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Snapshots from Acts Number 8: The Women

Updated on May 22, 2018

Snapshots from Acts. Number 8: The Women in Acts.

While the book of Acts usually simply refers to disciples, followers or people of the way, often women are specifically mentioned, either by name or as a group .So a careful reading of the text will indicate the important role the women played in the spreading of the good news. The world of the time was one were women played a secondary role in areas of leadership and even recognition. It must be kept in mind that Luke, the writer of Acts, also wrote the Gospel that carries his name. As a physician and historian, both his Gospel and Acts recognise the important role women played in the new movement where all are recognised and given important roles to play. Luke records the prophetic activity of Anna in the temple (Luke 2:36-38) and that of Elizabeth and Mary (Luke 1:41-55)at the birth of Jesus.

One of the marks of Christianity is that all are important in the work of the Lord. While in society men often enjoy a position of power and authority that is unfortunately often abused, this should not be so in the Church. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-28: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (N.I.V.)

It is interesting to note that Luke describes the role women played in the burial and resurrection of Jesus in his Gospel. Now as the disciples returned to Jerusalem and went to the upper room, "the women and Mary the mother of Jesus were together constantly in prayer". (Acts 1:14)As Peter quotes from the prophet Joel, he says: "In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy" (2:17) and he continues in verse 18 "Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy".

Ananias with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property and then lied to the Holy Spirit. (5:1-10) "More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. (5:14) The Grecian widows were apparently neglected in the daily distribution of food. (6:1) Men and women were dragged off and put into prison by Saul. (8:3) As Philip preached the word both men and women were baptized when they believed. (8:12) In Joppa there was a disciple called Tabitha (Dorcas) who was always doing good and helping the poor. When she died she was brought back to life by Peter. (9:36-41) Cornelius and all his family were devout and God fearing.(10:2) When Peter was miraculously released from prison, Luke introduces us to the servant girl Rhoda (12:13) at the house of Mary the mother of John, where the disciples had gathered to pray.

When the Gentiles received the Gospel in Pisidian, Antioch, the Jews incited the "God-fearing women of high standing" who, together with the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas. (13:50) In 15:22 Luke records that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, "with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas". In Lystra, Paul and Silas found Timothy a believer "whose mother was a Jewess and a believer". Later Paul is to commend Timothy's mother and grandmother for their influence in the young man's life.(2 Tim 1:5) In Philippi, Paul and Silas, accompanied by Luke (note the "we" passages), spoke to the women who had gathered at the river for prayer and taught and baptized Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth and her household.(16:11-15) She offered them accommodation in her house. At the same place they met a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future and earned a lot of money by her fortune-telling. Paul commands the spirit to leave her and this causes considerable trouble for Paul and Silas. (16:16-24)

In Corinth Paul meets the Jewish couple of tent makers, Aquila and Priscilla, and stays and works with them. (18:2,3) They accompanied him when he sailed for Syria. (18:18) In Ephesus Priscilla and Aquila teach Apollos "the way of God more accurately". Note that she is mentioned first, a way writers in that time indicated the leadership in apair (18:26). As Paul and his group arrived in Caesarea they stayed in the house of Phillip(one of the seven) who had "four unmarried daughters who prophesied". (21:8,9)

The rest of Acts deals with Pauls journey to Jerusalem and then to Rome. It is interesting to note that in his letter to the church in Rome, he mentions in Romans 16 many of his co-workers who worked with him, including Priscilla and Aquila, (vs.3) Mary, (vs.6) Tryphena and Tryphosa (vs.12).

Today when the role of women is often reduced to cooks and bottle washers, or at the most teaching young children in Sunday School, we need to develop more Pricillas who are actively involved in spreading the word. After all we are all "a royal priesthood" in the church(1 Peter 2:9) and so share in the ministry of all believers.

Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

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