The Prophecy of Joel

Part 5 of my Series on Women
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The prophet Joel predicted that one day the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the church and as a result, “your sons and your daughters will prophesy” (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17-18). This passage clearly indicates that when the New Testament age began, both men and women would be empowered and commissioned to carry the message of the gospel to the world. God’s Holy Spirit would no longer rest simply on isolated individuals as was the case under the Old Covenant. In the Pentecostal age, all believers—regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social status—would have full access to the graces of the Spirit and would speak the utterances of God.

If preaching were to have been limited to men only, Joel would not have mentioned daughters in his prediction. He would have said instead, “In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit, and your sons will prophesy while your daughters serve quietly in the background and pray for the men.” That is not what the Bible says. It clearly states that women will preach. They will lead. They will be on the front lines of ministry. Like Deborah, they will take the church into enemy territory and watch as the Lord gives victory. Like Esther, they will not keep silent. Like Phoebe, they will co-labor with apostles to establish churches in unevangelized regions.

If this is the clear mandate of Joel 2:28, why do churches that pride themselves on faithful adherence to a literal translation of the Bible reject it? There is no biblical basis for the popular notion that prophesying or preaching is a uniquely masculine act. Both genders have been called to minister in the Holy Spirit’s power, and we grieve Him when we restrict the full release of that power by forbidding women to speak God’s Word or use their talents in His service. We will answer to God for limiting His work by restricting the flow of His Spirit through women who have been called to speak for Him.

Some Christian leaders have emphasized that when a woman speaks in public, she can “share” but she can’t preach. The idea was that if women are put in a place of public ministry and are asked to speak, they must do it meekly (or sheepishly) to somehow demonstrate that they are not being forceful in the presence of men. How ridiculous! Perhaps the men are afraid that the women will preach better?

All of this information is gleaned from – Grady, J Lee. Ten Lies The Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage (pp. 52-53). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.

Jesus and Apostolic Women

Part 4 of my Series on Women
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Why Were No Women Included With the Twelve Apostles? Many conservative theologians argue that if Jesus really believed in empowering women for leadership, He would have appointed one or more females to serve among His twelve disciples. It is assumed that since all the Twelve were male, only men can occupy the top positions of authority in the church. But again, we must take into consideration the culture of Jesus’ day. Women were not allowed to occupy any positions of authority in first-century Palestine.

It is also important for us to recognize that even though Jesus selected twelve Jewish males to lead the early church, He was in no way signaling that future leaders of the church must be Jewish. To the contrary, the Holy Spirit showed the early disciples that the gospel was also sent to the Gentiles—and within a few years Gentile apostles emerged. So, we must see that just because the first apostles were male, this does not set a precedent for all time. Women, including Priscilla and Junia, were already functioning in missionary and apostolic ministry roles by the time the early church began it’s western expansion.

All of this information is gleaned from – Grady, J Lee. Ten Lies The Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage (p. 51). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.

Women in Biblical History

Part 3 of my Series on Women
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 ]

The Bible records a rich history of women who were placed in authority by God. It would be wise to consider the way God used women before we attempt to pull an isolated Scripture out of context to build a doctrine that restricts the ministry opportunities of women. Consider the following biblical women and the level of authority they were given:

  1. Miriam. There is no question that Moses’ sister was considered a leader in ancient Israel. This is confirmed in Micah 6:4: “Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” She represented the authority of God to the people in the same way Moses did. She spoke for God. That’s why she is described in Exodus 15:20 as a prophetess.
  2. Deborah. Among the judges of Israel, Deborah was the only one who held the respected position of prophet other than Samuel. She is referred to as a prophetess in Judges 4:4, and her attentiveness to God’s purpose and strategy resulted in an impressive military victory for Israel that secured peace for forty years. (Judges 5:31.) She was married, but her husband, Lappidoth, did not share her position of spiritual authority, and we know little about him. Deborah functioned as a civil ruler and was so respected for her anointing and spiritual insights that Barak, Israel’s military commander, refused to go into battle without her.
  3. Huldah. After fifty years of paganism and spiritual adultery in Israel, King Josiah assumed the throne and rediscovered the Book of the Law, which had been hidden in the temple. When it was read aloud, he immediately repented and turned to the Lord, then sent his high priest to seek out a faithful follower of God who could speak for Him. To whom did they turn? To Huldah, a prophetess who obviously had remained faithful to the Lord during one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history. (2 Kings 22:14.) The fact that Israel’s high priest, Hilkiah, and his associates sought her out to make their inquiry of the Lord shows that she had earned a reputation for hearing from God.
  4. Esther. Although she did not function in a place of ecclesiastical authority, Esther’s life proves that God can and does use women in strategic positions of influence to further His purposes. Indeed, he singled out this young Jewish woman and thrust her into the place of an intercessor and deliverer, not unlike Moses, and her prayers and courageous actions literally saved her people from genocide.
  5. Phoebe. Paul commended this woman to the church at Rome and asked them to “receive her in the Lord” when she arrived from Cenchreae to work among them (Romans 16:1–2). Although he refers to her as a diakonon, the Greek word for deacon, the word is translated servant in many Bible versions. But it is more accurate to place her in the category of deacon with men such as Stephen and Philip, for the same Greek word is used to describe them.
  6. Priscilla. Along with her husband, Aquila, this woman was a noted laborer in the early church, and it was this couple’s influence that helped launch the apostolic ministry of Apollos (Acts 18:24–26). It would be safe to say that they also functioned as apostles, since Paul refers to them in Romans 16:3 as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”
  7. Philip’s daughters. We are told in Acts 21:9 that Philip the evangelist had four daughters who were “prophetesses.” We know nothing about them, but we can assume that their influence was significant enough to be mentioned in the biblical record. Obviously they were engaged in public speaking, and their words carried the same level of authority as the words of Agabus—a male prophet who is described in the same passage.
  8. Lois and Eunice. The apostle Paul commends these two women—Timothy’s mother and grandmother—for shaping the young man’s ministry through their instruction and example. Although it is an obscure passage, it is a crucial one because so many churches today use Paul’s letters to Timothy to justify misguided policies that limit the scope of women’s ministry.
  9. Junia the apostle. What? An apostle? Paul’s reference to this woman in Romans 16:7 has created quite a controversy because she is referred to as an apostle, Bible scholars and translators have assumed that she could not have been a woman—since females can’t possibly function in an apostolic role. But Junia was a common Latin name for a woman.

All of this information is gleaned from – Grady, J Lee. Ten Lies The Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage (pp. 46-48). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.

Jesus and Women in Ministry

Part 2 of my Series on Women
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 ]

It appears that Jesus came into the culture and broke from traditional roles for women, here are a couple examples…

  1. Leadership.
  2. Reliable witnesses.
  3. Heralds of the gospel message.

More from Lee Grady’s book, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, and some personal observations.

Did Jesus Believe Women Could Lead?

This strong church bias against women in leadership is peculiar when we examine Jesus’ own inclusive attitudes toward the women who followed Him. Jesus affirmed the equality of women in the midst of a culture that denied them basic human rights. He called them to be His disciples during a time when religious leaders taught that it was disgraceful even to teach a woman.

So, what is the point of teaching a woman if the knowledge or training cannot be passed on? Perhaps she CAN teach, but only to her children, in the home or in VBS, or even Sunday School (certainly before the boys get into the youth department) but that does not seem right.

The Same Holy Spirit

When Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon the church, as recorded in the Book of Acts, many of these same women were in the upper room and received empowerment on the Day of Pentecost. Those who were Christ’s disciples had been commissioned to go into all the earth as witnesses, but they had been instructed to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them to empower them to fulfill this commission (See Acts 1:4–5). When the Holy Spirit came to fulfill this promise of empowerment for ministry, both men and women (including His own mother) received Him. This was noted by Peter, who then recited the verse from Joel’s prophecy: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). If Christ commissioned solely men to the ministry of the gospel, why did He send the power for that mission upon both men and women?

The Samaritan Woman

In the story of His visit with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7–42), we read that after He revealed His true identity to her (and she received forgiveness of her troubled past) she began telling others about Him (John 4:28–29). Here we see perhaps one of the clearest pictures in the Bible of Christ as an ordainer of women. The gospel account tells us that after her encounter with the Jesus, “from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman” (John 4:39). Why would the Messiah send this woman into her village to tell others about His power if He was opposed to the concept of women in ministry?

Certainly you agree that every follower of Jesus has the opportunity and responsibility to share the good news of Jesus by telling what Jesus has done for them, and women are no exception. But there are many in the church who somehow draw the line when they do this in a leadership role, certainly never in a professional capacity in the role of a lead pastor.

Unreliable Witnesses

Grady reminds us that we must remember the cultural context of John 4. In the land of Israel at the time of Christ and, indeed, in all of the Roman world, women were not considered reliable witnesses. Men were taught that the testimony of a woman was not to be trusted because women were considered ignorant and easily deceived. Yet, to whom did Jesus choose first to reveal His resurrection on Easter morning (Luke 24:1-12)? And whom did He commission first to tell others that He had triumphed over the grave (Matthew 28:5-7)? Was it not His brave women disciples who were willing to identify with His death while His male followers hid from their persecutors?

After His resurrection, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17). Was He not affirming her as a witness of the gospel? Was she not commissioned by Jesus Himself both to go and to speak for Him? Why then do we deny women the opportunity to carry the same message in a professional capacity?

Living Life in a Submissive Role

In conservative Christian circles women are expected to live contentedly in the background (presumably to focus on domestic duties) because this is their humble, God-ordained “place” in life. It’s a place of invisible service and of godly but quiet influence over children and the home, or perhaps over the church nursery, Sunday school class, or women’s Bible study. Women, of course, are told it is an honor to live in the shadow of their husbands or other male authorities and a disgrace for them to assume a place of significant spiritual authority. But we need to ask: Where did we get this warped idea when it was not the perspective of Jesus Christ, nor is it promoted anywhere in the Scriptures?

All of this information is gleaned from – Grady, J Lee. Ten Lies The Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage. Charisma House. Kindle Edition.

A Woman is Preaching?

Do you know the Bible story of Huldah?

Many people have attended Sunday school and church for their entire lives, yet they have never even heard of her. Even those who went to a Christian grade school or college might be thinking, “Umm, in the Bible? Are you sure? Wasn’t that Hagar the Horrible’s wife’s name?” (Nope, that’s Helga). Many of you have spent thirty, forty, or eighty years in the church and still, you’ve never heard of Huldah. I have asked Christians who have all of the above credentials (and more) and generally, they have never heard her name or story.

She almost never shows up in children’s Bible story books. She does not appear in the majority of Sunday school curriculum. Huldah’s story is absent. I have attended church my whole life, all thirty-six years. I have listened to pastors preaching online, on the radio, in different churches, in different denominations, in this country, and overseas. And I have never once heard a pastor tell the story of Huldah or teach on the significance of her life.

And why not? She was arguably the most respected and influential prophet during the reign of King Josiah. Most of us know the story of King Josiah, a godly leader who was crowned as a young boy. So then, why have we not heard about Huldah, an important female prophet from the same period?

It is hard to say that her story is obscure, except that we have made it so by ignoring it. God used Huldah’s prophecy in a powerful way. Her work was followed by the most thorough religious renewal in the entire history of Judah. There were a few Southern kingdom monarchs who had turned away from idolatry in Judah’s history. But it was only under King Josiah in response to Huldah’s prophecy that every visible trace of idol worship was wiped out. Stone idols were even smashed and ground to powder so that no one could salvage a crumb and worship it. Of course, as soon as Josiah died, idolatry popped right up again. But under Josiah’s and Huldah’s leadership, it was completely forbidden.

So why is it that we have overlooked the story of Huldah—a story recorded twice in Scripture (2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34)? Why do most people not know her name? Why is she not remembered with other Bible women such as Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, and Esther?

Quite simply, Huldah’s story does not fit with the prevailing theology on women in ministry that is held by most evangelicals in America. There is really nothing to her story except that she preaches the word of God, quite authoritatively, to a group of men who happened to be the highest civic and religious leaders in the country. Even the high priest was there.

Imagining Huldah: this linoleum block and watercolor print was inspired by women depicted in ancient art from Egypt and the Aegean Sea people.

We cannot pull the focus of her story toward co-operative military leadership as we can with Deborah. We cannot put a magnifying glass over her childhood story, her musical talents, or her mistakes as we often do with Miriam. We cannot make her into a beauty contest winner as we can with Esther. Huldah really does only one thing. She preaches a sermon. And it was not sharing time at women’s ministry night. Her audience was men. In the Bible, that is really all that Huldah did. She held a respected position of spiritual leadership, and she clearly taught the word of God to men.

But you thought “ladies” weren’t supposed to do that! Huldah’s story raises difficult questions about why women today are not allowed to be spiritual leaders and religious teachers in the church.

In Jerusalem at the time of Huldah’s ministry, there were some very dark practices going on. There were prostitutes whose services were available right inside the temple of Yahweh. People thought that in order to keep the gods happy, the crops healthy, and the invading armies away, they needed to throw their children into the open jaws of the evil god, Molech. Their children were burned alive as human sacrifices. But all of that ended after King Josiah encountered the word of God. God spoke to the king in two ways, through the Book of the Law found in the temple (probably Deuteronomy) and through the preaching of a woman.

So, here’s my question today:

Would you like to see the church purified from its modern day idols? Would you like to see our “Molech” ground to dust?

Then let the women preach! Do not put up roadblocks of doubt and shame about what a woman can do for God’s people. Tell your daughters about Huldah. Encourage women who want to learn and teach God’s word. Invite them to share what God has taught them to women and men. In the humble footsteps of Josiah, seek out the wisdom of godly women in your church. Be prepared for God to speak in an unexpected way with an unexpected voice.

And remember:

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)

[ this article is by Sara Ronnevik, October 14, 2015 ]