Women In Ministry: A Matter Of Discipleship -- By: Elizabeth Barnes

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 04:2 (Spring 1987)
Article: Women In Ministry: A Matter Of Discipleship
Author: Elizabeth Barnes


Women In Ministry: A Matter Of Discipleship

Elizabeth Barnes

Assistant Professor of Theology,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

The issue of women in ministry involves the church’s understanding of faithful discipleship; that is to say, this important matter has to do with what it means for women to be faithful hearers and followers of Jesus Christ. For instruction we turn to the biblical witness. In it we seek that understanding of the nature and purpose of God disclosed and realized in Jesus Christ which forms the ground and basis for whatever else we have to say about Christian ministry. We begin, then, with the doctrine of God and from that crucial beginning point draw implications and conclusions for the nature of ministry and the call of women to ministry.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians affords a rich source for this important task. Its authorship unquestioned, with Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians, Philippians is considered one of Paul’s “prison epistles.” Other questions debated, however, concern the letter’s place of origin, its structural unity, its occasion and purpose, and the interpretation of the Christological hymn in 2:5–11. Scholarly consensus holds that the Philippian letter derives from a time of Paul’s imprisonment. While some argument is offered for an Ephesian origin or another, the Roman imprisonment is widely held to be the most probable place of origin for the letter to the Philippians.

Regarding the letter’s structural unity scholars are divided, with some seeing it as a composite of two or more letters while others regard it as one and identify characteristic Pauline divergences in those passages which appear to represent either an interpolation or fragment. Polycarp’s mention of other letters written by Paul to the Philippians is the sole external evidence supporting an argument that the epistle as it stands may in fact be a composite of two or more letters. Stronger internal evidence, however, convinces scholars such as Heinrichs that the letter is actually two, one written to the church in general (1:1–3:1) and another to the leaders of the church (3:2–4:20), with 4:21–23 representing the conclusion to the letter addressed to the congregation. Those who see Philippians as a composite regard the fragments as Paul’s work perhaps with the exception of the Christological hymn in 2:5–11.1

The subject of the occasion and purpose of Paul’s writing of this ...

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