Sometimes we can wander into a field of abundant fruit, so it is that I see this chapter in Romans to be exactly that. Paul opens the chapter with a letter of commendation for Phoebe, a sister in Christ. Phoebe came to Rome from the city of Cenchreae which was the port of Corinth. Note here Paul gives instructions to welcome her in the Lord’s way. God’s people are family but we don’t always act the way we should toward each other.Phoebe is an interesting person who sometimes is referred to as a deaconess but at that early stage of the church it is not likely that she held an official position in the church. What we learn about Phoebe brings into focus the value of women in the early days of the church. It was not so within the secular world. In the early church the service of women was invaluable to the function of meeting the needs of the church to visit the sick and the distribution of food to the poor and other various needs of the ministry which were vital to the life and work of the early church. Paul was taking no chances where Phoebe was concerned, when he instructed that she be welcomed as an apostle of Christ. In this day our churches and even church organizations can become a mess of closed societies, not truly welcoming strangers…Paul’s advice to the church which should apply for us today….Welcome them as God’s dedicated people ought to welcome each other.
These verses in chapter 16: 3-16 present some hidden stories. There are 26 names, if I counted right, that have a story to tell about the early church. These are people Paul considered to be important to the early struggles of the faith, enough so that he took time and space to note before or after every name a commendation. While we might guess at some of these stories, of which few are known, we can be sure that they came to serve the Lord first in all things. Consider that twenty-four are individual names of which six are women. This blows away the stories of Paul belittling the status of women in the Church. Paul’s attitude was one of appreciation of the work that women were doing in the Church. I could go even further reminding us that the women were present at the cross while many of Jesus’ closest disciples were no where to be found. The morning of the resurrection it was the women who left the safety of the room to go to the tomb. Thirteen of those names had ties to the emperor’s palace in Rome. Paul said that Tryphaena and Tryphosa were in the habit of doing; and the point is that Tryphaena and Tryphosa mean respectively dainty and delicate! In a way Paul was saying: (‘You two may be called dainty and delicate; but you belie your names by working like Trojans for the sake of Christ.’ …DBS / William Barclay)
There is so much to share in these few verses so I will keep this week’s blog short. Join me in The Pew next week as we look at some of the facts within the scripture that tells a story about some of these people. Without Paul there might have been no ministry to the Gentiles and without these people Paul’s call to go and tell the story for the risen Christ would have been even more difficult to achieve.
Life is Good