Do you know any women of influence? Steph Nickel recalls some 1st century women of influence, some positive and others negative.
1st Century Women of Influence
Today let’s discuss several 1st century women who were just like us in a number of ways.
In Luke 8:1-3, we read,
“Soon afterward he [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means” (ESV).
And in Acts 17:4, we read about “not a few of the leading women” (ESV) who believed Paul’s testimony about Jesus and joined him. In verse 12 of the same chapters we read, “Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (ESV).
I’ve always found the passage in Luke 8 interesting, but it was only recently that the references to “leading women” and “women of high standing” stood out to me as I read God’s Word.
We may not feel as if we have much in common with these women. Perhaps we aren’t wealthy—at least not by North American standards. Perhaps very few people beyond our family and small circle of friends and acquaintances even know who we are.
Still, almost all of us rub shoulders with others every day, whether in person, on the telephone, or online. We have an influence on these lives—if only for a few moments. And those few moments can make a big difference.
Influencing by Sharing Scriptural Truth
How many times have we told someone else, “You made my day,” and all they did was offer a kind word? The same can be true of us.
And when it comes to spiritual matters, we must remember that one sows and another waters. It doesn’t take much effort to plant a few seeds and keep them moist. But what an influence we can have by sharing scriptural truth as God gives us the opportunity! We must fulfill our responsibility and exercise our influence, while all the while remembering it is God who gives the increase, who causes the seeds we’ve planted and watered to germinate and grow, as we read in 1 Corinthians 3.
How are we exercising our influence? Are we sowing and watering the truth of the gospel? Plus, are we doing what we can to encourage, build up, and assist those who are in fulltime ministry: pastors, missionaries, and others?
The women mentioned in today’s passage were offering support to the Lord Jesus Himself and 1st century church leaders.
Pastoral and Leadership Struggles
Over the years, my husband and I have had the privilege of calling many in ministry our friends. We have worked closely with a number of them and have seen some of the struggles they face. It isn’t easy for them, knowing the challenges the members of their congregation are dealing with. As they have the opportunity, these leaders seek to give wise counsel and guidance. But not everyone wants to hear what the pastor has to say. And, for some, the struggles are ongoing—even as they seek to implement godly advice. These issues can weigh heavily upon a caring pastor.
And, let’s face it, Christian congregations don’t always act in a very Christlike way. Pastors and other leaders hear the rumblings. One church member doesn’t get along with another. Rifts form between those who want to implement change and those who want things to stay as they are.
Speaking Out Against Leadership
And then there are those who speak out against the leadership. However, they don’t take their concerns directly to the leaders in question. Instead, they murmur and complain, sowing seeds of discord, which will never lead to a God-honouring harvest and is in violation of Matthew 18:15-20, which clearly lays out how we are to handle things when we feel we’ve been wronged by a brother or sister in Christ.
Too often I’ve spoken against those whom the Lord has raised up to give spiritual leadership. I’ve expressed my frustration in the hearing of my husband and our three children—and less often, in the hearing of others as well. This hasn’t been the case in several years. Still, I wonder how much my negativity has influenced how they view Christian leaders.
Using Influence to Cause Dissension
As we read in Acts 13, we must be careful not to use any influence we may have to cause dissension against church leaders. Verse 50 says, “But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district” (ESV).
These women are described as devout. It seems they believed they were doing what God wanted them to do. However, they succumbed to ungodly influences and used their own influence to “stir up” persecution against against Paul and Barnabas, who were preaching, speaking the truth, and spreading the message of salvation through faith in Jesus.
The last portion of verse 50 tugs at my heart. These men were driven out of the district. There were those who didn’t get the opportunity to hear the message of the gospel, partially because of these women’s influence.
Which group of women will we emulate?
We must regularly ask ourselves how our words and actions influence those around us. Do they draw them closer to the Lord or do the drive them away? Are we humbly surrendering our time, energy, and material resources for the furtherance of God’s kingdom? Do we seek to support and build up our church leaders?
May we respond to the Lord’s work in our lives by giving of our time and resources to further the kingdom of God.
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Images courtesy of:
Business Woman – Free-Photos
Pedestrian – Public Domain
Wheat – Public Domain
Woman looking up – Public Domain
Woman at Laptop – StockSnap
Woman praying – PublicDomainPictures