The Remaining Books in the New Testament

The Remaining Books

in the New Testament


Only some of these letters indicate relationships between brothers and sisters and we give the relevant passages below. As in Paul’s letters, believers are addressed in the masculine as adelphoi “brothers” or agapetoi “beloved”, but unless we are to conclude that there were no women in the ecclesias it is necessary to take this as a general address to both brothers and sisters.



Hebrews is addressed to “… holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call”, i.e. to all believers (“… brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling,” NRSV). Instructions are given, without distinction of roles, that believers should exhort (parakaleo) one another daily (Hebrews 3:13). They ought to have become teachers (didaskaloi, 5:12) but need to be re-taught in order to become teachers as they were “dull of hearing”.

… though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.                                                                               (Hebrews 5:12-14)

The intention is that they should be properly trained, and then they can be teachers.

Believers ought to meet regularly together for mutual encouragement.

... let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging (parakaleo) one another, and all the more, as you see the Day drawing near.                                                                          (Hebrews 10:24-25)

No distinction is made between activities (like exhortation) in everyday life and activities at meetings of the ecclesia. This passage in Hebrews 10 is prefaced by comments which indicate the new position of all believers in Christ compared to the position of those who had been under the Old Covenant.

Therefore, brethren (adelphoi = brothers and sisters), since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near....                                                                    (Hebrews 10:19-21)

This passage indicates that the former divisions under the Old Covenant no longer apply. It is not priests alone who can enter the presence of God; all believers can, male or female. The purity laws which previously restricted women’s worship no longer exist.


In Hebrews 13 the same teaching is reinforced by the comment that all believers (not just male priests) offer sacrifice.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.                                                                                  (Hebrews 13:15-16)

In Hebrews 13 leaders are mentioned in the masculine, but as elsewhere the masculine terminology can include feminine.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.

                                                                                    (Hebrews 13:7)

One of those in the early ecclesias who taught the word of God was Priscilla, and she could therefore be considered among the leaders here mentioned, leaders whose life and faith are commended as examples.

Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. (Hebrews 13:17)

The word “men” gives a misleading impression, for the word “men” does not appear in the Greek. The GNB translation avoids this addition.

Obey your leaders and follow their orders. They watch over your souls without resting, since they must give God an account of their service.

                                                                                    (Hebrews 13:17)

The same Greek usage of masculine to include both masculine and feminine is clearly illustrated by the closing greeting.

Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.                                                    (Hebrews 13:24)

“Leaders”, “saints”, and “those” are all in the masculine gender. If Christianity had been a male-only religion, like the cult of Mithras, it would be natural to take these masculine terms as referring exclusively to men. But since in the ecclesia there are both brothers and sisters, the words “saints”, and “those who come from Italy” include male and female. In view of the description elsewhere of people like Phoebe, Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche, “leaders” should similarly be understood to cover both male and female.



Not many of you should become teachers (didaskaloi), my brothers and sisters (adelphoi), for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.                                                        (James 3:1, NRSV)

Again, “brethren” (RSV) equals “brothers and sisters” (NRSV). If not many brothers and sisters should become teachers, this implies that some brothers and sisters should. No male/female distinction is shown.

Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up.                                                                                    (James 5:14-15)

The elders are masculine, as elsewhere, but this passage further illustrates the manner in which masculine language is used to include feminine. “Is any among you sick?” “... let them pray over him...”. Such comments presumably apply equally to a sick woman.


1 Peter

In this letter believers are described using terms once applicable only to Jews but now applied to all who believe in Jesus:

... like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.                                                     (1 Peter 2:5)

... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people.                              (1 Peter 2:9-10)

These verses express the fundamental truth known as the priesthood of all believers. It is on this basis that we, as Christadelphians, do not ordain priests or clergy. This does not mean that there may not be different fields of service within the ecclesia, but this passage describes the equal position of all believers and makes no male/female distinction. All are priests, all are to “declare the wonderful deeds”.


Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution....

(1 Peter 2:13)

The need to submit to the recognised human authority structures is emphasised here. This list involves believers being subject to the government, slaves to masters, wives to husbands. The same vocabulary is used, as it is when young men are told to submit to the elders in 1 Peter 5:5. Other than in the willingness of each believer to submit to the other, this teaching has no direct bearing on roles within the ecclesia nor on how the ecclesia itself should be organised.

Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives when they see your reverent and chaste behaviour.                                                                    (1 Peter 3:1-2)

These instructions are to Christian wives, including those with pagan husbands. This is of particular interest because by being baptised they were inevitably not submitting according to generally accepted pagan ideas of how wives should be submissive. Part of submission was that the wife should follow the husband’s religion instead of having a mind of her own on such matters.

It is becoming for a wife to worship and to know only the gods that her husband believes in.                                 (Plutarch: Moralia, 140D)

It was particularly important, therefore, that sisters married to unbelievers should do their best to show that they did accept their husbands’ normal legal authority according to pagan law.

In the pagan world where women were denied most opportunities to use their talents, lavish and expensive self-adornment was often the only means of self-fulfilment. In the new life in Christ, however, many opportunities of service were opened up and it was to these that the Christian sister’s attention was to be directed.

Let not yours be the outward adorning ... but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed[1] Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.

(1 Peter 3:3-6)

Christian husbands are addressed in verse 7, demonstrating the typically Christian emphasis on reciprocal care and respect shown elsewhere in the New Testament in instructions on married life. The equality of both husband and wife before God is stressed:

Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honour on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered. 

(1 Peter 3:7)  

Women are “the weaker sex” in muscular strength, and are therefore more prone to being physically abused by unChrist-like husbands than vice-versa. They were also weaker in ancient times from a legal point of view. They were at the mercy of the men who owned them by law. But in Christ they are “joint-heirs” with their husbands, and are to be treated with honour and consideration. Without recognition of the wife’s spiritual equality with her husband, joint prayer would be impaired.

The spiritual equality within the ecclesia, already taught in chapter 2, is repeated in chapter 4.

Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practise hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service (diakonein), as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.                                 (1 Peter 4:8-11)

There is no male/female distinction shown in these gifts: “whoever speaks”, “whoever renders service”.

“Elders” (masculine) are addressed in chapter 5. They are warned against domineering over the brothers and sisters.

Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock.  (1 Peter 5:2-3)

The word “domineering” is katakyrieuein, not the same word as authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12, but along with the reference to “shameful gain” it suggests an interesting parallel to the problems which had arisen in Ephesus.

The younger brothers are told to be subject to the elder brothers, and all are to show humility towards one another, another way of describing mutual submission:

Likewise, you that are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another.                                                                                                    (1 Pet. 5:5)

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you, be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility.

(1 Pet. 5:5, KJV)

There is nothing incompatible with being “subject to one another”[2] and also taking an active part in ecclesial work such as described in the previous chapter:

As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies.                                                                   (1 Peter 4:10-11)

A comparison with 1 Corinthians 14:26-35 is instructive, for it is not speaking as such (in the presence of others to whom we should be submissive) that is forbidden, but speaking in a way that does not show submission. Otherwise 1 Peter 5:5 would forbid younger brothers speaking in the presence of older brothers.



Jude addresses his letter:

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ….                                                                (Jude 1)

He calls for action to defend the true faith:

Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.                 (Jude 3)

After explaining how the faith is under threat, he instructs them all:

But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire….                         (Jude 20-23)

If we take Jude’s words seriously, he is calling on all believers, all brothers and sisters, to active participation: contending for the faith, building up, praying, convincing doubters of the truth of the gospel and saving people from the evils of the world. The commands are to all believers, not just leaders, not just elders, not just deacons, not just brothers, but to “all the saints in Christ Jesus” without any distinctions of class, age, gender or race.



The Revelation to John was likewise directed to all believers: they are described as “servants” (1:1) and blessings are declared on those who read, hear and obey the words of the prophecy (1:3). As is usual, those addressed are spoken of in masculine terminology which includes the feminine.

Praise is given to Jesus Christ:

... the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.            (Revelation 1:5-6)

No distinction of roles is made. All believers are a kingdom, priests to God, in the same manner as described in 1 Peter 2:4-10.

In the letter to the ecclesia at Thyatira there is criticism of a woman teacher.

But I have this against you that you tolerate the woman called Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practise immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.                                                                                                             (Revelation 2:20)

Several points are worth noting:

(1) The objection is that she calls herself a prophetess. There is no objection shown to prophetesses as such.

(2) There is no objection to the fact that she teaches. The objection is to what she teaches.

(3) Her teaching involves immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.

The objections are to this particular woman and to her particular teaching. It is interesting that no objection is made on the basis that it is wrong for a woman to prophesy or teach.


In the last chapter of Revelation there is an invitation:

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”. And let him who hears say, “Come”. And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17)


“Him” is, of course, inclusive language, referring to male and female. “Come” here is not asking Jesus to come in his Second Coming (as in verse 20), but it is an appeal to people to come to Jesus, to accept the Gospel. The appeal is made by the Spirit, which in this context seems to mean “the Spirit of Christ”, i.e. Jesus speaking through the author of this book, as in Revelation 2:7 & 11. The Bride is the ecclesia.

So the text is stating that Jesus and his ecclesia invite people to come to believe in him. And in turn the converts are to invite others to believe in him: “And let him who hears say, ‘Come’.” And the last part of verse 17 connects with Revelation 21:6 and John 7:37.

… Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”                                        (John 7:37-38)

Here then is further authorisation of disciples, male and female (“the Bride”) to preach and teach.

The Spirit and the Bride, say “Come!”

Everyone who hears this must also say, “Come!”

Come, whoever is thirsty; accept the water of life as a gift, whoever wants it.

(Revelation 21:4, GNB)



[1] Sarah is presented as an example of submissive conduct, but nowhere are wives in the New Testament instructed to obey their husbands. “Obey” means “submit to the authority of someone”, as children and slaves are told to do (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20-22). Those who refuse to obey can be punished. The New Testament never says that husbands should issue commands to their wives, or punish their wives; nor that wives should obey their husbands. There is an important difference between obedience and submission. A look at the accounts of Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament indicates a wider picture than mere obedience. She was voluntarily submissive. And when she told Abraham what to do, God approved (Genesis 21:12). Submission is more than obedience and different from obedience; it is a willing putting of oneself second, and the other person first, as Sarah did (Genesis 16:2).

[2] A problem with mutual submission only arises if it is misunderstood to mean: “Do what the other person orders you to do.” There is no difficulty if we understand it as: “Put the interests of the other person, the other member of the ecclesia, your husband or your wife, ahead of your own. Do your best to serve them, following the pattern of Jesus.”

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