|Vol. 1, No. 6||Page 13||June 1999|
A casual reading of the above verses may not attract much attention or reveal a wealth of information besides the obvious. These verses tell us a man named Philip housed Paul and company while he was in Caesarea. This man had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy. However, by implication and comparison to other Bible texts, these verses have much to offer.
First, let’s consider the man Philip. The phrase “which was one of the seven” refers to an earlier event recorded in Acts 6:1-6. Philip was chosen to do the work of a deacon because of certain qualities in his character. The men chosen were to have a reputation of honesty, wisdom and a desire for the spiritual. Since they were to be making arrangements for the care of others, some sort of leadership ability and a desire to work were probably considered as well.
Philip’s life again appears on the pages of inspiration in Acts 8:5-13 and Acts 8:26-40. Both of these passages relate Philip preaching Christ to others, hence the phrase “Philip the evangelist” in Acts 8:8. The first part of Acts 8 tells of Philip preaching in Samaria after Saul began persecuting Christians in earnest. Recall for a moment that the Jews considered the Samaritans worse than dogs. Jews who had married Gentiles resettled in Canaan by the Assyrians after the defeat of the northern kingdom of Israel became known as Samaritans. Because the Samaritans were part Jewish and part Gentile, devout Jews would avoid these people at all costs. This did not seem to matter to Philip. He, like Jesus, was concerned enough for their souls to put away prejudice in order to teach salvation (John 4:3-30). The end of chapter 8 tells of Philips’s role in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. Though we have no way of knowing for sure, Philip was probably well off. He was able to support a household of at least four daughters, travel, and provide for Paul and his companions. All this points to a very reliable and faithful Christian.
Next, consider the four daughters. To my knowledge, the words in verse nine are the only mention these women receive in the Bible. These few words do, however, paint a good picture. All four girls were unmarried and living in their father’s household. We do not know an exact age of these daughters, but we can know they were of an age of accountability and Christians. How can we know this? In Acts 2:17, Peter quotes the prophet Joel (2:28-29). The verse tells of a time when gifts of a miraculous nature would be given. The gift of prophecy is specifically mentioned. It was to be given to men and women, servants and free. The purpose of these gifts was to confirm the Word of God, to help those who saw or heard know the message was from God and to be obeyed (John 10:38; Ephesians 4:11-15). In the New Testament, when a person received a miraculous gift, it was given to a Christian (Acts 8:17), with the exception at the household of Cornelius where such a gift was received immediately before conversion to confirm that Gentiles were subject to the Gospel, too (Acts 10-11). In every case of conversion, the new Christian was old enough to understand he was a sinner and needed to obey God in order to be rid of his sins. With this in mind, it must be true that Philip’s daughters were Christians and old enough to know right from wrong.
The scriptures say Philip’s daughters “did prophesy.” What does this word mean? Prophets of the Bible spoke God’s will to his people. The prophets of the Old Testament also spent much time predicting future events as God gave them the knowledge. The main purpose of the New Testament prophets (and prophetesses), however, was not to predict. In the New Testament the job of the prophets was to reveal what men could not know with out supernatural help. The gift of prophecy was given so the early church could know God’s plan for salvation and how they must live in order to be pleasing to God. Remember that in the early days of the church there was not a written Word, or Bible, as we know it. Therefore, it was necessary for God to reveal his will through a prophet or prophetess. After the Bible was complete, there was no more need for the miracle of prophecy (or other miracles) and God caused miracles to cease (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). The daughters of Philip had this miraculous gift of prophecy. The verses that describe these four women are a wonderful tribute to their father. Philip not only taught and served others, he raised his family to serve God in a similar manner.
Many people believe women should have a leading role in the worship assembly. Part of the argument is based on Philip’s daughters. If they could prophesy, or instruct in God’s Word, so can women today. A closer look at Scripture will prove this a false line of reasoning. The text that states Philip’s daughters prophesied does not give specific details. For example, to whom did these women prophesy and where? Other verses show us some answers to these questions. Another example of a woman teaching is Priscilla (Acts 18:24-26). Her teaching of a man was done in conjunction with her husband and in private. The Bible tells us women are to remain silent in the worship assembly (1 Corinthians 14:34) and that women are not to have biblical authority over men (1 Timothy 2:9-12). It is clear, then, that Philip’s daughters used their miraculous gift of prophecy to teach other women or in a private setting.
If women cannot teach a male audience in a public setting, what can they do to serve the Lord as Philip’s daughters did? First, women may teach other women (Titus 2:3-6) and children. Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him from the time he was a young child (2 Timothy 1:5). Women can also teach in ways other than public speaking. First Peter 3:1-6 tells women to teach by their dress and example. Writing articles such as this, preparing bulletin boards (motivational, inspirational and educational) and showing hospitality are just a few other ways women can work for the Lord.
Philip’s daughters had a very special, God given purpose. They fulfilled their obligation to teach others in a unique way. Today’s women can never serve God in that way — there are no more gifts of prophecy. We must use the tools available to us. Look around and see all the things we can do to serve the Lord. Choose how you will serve God and give it your best. Be faithful Christian women like the daughters of Philip.
“And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did
prophesy” (Acts 21:9). This is just one short sentence about four women.
Their names are not given, yet they live on 2000 years after their death
because they found favor in God’s sight by working for him. Let us
always try to be worthy of the same.