We read today of Paul’s journey back to Jerusalem and the events there. Luke was with him, and records that when they “came to Caesarea … we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven (see Acts 6:3) and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied” (21:8,9). This is one of a few verses sometimes quoted as they appear to show that the Lord gives women an equal role to men in serving Him. To say they ‘prophesied’ does not mean they predicted the future. In the verses that follow we see that “a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea” (verse 10) and he did that.
In 1 Corinthians 14, there is a list of different activities that take place when “believers come together”. These include “a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (verse 26). Paul adds, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said’ (verse 29); they are to “prophecy one by one, so that all may learn” (verse 31). Learn what? It is clear that this is not prophesying in the sense of predicting the future, but of forth-telling the will of God. The Old Testament prophets spent far more of their time addressing the spiritual issues and failures surrounding them as our readings in Hosea illustrate.
To the Romans Paul wrote, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that … through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (15:4). So, looking at prophets such as Hosea would be a source of instruction. Now in the next verses in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul makes the point, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent … they are not permitted to speak” (verses 33,34).
Phillip, as an evangelist, would almost certainly have access to “the scriptures … written in former days”. It seems most probable that his daughters would also see and keenly read them. So we conclude, when they “prophesied” these Scriptures were the inspiration and source of much of what they said – but this would not be when the believers came together in worship.
We live in a world full of competition between individuals, but the life of believers should be one of teamwork. See Acts 18 and the actions of a husband and wife team – when “Priscilla and Aquila heard him, (Apollos) they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (verse 26). The fact that Priscilla is mentioned first probably indicates she had the greater ability to do this. In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter comments that husbands and wives should pray together; it is teamwork in all situations that bring us closer to God – and how much we need that in these last days.