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Prophesy — Men and Women
** Adapted from a chapter in Soul Winning. **
CLEARLY, SINCE THE GREAT REFORMATION that Martin Luther led, powerful rediscoveries of first century Christians have been made: 1) Faith for salvation, 2) The Gospel for all nations, 3) Mass evangelism, and 4) The miraculous confirmation of God's Word.
But it is astounding that the master key to the success of those early believers would be among the last rediscoveries to be made by the Church of this century. That key was witnessing for Christ out where people live and work and play. That was what made every first century Christian vital in ministry — the women the same as the men.
I said it was among the last because another redemptive truth which Christ brought to His followers, and which was observed by the early church but which has not yet regained its rightful place, is the issue of equality between men and women in whom Christ lives.
With The Women
When the Holy Spirit came upon those believers in Jerusalem, they had gone up into an upper room ... and had continued in one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women (Acts 1:13-14).
Equality of the sexes was a new principle of great distinction among the early followers of Christ. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4; both men and women—and for the same purpose: to be witnesses of Christ to the uttermost part of the earth) and they all spoke the wonderful works of God (v. 11).
It was truly remarkable—and significant that both the men and the women were publicly speaking the wonderful works of God.
Peter announced that it was a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy: In the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy... (vv. 14-17). And to further explain about both men and women speaking the wonderful works of God, he continued quoting from Joel: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy (v. 18).
What It Means To Prophesy
This word, prophesy, expressed concepts not traditionally associated with women.
The 10 volume, 10,000 page Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament is perhaps the most respected and exhaustive authority among both Jewish and Christian Biblical scholars in the world. Pages 781-861 of Vol. VI are given to elucidate the broad scope of this one word, prophesy, and it clearly applies to both men and women in the church.
“Prophesy or prophecy means: to proclaim, to declare openly, to make known publicly as an oracle of God His plan of salvation for the world and His will for the life of Christians, including divine mysteries; to admonish the slothful and weary, to encourage those under assault, to speak with a sense of God-given authority and instruction to the church. It is not addressed solely to Christians; it also has missionary significance ... (to) lead non-Christians to recognition of their guilt and to worship God.”
Prophesy — Both Men And Women
The apostle Paul urged all believers to follow charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but preferred that they would prophesy (1 Cor 14:1). He repeated that he wished all would speak with tongues, but preferred that they prophesy (v. 5). He stressed that all may prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be comforted (v. 31). He gave instruction to men when they prophesy (1 Cor 11:4) then he instructed women when they prophesy (v. 5; There is much about women remaining silent—1 Cor. 14:34—that is not consistent with Christ's words—Acts 1:8.).
Both men and women believers witnessed of Christ, publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20). And they were both persecuted by opponents of the gospel. Saul made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison (Acts 8:3). That persecution scattered both the men and the women, and the record makes it clear that all who were scattered went about preaching the Lord's message.
At that time there was a great persecution against the church ... and they were all scattered abroad ... except the apostles. (They were the only ones who stayed behind.) They that were scattered (women included) went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:1, 4).
They were Christ's witnesses. He had said, For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 19:10). He had told them, As my Father has sent me, even so send I you (Jn 20:21). And they had received a baptism of power from on high that gave them the same unction that had rested upon their Lord.
Jesus had said, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk 4:18-19).
That same Spirit of the Lord had now come upon them, both the men and the women. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4; for the same reason: You shall be witnesses unto me—1:8), and they were all heard speaking the wonderful works of God (v. 11).
The Long Road To Rediscovery
Jesus had lived with a passion to bring [salvation, deliverance, healing,] life, peace and happiness to hurting humanity. Now His followers, both men and women, had been impregnated with that same passion and that same power. That was the driving force in their lives, and that power has not changed today.
Although it has taken centuries for Christian believers to rediscover the passion to witness about Christ, which was the secret of the soul-winning success of those first-century believers, that rediscovery has been made.
Multitudes of believers are today taking their witness of Christ out to needy people, where they live and work. Jesus said, My purpose is to invite sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think themselves already good enough (Lk 5:32, LB).