What’s Up With Old Testament Sacrifices? by Braxton Hunter

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If there is anything in Scripture which seems weird it is the sacrificial system. Why in the world would God require that mankind do things like kill animals in order to get forgiveness for sin? If animals need to be  sacrificed then why did Jesus need to die? Sacrifices are exactly the sorts of things that sometimes cause people to walk away from Christianity and say, “it’s just a made up religion.” But there really are some good reasons why God requires sacrifices which make sense if you really think.

In Leviticus, Chapters 1-7, there are five types of sacrifices mentioned. The Burnt sacrifices were those in which the entirety of the offering was set on fire and completely consumed by the flames. Grain offerings were those cereal sacrifices of vegetation and produce. Peace offerings differed somewhat in how they were made depending on the circumstances, but they were often voluntary acts of worship. Sin offerings were made on behalf of involuntary sinful acts. That is to say, many times a given Israelite might accidentally violate the law.Trespass offerings were similar, but involved actual money and were specifically made in the event that one man had cheated another (intentionally or not). These few chapters of Scripture outline how and when these offerings are to be made. So, what’s the point?

God’s requirement of sacrifices in the Old Testament makes sense for two reasons. First, part of what makes God so great is His justice. He must act justly! That means a penalty must be paid for sin. Second, the reason it had to be an animal, vegetation or amount of money is because the penalty must actually cost the sinner something. Thus, the sacrificial system. One reason that the Bible is so specific about how the sacrifices were to be done is, undoubtedly, that God wanted to teach obedience to the Israelites. However, we are still left with the question of why Jesus had to die.

Ultimately, the sacrifices that God required of the Children of Israel would not suffice in light of eternity. They were temporary. The system was a sort of “band-aid” solution. The reason for this is that man had sinned against an everlasting God. Often when I preach I point out that if you kill someone’s pet (let’s say a cat since I’m a dog person), there will be a penalty of some kind. If you kill the owner, however, the penalty will be much bigger. You may go to prison for the rest of your life. In fact, you may receive capital punishment. So there is a small penalty for sinning against an animal and a much bigger penalty for sinning against a man because this is what our own innate sense of justice tells us. So, what must be the punishment for sinning against an everlasting God? Can it be anything but an everlasting punishment? In order to escape everlasting punishment in hell, for sinning against an everlasting God, an everlasting sacrifice must be made.

1. Justice requires that the punishment for sin is equal to the weight of the sin

2. Sin against God is everlasting in weight, therefore

3. the just punishment for sin must be everlasting  

The only way this could be done is for God to enter the physical universe and die to fulfill that justice.

It all boils down to the fact that God cannot change the fact that He is a God of justice. He must act justly. This means that a price must be paid. The only just price for everlasting sin is an everlasting sacrifice. Jesus is the everlasting lamb that was slain. To me, this makes perfect sense. The next time it occurs to you, “What’s up with sacrifices?” you’ll have an answer.

Book Review: Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation (J.P. Holding & Nick Peters)

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This book can be purchased here.

A Brief Recap of the Debate

The book Defining Inerrancy (Tekton E-Bricks, 2014) was recently released in response to Geisler’s book Defending Inerrancy (Baker, 2012), and a book of essays edited by Norman Geisler and F. David Farnell called The Jesus Quest: The Danger From Within (Xulon, 2014). The debate surrounding Biblical Inerrancy has been heating up once again in Evangelical circles. Unlike past debates regarding this issue, both sides of this new debate affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. Central to the debate here is in how do we as Evangelicals understand that doctrine, and what methodologies regarding the interpretation of Scripture fall within the bounds of being able to affirm inerrancy.

Much of the heat of the debate began when Norman Geisler publicly criticized a couple of sentences from Michael Licona’s groundbreaking work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Histiographical Approach, in which he presents a stunning defence the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The criticism from Geisler regarding some of the contents of Licona’s book were a prelude to the release of Defending Inerrancy, in which Geisler takes to task several prominent conservative Evangelical scholars for their methods of interpretation. Whether in publication, or online, Geisler, enlisting help from other prominent Evangelicals, have made much about this issue since. Defining Inerrancy is one fine response to this controversy.

Largely Successful

The foreword from Craig Blomberg is an eye-opener into some of the history of Norman Geisler’s dealings with Evangelical scholars in the past. It is also enlightening that he, presumably like other scholars, will no longer remain on the sidelines in this debate. Holding and Peters go on offense with Defining Inerrancy. They primarily survey the contents of the The Jesus Quest and Defending Inerrancy books, and respond to criticisms directly related to the issues of genre criticism, extra-Biblical sources, literary conventions contemporary with the times of Scripture, and so forth. While both sides care about the preservation of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the scholars attacked by Geisler and company hold that their methodology is the only viable means of a) understanding the kind of text God has given us in His Word, and b) understanding how and why the Bible is inerrant in the sense of understanding it in its own terms. Contrary to the assertions of Geisler and company, they are largely correct in these claims. This book effectively demonstrates this to be the case.

Defining Inerrancy responds point by point to the criticisms of a number of critics who contributed to Geisler’s cause. For expedient purposes, Holding and Peters offer the label “traditionalists” to Geisler and others who hold to one method of interpretation, and “contextualizers” to scholars like Bock, Licona, Blomberg, and others who are under assault by Geisler. Two things are immediately noticed. First, these labels are far more charitable than the labels given by Geisler and company to those conservative Evangelicals they oppose. Second, it is realized very quickly that Geisler and company do not have very sound arguments, as they are easily countered by Holding and Peters. This is disconcerting, because the salient points relevant to the issue discussed in this book are typically cited in full by Holding and Peters, and they expose the bad reasoning, the misrepresentation, hypocrisy, and the irrelevant and overstated alarmist rhetoric employed by Geisler and company. After the first 24 pages of this book, this pattern becomes so repetitious as to be somewhat frightening at how seriously flawed these arguments against the contextualizers are. One will have to read the book and come to their own conclusions about this, but it was striking to me that these normally cogent and thoughtful scholars like Geisler and company offer very little by way of meaningful substance. Holding and Peters make it obvious that they need much better arguments if they are to be taken seriously, need to catch up and follow conservative Biblical scholarship better, and need to do some more homework before they come back to the table to respond. If nothing else, the authors of Defining Inerrancy make it clear to spectators on all sides of this issue that all the grandstanding and posturing in place of coherent argumentation and having a firm grasp on the issues will no longer do for Geisler and company.

Furthermore, Holding and Peters effectively demonstrate that the very fears of Geisler and company over methodology of interpretation would be brought about more and worse by their own traditionalist view than the contextualizer’s view. Holding and Peters point to examples like Bart Ehrman, and many people in the pew who perhaps do not have a sophisticated view of Scripture and inerrancy, and the kind of literary texts that are in Scripture. They argue that a hyper-wooden view of interpretative boundaries and conclusions by Geisler and company are likely to produce more liberals, apostates, and skeptics than the methodology used by the “contextualizers” who are, and largely remain, conservative Evangelicals. Those Apologists on the streets who have quite often encountered these sorts of apostates, skeptics, and others with questions about the Bible can verify as much as well.

They also demonstrate that if one ignores the scholarship over the last couple of decades, one finds himself in the position of having to shut one’s mind off and start ignoring reality. Apologists have long recognized these factors in discussing with both apostates and Christians struggling to deal with issues regarding the Bible. Holding and Peters rightly point out that contextualization of Biblical texts helps sort these kinds of issues out, and is arguably a more faithful hermeneutic to the text anyway.

This, of course, points us to a major issue in the debate. This really is not a debate about inerrancy at all, but rather, one of hermeneutics. If one really wants to ignore much of what genre criticism, effective use of extra-Biblical sources, literary conventions, social science data, etc. offers to aid us in understanding Scripture, then that amounts to ignoring Scripture itself. Both sides want to affirm inerrancy, and both sides also want to affirm that the Bible was not written in a vacuum. Essentially though, one side wants to limit the scope of tools we can use to understand the text, and the other side wants to broaden the scope. Though, as Holding and Peters also point out, their opponents only want to limit that scope selectively and arbitrarily as it suits their own interpretive conclusions.

Holding and Peters rightly point out that there can be dangers on both extreme ends of this spectrum, but evaluating interpretative conclusions on the basis of arguments made for them is a far cry from affirming or rejecting inerrancy itself. This is a very important point, and Geisler and company have completely failed to grasp it, and have offered no meaningful counterargument in response to this vitally important point. Sadly, only one side, the contextualizers, understand all this, and the other side  does not want to engage in the necessary hard work, but would rather engage in bombastic, alarmist rhetoric and bad arguments why other conservative Evangelicals should not try to understand God’s Word more fully. In any case, interpretations of particular passages by some conservative scholars that other conservative scholars may find questionable need to be decided at that level. What does not need to happen, but has happened, is the circus on the internet that has resulted from these disagreements (albeit from both sides). Questions regarding some conservative Evangelical scholars’ orthodoxy, Evangelical or Biblical commitment, or affirmation of inerrancy because they come to some interpretive conclusion about this or that passage that others reject goes too far out of bounds. Indeed, they go outside the relevant bounds of the matters under discussion.

All this simply will not do. As Holding and Peters demonstrate, one has to ignore too much scholarship demonstrating that these tools are both appropriate and necessary to have a robust understanding of Scripture. The authors also demonstrate that when one takes away the alarmist rhetoric, double-standards, hypocrisy, misrepresentations, and question begging, Geisler and company simply have no case. Moreover, when it all shakes out, Holding and Peters also show that this is largely about splitting hairs with regards to both the Chicago Statement/ICBI position and the “contextualizers” in how much extra-Biblical data one can use to help understand Scripture. One side wants more, but only insofar as it is useful (the contextualizers), the other side (the traditionalists) wants, well, more or less of it, depending on what their particular views are on this or that issue in this or that book of the Bible.

For example, take Geisler and his Old Earth Creationist views. He, along with Packer, still have yet to adequately address how their position and methodology is any different with respect to Genesis’ creation account to the contextualizers methodology with the Gospels, Epistles, and the rest of Scripture. At least, they have not adequately done so to the satisfaction of the contextualizers, to say nothing of Young Earth Creationists. Young Earth Creationists charge Geisler and others with much of the same labels and supposed harm to Scripture as Geisler and his company accuse the contextualizers. Holding and Peters rightly point out the blatant inconsistency of their opponents in this matter.

Stumbles a Bit Though

While I largely think that this book succeeds in its intent and argumentation, especially for a fast, accessible read for curious onlookers, it is not without a few problems of its own. One major problem is lacking citation when information is given regarding methodological approaches, or sourcing explanations of literary conventions, and things like this. Anyone who has surveyed either Holding’s or Peters’ respective websites know that they certainly have the book and article collection to provide citations to their explanation of what, for example, a high context society is, or how ancient rhetorical conventions would work regarding speeches, and things of this nature. This sort of thing would have been most helpful for curious onlookers who are unfamiliar with all the terminology.

Another problem is that while demonstrating the bad arguments of Geisler and company, they offer some bad arguments themselves. There is a myth that if one is a Systematic Theologian, or pastor, or philosopher, perhaps an apologist, then one is therefore not a “scholar” of Scripture, a competent exegete, and lack the right set of disciplinary credentials to discuss matters of Scripture and what are or are not appropriate methods of interpretation. Clearly, this is false.

Furthermore, it is irrelevant. Claims must be answered, as they have been in Defining Inerrancy, even apparently baseless ones such as is on offer by Geisler and company. However, the credentials of Geisler, Farnell, Holden, MacArthur, Mohler, Patterson, Land, and others are certainly respectable, and more than qualify them well enough to discuss these matters. This is especially pertinent since, were we to apply this standard to the authors of Defining Inerrancy themselves, both Holding and Peters lack any credentials whatsoever to offer back comment relevant to the field of this discussion to their chosen opponents, much less take up arms with those whom they agree and definitively speak for them. Should anyone therefore discount this book and the arguments they offered in it, most of which I am in agreement, because the authors here do not have terminal degrees in New Testament studies? Of course not. This line of argument was unnecessary, unconvincing, and the book would have been better served without it. While the arguments given by Geisler and company are certainly wanting, at least in my opinion, their credentials are certainly not.

Finally, there are some occasions of blanket statements that the authors assume are unchallenged by other contextualizers and other non-traditionalist scholars alike. For instance, statements like all the Gospels being ancient Greco-Roman biographies. This is not necessarily the case. Some of them are, but as Witherington convincingly demonstrates in his Acts commentary (The Acts of The Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary), Luke’s Gospel is best concluded to be ancient historiography and not ancient biography. Witherington concluded this by using the very kind of methodology defended here (see Witherington’s introduction in his Acts commentary). This is simply being pointed out to demonstrate that occasional blanket statements found here and there in Defining Inerrancy may be a bit misleading, but also to show that the methodology defended in Defining Inerrancy yields further insight when pressed fully into service, as with the Witherington and Acts example, not less insight.

All Told

The few minor quibbles aside, I highly recommend this book to those interested in the back and forth regarding inerrancy. Unfortunately, inerrancy is the subject heading under which this conversation is taking place, but this is more about interpretative methodology than it is about inerrancy. Both sides affirm inerrancy. Sadly, only one side, the contextualizers, want to take the Bible seriously enough to understand it on its own terms, while the other side wants to seriously derail and distract from that goal. Holding and Peters, and the class of conservative, Evangelical Biblical scholars they represent in this work, are surely right in what they affirm and argue here. This is definitely the case when trying to understand literary genre and literary conventions, in which more understanding here serves to demonstrate why the Bible does not have the supposed “problems” it is perceived to have, from the perspective of modern readers, critics or otherwise. It is also the most sound way forward in demonstrating how we are to best understand (or “resolve”) these perceived problems. Finally, it also helps give us insight into determining how the Bible can be inerrant while appearing to have what modern readers perceive as “problematic” passages. We should favor any solution that concludes that these are, in fact, not problems at all. We should also favor the solutions that do not require a suspension of disbelief, as is often the case with some of the unconvincing harmonizations proposed for some of the problem passages or alleged contradictions in Scripture.

I especially recommend Defining Inerrancy to people who are tending to side with Geisler and company on this issue. Holding and Peters have done Geisler and company a favor by taking their arguments seriously, reading their material, and offering a response. Unfortunately for Geisler, those responses are devestating to his position. Obviously though, Geisler and company do not return the favor, and have demonstrated an avoidance to the real arguments offered back to them, rather than taking them straight on. I hope Geisler’s rank and file do not behave like Geisler and neglect to seriously contend with the arguments and responses like the ones offered in this book.

I know I personally have benefited and have been enriched in my own study of Scripture because of conservative Evangelical scholars like Licona, Blomberg, Bird, Keener, Witherington, de Silva, Bock, etc. who have introduced us to the highlights and insights gleaned from genre criticism, effective use of extra-Biblical sources, literary and rhetorical conventions, social science data, and so forth. As People of the Book, we should always grasp for more tools to better understand what God has given us, not less. Holding and Peters have served that end well with Defining Inerrancy, and have exposed some fatal flaws in the argumentation, approach, and unnecessary alarmist rhetoric of Geisler and company. While I also admire Geisler and his cohorts in many ways, and have benefited from their works on other issues, they are not only on the losing side of this issue, but on the wrong side as well.

Johnathan Pritchett
Vice President of Adminstration
Trinity Theological Seminary
Newburgh, IN

“Is Calvinism True?” Debate: Paul Cooper vs. Braxton Hunter

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This debate on the question “Is Calvinism True?” was held on June 8th, 2014 at the Whosoever Will Conference coinciding with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. Paul Cooper is the senior pastor of Marshall Baptist Church in Marshall, Illinois,and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Braxton Hunter is an evangelist, Christian apologist and the Executive Vice President of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana. Check out BraxtonHunter.com or Trinitysem.edu for more details.

Is The World Right About Us? by Bart Marnitz

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In a scene becoming more common today, a man is being detained for speaking in public. His crime? Street preaching.

An Image of Two Extremes

Now this isn’t an article on street preaching, but I use the above picture to highlight our changing cultural attitude towards Christianity. Consider a recent Gallop survey that asked individuals to rate the honesty and ethics of various professions. Clergy came in at 47%.1 In 1985, 67% of those polled rated the clergy as having high honesty and ethical standards. Why such a large decrease in only a few years? Is this strictly a case of a sinful world sliding towards paganism, or is it something more? Where is the information coming from which the public is making their judgments?

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Consider the medium of television. Television has been used by religious broadcasters to preach the good news of the Gospel to an extent and reach unparalleled in human history. This is of course a good thing. The question for today is, are they preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ? When the average person turns on the TV and views a religious program, what do they see? Odds are it will be a prosperity preacher using various techniques to fleece people out of their money. Since the largest number of preachers on television are preaching the prosperity gospel, most people are going to conclude Christianity is a scam. After all, it is obviously a scam to the non-churched. Therefore, they become resistant to the real Gospel because they assume it’s what they have already seen and rejected. False teachers, wither they be faith-healers, positive thinkers or the like, have become the “face” of Christianity.

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Where is the cry from the evangelical world exposing these false teachers? Why do we not hold these people accountable? Is the assessment of the world correct and what should the world see on television?

In Acts 17:22-34, Paul address the men of Athens. Does he rant and rave declaring by word and sandwich board that the hearers are headed to hell? Does he encourage them to plant a seed of faith to enjoy their best life now? No, he gives a clear presentation of the gospel. Paul starts his speech by establishing common ground with his audience. He says that he sees they are religious. Instead of proclaiming Hell fire, he begins with a compliment. He also says they have enough sense to have a statue to the unknown god just in case they missed one. This is the avenue Paul will use to dispense spiritual truth.

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He destroys their philosophy of life by declaring that, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”2 The men of Athens are God’s children. Life is not fatalistic or is fulfillment found is seeking simple pleasure. The creator of the universe wants a relationship with you. Paul even quotes their own philosophers to maintain their interest. At this point, Paul delivers the “hard” truth. It is time for the men of Athens to repent of idolatry and worship the one true God. As proof, he declares the reality of the resurrection. Some mocked, some wanted to hear more and some believed but they all heard the truth!

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The Gospel needs no “helps”. It doesn’t need flashy show production to make it relevant. It certainly doesn’t need to be a false gospel. But, it does need to be proclaimed. Romans 10:14 It time for the evangelical world to rise up and present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a logical apologetic that makes the philosophies of the world and the religious hucksters stand in stark contrast to the real thing.

1. http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx#1

2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Acts 17:24-25

Angels and Demons by Braxton Hunter

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For some, the idea that there is a supernatural realm of angelic and demonic entities moving all around just beyond the surface of reality seems like the sort of thing that would be made up by a culture of superstitious barbaric believers in an antiquated religion. However, I think beliefs in angels and demons are perfectly reasonable, but before we get into that let’s make it clear just what we mean when we use such terms.

According to the Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology an Angel is “Superhuman or heavenly being who serves as God’s messenger. Both the Hebrew malak and the Greek angelos indicate that these beings also act decisively in fulfilling God’s will in the world. But these two terms also apply to human beings as messengers ( 1 Kings 19:2 ; Hag 1:13 ; Luke 7:24 ). ‘Angels’ are mentioned almost three hundred times in Scripture, and are only noticeably absent from books such as Ruth, Nehemiah, Esther, the letters of John, and James.” Moreover, “By nature they were spiritual entities, and thus not subject to the limitations of human flesh. Although holy, angels could sometimes behave foolishly ( Job 4:18 ), and even prove to be untrustworthy ( Job 15:15 ). Probably these qualities led to the ‘fall’ of some angels, including Satan, but the Bible contains no description of that event. When angels appeared in human society they resembled normal males ( Genesis 18:2 Genesis 18:16 ; Ezek 9:2 ), and never came dressed as women.”

As mentioned above, depending on context the same term that is translated “angel” may refer to a messenger or pastor. Here, we will be referring to angels as one typically thinks of them.

On the other hand, a demon is an angelic being which rebelled against God and is defined by BEDT as a “Spirit being who is unclean and immoral in nature and activities. When demons were created, how they came to be demonic, and their organizational structure are not given significant attention in Scripture because the focus throughout the Bible is on God and his work in Christ rather than on the demonic attempts to demean that work.”

While this subject is incredibly interesting, our short purpose here is to explain why belief in angels and demons is understandable and reasonable. So, what’s the problem?

Many individuals find it difficult to accept the existence of angels and demons because it would mean accepting belief in supernatural non-human beings. After all, “By nature they [are] spiritual entities. . .” However, if we can demonstrate that God exists, as I have done in previous posts (and all over braxtonhunter.com), then we already have good reason to believe in at least one supernatural being. If we know that one supernatural being exists, then why should we conclude that others can’t exist? Think of it this way:

1. If at least one supernatural being exists then it is reasonable to believe in supernatural beings
2. At least one supernatural being does exist (God), therefore,
3. It is reasonable to believe in supernatural beings

Keep in mind, this is not a “proof” that angelic beings exist, but an explanation of why it is reasonable to believe that they do.

So there you have it. The fact that belief in angelic and demonic forces at work in our world is so reasonable is just another reason why so many of us are understandably Christian.

Preaching a 1st Century Message to a 21st Century Audience by Antwan Brown

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In viewing the many sermons/speeches contained within the “Acts of the Apostles”, you can see a very different approach than what we see in sermons today. The sermons then, especially Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, were focused on saving the souls of man and bringing people into a right relationship with Christ. The sermons of the Apostles endeavored to show man their sin problem and how they could go about correcting it. Today’s sermons seem to focus more on physical and fiscal matters more so than spiritual matters.

The preaching that is often viewed by many via television as delivered by the numerous “(tel)evangelists “ seemed to have a focus on how people feel. It has become more concerned with connecting with people’s emotional as opposed to their spiritual. Now, I am not saying that today’s evangelistic message should not be relative today’s issues faced by Christians but that should not be the core of that message. I am of the opinion you cannot fix today’s problem without first addressing the SIN problem. When we show man how to fix their sin problem and come into a right and reverent relationship with God THEN can we fix all of the other social ills. Preaching’s focus must be on the redemption of man and not the resources (i.e. money) of man.

When you look at Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, he very clearly, emphatically, and plainly told the audience what was they needed to do for there to be salvation and a remission of sin. Peter, without neither hesitation nor reservation, pointed out to all that were gathered that the Jesus they’d handed over to be crucified was the same Jesus that was with God in the beginning of the Creation, and it was determined well before that time that He would die for the sins of man. He continued saying this Jesus has now been raised by God and sits at His right hand. Not only does he now sit at the right hand of God, God has made him both Lord and Christ. Which, the audience who adored the great King of Israel David, realized David spoke of Him and gave him all reverence and declared him as Lord; meaning all of Israel should acknowledge him as THE Messiah.

With this sermon, the people standing before Peter, recognized their sin and asked “Brethren, what shall we do?”, to which Peter answered “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (or forgiveness) of sin”. Peter is telling them in order to come into a right relationship with God and to correct the sin problem in your life, you must REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED. That message is still true and relevant today.

Women in Acts – by Alfonzia McCary

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The role of women in the book of Acts touched every facet of Christendom with regard to what to do and in some cases what not to do. The book of Acts records occasions of women of prayer, entrepreneurs, a women that lied to the Holy Spirit, women imprisoned (Acts 9:2, 8:3, 22:4), a woman raised from the dead, delivered from a spirit of divination, and faithful women dedicated to the service of God. Moreover, women were included in the persecution of Christians in agreement with Saul.

Women were not in the forefront so much as leaders because of the culture. However, the impact of women was in the ministry profile of the early church was very strong. One cannot ignore the mighty impact that women had in prayer and presence of under-girding and sometimes leading in the book of Acts. For example, Lydia, seller of purple, took a leadership role in the book of Acts as an entrepreneur. In addition, Acts 18:2-3 and 26 mention how Priscilla with her husband Aquila provided a house for ministry workers as well as spreading the gospel through evangelism.

The outcrop of entrepreneurship is the ability to support ministries with finances. This was a vital part of ministry in the early church and is a crucial part of ministry today. In this way Lydia was a leader in ministry. Acts 16:14 “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”

According to Witherington (Acts, 1998) the work that Lydia did and the hospitality that she showed to Christians by allowing meetings at her house helped to spread the gospel in a Roman colony. In addition, Witherington points out that a person can live according to the gospel in a place where ministers of the gospel has just found a physical location from which to spread the word.

Another role of women in the book of Acts is noted by the conversion of a woman and a man in Philippi. Women did not have to wait and get permission to receive salvation – all they had to do was believe. This is important and it was brought to light in the book of Acts. Moreover, the freedom in Christ that came to women in participation in ministry was highlighted by how women could pray, serve, lead, and be anointed to do it out of a personal desire and not constrained or coerced to do it.

In Acts 5:1-11, Sapphira lied about the amount that she and her husband gave. Lying is a problem, but to complicate the matter she lied to the Holy Ghost. Acts 13:50 speaks of how honorable Jewish women stirred up the people so much that they expelled Paul and Barnabas out of the city. This was not an honorable act but it is recorded as done by honorable women in the book of Acts.

Women are mentioned by name or generally by gender well over twenty times in the book of Acts. None were more sincere that Rhoda. Acts 12:13-16 records that Rhoda was so excited about the release of Peter from prison that when she heard his voice she forgot to open the gate. She proceeded to announce that Peter was outside although those inside did not believe her.