Summary: 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).
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, 2 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 Aquila “put 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.
• Motherhood is 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.)