Women—May They Be “Ministers”?
TODAY more and more women are occupying Protestant pulpits. At a certain church some women share the pulpit with their husbands. Many nuns have agitated for the Catholic Church to allow women also to be ordained as clergymen or priests, but thus far the pope has refused to accede to their wishes.
Regardless of what human wisdom might dictate on the subject, or what our own inclinations or preferences might be, the ‘wisdom that comes from above,’ as expressed in God’s Word, will be the determining factor as far as all sincere followers of Jesus Christ are concerned.—Jas. 3:15-17.
God’s Word shows that Jesus Christ set a precedent by appointing only men to be among the 12 apostles and the 70 evangelists. (Matt. 10:1-4; Luke 10:1) In keeping with this precedent, we find that the apostle Paul limited the appointment of congregational elders (and ministerial servants) to men. (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) Moreover, he reminded Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.”—1 Tim. 2:12.
However, from other scriptures it is apparent that this restriction applies only within the congregation. That women can be preachers, proclaimers, ministers of the “good news” outside the congregational meetings can be seen from the prophecy at Joel 2:28, 29, which the apostle Peter showed had a fulfillment on the day of Pentecost by saying: “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy . . . and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’” Yes, at Pentecost the holy spirit fell upon both men and women.—Acts 1:14, 15; 2:1-4, 17, 18.
Also pertinent here is Isaiah 61:6, which reads, in part: “As for you, the priests of Jehovah you will be called; the ministers of our God you will be said to be.” This prophecy had its initial fulfillment when the Jewish exiles, as a composite or national group, returned from ancient Babylon. However, as can be seen from the physical facts and in keeping with Romans 15:4 these words are having a modern fulfillment upon spiritual Israelites. (Gal. 6:16)* They were in spiritual captivity to “Babylon the Great” during World War I, and were set free shortly thereafter, with the symbolic fall of that world empire of false religion.
Since this restoration prophecy does find a fulfillment in modern times, who are included in the expression “ministers” or “servants” in an elevated or sacred sense? Is it limited to elders and ministerial servants, or “deacons,” in the congregation? Apparently not. Back there this prophecy applied to all the Jews who returned from Babylon as a composite or national group. Likewise today, this prophecy can be applied to all spiritual Israel who have come out of modern Babylon, both men and women, both old and young—yes, regardless of age or sex, provided, of course, that they do “minister.”
Does this mean that the term “ministers” is limited now to the anointed spiritual remnant? No, for this expression can be applied also to the “great crowd” of “other sheep” who are assisting the remnant today. This can be seen from the way many other scriptures apply to these “other sheep.”—John 10:16; Rev. 7:9.
For example, Isaiah 43:10-12 applied first to the natural Israelites whom Jehovah God delivered from Egypt and made his witnesses. Today, this scripture applies to the spiritual Israelites whom Jehovah has delivered from Satan’s organization, making them Jehovah’s Witnesses. Proof that this term cannot be limited to the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel can be seen from the fact that today there are more than two million worshipers of Jehovah who have an earthly hope and who truly are witnessing to their God, Jehovah.
Yes, all dedicated and baptized Christians, regardless of sex or age, can be proclaimers, preachers, ministers, “servants” in an elevated or sacred sense—provided they give proof thereof by their conduct and their witnessing. Thus the apostle Paul wrote at Romans 16:1: “I recommend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a minister of the congregation that is in Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the holy ones, and that you may assist her in any matter where she may need you, for she herself also proved to be a defender of many, yes, of me myself.” Obviously, Paul’s reference is to something more than merely physical service. It is to something having to do with the spoken word, the Christian ministry. However, she had not been appointed as a female ministerial servant, as Jehovah God through Paul made no provision for women in such an office.
Again, when writing the Christian congregation in Philippi, Paul makes reference to Euodia and Syntyche as “women who have striven side by side with me in the good news [evidently preaching and teaching the good news of God’s kingdom] along with Clement as well as the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”—Phil. 4:2, 3.
Also, not to be overlooked is Priscilla, wife of Aquila. She is mentioned repeatedly, most often even ahead of her husband. (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19) When eloquent Apollos arrived in Ephesus and it was apparent that he needed further instruction, ‘Priscilla and Aquila took him to their home and they both expounded the word of God more correctly to him.’—Acts 18:26, Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
Several courts in the United States have recognized female Jehovah’s Witnesses, in carrying on the door-to-door evangelistic work, as ministers. For example, the Supreme Court of Vermont, in Vermont v. Greaves (1941), stated that Elva Greaves “is an ordained minister of a sect or class known and designated as ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’.”
The same principle may be applied to youthful Christians. Although in no sense of the word could they serve as appointed servants in the congregation, their age would be no impediment to their being preachers and proclaimers of the “good news,” ministers of God. Jesus at the age of 12 showed himself to be capable of ‘ministering’ God’s Word. (Luke 2:46-50) Samuel became “a minister of Jehovah” as a mere “boy.” (1 Sam. 2:11, NW; see also American Standard Version; The Jerusalem Bible; Rotherham.) And so in modern times some in their early teens or even younger, after having dedicated themselves to Jehovah and having been baptized, are proving by their activity in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom at every opportunity, as well as by their conduct, that they are indeed ministers of God.—2 Tim. 2:22; Eccl. 12:1.
A “SACRED SERVICE”
Jesus laid down the rule that a man’s claims must be measured by his works. He stated: “The works themselves that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father dispatched me.” (John 5:36) By the same token, those ministers (or, “servants” in an elevated sense) that God sends forth, male or female, young or old, are to be recognized by their service for the Kingdom interests, their “sacred service” to their God, Jehovah.—Matt. 4:10; Rom. 12:1, 2.
So among Jehovah’s Witnesses today, anyone who upon adequate instruction in God’s Word has been baptized in symbol of dedicating his or her life to God, and who thereafter seriously undertakes service to Jehovah God in witnessing to his name and kingdom, is truly a minister in God’s view. (John 12:26) However, whether they would always want to introduce themselves when calling from house to house as a “minister” would depend upon the circumstances, including the local attitude toward the term “minister.” In any case, today’s ‘great crowd out of all nations’ are described at Revelation 7:9-17 as ‘rendering God sacred service day and night in his temple.’ All are God’s ministers—his servants in a sacred, elevated sense.
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At Pentecost, holy spirit commissioned men and women to be ministers of our God, Jehovah
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Youths may serve as ‘ministers of God,’ preaching the “good news” and bringing spiritual comfort to others