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Women Who Win

Women Ministers in Rome

 

It is most interesting and encouraging to note that many women actively participated in the ministry of the church in Rome. Any woman today who doubts, hesitates or is fearful to participate in the ministry of the church, ought to encourage herself in the Lord adding a generous bonus for the 20 centuries we are living ahead in. If Paul could remember and call them by name, indeed they were closer to him in ministry than just the ‘sisters’ of the church. Read Romans 16:1-15.

1. Phoebe (v1)

Meaning “pure,” she was one of the first deaconesses, if not the first, of the Christian Church. She was a servant in the church at Cenchrea, port of Corinth, when Paul arrived there at the end of his third journey. Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome and sent it through her. Why he chose a woman, we do not know. But the way he recommends her to the church at Rome as, “Receive her.. and assist her,” it appears to me that she was an active worker among women in Cenchrea who volunteered to go to Rome, to minister among the Christian women at Rome. So she needed the help of the elders there. A woman who could not contain her zeal to herself, but was eager to set others running the race. Soulwinning is good; but producing soulwinners is great. Women who are blessed with a ministerial grace should be on the lookout for opportunities to challenge Christian women for soulwinning.

The first requirement is the testimony of local ministry. What a commendable introduction Phoebe is given by Paul! She had been a sister to them, a servant of the church and a benefactor of Paul and many others! Paul so fully trusted her that he instructed the Roman elders to give her any help she may need from them. He was so confident of her ministry, because he was eye witness of her work at Cenchrea. He could trust her with an important epistle. She was so diligent in whatever was given to her charge. She was a real missionary and proves that to us by her courage to travel alone, when situation demanded it.

Beloved, if we are to see the return of our Lord soon, it is not enough to win souls but keep injecting the vision of soulwinning to Christians wherever we go.

2. Priscilla

Here is another remarkable woman. From the references we can safely infer that she was a well known and effective worker in the early church. This woman was specifically burdened for the Gentiles. Paul says that not only he but “all” the churches of the Gentiles owe them a debt of gratitude! Wife of a Jewish Christian, Aquila, she migrated about the Mediterranean world teaching the Good News along with her husband wherever she went. Paul met them in Corinth (Acts 18:2); then we find them instructing Apollos in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26); after that they seem to have come to Rome where they are greeted by Paul (Rom 16:3) and in 1 Cor 16:19 Paul speaks of them being in Ephesus again, where they had a church in their house.

Such was her zeal in bringing the Gentiles to the light, that she travelled along with her husband. When Cladius commanded all Jews to depart from Rome they came to Corinth. Paul met them there and they took him in. May be because they saw Paul rejected of the Jews and going to the Gentiles that they too decided to labour among the Gentiles (Acts 18:1-6).

We are surrounded more by non-Christians than Christians. How is it fair that we refuse to boldly open our mouths to them to share the Good News? Think of the non-Christian home to the left, right, front and back of your house. Have you made an attempt to become friends with them? Have you told them about the living God? Do it before it is too late. His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God (Jn 1:11,12). May the Gentiles fill your mind all day and your dreams all night. The time has come when the gospel must move out of the Christian world to where it is needed.

The other fact about Priscilla is that never once is she mentioned alone. She stood close by her husband in ministry that their names are always sandwiched by an “and” in all the available references. Here is a service-minded as well as sensible woman. A man or woman in active gospel service becomes the target of the devil. It is protection for husband and wife to stick close together that Satan will not tempt them because of their lack of self-control (1 Cor 7:5). It is because of her closeness with her husband that they could boldly entertain Paul and Apollos and others.

She was a dare-devil for the Good News sake. In times of persecution she was ready to lay down her life for Paul (Rom 16:4). She was one who could take bold risks in the ministry. Many may be willing to give their lives for the Lord, but is there anyone who would sacrifice her life to save a minister of God for the gospel sake? (1 Jn 3:16).

3. Mary (v6)

She “laboured much” for Paul and his team. She believed the words of Jesus, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these My brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” Serving God’s men is serving God. The hospitality shown to them was unusual. She went out of the way to do things for them. That’s why Paul says ‘much labour.’ Paul commands a blessing on those who took care of him in Philippi, that their  fruit may abound to their account and that his God shall supply all their need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. May this blessing rest upon those who supply the need of the servants of God.

4. Tryphena and Tryphosa (v12)

I guess these two were single women who “laboured in the Lord.” They had the company of each other for the work. The Lord sent His disciples two by two. Any woman who is single and lonely need not feel sorry for herself. Pray for a partner who can share your vision for prayer and ministry. A team of two is always better than one. They have a good reward for their labour. It is a law of multiplication. If one would chase a thousand two would chase ten thousand. That means their power is multiplied ten times, when they work together. That’s why the Lord said “If two of you shall agree.” What good reward of labouring in prayer may be obtained by joining hands with another sister! Again if they fall, the one will lift up her fellow. We are not infallible. In times of trial and temptation a good friend is a great helper. If two are together they enjoy spiritual warmth through edification, exhortation and comfort. How can one be warm alone? Though someone may oppose, one may be overpowered but two can withstand oppositions. They  can face problems and persecutions more courageously together (Eccl 4:9-12). Pray that the Lord may bless you with a partner and start seeking for her. Remember it was just two who turned the world upside down.

5. Persis (v12)

She “laboured much in the Lord” and came closest to the heart of the apostle, that only this woman is addressed ‘beloved’ by him of all the seven. It requires a lot for a woman to become the beloved of a great man of God. It requires a deep sacrificing love with all purity and all that you can imagine as gracefulness in a woman. It is easy to love but you have to sweat to become a beloved.

Women spend ‘much’ of their labour in household and become ‘much’ tired when faced with the question of ministry. Every woman has just a quota of energy for the day. It is upto her  to distribute it wisely. You cannot do everything. If you want to bestow much labour for the Lord, you’ll have to sacrifice something else. Two is too much for a goal. Save time, money and energy for the Lord by setting right your priorities. We need Marys; we need Marthas too. Jesus did not chide Martha for her household chores but for her “worry” and “trouble” and “many” things. Make your household worry-less, trouble-less and of few things, then you can run the household like Martha and then sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary! Bestow the  “much” and “many” on the Lord.

6. Rufus’ mother (v13)

She became the “mother” of Paul as Mary became the mother of John. There are many in our fellowships who need the love and care of a mother: children who have lost their parents or live away from them making a conscious effort to hide their craving for their parents, children from broken homes, ministers who have left their homes to serve the Lord and wander homelessly. Be a mother to them to listen, understand, chide, guide and love them. May be the Lord had you in mind, when He told His anxious disciples that because they had forsaken their mothers for His name’s sake they shall receive a hundred mothers. Be sure to spot out your sons and daughters in your fellowship and open your arms to them. The aged ones in our churches are not useless ones. They possess a treasure of maturity, knowledge, wisdom, experience and understanding, which age alone can bestow upon one. Without them the church is void of that treasure. A church without old people is not a complete church.

May be this Rufus’ mother was the widow of Simon, of Mark 15:21, then quite old and found fulfilment in her old age by being a mother to Paul. Paul had many sisters but only one mother. It is a rare and reverent privilege.

7. Nereus’s sister (v15)

This girl from Gentile background is included in the company of saints (NKJV). These days young girls have nothing to do with ministries or ministers of God or go to the other extreme of becoming spots in our feasts. But here is a balanced model, a young saint remembered lovingly and greeted by Paul alongwith old saints (NKJV). “Is it possible to keep oneself pure in youth? ask many girls. I say, “Yes, through the power of Christ.” You need not have to wait for grey hairs to be a saint. You can be a young saint as Nereus’ sister. Perfection is not an absolute term. It is a relative term. When I say a child is perfect I don’t mean it has the maturity of a man. I mean it is perfect as a child. God expects perfection only to your age, only to your knowledge of His will. Be a saint, young sister! Let “Holiness to the Lord” be written on you.

Conclusion

I am sure walking into the 16th chapter of Romans and meeting the women folk there has enriched our knowledge and enlightened our understanding. May God bless our churches and fellowships with such women folk rich in virtue that an apostle has to designate a whole chapter of his letter to greet them!

 


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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