"And in the last days it will be," God says, "that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and 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." (Ephesians 2:17-18)
This vision points to the final days, the time in which God has brought to completion the bulk of his promises. If human history is divided up according to God’s revelation and activity, we look in this prophesy to a time in which humankind has entered the final stretch. The fact that Peter applies this to the events of this morning indicates that God has accomplished in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, things of such magnitude that now humankind is thrust into its final stage of existence. Now we have entered the final days.
What will happen in the final days before the end? God promises that he will pour out his Spirit on all flesh. He will pour out his Spirit indiscriminately on humankind, from the high to the low. Where in the past his Spirit has been seen working sporadically in a few specially chosen and gifted prophets, kings, judges, and a few choice pagans who were used to show God’s sovereign power, now the Spirit is granted as a gift to everyone, made available to any and all.
On whom exactly does God plan to pour out his Spirit? Joel begins speaking of the unlikeliest of scenarios. God will give his Spirit to boys and girls, to sons and daughters. From here, we move up to young men, entering the threshold of adult living, and on to old men. In terms of social standing, God ensures that even the lowest levels of human society will be included. Even the male and female servants will be given the gift of the Spirit, and God describes them as his servants. He identifies himself fully with them.
But the broad scope is not the only thing to note here. When God’s Spirit is poured out on people, they are granted the power to do supernatural things. God transforms those he fills by enabling them to do something that will further God’s purposes on earth. The sons and daughters will prophesy. They will be allowed to communicate to others a message from God. It is important to note that the inclusion of women in prophecy is not a new thing, and not a New Testament innovation. Already, Exodus 15:20 describes Miriam, sister of Aaron and Moses, as a prophetess. Judges 4:4 introduces the prophetess Deborah, who not only gave words from the Lord, but also heard cases and judged them. In 2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Chronicles 34:22 we read of how the priest Hilkiah, with other officials, was sent by king Josiah to ask the prophetess Huldah what God had to say about Judah’s sin. Isaiah, in his book (8:3), describes his wife as the prophetess.
The single greatest reason used today to exclude women from the pulpit is 1 Timothy 2:11-12 • Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
Taken at face value this would seem to bar women from teaching or preaching in the church. But if the witness from the Old Testament forward and the very promise fulfilled at the inauguration of the church includes the giving of the gift of prophecy to sons and daughters, surely this one text cannot be interpreted in this way. Though the passage we are currently studying is our focus, at the very least we can say that God gave the ability both to men and to women to communicate to others a message from God. How such a message could be delivered without placing the prophet in a position of authority over the recipient of the message is inconceivable. Most likely, the passage in 1 Timothy 2 should be translated and understood as yet another condensed version of Paul’s uniform teaching on spousal responsibilities. Rather than being about men and women, it is about husbands and their wives. The point made about sons and daughters is also made of both sexes and applied to male and female servants. Both sexes of servants will prophesy.
Both young and old will see visions and dream dreams. God will give to the young and the old insight into things unknown, unexpected, the mighty works of God. God will bring new and exciting things into the lives of those he has filled with his Spirit. Even the elderly will have new and exciting things to look forward to in Christ. In a society that dismisses the young and forgets the elderly, God promises to give both new and exciting things to discover in him
I will be preaching from Acts 2:12-21 in our service this coming Sunday, March 25, 2012. Worship begins at 10:45 am. Come and join us, 3201 W 15th St. Plano, TX 75075. Video and audio of the sermon is posted during the week at our website: www.pcbcplano.org
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