Scriptural: On Men and Women I Will Pour Forth of my Spirit; Theological Reflections on Spiritual Gifts
What about women in the church? What were their roles then, in the first churches? And what should be their roles now, in this day and age? The New Testament spotlights Jesus as the model. He treated women with respect and dignity, included them in spiritual matters, and involved them in religious work. New Testament theology—giving God’s words about women and their roles—teaches that the Holy Spirit equips all people (male and female) for God’s work. The New Testament history depicts the first-century church at worship. It describes women as full participants in the services, equal recipients of spiritual gifts, and leaders at all levels—even identifying female church workers by the same titles as male ministers.
The New Testament lists three categories of spiritual gifts in three passages of Scripture. Though each category is distinct in its purposes, all gifts share the following elements in common: (a) Each gift represents a unique way God’s grace enables individuals to effectively do His work in the world and in the Church. (b) God’s gifts are no reason for boasting; they are not given as a badge of honor to those who deserve them, but are unmerited gifts of grace. (c) Spiritual gifts are not for the benefit of the recipient, but are given for the common good, that is, to serve the needs of others, for the building up of the body of Christ, and for ministry in the marketplace. (d) Thus, all gifts are to be operated with love. 1 (e) And, from the Day of Pentecost on, God has poured out His Spirit on sons and daughters alike, equipping both genders in every category of gifts.
Supernatural Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12-14
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. … There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. … Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines (1 Cor. 12:1, 4, 7-11).
First Corinthians 12-14 discusses the nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit: a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. The Holy Spirit makes the choice of which gifts He gives to which individuals (1 Cor. 12:11). And those spiritually-gifted persons comprise God’s gifts to the Church. “God has placed the parts [in this context, (spiritually-gifted) people] in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor. 12:18). There is no evidence in Scripture that gender has any bearing on the choices He makes.
The members of the body of Christ and their spiritual gifts are diverse, yet together they form a unified whole. God’s plan is that “there should be no division in the body” (1 Cor. 12:25). Every part (person, including their gifts) is needed; every part is to be valued; every part is to be honored and cared for—and every believer is a part of the Body (1 Cor. 12:27). Scripture warns against devaluing God’s gifts (1 Thess. 5:20; 1 Cor. 14:39). Disregarding the “people-gifts” (that is, the persons God has supernaturally equipped for service) would grieve the Holy Spirit.
The supernatural gifts are so beneficial to the Church that Scripture encourages all of Christ’s followers to seek them, especially certain gifts. Paul writes, “Eagerly desire the greater gifts;” that is, “those [gifts] that build up the church;” “eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1, 12 [compare 6-11]). “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:39). If the apostle Paul is suggesting any ranking of supernatural gifts, the “greater” kind of gift seems to be prophecy. Does the Holy Spirit gift women with prophecy?
Yes, prophecy is a spiritual gift with which the Holy Spirit gifted women in the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:5). First Corinthians 11:5 gives evidence that prophesying women were active in the worship service. Female prophets were among those the Holy Spirit gifted to the New Testament Church (Acts 21:9). Scripture explains that though not every person is a prophet (1 Cor. 12:29), any person (male or female) can be gifted by the Holy Spirit to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:31). Furthermore, prophets are the ones authorized to judge the authenticity of utterance gifts (1 Cor. 14:29). Thus those who prophesy have authority in the supernatural gifts. And because prophecy, as an intelligible utterance gift, has real potential to build up the Body, it is a supernatural gift that is highly esteemed. Since the Holy Spirit gifted women in the New Testament with prophecy—perhaps the highest of supernatural gifts—it follows that all the rest of the supernatural gifts are available to women too.