Alexander R. Hay

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


The child of God must always bear in mind that there is a worship and a ministry that are counterfeit. They partake of the nature of Cain’s offering to God. They are man’s work given to God or wrought for God as praise or service or worship. God abhors them and rejects them. They are a waste of precious time.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “You are God’s building; God gave me the gift of grace whereby like a skilful architect I laid a foundation; and on this foundation another builds; but let each take heed what he builds thereon – ‘thereon’ I say, for other foundation can no man lay, than that already laid, which is Jesus Christ. But on this foundation one may raise gold, and silver, and precious stones; another, wood, hay, and stubble. But each man’s work will be made manifest; for The Day will make it known; because that day will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test each builder’s work. He whose building stands unharmed, shall receive payment for his labor; he whose work is burned down, shall forfeit his reward; yet he shall not himself be destroyed; but shall be saved as it were through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:9-15, Conybeare).

Our Lord stated the principle of the matter clearly, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him, must worship him in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23-24).

In its broad and complete sense, worship includes service. All that we offer to God must be the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit manifesting himself through us. We can know God only through the Spirit. He reveals himself to us and speaks to us through the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:7-16). It is through the Spirit that we offer true prayer to God (Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18; Jude 19-20). The fact that all true service must be through the Spirit is dealt with thoroughly in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians and Romans 12:1-8.

The Grace-Gifts

The “grace-gifts” of the Spirit for service have been referred to. Introducing the subject in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “It is important, brethren, that you should have clear knowledge on the subject of spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 12:1, Weymouth). Then he enlarges on the fact that, “To each of us a manifestation of the Spirit has been given for the common good” (v.7, Weymouth).

There is no true child of God who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:9; 11-16). In every one the Holy Spirit’s will is to manifest Christ in service as well as in life. A “grace-gift”, or “manifestation of the Spirit,” is simply a particular manner in which the Spirit uses the believer, manifesting himself through him in service. Every believer has this privilege and responsibility. No believer, man or woman, is excused from it; no one is considered too unimportant, too young or too old.

We cannot truly live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit if we do not serve in the Spirit. No man or woman can grow and develop spiritually in the full sense who does not permit the Holy Spirit to manifest himself through them in the spiritual service to which God has called them. As with a man, so also with a woman, lack of activity in spiritual ministry dwarfs the spiritual life. Full spiritual activity is necessary for full spiritual growth. In congregations where the woman’s spiritual ministry is restricted, a lack of spiritual depth in personal experience and knowledge may be noted among the women. And the whole congregation cannot escape the effect of this because the lack of the woman’s contribution produces loss and weakness. It makes the life and the witness of that congregation incomplete.

(We have been considering the grace-gifts of the Spirit for preaching and teaching in relation to woman’s ministry. But there are other grace-gifts. There is no part of the work of God for which there is not the necessary grace-gift of the Spirit. There is nothing that is left for the believer to do in his own natural wisdom and strength. The Gifts of the Spirit are fully dealt with in The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary, by the Author.)

Counterfeit Ministry

But there is much service offered to God that is not the Spirit’s work. Often it is done in ignorance because the principles of true work through the Spirit are not known. It is activity that makes church organizational and social wheels keep going round – wheels that have no place in the spiritual organism of the church, that are but man’s poor efforts at spiritual work, with no life or power.

They give a sense of activity, of work for God, but it is not true activity and work, for the Spirit is not in them. They are of man, of his wisdom and organization and power. And so the machine is kept grinding on, sometimes seeming to work smoothly but often with many a clank and squeak.

There are wheels and wheels within wheels, but they are all stationary. They go nowhere. The activity is to keep them running, going round and round, though they never get an inch beyond where they are. But they look so well, so important, so busy. Meetings of circles, meetings of societies, suppers, committees, ‘showers’, elections of officers, church bazaars – activity, activity, all directed inwards, all of man. But is it not work for God? Yes, it is man working for God. But is it not man’s activity that prevents God from working? How spiritually sterile it is! What is the Church accomplishing through it?

The Jerusalem Congregation

In the great congregation in Jerusalem, with several thousand members, there were just four activities, one reaching outward and three within  (Acts 2:17-18, 42).

(1) Everyone, man and woman, was engaged in preaching the Gospel in the power of the Spirit in the streets and homes of the city.

(2) The study of the doctrine of the apostles – the doctrine given to the apostles of Christ and delivered by them to the Church. (This is the ministry of teaching and includes what could be called ‘Sunday School’).

(3) The meeting around the Lord’s Table.

(4) The gathering for prayer. (This was prayer in which the congregation waited upon God and sought his will).

What were the women doing in this great congregation? All that – and just that. There were no organizational wheels to keep moving round. But there was life, there was activity – the true activity of the Holy Spirit at work, saving souls, using every member as He would to the glory of Christ.

There was nothing of man’s wisdom and organization. It was not a “well organized” congregation. It had no “forms of service” or choir or robes or modern methods or visual aids, or films – or even a church building. But they were filled with the Spirit. In spite of all these “terrible lacks” there was power and fruit.

How afraid we are if we think of doing without all these things and really trusting in the Holy Spirit to work! Of course, we want the Holy Spirit to work – but we want him to work through these things. We want him to leave us with them for we know them, we understand them, we love them – and we do not know or understand the Holy Spirit. And then – if He fails, we will have them to fall back upon!

How poor we are spiritually – but we are blind to it. We speak of the Spirit, but we know not his power. We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church, but we know not his life. We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church, but we know not our place in it. We have made it into an organization to work for God, to manifest Christ, and we do not see that we are manifesting man, not Christ. And when the world is not impressed we feel we are martyrs. Or, perhaps, we lose heart and feel it is not worth while. And we read of what the Church of the New Testament was and what Christ did through it and we wonder why we cannot see such things in our church today, but we do not see how entirely different we are and how we are hindering the Holy Spirit.

It is important that the women of the churches examine these things before God. In church activities women take an active part. Is it the activity that God has purposed for women in his church? Is it work through the Spirit that will produce true spiritual fruit, that will have a true impact on the spiritual forces that battle against the Church and will manifest the true glory of Christ?

In the Holy Spirit’s work there is simplicity. He does not need man’s wisdom; it can only hinder him. But He is in every born-again child of God and will use him or her in true spiritual service to bear true spiritual fruit if He is permitted to do so. It is his desire and purpose. He waits to do it. All He needs is a yielded heart, a mind that is enlightened by him and a body that is yielded as a living sacrifice.