From The Heart, Chapter 8

By JANA HENRY|CONTRIBUTOR

After discussing Chapter 7 on Community, I wrote about the golden chain that I see being woven as we learn about the biblical themes and principles that shape women’s ministry. This past week, we discussed Discipleship, and I could not help but see the beauty of the golden chain continuing to weave through the biblical call for older women to disciple younger women in the church. Susan shows us a lovely example of this from the gospel of Luke. (Note: My paraphrase of Susan’s account was given in the Tuesday lesson. I polished it up here for you as requested. The words below are 90% Scripture and Susan, and 10% me.)

In discussing our call to discipleship, Susan includes the biblical example of Mary and Elizabeth. She writes: “The profoundly beautiful and simple story of Mary puts into motion characteristics of the covenant, principles of biblical womanhood and women’s ministry in the church, and principles of discipleship.”[1]

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.[2] 

 Gods’ covenant is sovereignly initiated

 The angel’s opening words to Mary reminded her—and remind us—that God’s covenant with us is Sovereignly Initiated. In calling her “favored one” the angel was telling her that she was the recipient, not the source of grace. Indeed, God’s covenant redeeming love was sovereignly decreed before the foundation of the world and sovereignly initiated in Mary’s life in history and in our lives too, when we become recipients of His grace.[3]

Gods’ covenant is restorative

 And what was the angel telling Mary? That she would bear the Child who would take away the sins of the world and restore us to a right relationship with our Creator, that He might dwell with us forever and we might be His people. God’s covenant with us is restorative.

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [4]

What do we see here but our 1st foundational principle of women’s ministry:  submission. Susan writes, “The more we understand God’s sovereign love, the more we gratefully submit to His authority. It is sovereign grace that empowers and compels us to live as women under the authority of God’s Word.”[5]

And what is the first thing Mary did?

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. [6]

 Here, Susan highlights another principle for women’s ministry: “Mary had a covenant consciousness. She understood the communion of saints.”[7] Community stems from our understanding of the corporate aspect of covenant.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” [8]

“From the moment Mary arrived, Elizabeth was intentional in her discipleship of this young woman, and she had the one essential resource needed for the task: “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (v.41). Elizabeth spoke words of welcome, affirmation, encouragement, and instruction to Mary. [The fruit of a compassionate heart.] Mary was encouraged and equipped to glorify God. That is the essence of biblical discipleship. [9]

The result? Mary’s song of praise. Again, aspects of the covenant are brought out:

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” [10]

God’s covenant with us is by His sovereign initiative and by it He restores us to a right relationship with Him.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. [11]

The covenant is generational.

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. [12]

Mary understood the corporate (community) and compassionate nature of God’s covenant with us.

And finally,

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. [13]

Mary finishes her song with a profession of God’s covenant loyalty to His people. The word used in the Old Testament to refer to this is “chesed” and the ESV translates it as God’s “steadfast love.” The saints in the Old Testament clung to this; the saints in the New Testament saw it fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Now, that we have been restored through the Gospel to a right relationship with our creator through His sovereign initiative, we are connected and submitted to our head Jesus Christ and to one another. We are called to live out our lives in corporate community with one another in true compassion—as we have been shown compassion by our Savior. We are called to a generational perspective; discipling one another in truth with sound doctrine; learning what it means to put on our new self created in the likeness of God in true righteousness through our helper/life-giving design as redeemed women.

This Tuesday we will discuss the importance of Scripture in the purpose and planning of women’s ministry in the local church. I can’t wait to see the golden chain continue! I hope that you are as excited as I am about our great and awesome God and the call that He has given us as redeemed women to serve Him and one another in His church. Pray with me today that God will raise up a generation of women in our church who will declare, “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God do not forsake me, until I proclaim your name to another generation.” [14]


[1] J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 125

[2] Luke 1:26-33

[3] Paraphrase from Pg. 125

[4] Luke 1:34-38

[5] Duncan and Hunt, p. 125 (emphasis mine)

[6] Luke 1:39-40

[7] Duncan and Hunt, p. 125

[8] Luke 1:41-45

[9]  Duncan and Hunt, p. 125-126

[10] Luke 1:46-48a

[11] Luke 1:48b-49

[12] Luke 1:50-53

[13] Luke 1:54-55

[14] Psalm 71:17-18; Duncan and Hunt, p. 128