Alexander R. Hay

To the women of our congregations to whose faithful ministry so much is owed.


image033Our Lord said, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Mark 9:41). What gives this simple act of courtesy its spiritual value is the fact that it is done in Christ’s Name, for his glory, to one who belongs to him. For the illustrating of this truth our Lord took a cup of water – something of the smallest intrinsic value. Yet this almost valueless thing becomes something of eternal spiritual value.

A woman ministers much in material things. The temptation often is to depreciate the value of such ministry, at least in its spiritual sense, and to fail to see its true intention in the purpose of God and the spiritual fruit it can yield. Writing of Phoebe, “a servant of the church”, Paul says, “for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also” (Rom. 16:1-2). As we have already noted, this woman, no doubt, was active in witness, but it is her material ministry, for which Paul and others had reason to thank God, that is recorded. It had been ministry done in Christ’s name to those who were Christ’s and it formed an essential and gracious part of the work of the Gospel, being used in the building up of the Church and bearing permanent fruit.

Material service may be nothing more than material without any significance that is spiritual or eternal. It will always be so unless it is the work of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen, all true worship and ministry must be in the Spirit (1 Pet. 2:5; Jn. 4:23-24; Rom. 8:26-27; Eph. 6:18). Fallen man of himself can offer nothing to God. For that reason there are the “gifts”, “manifestations” of the Spirit, for such work. The deacon’s ministry was to care for the funds of the congregation, etc. He needs natural ability for the handling of such work, but that is not sufficient. With that alone, his work, though perhaps efficiently done, will bring no spiritual fruit. So there has been provided the gift of “serviceable ministrations” (1 Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:7 – The KJV translation gives “helps” and “ministry”, but the word means material service rendered by a servant). Thus the deacon, while performing a material task, is serving in the Spirit and his work will bear spiritual fruit.

There is another gift or manifestation of the Spirit for material service. It is for “the showing of mercy” (Rom. 12:8), or, as Weymouth translates it, for “giving help.” It is for helping in any way through material service. Phoebe was exercising that gift when she gave hospitality to the Lord’s servants. This, again, is service that may be rendered depending on human ability alone. But when so done there will be no spiritual fruit. It is only when it is done in the Lord’s name (in his will and for his glory), by the Holy Spirit using a willing instrument, that spiritual fruit will be produced. Then the fruit will be lasting, building for eternity, shaping lives and manifesting Christ.

This is made evident in any material service. An orphanage may be as well run as George Müller’s was and the material good that it accomplishes just as great, and yet remain without spiritual fruit. What made the difference in Müller’s orphanage was not superior material result, but the testimony of faith and the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s working. That has made it a blessing to God’s people everywhere.

A home may be well managed and there may be hospitality and human kindness within and yet bear no spiritual fruit. The difference in the home that brings spiritual blessing to lives is the place given to Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit to glorify him.

Thus every Christian woman may know that the Holy Spirit who dwells within her will manifest himself through her in everything she does in the home as well as in the congregation, guiding her in every problem and detail, giving spiritual wisdom and strength, manifesting Christ through her and using everything for the building of his eternal work. The fruit of such a ministry will be eternal. It will carry blessing far beyond the walls of her home.

The woman’s ministry touches life. She ministers not only to physical needs but to the heart. If her ministry is only material, meeting only the needs of this life, its fruit will be only for time. But as she ministers to life now, she can, through the Spirit, minister life that is eternal. That is her privilege. Her sphere places her at the center of life where she can influence it in all its avenues. It provides her with a ministry that can bear the richest of enduring fruit, an influence that can radiate Christ and turn hearts to him, and places in her hands a power, which though gentle and unobtrusive, is nevertheless mighty to the building of true life for eternity.


When God “built” the woman, He did so with the perfect wisdom of perfect love and the woman He made was perfect. We know that the making of the woman, just as the making of the man, was a deep joy and satisfaction to the heart of God. Both were manifestations of his own thought and nature. Thus, as in the man there was a manifestation of the character and glory of God, so in the woman was seen another aspect of His character and glory.

The image God formed of himself did not remain as He made it and God’s glory is no longer manifested in it. Yet we know that the woman in Christ, in whom Christ dwells, has the privilege now of showing forth his glory. Though the glory is in “an earthen vessel,” yet through the resurrection power of the indwelling Spirit it will be seen. In everything that she is and does, in all her work and ministry, it is God’s will that that manifestation of his glory which He gave in the woman He created, should be revealed day by day in her. Then that work of his, for which He created her, will be carried out to his glory in eternal benefit to all those among whom she lives and to whom God privileges her to minister in this life on earth.




Psalm 68:11 (NASB)