedence over Aquila, though he was the elder. Probably she had the charisma flowing more strongly than her husband, and was a real encouragement to Paul. This trip probably took place about 56 AD, and the letter to this church was written about 63 AD.
Acts 18:26 (24-28) PRISCILLA AND AQUILA MINISTER TO APOLLOS IN EPHESUS.
The Authorized Version places Aquila first, but Panin and other recent translations reverse this order. Here we find a ministry to an apostle, which was initiated by Priscilla; she was probably more sensitive and aggressive for truth. Her husband as the elder was not ashamed to receive revelation from the Lord through his wife, though he had the last word as whether to act on it or not. They both ministered to Apollos, using the teaching of Paul and his Gospel of the Kingdom. It probably took place 56 AD.
1 Corinthians 16:19 (19-20) AQUILA AND PRISCILLA SEND GREETINGS TO CORINTH.
In 57 AD Paul was writing from Ephesus to the Church of Corinth; as the elder of the church in his home, it was proper for Aquila to take precedence over his wife in sending greetings back to the place where they had labored with Paul for eighteen months. What is normal in the showing of authority, Aquila leads in; what is aggressive in the Spirit and revelation, Priscilla leads it.
Romans 16:3 (3-16) PAUL GREETS PRISCILLA AND AQUILA IN ROME.
Both the wife and husband are counted as fellow workers with Paul in the Gospel of the Kingdom. In this instance again, the wife has precedence in order because of ministry; but in authority of eldership, Aquila stands first. Headship is in the husband, but the anointing and function of ministry was more powerful in the wife. They jeopardized their lives for Paul, the wife probably leading. Here back in Rome again, they had a church in their home. The date is probably 58 AD, written from Corinth.
2 Timothy 4:19. PAUL GREETS PRISCILLA AND AQUILA BACK IN EPHESUS.
Here again, the primacy of mention is in Priscilla. She was probably very dear to Paul because of her aggressive gifts in the Spirit, vision, etc. They probably soon established a church in their home again. The time of writing was between 65-68 AD, by Paul.
LESSONS: According to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the wife of an elder or deacon is very important as one of his qualifications. The elder usually had a church in the home, which he and his wife hosted together; they had some form of joint ministry also. They exemplify how to flow together, and counsel. It is good for the elder to counsel and disciple men, and his wife, the women. In marital counseling they can do it together. The principles that apply for elder and wife, are suitable for the watch-care leader and his wife.
EDITORIAL NOTES: I wrote this article sometime in the 60’s for Broadway Tabernacle of Seattle. I then re-edited it in 1974 when I served as Associate Pastor to W.J. Ern Baxter at the “Christian Centre” in Surrey, BC Canada. At the time of first writing I was thinking of the husband wife teams we had at the Kostner Avenue Baptist Church in Chicago, and then at Broadway Tabernacle in Seattle.
There are 3 types of married couples in the ministry. We can consider the Apostle Peter and his wife, who he led about by the hand as a sister. He took the predominant public part
Then there were the parents of Samson. It seems that God was pleased to use the wife to initiate His revelation concerning their coming son. But Ma-NO-ah the father had the responsibility to look after his wife, provide headship, and together with her raise their son as a Nazirite according to God’s edict through the angel (Judges 13-16; Numbers 6:13-21).
Then there is Aquila and Priscilla, where the wife has the more prominent gifting in the area of spiritual manifestation, but served comfortably under his leadership and eldership. The above article sets forth the balance between these two, with their fruitful and practical relationship.
My wife Marie and I have a slightly different relationship; again. We can each move individually in our respective gifts and ministry, and qualify in the area of the 1000 and 10,000-fold. But when God chooses to use us together in team ministry in a church, Couples’ Conferences, Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” Conferences, etc., we suddenly see not 1000, but two with 10,000 – Deuteronomy 32:30; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Matthew 18:19 taking place. It is a 5-fold increase over ministry separately.
On occasion God leads us to claim Zechariah 12:8 – and we move into a dimension as channels for God beyond anything we could ask or think. But we are not feeble, so we can not only claim the 10,000-fold each from David; but in context of those of the house of David, we dare to claim a million-fold individually, and 10 million as a couple. Four couples can qualify for the billion-fold effect, and experience the “Spiritual Star Wars” concept as a possibility – that we deal with in another article.
The above four examples of couples show the variation that God is pleased to put together. For Marie and myself, it was our intent before marriage to offer ourselves individually to God in “the gift of singleness.” He heard, -- but to me replied – “Yes – but if I could link you with one where together you would count more for me in My Kingdom than either of you would alone – would you be willing to accept My will in this?” I replied in June 1948, “Yes Lord, but there is only one that would qualify, and that is Marie Gaudet – but she’s a Catholic and lives a more exuberant life-style than I do – so I’m safe!” But God! Marie had similar conversations with God, and by December 27thof that year, before having one date (she lived in Vancouver, BC Canada and I in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1200 miles apart), we married. All of our courtship took place by correspondence, and we had our first date on our honeymoon.
God is God, and has in His own inscrutable ways fulfilled up to now His Word to both of us. And the end is not yet, though we both hit 80 this year.
An additional thought on the ministry of men and women, married or single. In marriage the Bible is abundantly clear that headship is in the husband. But it is a headship of mutuality, not dictatorship. It is like Ephesians 5. Parents together provide headship over the children. In the early years the mother has the greater influence and responsibility. In later years the father has increasing responsibility – but together they give counsel, guidance and confirmation. Once the child matures and marries, the parents step back and move in a more advisory capacity.
Paul uses the above picture as an analogy for the pastor and wife in a church. The church becomes an extended family. The wife is often the main one in the church – especially a church in the home – in providing the nurture, care and love to new converts. Then the husband/pastor moves in increasingly in the disciplining and training responsibilities. But always the two can work together in team spirit in this context.
But what of the City Church, and the role of men and women? What about unmarried women with distinct and obvious gifts of leadership and teaching – especially those in the role of a Priscilla? This is a ticklish problem, and throughout the church age has been faced and solved in various ways. My thought on this is definitely not either/or – nor both/and; It is based on 1 Timothy 2:12. The RSV reads, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to be silent.” An Australian Commentator states that the Greek would allow this translation: “I permit no woman to teach authority, nor to have authority over men; in this respect she is to keep silent.” He further states that a woman is definitely permitted to teach under the headship of husband and church elders in all other areas where her teaching doesn’t bring men under her authority.
We can see Deborah in the book of Judges moving in this very context, and the various women ministries of both Old Testament and New Testament. Mary Slessor of Calabar and Sophie Muller of “New Tribes Mission” both moved apostolically in the founding of many churches – but did so under the headship of the men who were elders over them. The role of husband and wife in the home over their children is the exact picture the apostle paints of Pastor and wife over a local church, which is but an extended family. It portrays how women can have a full ministry like Priscilla, that exceeds in manifestation that of her husband – but in balance moves under the authority of her husband. Single women can gain the headship of pastors and elder to move in the same freedom in ministry and giftings. I do not believe it was a mistake that Jesus chose men as the first apostles, and the New Testament eldership was invested in men. It was men who sat in authority in the Gate of the City Church in the Old Testament, and in Acts 13 and 15.
Another verse often quoted in attempts to take away from the clarity of Paul’s teaching is Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (NNT). This is absolutely true as it reflects our Gospel rights in the Kingdom of God. God does not hold any party back because of the aforementioned distinctions. See Nicoll’s “The Expositor's Greek Testament” for confirmation.
But it is of paramount importance to interpret every verse in the immediate context, the book context, and the entire Bible context. The Russian scholar Ivan Panin, teacher of Albert Einstein in Mathematics at Harvard – made an illuminating analogy: “As a drop of water taken from the ocean, when analyzed, will show in trace form every constituent element of the ocean – SO every scripture when properly interpreted, will show in trace form every major teaching of the Bible.” To our eyes, we will find no contradiction between our handling of a text – to any other portion of the Bible – all will harmonize.
On this premise, no one can honestly before God as a Gentile claim that they are a spiritual Jew – and no female can claim equality with the male apart from Redemption, nor vice versa.
There are a number of so-called or self-appointed teachers who claim that Paul has missed it in a number of points – chiefly here! But what if Paul is correct, and what he has written in his 14 epistles did not originate with him, but truly came from the heart and mind of God? Consider 1 Corinthians 14:37 – “If any thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of what things I write you, that it is the Lord’s commandment!” (NNT) I personally preach and teach in the spirit of Isaiah 66:2, and in the above text – as one who one day will stand before the BEH-ma, the Judgment Seat of Christ, and give account to Him of my stewardship in faithful adherence to and proclamation of His Word! I do fear – and I do tremble at this prospect, and so should all other teachers and preachers! See James 3:1 for further confirmation in this direction.
My wife and I have one mind on the above. She disapproves of women who in the church take authority over men. We both want to be faithful to the WHOLE COUNSEL of God, and the full clarity of context. I fear for those who so glibly put down the authority of the Lord, as He has been pleased to reveal it through the Apostle Paul.
Dr. Ivan Panin translated the Numeric English New Testament from the Numeric Greek New Testament, from which I quoted in 1 Corinthians 14:37. He has an infallible mathematical proof of the Divine inspiration of the 66 books of the Bible, as they stand today, written under God by 33 authors. The Hebrew and Greek languages alone have no corresponding numbering systems. We use Latin letter and Arabic numbers. The Romans used Latin letters and Roman numerals. All other languages are similar except Hebrew and Greek, which God chose to have writers write His Bible. Hebrews and Greeks put a tick beside their letters and gave these letters an arbitrary equivalent. In Hebrew, with a tick, Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Tav – become 1, 2, 3, 4, 400. In Greek – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Omega – become 1, 2, 3, 4, 800. The man of sin, the antichrist, when he comes, will have a name in mathematical Greek equivalent to 666. Jesus in Greek is 888! And THAT is only the beginning. Ivan Panin, a brilliant Philosopher, lectured in 1890 at $200 a night on 40 of the world’s leader philosophers. He was a Mathematician and Master of the English language. He spent 50 years and 100,000 hours on this monumental and foolproof task of Bible Numerics. No other Holy Book of religion in the world apart from the Jewish and Christian Bible show forth this amazing phenomenon. Surfers of the Net can find and verify the above.
It is sad that even some so-called Christian teachers are so weak in the faith and proud in their pronouncements – that in denigrating the writings of the Apostle Paul – they call forth the Apologetic and Defence of Ivan Panin.
So what if the world completely bypasses the Bible teaching of this article? Well – what if they do repudiate it and bypass it? There are those in the church who do the same. They will ALL have to answer to God one day, believers and unbelievers alike – for the deeds done in the body. I so walk, live and teach as one who will one day give account for my stewardship.
I say again as I have said before – I FEAR for the liberal thinking that so glibly sets aside – first the Old Testament – and then the New Testament – and replace the Oracles of God with New Ageism, Humanistic and Liberal philosophies. Other so-called Holy Books have none of the earmarks and proofs of the Jewish and Christian Holy Bible.
I had no thought of writing this article when I got up early this morning. But as clearly as I have received any intimation and leading of the Holy Spirit in my heart – I sensed His quiet but insistent word in my spirit, “Write down the thoughts I give you on this subject.”
I do not say I have perfectly put down his intimations. I do not say, “Thus saith the Lord!” But I do say – Be good Bereans as those close to Thessalonica – and search the Scriptures daily whether this teaching is of God, true to the Bible, and not merely human conjecture. I thank those of you who have journeyed with me in the spirit of the Bereans. I truly believe the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will bless you by His Holy Spirit in your inner man.
Your friend and brother – Jim Watt.