Monday, May 4, 2009

Joel 2:28-29-- A Forerunner of Galatians 3:28

Tonight while at the library, I decided to investigate a source I wrote down on a piece of paper a few days ago in the library. First starting the New Creation Theology series, I began to search for more on this subject—as Gordon Fee has fascinated me (and added to my theology) on the subject. Once again, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND his chapter titled “Male and Female in the New Creation” (from “Discovering Biblical Equality,” by editors Ronald Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis; contributing editor: Gordon Fee).

I found an article from a journal, called “Community and Diversity” by Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (the journal is The Union Seminary Quarterly Review) from off the library shelf and decided to open it. I didn’t find what I thought I would find (work on the New Creation); but I did find a hint of Galatians 3:28 in an old passage that I hadn’t even considered before—and that would be the Old Testament passage of Joel 2:28-29. Let’s look at the text:

28[a](A) "And it shall come to pass afterward,
that(B) I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
(C) your sons and(D) your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29(E) Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
(Joel 2:28-29, ESV)

Bedford-Strohm points out two significant features of this passage: “First, there is a clear account of diversity within the community. The Spirit is poured out on ALL FLESH. And yet this is not one HOMOGENOUS mass, but a community of QUITE DIFFERENT GROUPS with different experiences: OLD people and YOUNG people, MEN and WOMEN, FREE people and SLAVES” (Union Seminary Quarterly, no. 49-50, page 160). Notice that age no longer divides—old and young with will have dreams and visions; gender is no longer a qualifier for division—for both men and women will prophesy; last but not least, social class is not a qualifier for division—for both MALE and FEMALE SERVANTS (slaves) will receive the Spirit, and there will be visible signs of the Spirit’s presence. Here we see clearly the divisions mentioned in Galatians 3:28—“male” and “female,” “slave” and “free.”

What was the second feature? “Joel’s vision manifests a very powerful COUNTERIMAGE to the HIERARCHY IN SOCIETY. It is a clear statement that not only the sons but also the daughters are expressively mentioned, that slaves are mentioned, and even, again, not only male slaves but female slaves…the text from Joel presents a CREATIVE DIVERSITY OF THE COMMUNITY’S PRAISE OF GOD IN WHICH NONE IS DEVALUED OR PUT ABOVE THE OTHER” (160, 161).

However, I wanna take time to show the reader something in Joel 2:28-29 that I think we overlook quite often. The first words of Joel 2:28 tell us what God promised to do—“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” God says here that He is going to give EVERYONE who believes His Spirit within. Okay—both complementarians and egalitarians agree that God has placed His Spirit within all believers.

But here’s where the complementarian gets stumped: while he realizes that the Spirit is present in a woman’s life, the complementarian denies the woman’s giftedness—but the problem is that the giftedness is a SIGN of the Spirit’s presence in the life of the believer. Don’t take my word for it; look back at Joel 2:

your sons and(D) your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29(E) Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28b, 29)

Notice that the end of Joel 2:28 and all of Joel 2:29 discuss the VISIBLE signs of the Spirit’s presence: prophecy, dreams, and visions. The daughters of Phillip prophesied (Acts 21:9); Paul experienced visions (2 Corinthians 12) and Ananias is given a vision from the Lord about Saul (Acts 9:10). So these experiences were visible signs of the Spirit’s presence in the life of a believer. The gifts as recorded in the New Testament are also visible signs of the Spirit’s presence.

So if giftedness is a visible sign of the Spirit’s presence in the woman’s life, then the Spirit can so choose to gift her in any way HE sees fit (1 Corinthians 12). Her giftedness is not our call to make, but the Spirit’s—after all, He is the God of the New Testament church.

Going back to Galatians 3:28, you’ll notice that complementarians no longer discriminate the races (“neither Jew nor Gentile”); and they don’t discriminate against those of differing social classes (“slave nor free”). However, they’re still stuck on the last pair (“neither male nor female”). For them, gender is just too comforting of a hierarchical distinction to give up. But if they desire to exalt God, and God is the One speaking in Joel 2:28-29, then they’re gonna have to loosen their grip—for the Spirit plans to gift the female anyway.

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