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The Value of a Woman. Romans 16:1-7, 12-13
May 13, 2018

It’s not uncommon on Mother’s Day, to thank moms for all they do. We praise them for their hard work, attentiveness, thoughtfulness, compassion and care. As appreciative as we may be, the unfortunate inference is that we just value them for what they do. Naturally, with God, His valuation is much different. For His creatures, made in His image, He calls them to Christ, gifts them and declares that in His kingdom, they are of eternal value. If we recognize the value of mothers, as God does, then that valuation will not primarily be for all the things they do, but first and fundamentally for who they are. Motherhood is a sacred trust, given to exceptional people. Some are even enabled to be this special kind of individual for others even when they did not bear the children themselves.

 

In Romans 16, the Apostle Paul calls our attention to some special women who were of particular value. The apostle’s comments about these mostly unknown individuals are all the more poignant because this great apostle takes time to speak so warmly and appreciatively of these “ordinary” Christians, who were as much his brothers and sisters in Christ as Peter, James, John, and other New Testament notables. He here reveals his deep affection for those whom he had served, for those who had served him, and for those who served with him.

 

Perhaps you are here this morning feeling overwhelmed with the task before you. Perhaps you feel inadequate or ineffective. You may not even be a biological mother. What Paul is highlighting here in Romans 16, is the recognition and honoring of some special women that we all have a responsibility in our time to encourage, assist and seek out.

 

In select segments of  Romans 16:1-13, by highlighting some excellent women, Paul proclaims The Value of a Woman, as specific women are identified and 1) Commended as an Excellent Helper (Romans 16:1–2), 2) Commended for Excellent Hospitality (Romans 16:3-5a) and 3) Commended for Excellent Hard Work (Romans 16:6-7, 12-13).

 

Paul proclaims The Value of a Woman, as specific women are identified and

1)                  Commended as an Excellent Helper (Romans 16:1–2)

Romans 16:1–2  I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. (ESV)

 

Paul devotes these two verses to the commendation of a single individual, Phoebe, … a servant and a member of the church at Cenchrea. Cenchrea was the neighboring port city of Corinth, from which Paul wrote this letter, and the church … at Cenchrea which most likely was a daughter church of the one at Corinth. It was from Cenchrea, at the end of his first ministry in Corinth, that Paul, Priscilla, and Aquilaput out to sea for Syria” (Acts 18:18).

 

Paul could commend this woman not only for what she had done as a faithful sister and servant of Christ but also for what she was soon to do in further service to their Lord. It is almost certain that Phoebe delivered this letter in person to the church at Rome, a responsibility of considerable magnitude.

  • Motherhoodis not a second-best mission. Is it in the raising of kids and the accompanying ministry that some of the most crucial and kingdom impacting instruction occurs.

 

The name Phoebe means “bright and radiant,” and from Paul’s brief comments about her, it seems that those words did indeed characterize her personality and her Christian life. Paul commends her to the church at Rome as a servant and as a helper of many, including himself.

 

Please turn to 1 Timothy 3 (p.992)

 

Paul commends Phoebe as a servant beloved by those she served in her home church at Cenchrea, and probably in the mother church at Corinth as well. Servant translates diakonos, the term from which we get deacon. The Greek word here is neuter and was used in the church as a general term for servant before the offices of deacon and deaconess were developed (cf. Jn. 2:5, 9; Rom. 13:4, 15:8). During the first few centuries of the church, the role of a woman servant (diakonos) was to care for fellow believers who were sick, for the poor, for strangers passing through, and for the imprisoned. They also were responsible for helping baptize and disciple new women converts and to instruct children and other women. The social conditions of the time were such that there must have been the need for feminine church workers to assist in such matters (Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 529). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.)

 

In 1 Timothy 3:11, of Deacon’s wives, or what can be translated, these women serving as deacons, Paul declares that

1 Timothy 3:11-13 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

 

Whether or not Phoebe held some official title or not, Paul commended her as a highly-proven servant of Christ and implored the church at Rome in verse 2, to welcome/receive her in the Lord. Christians are to welcome/receive, to love, to minister to each other in a way that is distinct from the world around us and that it cannot comprehend. We are to embrace, serve, and care for all those who genuinely name the name of Christ (cf. Matt. 18:5–10).

 

  • One important role of motherhood is to serve the needs of her household. This does not necessarily mean to serve their wants, especially when those wants do not promote godliness in the recipients.  Recognizing their particular contribution on days like today are indeed a way as a church we can receive them in the Lord.

 

Phoebe was to be received into fellowship in a way/manner worthy of the saints, that is, as a true and faithful believer. Jesus promised that when believers minister to “one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them,” they do it for Him (Matt. 25:35–40).

 

Paul requested that the Roman church help Phoebe in whatever she may need of them for. This whatever “matter” is from pragma, from which we get pragmatic, and refers to anything that was done or carried out. It was often used of business transactions, and probably carries that idea here, as indicated by the King James’s rendering of “business.” Paul not only was giving a commendation of Phoebe as a faithful Christian but also was giving a letter of reference, as it were, in regard to whatever business matter she may have had in Rome.

  • Mothers often have a crucial rule in business and commerce. Like the Prov. 31 women, they can be great stewards of God’s resources entrusted to the family.

 

That idea is reinforced by Paul’s speaking of her as a patron/helper, which translates prostatis, which was commonly used to signify a patron, a wealthy person who encouraged and financially supported an organization or cause, as in a patron of the arts. In other words, Phoebe was no ordinary patron/helper, but one of high esteem and integrity and likely was a businesswoman of considerable wealth. She used her influence and her financial means, as well as her personal time and effort, as a patron/helper of many fellow believers and of myself [Paul] as well. Life within the body of Christ is a constant exchange of help. Those who are helped one day are given the privilege in Christ of being the helpers the next day (Barton, B. B., Veerman, D., & Wilson, N. S. (1992). Romans (p. 288). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)

  • In application to the home, the care that mothers provide must not be a one-way street. It is neither beneficial for the giver or recipient if care is directed only one way. The reciprocal care that God expects us to provide to one another, is for all of our benefits.

Illustration: 3634 More Honorable Than Any Profession

How then does a mother help? Theodore Roosevelt said:When all is said, it is the mother, and the mother only, who is a better citizen than the soldier who fights for his country. The successful mother, the mother who does her part in rearing and training aright the boys and girls, who are to be the men and women of the next generation, is of greater use to the community, and occupies, if she only would realize it, a more honorable as well as more important position than any man in it. The mother is the one supreme asset of the national life. She is more important, by far, than the successful statesman, or businessman, or artist, or scientist“. (Theodore Roosevelt as quoted in Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 845). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.)

 

Paul proclaims The Value of a Woman, as specific women are identified and

2)                  Commended for Excellent Hospitality (Romans 16:3-5a)

Romans 16:3-5a Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. (Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia) (ESV)

 

In verse 3, Paul continues his outpouring of love and affection for a host of beloved friends and fellow believers. Doubtless he could have included many more, but the ones he chose to acknowledge here were especially close and dear. As with his comments about Phoebe, he is not speaking as their authority so much as a friend in Christ. Although he had not yet visited Rome, Paul names twenty-four individuals, seventeen men and seven women, along with many who are unnamed, such as those in the households of Aristobulus and Narcissus. In these verses the apostle gives a roster of choice Christians he knew and with whom he had worked. He had served them and been served by them. Since several women are mentioned in this chapter, it is well to note that in addition to single women who served Christ, there was a married woman whom Paul encouraged to labor in the gospel along with her husband (Harrison, E. F. (1976). Romans. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Vol. 10, p. 163). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)

 

The first to be greeted are Prisca and Aquila, a husband and wife who were fellow workers in Christ Jesus with Paul. They were not apostles or prophets but, nonetheless, were invaluable workers in the early church. Paul first met this Jewish Christian couple on his first visit to Corinth, to which Prisca, whose diminutive name was Priscilla, and Aquila had fled from Rome when all Jews were expelled by the Emperor Claudias.

 

Please turn to Acts 18 (p.927)

 

They were much more than fellow workers with Paul, for whom they risked their necks. Probably more than once, they put their own lives in jeopardy to protect Paul’s. From a human perspective, they prevented Paul’s life and ministry from being cut short before he had fulfilled his role in God’s plan. They obviously rendered selfless service to many other Christians as well, because Paul goes on to make the remarkable statement that to them not only I give thanks, but al the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Wherever they traveled and lived, that Jewish couple ministered generously and without prejudice. Priscilla and Aquila give us a challenging model of what a couple can do together in the service of Christ. How often do we see our families and homes as gifts through which God can accomplish his work? How does God want to use your home and family to serve him? (Barton, B. B., Veerman, D., & Wilson, N. S. (1992). Romans (p. 289). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)

 

Aquila and Priscilla later moved from Corinth to Ephesus. While there, they met a young Jewish preacher

Acts 18:24–28 24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (ESV)

  • A women like Priscilla can often have the discernment, sensitivity, and compassion to help those who are zealous, like Apollos, but misguided. With her care and instruction she was instrumental in enabling others to be even more effective in ministry.

 

After Claudius died, Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome, where they lived and ministered when Paul wrote this letter to the church there. By this time there were many believers in Rome, probably spread throughout the city. According to verse 5, one of the congregations was meeting in their house, and Paul extended his greetings to them. There were no church buildings in the first century (not until the third century on our present information), so it was natural for Christians to meet in private homes. ( Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 532). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.) For Paul, Prisca and Aquila in a sense stood closer to him than any others—for they were his companions both in trade and in faith—as far as the record shows, between Paul, on the one hand, and Prisca and Aquila, on the other, there was always perfect harmony! (William Hendricksen. Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], p. 503)

  • Prisca was so valuable in ministry that Paul even listed her first. Her and her husband beautifully complemented and supported the Apostle Paul in His ministry even to the point of protecting his life. As often a we remember the ministry of one life the Apostle Paul, God brings invaluable supports like this woman Prisca to enable all the ministry to occur.

 

Illustration: Marriage     419

As effective a ministry team as Aquila and Priscilla were, we must notice the third element. It is like a braid.  A braid appears to contain only two strands of hair. But it is impossible to create a braid with only two strands. If the two could be put together at all, they would quickly unravel. Herein lies the mystery: What looks like two strands requires a third. The third strand, though not immediately evident, keeps the strands tightly woven. In a Christian marriage, God’s presence, like the third strand in a braid, holds husband and wife together. (Larson, C. B. (2002). 750 engaging illustrations for preachers, teachers & writers (p. 337). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

 

Finally, Paul proclaims The Value of a Woman, as specific women are identified and

3)                  Commended for Excellent Hard Work (Romans 16:6-7, 12-13)

Romans 16:6-7, 12-13 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. (ESV)

 

Greet Mary, Paul continues in verse 6, who has worked hard for you. We do not know where Mary came from, how or when she was converted, or anything else about her except that she had worked hard for the church at Rome. Kopiaō (worked hard) carries the idea of toiling at a task to the point of weariness and exhaustion. The phrasing of this verse suggests that Mary may not have been known to Paul personally and that he knew of her hard work from the reports of others, perhaps Aquila and Priscilla. The context also suggests that she had ministered in the church at Rome for some time, and possibly was a founding member who labored selflessly to establish and develop the fellowship of Christians in the capital of the empire.

  • The ministry opportunities that we presently enjoy are often resulting from the tireless work of Godly women that came before us. They do so much necessary but often hidden tasks. Their work is often what successful ministry is based on. Generally, people may not know their efforts, but here like Mary, God knows their work and they will be honored for it.

 

Andronicus and Junias in verse 7 had a special and perhaps unique relationship to Paul. Because Junias may be a woman’s name, these two might have been another husband and wife ministry team. And because many of the individuals mentioned in this passage were Jews, kinsmen indicates not only that they were fellow Jews but probably means also that they, along with Herodion (v. 11) and Jason and Sosipater (v. 21) were Paul’s relatives. If that is true, Paul must have felt a special warmth in seeing his kinsmen in the flesh become his kinsmen in spirit.

  • The reason why our primary ministry is in the home, is because this is the training ground for all of ministry. The home must be our spiritual nurturing ground, as well as our battle training. Godly mothers have the tremendous privilege and responsibility to be God’s instruments to raise up those who He will use to change the world.

 

Besides being Paul’s kinsmen, Andronicus and Junias were at some time, perhaps even then, his fellow prisoners. Because Paul was often in prison (see 2 Cor. 11:23), their shared imprisonment could have been in any number of places. Because they were well known to the apostles, we can be sure that, like Paul, they were prisoners because of their faith. If they shared the same or adjoining cells, that imprisonment would have deepened and strengthened their personal and spiritual bond with each other. Those two believers were in Christ before (Paul), that is, were converted to Christ before he was. At the time of Paul’s conversion, most converts were still living in or near Jerusalem, where several of the Twelve were leaders in the church. If, therefore, Paul’s two kinsmen were converted before he was, it is likely that they lived in Jerusalem and performed their outstanding service and became well known to the apostles in that city. Because those two believers were converted before Paul, it is quite possible that they had suffered persecution under Paul (then named Saul), whose great zeal against the church would not have been diminished by their being his relatives. It is also possible that the prayers of those relatives for Paul’s salvation—and perhaps their witnessing to himmay have been instrumental in his eventual surrender to the Savior. If those things are true, the reconciliation of Andronicus and Junias with Paul when he came to Christ would have been all the more gratifying.

  • Never underestimate how God can use your witness and prayers for your family. Praying for our child’s safety should not be our primary goal. Praying for their conversion, sanctification and commitment for Christ make take them to dangerous places and minister in hostile conditions. Your faithfulness under trial and your perseverance in prayer can literally change the world.

 

In verse 12, Paul greets and commends three women. The first two, Tryphaena and Tryphosa, possibly were twin sisters, whose names meandelicate” and “dainty,” respectively. Paul is perhaps using some gentle irony when he commends two ladies called “Delicate” and “Dainty” for they were active and faithful workers in the Lord.( Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 536). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.)

  • Some see qualities of sensitivity and compassion to be weaknesses. But women like Tryphaena and Tryphosa, can often break barriers where directness and harsh forcefulness meet with equal resistance.

 

Please turn to Titus 2 (p.998)

 

Next, Persis most likley received her name from her native land of Persia. Not only was she the beloved, suggesting (by the definite article the) she was loved by everyone who knew her, but she also was one who had worked hard in the Lord. Because the work of Tryphaena and Tryphosa is spoken of in the present tense and that of Persis in the past tense, it may have been that the first two were younger women and still active and that Persis was an older saint who had already lived her most productive years. But all three were noted for their work for and in the Lord.

 

The old and the young in the faith need each other. Paul explained to Titus this vital ministry:

Titus 2:3-5 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (ESV)

  • As Paul mentions later in the present passage, a key function of older women was to teach and encourage younger women in the things of the Lord. They also ministered to each other and to women in the church of any age, single, married, or widowed. They visited the sick and those in prison. They provided hospitality to Christian travelers, especially those in some form of ministry.  In towns that were strongly pagan, Christian women would go through the streets and marketplaces searching for abandoned newborns who were unwanted and had been left to die by their parents. Christian women who rescued these infants would give them to church families for adoption.  Although ministry might change for senior saints, there is no retirement. Younger women should seek out those Godly women of character for advice and instruction. Older women should be will to invest in the lives of younger women without fear of being unqualified or interfering.

 

Finally, in verse 13, Paul speaks of Rufus chosen in the Lord. The idea here is that Rufus was chosen (Eklektos ) in the general sense in which that word is used today. He was an extraordinary Christian, known for his love and work for the Lord and for the Lord’s people. We learn from Mark’s gospel, which was written in Rome after Paul wrote this letter to Rome, that Simon of Cyrene, a city on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, who was pressed into service by the soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross, was “the father of Alexander and Rufus(Mark 15:21). The greeting to his mother and mine does not mean Rufus was Paul’s natural brother but that Rufus’s mother, somewhere and in some way during Paul’s travels and ministry, had cared for the apostle as if he were her own son.

 

Mother’s Day is not only a time to honor biological mothers. Be it in discipleship of younger women, being a spiritual mother to one who’s mother may not be present, or as a part of a ministry team, godly women have the opportunity to play crucial roles in ministry. They are not valuable for the quantity of their work, but are valuable in God’s eyes as evidenced in the important opportunities that He entrusts to them. We honor all these mothers today. May God direct and encourage them as we pray for and help them be all that God desires them to be.

 

(Format Note: Some bae commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 358–371). Chicago: Moody Press.)

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