May 12, 2010

The Testimony of Two Witnesses

2010 1513 page28 capOPE IS A WONDERFUL GIFT FROM GOD. IT BELIEVES THAT WE CAN DO ALL things through Christ who strengthens us. It’s the universal source of courage in life’s harshest realities and toughest challenges.
The Old Testament prophet Joel’s prophetic gaze pierced the dense fog of the future to see a world where there’s no discrimination based on race, religion, physical fitness, or social standing. Indeed, a church where there’s no distinction based on age, gender, parentage, or financial contributions; communities of faith where the focus is not on political power but on commitment to Christ.
To understand the prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29, it helps to see it from Peter’s perspective in Acts 2. For where Joel said: “And afterward,” Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed: “In the last days” (Acts 2:17). Since ours is the legacy of “the last days,” we should be alert to the fulfillment of this prophecy when ancient sprinkles were replaced by an abundant outpouring at Pentecost that fell on both men and women (Acts 1:15), and later on Gentiles (Acts 10:44). Those Pentecostal showers still fall on all who receive power to be Christ’s witnesses.
2010 1513 page28Another clear sign of this special anointing would be the total eradication of prejudice in any form—not only from individuals, but from our institutions as well. For the inspired Word says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus . . . and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28, 29). Pious, pretentious lovers of self, instead of lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:2-4), will never perceive it, and will continue to misrepresent Scripture to support their own biases.
Joel and Peter also declared that God’s sons and daughters will prophesy in these last days. To prophesy is to be an anointed spokesperson for God in the twofold ministry of foretelling—as was manifested in Ellen White; as well as forth-telling—that is, proclaiming the gospel with confidence. There is no gender distinction in the Messiah’s kingdom.
I’m willing to concede that until Joel was divinely directed to include women, the priesthood or ministry in the Old Testament was the sole domain of men. But the Gospels report that many women were called and sent to minister by Jesus (Matt. 27:55, 56), were present at Pentecost, were recognized as disciples (Acts 9:36) and prophets (Acts 21:9).
As senior pastor of a large church for almost 14 years, and currently a professor in our seminary, where 132 women have responded to the call of Christ and are preparing to preach and teach the gospel alongside our brothers, I applaud our leaders for being part of this divine movement.
Here’s how the situation stands at the moment: One of our churches on a university campus is being successfully served by a female senior pastor; more than 450 women are serving the General Conference, the North American Division, and local conferences as vice presidents, treasurers, and pastors; and numerous other women serve in a variety of ministries in the Adventist world church. These are all vivid indications that even though we are not where we ought to be, we’ve come a long way toward fulfilling the divine plan foretold by Joel and Peter.
“Even on my servants, both men and women” will God’s Spirit be poured in the last days (Joel 2:29). The word “even” tells us how unusual this is, for it’s the very first time in the entire Old Testament that such an inclusive blessing is promised to slaves/servants. This word predicts that there will be no segregation in God’s true community of faith. And if we really are the remnant church, this will not be named or practiced among us.
For when God planned to send His only begotten Son to die for the sin of the world, He also made provision that His Holy Spirit would be poured out in full measure on males as well as females, so there would be unity in His church, and all would freely share in His everlasting grace! 
Hyveth Williams is a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI. This article was published May 13, 2010.