Wednesday 9th August is Woman’s Day here in South Africa and so I have chosen biblical characters with whom the average woman is more likely to relate.
The first woman I will feature is… the first woman… Eve. But, isn’t she the cause of all of humanities problems? Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:14 that ‘Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner’. So why am I citing Eve as someone special?
Adam and Eve were innocent and naive. Moreover, God created them to function as one unit (Genesis 2:24). Satan was highly intelligent, cunning, and charismatic. He approached Eve through a lowly serpent to beguile and mentally seduce her. But, where was Adam? Why was he not protecting and coming between her and the great tempter? And he ate the fruit willingly enough when Eve offered it to him.
When God confronted them, Adam blamed both his wife and God. He said, “The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12) Way to go Adam! Eve, on the other hand, immediately confessed what had happened. God pronounced punishment for the serpent, Adam, and Eve, but in the process, He made the promise that Eve’s offspring would crush the serpents head. This was a reference to the Messiah born of Eve’s line thousands of years later to defeat Satan once and for all on the cross of Calvary. Paul alluded to this in the much-misunderstood statement that although woman was the one who originally sinned, she would be ‘saved through childbearing…’ (1 Timothy 2:15). Eugene Petersen’s paraphrase of this verse provides a more natural and understandable interpretation; ‘On the other hand, her childbearing brought about salvation’ (The Message). In other words, although Eve sinned, God still determined that hers would be the genetic line that would eventually birth the saviour into the world. Paul was making this point to ensure that his readers would understand that although he was insisting on proper order in the church he was not suggesting that women are inferior to men.
So Eve, whose name means ‘life’, was indeed deceived, but she also had the honour of being the mother of all humanity and therefore the means by which the Lord Jesus Christ was born into the world… now that is pretty special! She made a terrible error of judgment but God redeemed her failure through the most gracious and momentous way possible.
Eve’s story is one of gracious redemption and is an encouragement to us today. Even if we sin, as Eve did, we can confess our sin and God will not only forgive, but He will also redeem; He will bring good out of the situation.
The other noteworthy woman I want to mention was Priscilla of Acts 18:2-26. Claudius expelled her and her husband, Aquila, from Rome, along with their fellow Jewish citizens. They travelled to Corinth where they earned their living as tent makers. Paul stayed with them when he visited Corinth and they became friends and fellow workers. After a year or two, all three of them departed Corinth for Ephesus where Paul left them and continued his journey. Sometime later, a man named Apollos came from Alexandria to teach about Jesus. Although he was learned and eloquent, he did not have a full understanding of the Gospel, and so the couple took him in and ‘explained the way of God more adequately’ (Acts 18:27-28).
Now, interestingly, when Luke recorded these things in the book of Acts, he mentioned Priscilla’s name before that of her husband. This was a break with convention but we would probably not read too much into it if Paul had not also given Priscilla pre-eminence in his greetings in both his letter to the believers in Rome and in his letter to Timothy.
The one time Paul mentioned Aqilla first was when he wrote to the Roman Christians that ‘the churches here in western Asia send greetings. Aquila, Priscilla, and the church that meets in their house say hello (1 Corinthians 16:19).
What we can infer from this all is that Aquila played a strong role in both teaching Apollos and leading a house church together with her husband.
I am more than a little irritated by those who attempt to keep capable women out of key ministry roles in the church. The overall testimony of scripture does not support this.