Not All Beards in the Upper Room

Studies in Acts, #2

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 2:12-14

The apostles did as Jesus told them, returning to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit who was promised by the Father (1:4-5). The room upstairs is reminiscent of the room where the Last Supper was held (Lk. 22:12), but we don’t know if it was the same. The list is similar to Luke 6:14-16 though without Judas Iscariot, thus setting up the rest of the narrative. God is forming a new Israel, and not one tribe would be missing, so another apostle is needed. It’s interesting that though these apostles would found the church, only James, Peter and John will be mentioned again in Acts by name. In the gospels and the book of Acts, Peter is mentioned 189 times, John 50 times, and James 18 times. Although all are apostles, all do not have the same gifts. There are leaders of leaders, first among equals. 

But also among these apostles, Luke mentions “the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (v14). The women are linked with the disciples (cf. Mk. 6:3), and together with Jesus’ brothers they are all devoted to prayer (v14; cf. 1:24; 8:14-17; 9:11; 10:4, 9, 30; 13:2-3). Obviously nothing Luke writes here contradicts the New Testament requirements for male leadership (1 Tim. 2:12, 3:2ff). The senior leadership of Israel, the new Israel, is still male, but women who accompanied Jesus are in upper room with the apostles, praying and fellowshipping. It’s often pointed out that the New Testament is revolutionary in the including and even emphasizing the role of women as eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. The testimony of women was not permissible in Roman courts. But not only were they witnesses of Christ, Luke informs us of their ongoing role in the church. I doubt there were many smooth, feminine faces among the bearded Sanhedrin praying in Jerusalem. But in the upper room, there they were.

The mainline church , and even much of the Reformed church, is highly effeminate. Ministers in skirts hardly seems controversial these days. This makes conservative churches want to react even more strongly to creeping feminism, which is why we need to see what godly women did in the early church. Teaching, ruling and exercising authority was not on the agenda: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 3:12). But they had a notable role serving, praying, giving counsel. Wisdom in Proverbs is a woman. The apostles were not slow to get this, nor to utilize the gifts of the godly women following Jesus.

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