man of God, 2 Timothy 2.2, faithful men, 2 Timothy 3.16, priscilla

Many Christians acknowledge that spiritual gifts are given to men and to women, and that these gifts are vital requirements and qualifications for ministry. Many Christians also acknowledge that Christian leaders need to be respectable people who meet certain moral standards and qualifications (cf. 1 Tim 3:1-6; Tit. 1:6-8). But still further qualifications are required for ministers who want to be equipped for “every good work,” as Paul put it.

The Man or Woman of God—2 Timothy 3:17

2 Timothy 3:16-17 speaks about one such qualification for ministry. Here’s my paraphrase:

All scripture is divinely inspired and invaluable for teaching doctrine, for refuting error, for correcting fault, for training in justice (or righteousness), so that the man or woman of God may be fully qualified, being fully equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17[1]

These verses show that a thorough knowledge of the scriptures (i.e. the Hebrew Bible)[2] is an important qualification for a ministry that includes a variety of “good works.” What struck me, however, is that these verses, like other New Testament verses about ministry, are not gender specific in the Greek.[3]

While Paul, no doubt, had Timothy in mind when he wrote verses 16-17, he does not address Timothy directly. Instead, Paul speaks about “the person of God” (ho tou theou anthrōpos) in the third person. (This phrase has traditionally been translated into English as “the man of God”, but it can also be translated accurately as “the person of God”.) Paul was not necessarily limiting the principles in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to Timothy alone, or to men alone.

Reliable Men and Women—2 Timothy 2:2

Perhaps Paul also had in mind the people who Timothy was to train to be teachers. In the previous chapter Paul had written, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust ‘to reliable/faithful people’ (pistois anthrōpois) who will also be ‘qualified'[4] to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2). Being reliable, or faithful, and having a good handle on apostolic teaching are two more qualifications for Christian ministry.

It was the knowledge of Jewish sacred literature that had helped Timothy to find salvation in Messiah Jesus. A knowledge of these scriptures and of Paul’s apostolic teaching was vital to Timothy’s current ministry. While stationed in Ephesus, Timothy was surrounded by pagan and profane influences outside the church, but also inside the church. So it was vital that he discern between good and bad teaching, between the sacred and profane.

Christians today are bombarded with a multitude of teachings, philosophies, and ideologies. Perhaps more than ever we need ministers in the church who are qualified by their thorough knowledge of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) and the New Testament, correctly interpreted. Along with spiritual gifts and certain moral qualities, it is this knowledge of holy scripture that qualifies and equips a minister for “every good work”.

A Qualified Woman of God in Ephesus

Not all Christians are convinced that the New Testament teaches that women can be ministry leaders. So what happens today if a woman ticks all the qualification boxes as, in fact, some do? Do we ignore their knowledge of scripture, their spiritual gifts, their exemplary character and morality, just because they are female? Do we hinder or bar them from the good works they are qualified and equipped for? . . . that they are called to?

Paul did not ignore women who were qualified for ministry. At the close of his letter, in his final greeting to Timothy, Paul sends greetings to Prisca and Aquila, and to the house of Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 4:19). Notably, Prisca’s name is listed first. Prisca’s name is also first in the long list of Christians who Paul greets in Romans 16. First!

Prisca, also known as Priscilla, was a close friend of Paul and one of his ministry colleagues (Rom. 16:3-5). She knew the scriptures, as well as apostolic teaching and doctrine: she and her husband corrected a fault in the doctrine of Apollos who was himself a teacher (Acts 18:26; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16). It is likely Prisca had spiritual gifts and discernment, and, no doubt, was a respected person with high morals. Prisca was a woman of God, equipped for every good work, and she and her husband led a house church in Ephesus and, later, in Rome.

Paul did not hinder Prisca or the other godly women who were ministers in the churches he was associated with. He valued them and their work for the gospel.

Paul wrote 2 Timothy, with all its instructions, encouragements and warnings, while Prisca was seemingly a leading minister in Ephesus. What a pity there are no surviving letters from Paul written to her.[6]


Footnotes

[1] The Greek word that I’ve translated as “fully qualified” is the adjective artios. BDAG gives the definition of artios as “pertaining to be well fitted for some function, complete, capable, proficient = able to meet all demands”.  (p. 136)
The Greek word that I’ve translated as “fully equipped” is a participle related to artios. (The participle is built on the verb exartizō.)

[2] At the time 2 Timothy was written, the New Testament had not yet been compiled. The Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) are the scriptures referred to in 2 Timothy 3:16.

[3] 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12 are about curbing bad behaviour from certain women. They are not about silencing godly teaching from qualified women. More on these verses here and here.

[4] The Greek word that I’ve translated as “be qualified” is the plural adjective hikanoi. The second definition BDAG gives for this adjective is “pertaining to meeting a standard, fit, appropriate, competent, qualified, able with the connotation worthy, good enough . . .” (p. 472)

[5] There is some speculation that the New Testament letter to the Hebrews was written by Prisca.


Related Articles

At Home with Priscilla and Aquila
Did Priscilla Teach Apollos? 
Were there women elders in New Testament churches?
Can a woman be a pastor? Yes or no?
The Means of Ministry: Gifts, Grace, Faith . . . Gender?
Paul’s Qualifications for Ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-6)
The Role of Overseers in First-Century House Churches

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