|LESSON 10||*August 30 - September 5|
|Women of Mission|
Read for This Week's Study:
" 'Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little' " (Luke 7:47, NIV).
|Though women were often given background roles, the New Testament
shows them heavily involved in advancing the mission of the church.
Women play key parts in biblical history. They include good and bad queens, righteous maids, praying mothers, powerful leaders, influential wives, generous givers, prostitutes, prophets, deaconesses, gracious hosts, and faithful supporters and friends of Jesus.
In such stories as Esther and Deborah, women take center stage. Throughout the Bible's broad canvas, we can see how women with a mission have helped advance the kingdom of heaven in many ways.
In the New Testament we see examples of how Jesus dealt with women. At the same time, many women followed Jesus and supported Him financially (Luke 8:1-3) and helped care for His needs (Mark 15:41). Jesus specifically ministered to women on several occasions. When many of His disciples deserted Jesus at His death, women remained true and stayed with Him to the Cross. Women were the first witnesses of His resurrection.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 6.
Breaking the Rules
In the society in which Jesus lived and worked, women were largely kept out of public life. At Sabbath worship, they were mere onlookers, not participants.
In public, men were restricted in how much they could talk to a woman, even their wives. Women were not allowed to study the Torah; in fact, they were not even allowed to touch the Scriptures, lest they contaminate them.
Jesus took a different approach. Women were His beloved children, just as much as men. His death covered them just as much as any male.
Although rabbis of the time were not permitted to teach women, Jesus happily did. On one occasion, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, sat at His feet like a pupil (Luke 10:38-42).
Prejudice against women entered every aspect of life. Men were allowed to divorce women, even for the most trivial offenses, but women were not allowed to divorce men, even for the most serious of offenses. Jesus had strong words to say about the current practice of divorce, which treated women as if they were objects owned by men (Matt. 19:3-8).
In the space of two chapters in Luke, Jesus breaks the laws regarding contact with ceremonially unclean women. He touches a dead girl and restores her to life (Luke 8:41, 42, 49-55); allows a hemorrhaging woman to touch Him (Luke 8:43-48); and lets a woman of ill repute wash His feet (Luke 7:37-39). Read each of those accounts. What principles do you think led Jesus to break these rules? How are those principles applicable today?
While He was on earth, Jesus broke down earthly, human barriers. As the apostle Paul said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).
|What kind of prejudices are you still harboring against any group? How can you recognize those prejudices? More important, why must you overcome them?|
The Woman at the Well: Part 1
The division between Jews and Samaritans was long and bitter (for its historical roots, see 2 Kings 17:24-41). When the exiles returned from Babylon and attempted to rebuild Jerusalem's temple and walls, the Samaritans tried to stop their work (see Ezra 4:7-22 and Neh. 4:1-5). Incidents such as this, as well as the dispute over the true site for the temple, fueled hatred between both groups. On one occasion a group of people tried to insult Jesus by calling Him demon-possessed and a Samaritan (John 8:48).
The most direct and quickest route between Jerusalem in the south and Galilee in the north was through Samaria. However, when making this trip, people would often take a detour around Samariadespite the inconvenient longer distance in order to avoid their long and bitter enemies.
Look up the following passages in Luke. What do they reveal about Christ's attitude toward Samaritans? What should this tell us about what our attitudes toward those traditionally despised by our own culture must be? Luke 9:51-56, 10:30-37, 17:11-19.
On more than one occasion the Gospel writers show Jesus traveling directly through Samaria. One time on His way from Judea to Galilee, He stopped at the Samaritan town of Sycharthe site of Jacob's well and near Mount Gerizim, the holy place for the Samaritans, the site of their temple. It was here that He had His famous exchange not just with a Samaritan but a Samaritan woman (see John 4).
Much to the woman's surprise, He asks her if she would draw water for Him to drink. The request shocks her, because Jesus was a Jew and she was a Samaritan and a woman!
As Jesus speaks to this woman, He breaks several cultural taboos. The apostle John says that when he and the other disciples returned, they "were surprised to find him talking with a woman" (John 4:27, NIV). It was not considered appropriate for a man, even a religious teacher, to be seen talking to a woman in publicespecially, of all people, a Samaritan woman.
|Jesus did not let social custom interfere with His mission. How do you find the right balance between not giving social offense and doing what is right?|
The Woman at the Well: Part 2
Read John 4:1-40, Christ's encounter with the woman. In what way does Jesus connect the woman's daily life and circumstances to the spiritual truth He wants to share? That is, how was He able to connect to her spiritual needs?
The woman is so excited by what she has seen and heard that she rushes back to town, not even bothering to take her water jar (John 4:28). She has met the Messiah, and she just has to share the news with others.
The first part of her testimony is an invitation for them to meet for themselves the Man who knew her life story (vs. 29). Here is a simple but classic truth about witnessing. Our mission is not to convert people. Our task is to sow the seed and bring people to Jesus. From there, the Holy Spirit cares for conversion. As the people later testify after meeting Jesus"Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42).
The second part of her testimony is a question"Is not this the Christ?" (vs. 29). The way this question is structured in the Greek suggests that she is assuming that the answer to her question is negative. Thus, her question is literally: "He could not be the Messiah, could He?" or "This is not the Christ, is it?"
Either the woman was still not 100 percent certain about Jesus being the Messiah or, more likely, she was breaking the news gently to people who could be hostile to her for making such a claim.
Though many lessons could be taken from this account, one important one is that by doing what He did, Jesus clearly broke with the traditions of His time, witnessing to not only a woman but a Samaritan woman, but then using this woman to be a messenger and evangelist for the gospel.
|Jesus uses a Samaritan, a woman, and one of hardly the best moral background too, to be a witness for Him. It is as if He purposely went against every taboo and prejudice of His time. What lessons should we draw from this for ourselves about who is or is not qualified to work for the Lord?|
Women in the Early Church
Throughout the book of Acts and in Paul's letters, women are often mentioned as playing a role in the early church. The early Christians did not worship in churches but instead met in people's homes, often around the meal table.
Many of these homes were owned by women such as Lydia, a businesswoman who traded purple cloth. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke met her in Philippi, in Macedonia, when they worshiped on Sabbath with a group of women gathered by the river.
Read Acts 16:14-16. What role do we see Lydia in?
What a rich story must lie behind these few words. In the space of two sentences Lydia accepts Jesus, witnesses about her newfound beliefs to her entire household, is baptized with her household, and opens up her home to the apostles. Lydia is the first recorded convert in Europe, and her home provides the base from which the apostles minister in the area.
Read Acts 18:1-3, 24-28; Romans 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 16:19. From these various texts, how was the Lord able to use Priscilla for ministry?
After some time in Corinth, Paul sailed to Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Here Priscilla and Aquila opened up their home to a Jew named Apollos and taught him about Jesus (Acts 18:24-26). Apollos later became a great help to the church in Achaia (vss. 27, 28).
|Look again at Romans 16:3-5. Paul is expressing thanks to both Priscilla and her husband. She, obviously, had a crucial role, one that Paul wanted to acknowledge. How can we be more sensitive in affirming women in whatever role they are in?|
"I Commend to You Phoebe"
Although limited by social customs and expectations, many women in the early Christian church distinguished themselves through lives of service. The Bible rarely gives many details, but it is clear that women played an active role in the mission of the church.
Read Acts 21:9. What important principle can we get from this one short text?
Writing to the church in Rome, Paul commends to them a woman by the name of Phoebewhom he refers to as "our sister" (Rom. 16:1, NIV). Phoebe belonged to the church in Cenchreaa port city a few miles from the city of Corinth.
Paul describes Phoebe as "a servant of the church" (vs. 1). In his writings, Paul often uses the Greek word diakonos, translated here "servant" and in other places "deacon." Whatever the correct word, the meaning is that Phoebe was one who served the church. Paul continues: "She has been a great help to many people, including me" (vs. 2).
Many other women in the New Testament are known for their good works. Look up the following texts. What can we gather from them and the ones already looked at about the various positions women held in the early days of Christianity? Acts 9:36; Rom. 16:7, 12; Phil. 4:2, 3; Philem. 2.
Not only did women play an important role behind the scenes in supporting the early church; it appears that many played a leading role in the frontline work of sharing the good news. No doubt, in the closing work of the gospel, in the work of spreading the three angels' messages to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6), women will continue to have an important role.
|"The Samaritan woman who talked with Jesus at Jacob's well had no sooner
found the Saviour than she brought others to Him. She proved herself a more
effective missionary than His own disciples. The disciples saw nothing in
Samaria to indicate that it was an encouraging field. Their thoughts were
fixed upon a great work to be done in the future. They did not see that right
around them was a harvest to be gathered. But through the woman whom they
despised a whole cityful were brought to hear Jesus."Ellen G. White,
The Ministry of Healing, p. 102.
"The Lord has a work for women as well as for men to do. They can accomplish a good work for God, if they will learn first in the school of Christ the precious, all-important lesson of meekness. They must not only bear the name of Christ, but possess His spirit."Ellen G. White, North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 4, 1907.
| In some parts of the world, women rarely play any leadership
roles in the church. This is often dismissed as just a cultural issue; others
see it as a moral one. When do customs and cultural issues become moral issues?
Ellen G. White says that the woman at the well proved a more effective missionary than Jesus' disciples did. What special strengths can women bring to the mission of the church? Without delving into the controversial issue of women's ordination, how can we better affirm and use the women who are part of our movement and message?
As a class, talk about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Take that story and put it into your own culture and context. Imagine Jesus ministering so readily to someone despised and hated by your own culture, someone many folk would not even talk to. What can you learn from this exercise about what the gospel commission is really all about?
Throughout the New Testament, women appear more in background roles. However, Jesus and the apostle Paul often commended women-for their acts of love and mercy and for advancing the mission of the church.
|I N S I D E Story|
|The Green Robes
by ADRIAN GEORGE
I grew up in Liberia, West Africa. I lived with my uncle until he died when I was a teenager. Suddenly I was on my own. In Africa it is almost impossible for a student to find work.
One day I dreamed I was singing in a choir. I noticed that we weren't wearing the blue and gold robes that the choir in my church normally wore. Instead, the robes were green with gold trim. I had this same dream again a few weeks later, but I wasn't sure what it meant.
I became sick and went to stay with my sister in the capital city. When I was feeling better, she invited me to attend evangelistic meetings. At first I resisted going, for I knew that my sister was an Adventist. But she kept inviting me. Finally I went with her.
The pastor spoke on what happens when we die. I still remember the sermon to this day. Then the choir sang, "Now is the time, make up your mind, there is no time to wait." I felt impressed to respond to the pastor's call, but I resisted. I didn't want to become a Seventh-day Adventist. Then it felt as if someone was pulling me out of my chair. I hung on tightly to the arms of the chair. Finally I couldn't resist any longer. I stood and walked forward.
I took Bible studies with the pastor and was baptized before I returned to my home to finish school. But when my friends learned that I had become an Adventist, they laughed at me. I decided I wouldn't go to the Adventist church anymore. Then I heard a voice saying, "You'd rather serve men than God?" I turned to see who was talking to me, but no one was there. That scared me. Still I didn't attend the Adventist church.
School ended, and I went to stay with my sister for the summer. My sister didn't have money to take a taxi to go to her own church, so we went to the Central church, which was closer. After Sabbath School, the choir marched into the sanctuary from the back as they sung an anthem. I turned to look at them, and to my amazement, the choir was wearing green gowns, the very gowns that I had dreamed about months earlier. So this is where God wants me to be, I thought to myself. I knew then that God had given me that dream to cement me in the faith. Since then I have never gone back on my faith.
Your mission offerings helped to raise up a new congregation in Monrovia, Liberia, and in 2007 your Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings are helping to build a church for this group. Thank you!
ADRIAN GEORGE shares his faith in Monrovia, Liberia.
|Produced by the General Conference Office
of Mission Awareness.
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