Women played an important role in the story of the New Testament. Devout women enabled Jesus and his disciples to preach in Galilee by supplying support for them (Luke 8:2-3). When Jesus left Galilee the final time for Judea, the twelve (apostles) understood he was heading into a political hornets’ nest that might possibly take his life (John 11:16). They went with him anyway, as did some of those same women who had been supporting the ministry. When Jesus was led to be crucified, women were along the way who were mourning and crying for him. Matthew tells us there were many women who watched the crucifixion scene from a distance. Women were the last to leave the cross. They were the first to arrive at Jesus’ tomb on the first day of the week.
As the gospel spread, women continued to play important roles. When Saul was persecuting the Church, Christian men and women were seen as equal threats to the social order and the persecution made no distinction between them (Acts 8:3; 9:2). When the gospel reached Greece, women were the first converts and the house of Lydia became headquarters for Paul and his companions for their mission work in Philippi. As he ended his letter to the Romans, Paul recommended Phoebe, a Christian from Cenchrea (in Greece) who had come to Rome (perhaps delivering Paul’s letter). He mentions Priscilla, who played a pivotal role in converting Apollos, a great preacher of the Gospel. He also mentions a Mary who played an important role in the Roman church, along with Herodian, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, and Junia, who had been imprisoned for her faith.
John does not supply us with the name of the woman addressed in 2 John, but she, like the mother of Timothy, had been a wholesome influence on her children and they had deserved reputations of their own in the Christian community.
Though not their only work, women provided crucial hospitality to missionaries traveling in the ancient world. Unfortunately, not every missionary had the purest of motives. There were those who proclaimed that Jesus was not really human.
What if a Christian missionary came preaching this doctrine? If he were a Christian, how should his brothers and sisters in Christ treat him?
Writing to this wonderful Christian woman, John emphasized the importance of loving the brethren. But, should a Christian teacher who denied the humanity of Jesus request aid, John wrote: “do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.”
John wrote: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). The “teaching of Christ,” in this specific context, is not the teaching Christ taught, but the teaching about Christ, specifically, that he came to earth in the flesh (vs. 7). Those who take the former view wrest the phrase from its context as a pretext for not doing precisely what John commanded: that we “love one another.” Context determines all meanings of scripture, and, unless God specifically notes otherwise, all interpretations are confined to the original intent of the texts from which they are taken.
[This post taken from my forthcoming book, Reading the Bible Without Getting Lost, published by Leafwood Press and due out next month.]