When Loma Armstrong was called to understand the Sabbath in the 1920s, God used her to teach her husband, Herbert W. Armstrong. Though he did his best to disprove it, after six months of intensive study, he finally had to accept the truth that his wife had discovered. Together they were used to spread the truth to multiple thousands.
She is just one of the wonderful examples of women of faith who have contributed greatly to the growth of God's Church both in the modern era, and in the past. Last issue Gary Antion paid tribute to Margaret Cunningham, a deaconess in the Toronto, Ontario, area who recently died and was one of the many unsung heroes of our time.
In the Bible we catch glimpses of other great women. Consider the example of Dorcas, who "was full of good works and charitable deeds" (Acts 9:36).
Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, who Paul called fellow workers in Christ (Romans 16:3-4), taught Apollos in their home. "Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside [invited him to their home, NIV] and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:24-26).
Space does not permit recounting the accomplishments and faithfulness of women such as Mary, Mary Magdalene, Lois, Eunice, Lydia, Sarah, Esther, Deborah and Ruth.
A Shared Inheritance
It is clear from the Bible that both men and women are equal before God as potential children in His family—both are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
God is not a "respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34, King James Version). He shows no partiality in regard to one's sex. As Paul explained, "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" (Galatians 3:28).
Reflecting this common future for both males and females, Peter encouraged husbands and wives to think of themselves as "heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). Husbands and wives are joint or fellow heirs of the kingdom of God. Males and females have the same spiritual future.
The Scriptures are also clear that God grants both men and women His Holy Spirit with its accompanying wisdom. At the founding of the New Testament Church on the Day of Pentecost, God poured out His Spirit on both men and women. As Peter publicly explained, "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy'" (Acts 2:16-18). Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9) and Anna the widow was a prophetess (Luke 2:36-38).
Prophesy comes from the Greek word propheteuo and is used "with the primary meaning of telling forth the Divine counsels" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). Although prophesying can include inspired predictions of the future, most often it reflects speaking spiritual wisdom. Biblically encouraged ways for women to prophesy include teaching children (Proverbs 1:8; 31:1) and younger women (Titus 2:3-5). This could include women who are spiritually younger and need the wisdom and advice of women who are older or more mature spiritually. Spiritually mature women can be role models and mentors for women who are younger spiritually.
Outside of Church services, women are able to teach men in areas where they have special training, expertise and experience. For example, last year at the General Conference of Elders in Cincinnati, a woman with specialized experience in abuse counseling addressed all the elders and wives who were present. There is no biblical prohibition against women teaching men in this way.
However, the Bible says that a woman's role does not include service in the ministry. Paul gives instruction that women are not to preach in the Church (1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12). Paul's direct statements and the biblical example show only men in the ministry.
Some have questioned the reason for this, and some have floated various ideas which seem to discount women's abilities. However, consider this analogy. Only descendants of Aaron were allowed to serve in the priesthood, but that didn't mean other Levites—or other tribes for that matter—didn't have the ability to do the job. It was just that God had chosen a specific group for a specific purpose.
Women have long served in many other key roles at services, from providing musical accompaniment, special music and directing choirs, to teaching Sabbath school, welcoming guests, organizing potlucks and church socials and so much more.
With the same potential, women and men are preparing for the same future. We all have different experiences, trials and roles in this life. But there are many areas of service and godliness that we all can practice.
Both men and women can be instrumental in preaching the gospel to the world through their personal examples and by serving in member participation efforts like The Good News waiting room and brochure display programs. Both can care for the needy and visit the sick and prisoners (Matthew 25:34-36). Both can encourage, serve and strengthen other members and build the bonds of fellowship. Romans 12 exhorts all to use the gifts given by God, with the understanding that they differ in various individuals (verses 4 to 8). In marriage, both can serve their mates and build a marriage that serves the Church.
Obviously there are situations in our modern world that aren't spelled out exactly in Scripture, and in these areas the Church is continuing to study the nuances of what the Bible teaches on women's roles.
But the foundation remains that God, who created us male and female, has offered us all the same incredible potential, to become like Him and to be His sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18).