Women In The Book Of Acts
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:18)
There are numerous references to women in the book of Acts. Six verses refer to famous women:
-Pharaoh's daughter: Acts 7:21
-Candace, in whose service was the eunuch converted through Philip's witness: Acts 8:27
-Drusilla, wife of the governor, Felix: Acts 24:24
-Bernice, sister of King Agrippa: Acts 25:23
-The goddess Diana, worshiped as mother of gods and men, whose temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Acts 19:27
-Paul's sister: Acts 23:16
In most places where the Gospel was preached, women (both Jew and Gentile) are mentioned as being among those who believed. In Jerusalem, multitudes of both men and women believed. (Acts 5:14).
In Samaria, both men and women believed as a result of Philip's preaching (Acts 8:12). At Joppa, Dorcas and other women were members of the early Church (Acts 9:36-43). At Lystra lived Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother who were believers (Acts 16:1).
At Philippi, Lydia became the first Christian convert in Europe and there were other unnamed women who were part of the Church there (Acts 16:13-15).
In Thessalonica and Berea many of the chief women believed (Acts 17:4,12). The greatest number of women believers mentioned were in Macedonia. Even in Athens where response to Paul's preaching was minimal, a woman named Damaris and others believed (Acts 17:34).
These women were not just passive audiences. They were true believers in the Gospel and were baptized:
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12)
Women in the early Church were intercessors in prayer. Mary, the mother of Jesus, joined the men in prayer waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit:
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:14)
When Peter was put in prison by Herod, the believers were praying in the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark. Rhoda, one of the women in the prayer meeting, met Peter at the door after the angel delivered him from the jail and carried news of the victory to others at the prayer meeting (Acts 12:12-16).
In the city of Philippi, a group of women met by the river to pray:
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made, and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted there. (Acts 16:13)
The phrase "wont to be made" means that it was the habit of the women to gather there for prayer.
Recipients Of The Holy Spirit
In Acts 2:1, Luke records "they" were all in one accord in one place. These "all" were the same people mentioned in chapter 1:14-15 who were waiting for the outpouring of God's power.
Mary was mentioned as one of those waiting for the Holy Spirit. This means when the Holy Spirit came on them "all," women were included.
As observers asked what was happening, Peter's explanation of the coming of the Holy Spirit centered on the prophecy of Joel. It verified that God's power would be poured out upon women:
...this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel...I will pour out of my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy...and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:15-18)
Centuries prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit, God provided for women to be included in the demonstration of His power.
Acts records how women fulfilled Joel's prophecy:
And the same man (Philip the evangelist) had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. (Acts 21:9)
Because of this passage, the prophecy given by Joel, and some teachings of Paul.
It is important to understand the meaning of the word "prophesy.” Two major Bible concordances, Strong's and Young's, as well as an excellent study of Bible words by Vine provide the following meanings for the word:
-Speaking under inspiration.
-Revealing the will, mind, counsel and ways of God.
The word "prophesy" also includes teaching or preaching under the inspiration of God as well as using the gift of prophecy, one of the special gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Supporters Of God's Work
Women in Acts provided material support to the work of God. Lydia provided lodging to Paul's missionary team. Dorcas had a ministry to widow women which included providing them with clothing. In Corinth, Paul lived in the home of Priscilla, who not only shared in her husband Aquila's business but also had an important place in the Corinthian Church. They allowed Paul to share in their business during his stay in Corinth.
Persecuted And Persecutors
Women were victims of the severe persecution which came upon the early Church. Before the Apostle Paul's conversion, the Bible records that he entered into homes and temples of worship and bound both men and women to take them to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 8:3 and 9:2). Later, he admitted:
I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering both into prisons both men and women. (Acts 22:4)
Women also served as persecutors of the early Church. In Antioch of Pisidia, some Jewish women called "devout and honorable" raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas.
Women were held accountable for sin.
Perhaps the most tragic story involving a woman is the account in Acts 5:1-11 of a woman named Sapphira who joined her husband in a deceitful plan concerning money. As you read this story, note that it is an opposite situation to that of Adam and Eve. Here, Satan put the scheme in the husband's heart and Sapphira joined him in the plan. Sapphira was held equally guilty because she had full knowledge of her husband's sin and joined him in it. In moral issues, a woman cannot be blindly obedient to a husband and use the claim of submission to him to excuse her sin.
The same standard of holiness is expected from every follower of Christ, whether male or female.
Acts documents that women were prophets in the early Church. The Old Testament reveals that they also served in this ministry prior to the coming of Christ. Study the following references for further information on the Old Testament prophetesses:
Miriam: Exodus 15:20
Deborah: Judges 4:4
Huldah: II Kings 22:14; II Chronicles 34:22
Noadiah: Nehemiah 6:14
Unnamed woman: Isaiah 8:3
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word. (Acts 8:4)
The New Testament consists of four major divisions. These include the Gospels, which are the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which tell of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Acts is a special division which describes the formation of the early Church. There is one book of prophecy which is the final book in the New Testament. It is called Revelation.
All the other New Testament books are called Epistles because they were written to specific believers in a letter type format. They are an inspired part of the Word of God and applicable to all believers in addition to those to whom they were specifically addressed.
The following is a list of the Epistles and the names of the authors credited with writing them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
These Epistles were all written by the Apostle Paul
These books were named for the person who wrote them
Women With Ministries In The Epistles
Women In Rome:
Phoebe carried the great doctrinal statement of the book of Romans to the believers in Rome. In the original Greek text, Phoebe is referred to as a "diakonos." This word appears 22 times in the New Testament. In 18 of these, translators render it "minister" and three times as "deacon." In Phoebe's case, they change it to servant, perhaps reflecting bias on the part of the translators.
In introducing Phoebe to the believers in Rome, Paul says to:
...receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she has been a succourer of many, and of myself also. (Romans 16:2)
Some have thought from this passage that Phoebe provided hospitality to Paul, fed him, did his laundry, etc. But the word "succourer" actually means helper and the feminine form of the word means "one who stands before, a chief leader." The consideration Paul requests is the same he asks for male leaders and elders in I Thessalonians 5:12-13 and I Timothy 5:17.
In Romans 16, Paul refers to another woman in Rome, Prisca, who is married to Aquila. This is the same woman called Priscilla by Luke. Prisca is the more formal form of her name.
The word "helper" which Paul used to describe her means "fellow worker." Paul stressed that Prisca and Aquila not only risked their lives but were also involved in an important ministry to the Gentile Churches.
Other women on Paul's list at Rome include Mary, who worked hard for the believers; Narcissus, who seemed to be the head of a household; Tryphena and Tryphosa, whose names mean dainty and delicate; and "the beloved Persis" who also worked hard in the Lord. There is a woman named Julia, about whom we are told nothing, and two other women whose names are not given, the mother of Rufus and the sister of Nereus. Junia, mentioned in Romans 16:7, was noted by the apostles for her faith, and was a fellow prisoner with Paul for the cause of Christ.
Women In The Other Epistles:
Chloe is mentioned in I Corinthians 1:11. She sent a report to Paul about some disturbing things going on in the Church at Corinth. In Philemon, Paul addresses Apphia, Philemon's wife. This couple had a Church in their home as did Lydia and Nympha.
Euodia and Syntyche mentioned in Philippians 4:2 may have done evangelistic work, since Paul describes them as "those women which labored (struggled) with me in the Gospel...with my other fellow laborers."
Paul extends greetings from "Claudia and all the brethren" in II Timothy 4:21 although we are not told anything about this woman.
Review of specific women mentioned in the Epistles reveals that the position of women in the early Church were not passive. They struggled right along with the men to spread the Gospel message.
Godly women labored as fellow workers, had great responsibilities, organized Churches in their homes, and were imprisoned for their faith.
They underwent persecution as did all the believers and when this forced them to leave Jerusalem, they preached the Gospel wherever they went:
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word. (Acts 8:4)
These women provide inspiring role models for Believers in Jesus Christ who seek their own places of service in the spiritual harvest fields of the world.
The Epistles teach many important concepts applicable to the lives of believers in addition to the special subject of women on which these chapters are focused.
To further your knowledge of these principles, as well as review the subject of women in the Epistles, we suggest you read each of these books. Using separate paper, prepare a chart for each book. On each chart list:
The name of the book: Write the book's name.
The author: State the author ie: Apostle Paul
Written to: You will always find who the Epistle is written to mentioned in the first chapter. Remember, although each book is addressed to specific believers in the early Church, each is inspired by the Holy Spirit and applicable to all believers.
As you read each chapter, record the following information on your chart:
Chapter number: Number of the chapter you are studying.
Summary of chapter: The summary should state in your own words the central message of the chapter.
Key verse of chapter: The key verse is a reference you select from the chapter which summarizes the major concepts or an outstanding principle of the chapter.
Personal application: How you will apply what is taught to your personal life?
Explain how the chapter applies to you personally.
The short Epistle of Jude is reviewed below as an example:
The name of the book: Jude
The author: Jude (verse 1)
Written to: Them that are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. (verse 1)
Chapter Number: One
Summary: Jude warns believers to beware of deceivers and hold fast to the true faith.
Key Verse: But beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 17
Application: There are deceivers who may try to turn me away from true faith in Jesus Christ. I should follow the instructions in verses 20 through 21 to avoid being deceived.