A Thank-You Note to the Women of Bridgeway Church
When we were making our way through Philippians at Bridgeway Church “it just so happened” that I preached on Philippians 4:1-3 on Mother’s Day. So let me take some time to highlight Paul’s description of these two women, Euodia and Syntyche, as those who “labored side by side” with him and served as his “fellow workers” in the gospel. Continue reading . . .
When we were making our way through Philippians at Bridgeway Church “it just so happened” that I preached on Philippians 4:1-3 on Mother’s Day. So let me take some time to highlight Paul’s description of these two women, Euodia and Syntyche, as those who “labored side by side” with him and served as his “fellow workers” in the gospel.
“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true comrade, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:1-3).
Let’s take note of just a few of the ways in which women served and ministered to Jesus as well as the ways in which other NT authors envisioned them serving in the local church.
In Luke 8:1-3 we read about several women, including Mary Magdalene, who financially supported the work of Jesus and his apostles.
There was a prophetess named Anna who never departed from the temple but worshiped and prayed incessantly. We are told that she publicly thanked God and spoke “of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38). She sounds like quite the evangelist!
According to the prophecy of Joel, as fulfilled in Acts 2, both “sons and daughters”, both “men and women” will exercise spiritual gifts and be the recipients of divine revelation and shall prophesy.
Philip’s four daughters prophesied in the local church (Acts 21:9).
Paul fully expected women to pray and prophesy in the corporate gathering of the church as is clear from 1 Corinthians 11:1ff.
Not only Aquila but also his wife Priscilla privately instructed Apollos in the things of the gospel (Acts 18:26).
Again in Romans 16:3 Paul refers to Priscilla and Aquila and describes them both as “fellow workers” in Christ Jesus “who [both] risked their necks for” Paul’s “life.”
Listen to how Paul describes Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2 –
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”
The word translated “servant” is actually the same word translated “deacon” in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. And many think it likely that Phoebe was the courier to whom Paul entrusted the Epistle to the Romans. Did you hear that? Paul asked Phoebe to carry his letter to the Romans from Corinth to the church in Rome. What does it say about the providence of God when an apostle entrusts the most important piece of literature ever written to a woman’s handbag?! [Just kidding! No emails please!]
So where does Bridgeway stand on the role of women in the local church? We are complementarian in our view, which means we believe that men and women are created equally in the sight of God and yet have differing roles and responsibilities that complement each other. Here is how it is put in our doctrinal statement:
12. We believe that both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons, possessing the same moral dignity and value, and have equal access to God through faith in Christ. We also believe that men and women are together the recipients of spiritual gifts designed to equip and empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. We also believe that God has ordained the principle of male headship in both the home and in the local church and that certain governing and teaching roles are restricted to men (primarily the office of Elder) (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; 1 Peter 3:1-7).
There are some complementarians who draw a very solid and rigid line and live in fear of women ever crossing over. I am not that sort of complementarian. I am extremely reluctant to place restrictions on anyone of either gender or any age in the absence of explicit biblical instruction to that effect. In other words, if I am going to err, it is on the side of freedom.
In my opinion, the only restrictions placed on women concern what I call senior governmental authority in the local church. By that I have in mind (1) the primary authority to expound the Scriptures and enforce their doctrinal and ethical truths on the conscience of all God’s people, and (2) the authority, as Elders, to exercise final governmental oversight of the body of Christ.
Therefore, unlike a number of other complementarians, as long as the principle of male headship is honored in the above two respects, I believe women can lead worship, can lead small groups together with their husbands, can assist in the celebration of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper, can serve as deacons (or deaconesses), can chair church committees, can lead in evangelistic, missionary, and church planting outreach, can (and should) be consulted by the local church Eldership when decisions are being made, and can contribute to virtually every other capacity of local church life. Women should be encouraged to pray and prophesy in corporate church meetings (1 Cor. 11) and should be given every opportunity to develop and exercise their spiritual gifts.
So, as we find ourselves reading not only about the service and ministry of Euodia and Syntyche but also that of Mary Magdalene and Anna and Priscilla and Phoebe and numerous others, I want to say thank you to the women of Bridgeway! Thank you for your selfless devotion to Christ. Thank you for your service to the body of Christ. Thank you for your passionate love and worship of our Savior. Thank you for the many ways you sacrifice and give and encourage us and model for us how to walk in holiness and purity. Thank you for all we have learned from you. May God continue to empower you and provide you with spiritual gifts and use you mightily in the growth of this church and the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth. Thank you!