They bring comfort, inspiration, and strength in a truly feminine way. They are the women of faith, the women who have gone before us, the women we worship with and serve alongside every week; they are the mothers and sisters we love. They help make us the women, wives, mothers, sisters, friends, and leaders that we are. A beautiful song captures the legacy of the women of faith:
These are the faces in photographs
Heads all held high
Not afraid to look life in the eye
They are women with backbone
Keepers of the flame
With a spirit even hard times couldn't tame
These are the women I come from
The faith that sustained them is bred in my bones
I know what I'm made of and where I belong
'Cause these are the women I come from
They were lovers of babies and lovers of God
With lessons and laughter in their songs
Did they dream better dreams for their children?
As they prayed silent prayers in the night
"Lord, make their way clear and always be near"
("These Are the Women We Come From” Michael Chapdelaine)
We may not have photographs of the women of the New Testament, but we can read of their faith and how they set an example and paved the path. We can look to their legacy for inspiration. Let us consider their works of faith.
In Acts 9:36 (King James Versio throughout), we read of Dorcas, a woman of Jopp, “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha which by interpretation is called Dorca: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did.”
Dorcas was special to her neighbors, and upon her death the widows mourned for her and praised her works showing Peter the clothes that she had made for them. Continuing in verse 39, “Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.”
Tabith, or Dorca, is resurrected by Peter and presented back to her beloved people and her story was known throughout Joppa and many believed.
The Woman of Lydia
It is unknown if Lydia is the woman’s name in Acts 16 or merely a reference to where she is originally from. What we do know is that she is a business woman, a seller of purple. Dyeing of cloth was difficult as the dye was usually obtained from shellfish which made it costly and, therefore, made the material that she sold valuable and expensive. It was probably only purchased by the wealthy or those of the noble classes.
In Acts 16:13, we read that it was her custom to go to the river of prayer on the Sabbath day and it is here that she meets Paul. God was working with Lydia and opened her heart. She set an example for her household and her community by her actions in worship and obedience to God. Upon their baptism, Lydia and her household become the first converts in Europe.
She then invites Paul to stay with her and later Paul returns to her house to comfort the brethren of Philippi, indicating that her home was known to be the meeting place of the brethren.
In Acts we read of Priscilla, mentioned alongside her husband, Aquila, in every reference. We learn that the two of them served as religious instructors to Apollos. “And a certain Jew named Apollos…came to Ephesus…and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John…whom when Aquila and Priscilla heard, they took him unto them and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:24-26).
We see Priscilla opening her home and instructing in the ways of God alongside her husband. She and her husband are friends of Paul as indicated by his personal greetings to them on more than one occasion (Romans 16:3 and 2 Timothy 4:19).
Respected and trusted by Paul, Phebe is introduced in Romans when Paul tells us that she is a servant of the church in Cenchrea (Romans 16:1).
Paul then continues instructing the brethren that she is to be accepted and to receive whatever help she requires. She has a history of helping Paul and many others.
Lois and Eunice
Lois is the maternal grandmother of Timothy. Eunice, a Jewish woman, is Timothy’s mother. Eunice was married to a Greek man, but there is no mention of his name as we read more of Timothy. What we do know is that Timothy received his Biblical instruction from his grandmother and mother. “And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
Timothy is known in his community and respected, even though he is presumably young. Paul takes Timothy, circumcises him, and he travels with Paul through the region of Galatia, establishing churches. Ultimately, Timothy is instructed by Paul to be a servant, assisting in the building and formation of the early churches.
Paul recognizes the faith of Lois and Eunice when he speaks of the faith that is in Timothy, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and they mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Timothy 1:5).
As we reflect on these examples and on the examples of women of faith that we have known personally or are blessed to have in our lives currently, we learn that there are principles to being a "woman of faith". These include having a relationship with God and Christ, obeying His word, being able to teach by knowing God’s way and studying His word, giving of ourselves in service and hospitality, seeing to the needs of others, being trustworthy and dependable, presenting ourselves in a manner that is both respectable and acceptable so that we can be used by God, and providing for ourselves and our families by being diligent, hardworking, and wise.
One day we will be able to talk with these women and ask them what they prayed for, what made them laugh and cry, and how they loved and lived. I think we will learn that we have many similar dreams, hopes, and fears. More importantly, I pray that there continues a similarity in the faith that they had because these are the woman we come from.
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