On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, "The will of the Lord be done!" (Acts 21:8-14)
Walking into K-mart this past Christmas season, I passed a woman at the Salvation Army kettle ringing a bell and singing Christmas hymns beautifully. “That’s nice,” I thought. On my way out this same woman was on her cell phone and as I walked by I heard her talking about the sermon she had preached the Sunday before.
Many might take the passage at the head of this post as a justification for a woman to preach: I mean, the passage tells us Philip the Evangelist had four daughters who were prophetesses…
How easily we dismiss what the Bible has to say to us. Our ears work fine when it comes to the Bible and others but somehow we think God has nothing to say to us that would challenge our lives and life pursuits. As it comes to the roles of men and women and instruction in the Word, God could not have spoken more clearly:
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. (1Timothy 2:11-15)
Note that the reasons the Bible gives us that women should not teach men are not cultural or tied to the first century A.D. Both reasons are rooted in creation and thus are just as true today as ever: Eve was not created first, but Adam (that is, God was saying something through the order in which He created the first two people); and Adam was not deceived in the fall but Eve (the Bible making an issue here of the woman’s discernment and judgment).
It's marvelous how quickly advocates of women teaching men dismiss these statements of the Apostle Paul as cultural, appealing instead to the sense of call a women has--a sense none of us are allowed to judge.
Now to Philip’s daughters…We are told in the narrative that Paul and Luke visit Philip at his house. While in Philip's house, God sends Paul a message. Now, Paul is in a home that has four prophetesses in it. If it were fitting for women to give instruction to men in the things of God wouldn’t any of these women have fit the bill?
But what does the Bible tell us? It tells us that the message comes not from any of the four women but that God sent a man, a prophet named Agabus, to reveal His will to Paul. Why? I would urge thoughtful Christians to consider this question: why did God send a man to this household to reveal His will to Paul when four prophetesses already lived there?
The answer is as obvious as we want it to be. God did not give instruction to Paul through Philip’s daughters because it is not God’s will for women to give instruction to men--but the reverse. I’ll wait a moment for the gnashing teeth to stop. Many will grumble and make accusations, “chauvinist”, “bigot”, “bully”, none of which are true. If we are to make accusations about motives and hearts, should we not start with those who disobey direct commands of Scripture regarding God’s will for the sexes? Far from an argument for women preaching to men, Philip’s daughters are an argument against it.
But what about Deborah? Rules always have exceptions and God was pleased to make an exception to His law in the work of Deborah. Yet God's exception is no justification for our denying His law. It is a perverse age that builds its laws on exceptions to the rule.
Then what about Priscilla working with her husband, Aquila, to explain "the way of God more accurately" to Apollos (Acts 18:25,26)? Note the text doesn't say Priscilla explained things to Apollos. We are told Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, both were explaining things to Apollos--they worked together. Thus Priscilla was not a woman teaching a man. She was a wife helping her husband, and privately.
What a beautiful thing it is to witness women living out their calling, instructing other women, especially those who are younger, in life and in the faith (Titus 2:3-5). It is a women’s privilege to instruct children: their own and the children God brings to their church or into their lives by some other avenue. It was Eve’s privilege to eat from many trees in the garden, only one was kept from her. In the same way, God has granted women the privilege to teach many, yet we find many women, like the first Eve, not content with what God has granted but determined to have what has not been granted.
The Church in our day will not know God’s full blessing until we as His people demonstrate a willingness to obey. Men, don’t think there isn’t something for you and I to repent of here. Are you lovingly teaching and leading your wife and children? Are you lovingly leading and teaching the people of your church? Never forget men that our disobedience and failure to fulfill our duty before God has been the source of many temptations for women to teach and preach to men because we won’t. It doesn’t exonerate them but our guilt is great.