Women in Acts

In his well-researched gospel account, Luke emphasizes the interaction of Jesus and women. Women played a major role in the earthly ministry of Jesus. In Acts, Luke records the important role women played in continuing the ministry of Jesus by being the spiritual body of Jesus, the church. From the very beginning women are part of the story as we see them among those gathered for prayer in the upstairs room (Acts 1:12-14). Luke tells of women present for the birth of Jesus in a human body. Acts tells of women present for the birth of the spiritual body of Jesus, the church.

Peter’s gospel sermon on Pentecost quotes from Joel’s prophecy that “sons and daughters” would prophecy. While this may seem strange to our ears, it would not be unexpected to their ears since there were female prophets in the Old Testament (Acts 2:14-39, Joel 2:28).

The sin and subsequent deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) demonstrate men and women are both capable of sin and are held accountable equally for sin. The response to the neglected widows (Acts 6:1-7) shows that even those considered powerless women were important to the early church. Equal treatment was important for widows whether they were Grecian or Hebraic. Mary’s hosting a prayer gathering with many people, including a servant girl named Rhoda, shows women from different social circles involved in the life of the church (Acts 12:1-19).

In Acts, Luke records women deciding to become followers of Jesus, including Timothy’s mother (Acts 16:1-5) and Lydia, who was described as a worshiper of God and a listener to Paul’s message (Acts 16:11-15). Luke also relates the stories of women who chose not to become followers (Drusilla in Acts 24 and Bernice in Acts 25-26).

Luke introduces us to Priscilla in Acts 18 (we will hear from her in New Testament passages other than Acts). Priscilla and her husband Aquila were forced to leave Rome because of the edict of Claudius. She and her husband worked as tentmakers and as such had something in common with Paul.  Priscilla and Aquila invited to their home and taught  Apollos, described as a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. Because of their teaching him the way of Jesus more adequately, Apollos made the transition from being a follower of John the Baptist to being a follower of Jesus.

Luke records the stories of other women in Acts. There are the God-fearing women of high standing (Acts 13:49-52). While not specifically named, women would have been involved in the Jerusalem conference since “the whole church” is involved (Acts 15:1-35). And, perhaps as an example of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy quoted by Peter in his Pentecost sermon, Luke mentions the unmarried daughters of Philip the evangelist. These four women were prophets (Acts 21:1-9).

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