Paul wrote of some women who "have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel" (NIV). They did this "along with Clement [a male] and the rest of my fellow workers..." Apparently these women were very involved in "the cause of the gospel." Whatever Clement did they were doing "along with" him. Whatever the rest of Paul's "fellow workers" [apparently males] were doing, these godly women were doing also.
It had to do with "the cause of the gospel" meaning the preaching of the gospel. If not, what else? Paul was an emancipator of women it appears. Like our Lord, he helped raise women to their rightful place along side of men "in the cause of the gospel." Women are equals, not second class persons to be restricted to an inferior role "in the cause of the gospel"
These women were not serving as housekeepers, laundry workers, or kept in the customary "roles" and place of women as we express it today. They were not merely the teachers of women and children, although they certainly did such.
Paul was no "old bachelor" or crochety male supremacy advocate. Women "contended at his side" or "shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel" (NAS). Phillip translates it: "They both worked hard with me for the gospel." What all did they do? Were they restricted? Prove it!
In I Corinthians 11:5 Paul said, "And [like the man, v. 4] every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.." Never mind now who "her head" is, the point is that the woman "prayed and prophesied'' [taught, I Cot. 14:3]. The only restriction on the woman was that she should have her head covered; in Corinth at least. Wherever the men were praying and prophesying, it appears that the women were also doing the same.
Someone immediately says, "Well, what about I Corinthians 14:34 and especially I Timothy 2:127" By the question do you imply that these passages restrict, contradict, or compromise what Paul said in the two passages above? That may be true, but it must be clearly shown to be the case. Did Paul say something in one passage and contradict it in another place? Very clearly Paul said women were to pray and prophesy with their heads covered; in Corinth, at least. But wherever the men prayed and prophesied, it appears the women could do the same thing.
Some of you may be thinking, "Surely, Holt, you are not going to leave this matter up in the air like that, are you? Are you going to raise these disturbing questions that will upset us and leave it?" Yep! Calm down. It is time that we seriously studied our tradition on this subject to see if it is true or not. Get your Bible (not your preacher!!) and do your own thinking for once! Make up your own mind for once after serious, objective study of this important subject.
Maybe there is more to Paul's statement -- "There is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28) -- than we have been willing to allow because it would violate our traditional interpretation. There seems to be one "place" or relationship where sexual differences are not recognized -- "you are all one in Christ Jesus." Men and women stand on equal footing before our God and in our relationship and service to Him. In that area of our life there is no subjection of the woman to the man. The man or husband does not stand between the woman/wife and her Lord.
Euodias and Syntyche, "these women who have shared in my struggle in the cause of the gospel" were among those "fellow-workers" of Paul's, "whose names are in the book of life" Indeed women are to be involved in the cause of the gospel the same as the men. -- CAH.