Question:

In Acts 16:13 where the women had assembled on the Sabbath by the river, do you think that was a woman only assembly or were other men, besides Paul, there?


Answer:

Paul took Silas with him (Acts 15:41), Timothy also accompanies Paul (Acts 16:1-4), and at Troas Luke joins (the "we" in Acts 16:11). There are at least four men traveling together when they arrived at Phillipi.

"And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us" (Acts 16:13-15).

We learn they went to a place of prayer where the group thought they could find people following the Jewish religion. When they arrived Paul talks to a group of women there and who is specifically mentioned as responding is Lydia. It might be possible that there were some other men there, it doesn't seem likely. We know in other places that Jewish men tend to have strong opinions and speak out. Lydia was a Gentile woman, since it calls her "a worshiper of God." Her whole household was converted to the faith.

The place of prayer was where Jewish people met, along with Gentiles who were interested in Judaism. In Acts 16:16, we see Paul and his company heading to the place of prayer again, so it continued to be used as a meeting place. Whether men were among the number by this time, we don't know.

As time goes on, a jailer and his family (Acts 16:25-33) join the church and at the end of the chapter there is mention of the brethren at Lydia's house (Acts 16:40). 

Alan Feaster

Thanks Alan for your response.

The reason I ask is because it is being used as a reference to a woman's prayer group. Do you have any thoughts on that since "women's prayer group" is not specifically seen in the Scriptures? Do believe we have the authority to call for a separate women's only prayer group?

I see there is a little more to your question! The easiest answer is that this is a misuse of Scripture. Think about why Paul and his companions went here on the Sabbath. They were looking for people who followed the Jewish religion. This meeting was not composed of Christians but of Jewish believers. Trying to bind this in the new covenant under Christ would be adding to the Law of Christ, if we were using this passage as our only example.

This group was not an exclusive group because Paul arrived, was welcomed, and he was later returned to this place of prayer. Now we have a group of both men and women.

Putting all this misuse of Scripture behind us: Is it wrong for just women to get together and pray? The simple answer is no. If women want to get together and pray, that is a wonderful idea! (Titus 2:3-5). We are told older women to teach younger women in all things. Titus gives us a few topics: marriage, family and acting like Christians are things to be taught. But mature women in the faith should be teaching younger women on how to pray for their families and how to teach their kids to follow the Lord. There will be times where teaching and praying need to be done separately from the men. Women are commanded to take these tasks to other women.

Is it wrong to hold private prayer groups? The answer is no. There were women who could prophecy and it could only be done for women and children (I Corinthians 11:5; Acts 2:17-18; 21:9). The reason for this conclusion is that women were not to lead in a gathering of the church if men are present, nor to teach men in public places (I Corinthians 14:34; I Timothy 2:11-15).

As a side note: when you say "prayer group," I am guessing you mean women getting together to pray and not a "prayer ministry" as some churches have.

If there is any other questions let me know.

Alan Feaster