With everything we compete against today, it is so easy to disqualify ourselves or to allow others to disqualify us from our calling. As I studied the life of Priscilla, I could not help but ask myself: “What right do I have to disqualify what only God can qualify?” As Priscilla was revealed to me, I found several biblical intellectuals who name her as the first woman pastor in the early Church. Just think about how easily it would have been, in that day and time, for Priscilla to count herself out of this monumental assignment. Or how she could have, based on her gender and marital status alone, allowed others to disqualify her God-given qualifications.
It is interesting that we are not told where Priscilla is from. Her ethnicity, although presumed Jewish, or her religious heritage is not given in scripture. Even her name is a common Roman name. It is in the book of Acts that the apostle Paul makes Priscilla known to us. Here the scriptures describe how Paul first meets Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth.
“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla, because [the Roman Emperor] Claudius had issued an edict that all the Jews were to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them; and they worked together for they were tent-makers.” Acts 18:2-3 AMP
Passages such as Romans 16:3, which start as “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” tell us Paul considered them to be his equals. His designation of Priscilla and Aquila as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” was terminology often used to describe other respected leaders in ministry. In verse 4 of chapter 16, Paul indicates that he and the Gentile churches were indebted to the couple for their work. High praise indeed.
Now let’s refocus a little more closely on Priscilla.
At the very first mention of Priscilla in the Bible, we are given immediate information that she is the wife of Aquila. I believe this makes her story even more powerful than most. As the mandate of ministry leadership manifests in her life, she isn’t single or widowed, she’s married. Priscilla is this unique woman who walked in the confidence of her calling while married.
Scripture provides a clear picture of this couple’s relationship. Priscilla is found walking in true unity with Aquila, placing herself under the covering of her husband, while still fulfilling God’s calling over her own life. Priscilla labors alongside her husband at the gospel work. Together, they were consistently busy for the Lord wherever they were. A rare gem. Even with so little accolades to who she was or where she came from, many believe, she was the first woman in the Church to preach the truth of Jesus Christ openly.
And then the Bible gives us this stunning picture of Priscilla’s gifting. In Acts 18:26, the Bible gives us this encounter in Ephesus between Priscilla and Aquila and a disciple named Apollos.
“And he began to speak boldly and fearlessly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained more accurately to him the way of God [and the full story of the life of Christ].” AMP
Note Priscilla’s name is listed first in the passage. This is significant since the cultural pattern was, in such listings, to name the husband first. But there is something even more significant at play. Priscilla is found gracefully co-teaching a man, completely unheard of in that day. This further supports why we are led to believe she was considered to have held a pastoral role in the Church.
Throughout the remainder of the Bible, Priscilla continues to be mentioned equally with her husband, if not mentioned first. This reveals they were a true team and that barriers in leading the Church were being broken.
Proverbs 31:30 says:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. NIV
When Priscilla spoke, she spoke with reverence for the Lord, with authority and confidence, and she was considered to be an expert on the teachings of Jesus. She bloomed wherever she was planted and faithfully served the Lord. Priscilla became a light God moved around to spiritually dark areas in order to illuminate the darkness with the truth of Jesus Christ.
“Paul stayed for a while longer, and then told the brothers and sisters goodbye and sailed for Syria; and he was accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.” Acts 18:18 AMP
The churches of Asia send you their greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church [that meets] in their house, send you their warm greetings in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 16:19 AMP
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, and to the household of Onesiphorus. 2 Timothy 4:19 AMP
Without question, Priscilla proclaimed the Good News. She spoke of God’s love from her mouth and then demonstrated it with her actions. Just like Priscilla, many women throughout church history have paved the way to teaching the Gospel. Yet, their part in this area has not been free from debate. Priscilla submitted to God’s calling and crossed traditional boundaries broadening women’s roles in ministry. Will you follow in her footsteps and dare to submit your giftings and talents to the mandate of God’s calling on your life?
Acts 2:17-18 says:
”In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” NIV
Regardless of gender, no person, called and gifted by God, should deny themselves or be denied by others any role in ministry, including Church leadership.
Don’t overestimate your inadequacies and underestimate your God-given spiritual gifts! Perhaps the expectations you have self-imposed, or allowed others to appoint in your life, really aren’t deal breakers! Nothing in our life happens by chance! God promises in His Word He can and will do something outside of your natural abilities if you allow Him. You may feel unsettled about yourself because you perceive yourself as lacking any real qualifications to teach the Gospel, or by the potential limits you see in front of you, but God is never unsettled about those He chooses. Step out BOLD woman of God and conquer!
Written by Stacha Ashburn, founder of “I AM” Code Sisterhood.
Please note all scripture was taken from the AMP – Amplified Bible or NIV – New International Version
Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
This week, we’re going to meet another Mary found in the Bible. She is known as Mary Magdalene and she sure had a checkered past! But did it stop her? Did her past keep her from stepping out into her God-given destiny? Let’s find out together.
Who was Mary Magdalene? What qualifications did she have that allowed her to walk with Jesus? Was she a scholar, a prophetess, or something else? It’s been rumored that she was a woman of ill-repute, a prostitute. However, what I have discovered in my research of Mary Magdalene was that this rumor may have been created by Pope Gregory the Great to more fully illustrate the forgiveness found in Christianity. Others, admittedly on the feminist end of the spectrum, surmise that this may have been done to minimize her in what was a patriarchal society. Regardless of the reason, there is no evidence of Mary Magdalene being a prostitute found in scripture. There are indications that she may have been of some financial worth and was one of the women that supported Jesus and the disciples in that manner.
What we do know is that Mary of Magdala was a demonically possessed woman prior to her encounter with Jesus. The scriptures tell us that Jesus cast out seven demons from her.
“He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene from who he had cast out seven demons.” Luke 8:1-2 NLT
Can you comprehend the struggle within this woman’s soul? She was possessed by seven demons, but when she encountered Jesus, He immediately and completely stripped that away from her. She came to him tortured and tormented, sick and ailing and Jesus restored her. You can be sure people had a thing or two to say about her behavior while she was under the control of seven demons. I bet she was the talk of the town. Did she allow the criticism from her past to hold her back from following Jesus? No, not at all. She boldly followed Him.
Mary Magdalene was forever changed after her encounter with Jesus. Her gratitude is evidenced by the fact that she followed him, supported him, nurtured and cared for him from the moment of her freedom from her demonic past to His crucifixion on a hill, to the tomb from which He arose, and beyond.
“And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee” Matthew 27:55-56 NLT
Mary Magdalene watched as Jesus was crucified. She sat across from the tomb as His broken body was laid inside and the stone rolled in its place to seal the opening (Matthew 27:61). As I read this, I realized that this is how we women are. Our love for those that are important to us supersedes our desire to turn away from the pain. I’m sure she didn’t want to watch Jesus being tortured and crucified, but how could she leave Him to go through that alone. She couldn’t. It was imperative to her that when He looked out from the cross, He would see love reflected from her eyes to His. She couldn’t walk away from Jesus, no matter how hard it was to stay. She had to be there to care for Him in any way she could, even if that meant just being a kind face among the angry mass at the cross or being among the few that watched over His body until it had been laid to rest.
At sunrise that Sunday morning after the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, and Salome arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled aside. As the women entered the tomb, they saw an angel that told them Jesus wasn’t there. He had risen! The angel instructed them to go tell the disciples that He had risen. The women were shocked and fled. Yet, they were also filled with joy. They didn’t just flee in fear, they rushed to obey. They ran toward what the angel was calling them to do – spread the Good News (Mark 16:1-8).
The women would tell the disciples and those around them that the tomb was empty. Peter and John would come and view the tomb and leave in wonder, but the women remained there still trying to take it all in (John 20:1-13).
Then scripture tells us something amazing! Jesus appeared to the women (Matthew 28:9-10) and addressed Mary Magdalene directly.
As John 20 continues, it tells us of Mary Magdalene’s final encounter with Jesus. At first, Mary doesn’t recognize the Lord. Perhaps blinded by her tears, she mistakes Him for the gardener. But Jesus speaks to her and she then realizes who she is talking to.
The Lord instructs the women to deliver a message to the disciples that He will meet them in Galilee (Matthew 28:10) before He ascends to the Father (John 20:17). With great respect, John’s account clearly states that Mary Magdalene was the deliver of this message to the disciples (John 20:18).
Well, I have a better understanding of her now and I hope you do too. Without a doubt, we know of her only because she walked away from her past. You see, Mary Magdalene could have just continued in her life letting her past determine her steps. She could have remained possessed by the demons that held her captive, and if so, we would have most likely never heard of her. She would have missed out on being the first to witness the appearance of the risen King. However, Mary reached out to Jesus, she trusted in Him to make everything right within her. She allowed the Lord to throw her past out and make her a new creation in Him. She would no longer be known as a host for demons, but as the Apostle to the Apostles. Isn’t it time we stop letting our past get in the way of our future and follow the Lord wholeheartedly so that we may complete the mission He has laid out for us. Today, I’m stepping into my destiny and not letting my past haunt me anymore. How about you?
Written by Rhonda Carlsen
Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Women’s Study Bible: New Insights for all God’s People by
The Everything Mary Magdalene Book: The Life and Legacy of Jesus’ Most Misunderstood Disciple by Meera Lester
Just imagine you are walking uptown one day, simply window shopping, and then from out of nowhere a stranger appears in front of you. Before you can really react, the stranger tells you an unimaginable thing is about to happen to you. Worse yet, you really won’t be able to explain it to anyone and they believe you. I mean your girlfriends have always thought you were a little bit of an exaggerator, but this, this is going to send them right over the edge! What would you do?
Honestly, I have not a clue how I would react, but there is one woman we can turn to for some guidance – Mary, the mother of Jesus.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Luke 1:26-28 NLT
I can’t even imagine the look on Mary’s face. Can you? One minute she is going about her daily routine and the next she is face to face with an angel! As this encounter continues to unfold, Mary is told not only is she going to have a baby, but the baby of ALL babies, the Son of God.
The words falling on her ears must have been overwhelming to say the least, but keeping her wits about her, she doesn’t ask God to prove what is being said just how it will happen. I mean it’s a logical question. She’s a virgin.
So, Gabrielle explains how the conception will take place. And Mary’s response?
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. Luke 1:38 NLT
A friend of mine has decided that she is going to help me become a writer and has been giving me a few assignments to complete. This time my subject is Tabitha. Me having vaguely heard of Tabitha, if at all, decided to do some research so as not to disappoint my mentor.
Consequently, when I did a Google search for Tabitha, the first sentence that came up was: “Tabitha is an American fantasy sitcom and a spin-off of Bewitched that aired on ABC from September 10, 1977 to January 14, 1978.”
Now of course, we do not want to discuss a fictional character from someone’s childhood, but a significant female character of the Bible. So, let’s get started on the story of this little known, but wonderfully generous woman!
Acts 9:32-35 gives us just a little background and context. In these scriptures, we find Peter, who was traveling from place to place, visiting the town of Lydda. During this time, he meets a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. Peter proclaims to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, roll up your sleeping mat!” (verse 34). Aeneas is then healed and the whole population of Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord after seeing him walking around. This is where Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, is introduced (Acts 9:36-42).
There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). Acts 9:36 NLT
Research finds that Tabitha was a Christian woman who lived in Joppa and was one of Jesus’ early disciples.
The name Tabitha is a Hebrew baby name, meaning beauty and grace. It is derived from the Aramaic word for gazelle. Dorcas, a Greek name, also means gazelle. During this period, there was a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles in the area. Both groups commonly had a Hebrew and Greek name. Thus, the writer of Acts identifies her by both her names.
Tabitha is said to have been doing “kind things for others and helping the poor” (verse 36). However, Tabitha suddenly becomes ill and dies. As was the custom of that day, her body was washed for burial and then laid in an upstairs room for viewing. Believers heard that Peter was nearby and sent two men to beg him to come as soon as possible.
Can I be honest with you for a minute? When I first read of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, I agreed with Martha. I identify with her! After all, what more important guests could you have in your home than Jesus and His disciples. Breakout the fine china and linens; there are guests to impress!
But wait, to agree with Martha means I must disagree with Jesus! Well, I’m not going there, so, let’s dig deeper into Mary’s story. Perhaps she will teach you and me something about being a Mary in a Martha world.
In Luke 10:38-42, Mary of Bethany enters the story:
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her. “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” NLT
In John 11, though a message sent to Jesus by Martha and Mary, we learn that Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus and brother to the sisters, is sick and dying. This gives us the knowledge that Jesus had an ongoing relationship with Martha and Mary. They were also His dear friends. They knew Him, not just of Him, but directly knew Him!
However, Jesus doesn’t arrive in Bethany until after His friend’s death. As He neared the town, Martha rushed out to meet Him, but Mary stayed home. Why did she stay home? Wouldn’t the proper thing be to meet Him just as Martha had done? Isn’t that what everyone would expect? Mary does go to meet Jesus, but only after she’s told that Jesus wants to see her.
As I was challenged to dig deeper into Phoebe, this woman from the Bible, I couldn’t help but think: “She is only mentioned once in the Bible. What could I possibly gain from Phoebe’s story?” My God, I was so wrong. Though she is only mentioned once in the Bible, this was a woman of phenomenal Godly character, a woman who knew her worth, a woman who had an encounter with Jesus Christ.
Phoebe is revealed in Romans 16:1–2 where Paul writes,
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” NIV
In biblical times, letters of introduction to strangers were common. The mention of Phoebe in this way means that she was probably the bearer of the letter that went to Rome. The name Phoebe means bright and radiant. From Paul’s comments about her, it seems that those words characterized her personality and her Christian life.
This gives so much context as to who Phoebe was, and if God would use her, He can use us too! Paul writes, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe.” This is super profound here. This speaks volumes of the intimate relationship in which she and the apostle Paul had. Paul associates himself with Phoebe like a brother. An authentic partnership, one without hierarchy between them. The gender difference didn’t restrict either Paul or Phoebe from the mandate God had on each of their lives.
We so often will allow the fact that we aren’t this or we aren’t that to stop us, and we miss the opportunity to be used to the ultimate level God has ordained over our life. Here we see Phoebe being Phoebe, not allowing societal norms to hold her back from everything God has called her to be. Phoebe isn’t waiting for permission to fill the needs she sees within the body of Christ. Instead Phoebe just does.
The word commend is expressively loud and a word of praise. With an exclamation of admiration, this is how Paul affirms all that she is and all she has been. He immediately gives her title, so no one is deceived that though she is a woman, she is less than a leader of the Cenchreae church. Her discipleship counts. Any brother or sister who has confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior has discipleship that counts, in Jesus’ name.
Have you ever been in a crowd, or even among a few people, and felt completely invisible? I mean, your standing right in front of them, but there is no acknowledgment of your presence or any polite conversation started to draw you in. There is nothing. And you feel utterly invisible.
I wonder if in that moment you, like me, become completely frustrated, maybe even angry at the other person because of his/her lack of manners. You may chalk up the situation to a waste of time and simply walk off. And yet, feelings of longing to be seen and to connect linger in the hours after the encounter.
Why is that?
I believe it is because we were not created to be alone. We were created for community. We seek that togetherness in everyone we meet and when we don’t find it in some, we feel rejected and isolated.
Starting in Genesis, we see God creating community for the man called Adam.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18 ESV
In the end, even Jesus does not leave without making sure that we are able to commune with God. He tells the disciples that a helper is coming after his departure.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:16 ESV
So, there is always a piece of us seeking community, seeking to be heard, seeking to be seen.
How do you reconcile these feelings when it comes to God? Everyone at some point has felt a lack of God’s presence in their life. Many of us in our struggles cry out: “Don’t you see me God?”
Woman of God, we can’t transpose our disappointments regarding other human beings onto God. Don’t doubt for a moment that the One who created you doesn’t see you in every moment of time. Don’t take any period of silence between you and God as an indication He doesn’t see you. It is simply not true.
How can I be so bold in making such a statement?