I began my “Biographies in Acts” sermon series yesterday by surveying the prominent women in the book. Understandably, Acts is a male dominated text as is most of the Bible. But if we look hard enough we can glimpse the dawn of a new world in which there is “neither male nor female” but all are “one in Christ.”
1. Mary and the Women–Acts 1:13-14 lists those who prayed in the upper room after the ascension of Christ. Included in the list are Mary and the women. These women were, in my conjecture, actively engaged in the same activity the men were when the Holy Spirit comes in chapter 2. The evidence is the gender inclusive prophecy of Joel 2 which Peter quotes.
2. The Grumbling Widows–Act 6 tells us that the first delegation of ministry occurred because the widow women were unhappy. Thanks widows.
3. Sapphira–Died because she was equally responsible for the financial lie and subsequent cover-up. The sordid details are in Acts 5.
4. Tabitha/Dorcas–Acts 9:36-43. This woman was a ministry leader in Joppa who died. Peter brought her back to life (okay, God did it, but you know what I mean). The evidence indicates she may have been serving in the same way the 7 were in Acts 6.
5. Mary and Rhoda–Two different women are recorded in Acts 12 as a part of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. This “Mary” could be any of the distinct 5 different Mary’s in the New Testament or a completely different Mary. Rhoda is the servant girl no one believed. As such she mirrors the Easter story when no one really believes the women.
6. Lydia–One of my favorite characters in the New Testament. Lydia’s encounter with Paul and the gospel is recorded in Acts 16 as the gospel spreads to Europe through the portal of Philippi. She is a traveling business woman who is spiritually minded.
7. Thessalonian and Berean women–Acts 17 tells us, in both verse 4 and verse 5 that “leading” and “high standing” women were among the early converts. This tells us about the intellectual appeal of Christianity as well as the favorable disposition it has among women.
8. Priscilla/Prisca–I’m thinking Acts 18 here, but truly her story is all over the New Testament as she frequently interacts with Paul. I list her because every time this tent making church planting woman is mentioned it is with her husband, Aquila but her name is always listed first. I Wonder why?
9. Philip’s Four daughters–On the fateful journey to Jerusalem Paul and his companions stop at Philip’s house. We learn he has four unmarried daughters who prophesy. These prophetesses may have been sources for the information Luke would gather about Philip and he early Christ movement in Jerusalem.
10. Bernice–Yucky woman who uses sex and politics to climb the social ladder. She is found in Acts 25 & 26 on the arm of Agrippa. Agrippa is her brother. Bernice is the negative example who contrasts all the godly women portrayed in Acts.
There are four summary statements I deduced from my reading of women in Acts. First, the women seem to act independently of men. The exception to this are the negative examples (Sapphira and Bernice). Second, Luke had no advantage in writing about women at all. That he included them indicates the veracity of the account and the important role women played. Third, The women in the book of Acts are asexual. Unlike the hyper-sexualization of women in sales, fashion, politics, and entertainment these women stand on their own as individuals in Christ, not as playthings. Fourth, all of these women are “modern” in that they would have fit right into our world today.