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Mary Elizabeth Baxter :: Prophesying Women—Acts 21:7-9

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"Philip, the evangelist, who was one of the seven…had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy." All the seven were "men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom" (Act 6:3), and yet Philip did not restrain his four daughters from prophesying! The wisdom of those days, when the language of the Holy Ghost was so fully understood, had not led men to quench the Spirit, or to despise prophesying (1Th 5:19-20) because He might choose only a woman as His instrument! "It is so strange," said a truly spiritual Swiss lady, to whom God has given a precious gift for speaking, "that men speak of sex in souls!" The Lord Jesus, speaking of the age to come, and of the resurrection, says, "The children of this age marry and are given in marriage, but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage, they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. (Luk 20:34-36, R.V.)

In things earthly, God has most truly given woman a second place. God has not created woman to rule, but to minister. But in eternal life, the life of Christ in us; in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost; in spiritual life and spiritual gifts; neither age nor sex, neither birth nor education, can make any difference. "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's;" in earthly things make earthly distinctions, but in divine things, let divine laws prevail.

The Levitical priesthood was established for a time, until a Priest should come "after the order of Melchisedec," even Christ, "not made after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." (Hbr 10:6.) No woman was called to the Levitical priesthood, which God made on human lines, but no truly believing woman is excluded from that royal priesthood to which Christ has called us in Him. (Rev 1:6; 1Pe 2:9.)

In Christ Jesus "there can be no male and female." (Gal 3:28, R.V.) Thus we see that in all which appertains to the Spirit of God, all temporal distinctions vanish, we are in another region, where time and sense have nothing to say. It is quite true that for the sake of order, "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." (1Cr 14:32.) And thus the Apostle Paul, who had already given direction to the Corinthians as to the modesty of attire which should distinguish women who prophesied or prayed (1Cr 11:5-10), further directs that women shall not speak (something quite different from prophesy) in the Church. (1Cr 14:44.) "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev 19:10.) "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort." (1Cr 14:3.) Such prophesying was practised by both men and women in the Old Testament, who "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2Pe 2:21.) All other speaking by women in the Church is unseemly, whether it be mere chatter, whether contention about doctrine, Church discipline, or whatsoever.

Miriam was a prophetess, just as Moses and Aaron were prophets (Exd 15:20), and Miriam, as well as Moses and Aaron, was sent to lead the people. (Mic 6:4.) Hannah was a prophetess (1Sa 2), so was Deborah (Jdg 5), and Huldah, to whom king Josiah sent, in preference to the high priest, or any more recognised authority. (2Ch 34:22-28.) Abigail, too, was a prophetess (1Sa 25:24-31), and Anna (Luk 2:36), as well as Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth. When the Lord gave the word, great was company of women publishers. (Psa 68:11)

When the Holy Ghost came down on the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the women, who spake "as the Spirit gave them utterance" apparently outnumbered the men. There were the eleven, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brethren, "the number of the names being about one hundred and twenty." Peter explained the phenomenon, which had become a rare one in the dark, worldly atmosphere of the Jewish religion: "These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out of My Spirit and they shall prophesy." Thus it came to pass that women laboured with Paul in the Gospel (Phl 4:3) as well as men, and became servants of the Church (Rom 16:1), when the Holy Ghost endowed them with the power to speak unto men, to "edification, and exhortation, and comfort." Philip's four daughters were in order in their vocation, and neither their father nor Paul the Apostle attempted to hinder them.

But while in the things of the Spirit of God there is an absolute equality between men and women, yet in all the order of earthly and transient things, in the government, both political and ecclesiastical, as far as office and position is concerned, in the family and in all else which is for a time, the old rule must be observed. "Adam was first formed, then Eve." (1Ti 2:13.) Any woman really led by the Spirit of God would be the last to take advantage of her gift to seek a position down here which is prominent or unwomanly.

Jesus was meek and lowly in heart, and Christ in a truly spiritual woman makes her shrink from a high place, and naturally seek the shade. We hear of no good or wonderful work done through Philip's daughters, but there must be a reason why God has let them be named in His Word. Let those of my sisters whom the Lord has gifted keep the place which God gave to His redeemed: "I have put My words in thy mouth and covered thee with the shadow of Mine hand." (Isa. 51:16.) But let no woman take to herself the place of prophetess or seek to imitate, by carnal effort, the call of the Spirit of God, lest the reproof of Peter to Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:18-24) fall upon her.

Lydia—Acts 16:12-15, 40 ← Prior Section
Priscilla—Acts 18. Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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