The Value of Godly Women to the Church

Define value. Dictionary definitions notwithstanding, John Keats (1795-1821) begins his poem, “Endymion,” with the words, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Keats speaks to the power that people —their character and actions— have in retrospect. “That, whether there be shine or gloom o’ercast, They always must be with us, or we die.” The Scriptures show, however, what is “a joy forever”; in a word: godliness. Paul writes, “for bodily exercise is profitable for a little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim 4:8). [All Scripture references are from the American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.]

Nothing is more valuable and potent in this world than “godly seed” (i.e., offspring; Mal 2:15). Humanity, after all, was made to bear the image of God on the earth (Gen 1:26-31): “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” While there is tremendous learning to be gained from understanding the binary nature of humanity (“male and female”), we wish to pursue a study on the value of godly women to the cause of God as it is manifested in the NT church in the past and today.

Godliness is a Matter of Character

Godliness is reflected in the content of a person’s character and conduct. The church is an amazing place full of potential when it reflects the character of its godly women. There is no greater influence in the Lord’s church than godly women. For example, David once said, “know that Jehovah hath set apart for himself [she] that is godly: Jehovah will hear when I call unto [her]. Stand in awe, and sin not: Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psa 4:3-4).[1] The Hebrew word (hāsîd) for “godly” (holy) one implies a “kindness” that extends grace toward others because they have at one point received grace.[2] The word is used with great regularity in the Psalms. Godliness is seen, then, as a matter of character, of piety.

Godliness is fundamental to Christian conduct (2 Pet 1:6-7, 10-11). Paul writes that Christian women are to profess godliness through good works (2:9-10): “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works.” The Greek word (theosébeia) for “godliness” speaks to a reverence for God manifested in a set a beliefs and practices.[2] Christian women are to ground their value in their character and record for a reverence for God (1 Tim 4:7-8; 6:11; 2 Tim 3:12; Tit 1:1, 2:12; eusébeia).[3]

Godly women of such character are of inestimable worth to the church. They leave an indelible mark upon everyone they touch. When they show divine kindness to their neighbor, when they extend grace to others because they have experienced it as well, and when godly women focus on the content of their character and faithfulness to God, then the world will understand the value of godly women to the cause of Christ. Any home, company, and church knows the powerful influence of such godly women for they cast a beautiful shadow of faith and devotion, of service and evangelism, of determination and selflessness. This value is seen in the end of Proverbs 31 (10-31), “a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; And let her works praise her in the gates” (30-31).

Examples of Godly Women in New Testament

Let us consider a few examples of the value women have to the church. Women disciples have always been a part of Jesus’ ministry (Matt 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 10:38-42; John 4:1-26). Luke’s Gospel Account provides a note on some of the financial supporters and companions of Jesus as he and the twelve went throughout cities and villages “preaching and bringing the good tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1-3). Among these many women were named three in particular: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. They served Jesus and the twelve from their own possessions and property (“their substance”). After being healed from infirmities and evil spirits, they served as continuous financial supporters of Jesus presumably to bring the same “good tidings” into the lives of others.

The Gospel Accounts reveal that the women disciples of Jesus were the first to witness and share the resurrection event of Jesus with the disciples. Matthew recounts the encounter of Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary who came to Jesus sepulcher, and were greeted by the angel who had rolled back the stone of the tomb (28:1-10). Mark adds that the “other” Mary is the mother of James, and that a third woman was them them – Salome (16:1-8). Luke adds that there was a second angelic man, and several other women including Joanna that were greeted with, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (24:1-12). John’s Gospel shows Mary Magdalene confused over the empty tomb, comforted by Jesus himself, and told to say that Jesus would ascend to the Father (20:1-18). At a time when the prevailing cultural theory was that a woman’s testimony was inferior to a man’s, the earliest witnesses to the empty tomb of Jesus are the women disciples of Jesus.

Luke continues to demonstrate the value and influence of women in the early church. The Acts of the Apostles demonstrates at every turn the value of godly women to the church. Women (including Mary, Jesus’ mother) were among the disciples in the upper room as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus (1:14), and Peter declares the prophetic words of Joel (2:28ff) that “your daughters shall prophesy… and on my handmaidens… will I pour forth of my Spirit” (2:17-18). Paul himself would abide with Philip the evangelist who “had four virgin daughters, who prophesied” (21:8-9; 1 Cor 11:5).

Luke, by the Spirit, give ample attention to a disciple named Tabitha who “was full of good works and alms deeds” who had fallen ill and died (9:36-37). Peter would be summoned by the church to be with them during this time. Her good works and influence were demonstrated by those who grieved at her death because “all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments” she made “while she was with them” (9:39). Caring for others —particularly widows— has always been an important demonstration of pure religion before God (Jas 1:27). Paul would instruct on the importance of the church and women of faith to care of widows (1 Tim 5:1-17; Acts 6:1-7).

As the Hebrew writer says (11:32), “for the time will fail me” to continue tell of Christian women who were patrons, fellow workers for the truth, founding members of congregations and “house church” hostesses (Acts 16:11-15). They corrected false teachers (Acts 18:24-28). They raise up godly men to be evangelists (2 Tim 1:3-8, 3:12-17). They loved their husbands and children and demonstrated administrative skill in their homes (1 Tim 5:14; 1 Pet 3:1-6). Finally, Romans 16:1-16 demonstrates that many sisters served in the Lord as servants of God, evangelistic collaborators, teachers and financiers. Christian women ministered the gospel to the first-century world without hindrance.

Godly Women in the Church Today

The Lord-God envisioned an invaluable and elevated place for women in the world. These divine truths hold true today despite the ongoing debate over social gender expectation of men and women. Godly women have tremendous value to the church today, because their roles are still as invaluable as ever. Godly women continue to manage their homes, whether they are a full time stay-at-home wife/mother, work from home, or go to the office. They embrace their domestic role in the home as wife and mother (1 Tim 2:15).

Single women, however, bring a singleness of zeal to the church. Paul says they are “careful for the things of the Lord” (1 Cor 7:34). The breadth of their valuable influence is tremendous. They lead ladies’ Bible classes and workshops, are congregational Bible class teachers, write books and blogs, and contribute to academia. They mentor other disciples.

Our sisters minister to the widows and widowers in senior/assisted living homes, and they comfort the sick in hospitals —some even being/training to be hospital chaplains. Some with a medical background participate in medical-evangelistic campaigns. Others enter the world of missions, focusing their energies on evangelistic pursuits. Many have been brought to Christ due to the teaching efforts of godly women who teach overseas through Bible teaching correspondence courses.

Concluding Thoughts

May the church always embrace the ministries women have in the kingdom of God. This being said I am struck with the climate which often arises in the necessary discussion concerning the ministry of women in the church. I often feel the discussion is filled with much angst and the second guessing of motives when it comes to the reconsideration of my beloved’s sisters’ role in the world. Unfortunately, I think some roadblocks also lie in gender expectations which are culturally driven (“perceived” roles) rather than biblically driven (“biblical” roles). Nevertheless, this brief essay is about extolling the influence of godly women to the church and I believe it has succeeded to reach our goal.

Endnotes

  1. I have replaced the masculine for the feminine in brackets [] simply to express the point of this essay, which is to emphasize the godliness of women.
  2. William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies (repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.), 196; R. Laird Harris, “hsd,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, eds. R. Laird Harris, et al. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1980), TWOT 1:305-07.
  3. theosébeia,” BDAG 452.
  4. eusébeia,” BDAG 412.

This is a reformatted and slightly expanded version of the article which originally published in The Glendale Gleaner (Newbern, TN: Glendale church of Christ).

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