I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. Greet Mary, who labored much for us. (Romans 16:1-6)
The early church was a beehive of activity. From the beginning of the first converts in Jerusalem, the saints worked together in building one another up and enduring the persecutions of those opposed to the gospel. Luke recounts the work of the apostles in the Acts showing much of the work of Peter and Paul. Men like Stephen are given as examples of strength who suffered death for Christ. Philip taught the man from Ethiopia, Ananias baptized Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius and his household learned the gospel and Apollos was shown the way more perfectly by Aquila and Priscilla. As Paul closes out his letter to the church in Rome, he acknowledges over thirty people who have had a great impact on the work of the church. Many of these godly saints were women busy in the work of the Lord.
It is easy to assume that because scripture forbids the woman from taking a leadership role in the church there is nothing for them to do. On the contrary, Paul commends a number of women for the efforts they put forth in working for the Lord. Phoebe is the first on his list when he begins to close out his epistle. She did not hold any office within the church but she was a diligent servant or worker for the Lord. There is a lot of work to be done in a local congregation. Women are not forbidden from doing the work of the Lord. They are encouraged to be a vital part of the kingdom of Christ in the diligent effort of leading souls to Christ. Like Priscilla, Phoebe would have been a great influence in sharing the gospel of Christ. Paul would later write to Timothy that older women are to be teaching the younger women and guiding them in the instructions of the Lord. This did not take place during Sunday morning or Wednesday night Bible class. Teaching the younger women was a daily activity of being mentors to young women in their homes.
Phoebe was a hard worker and Paul commended her for the exhaustive efforts she put forth to help the church grow in grace and knowledge. Priscilla is a wonderful example of a wife dedicated to helping her husband do the work of teaching others. They had taken Apollos aside and helped him learn the way of truth more clearly. It was Priscilla and Aquila that had risked their necks for Paul. They were both workers in the kingdom. Their home was where the church met and it would be certain Priscilla’s role was vital to make that happen. Paul mentions Mary who labored much for the Lord. Whether this is the mother of Jesus is not known as there were many women named Mary. The Roman brethren would have known whom Paul was speaking but the point is that Mary was a busy person for the kingdom of the Lord. Other women are mentioned. Workers all of them.
The scriptures plainly show the woman cannot take a position of leadership within the church but let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater in suggesting there is nothing for them to do. There is a lot of work for women like Dorcas to do, the mother and grandmother of Timothy, those godly women who seek to direct the hearts of younger women and the wives of those men who take on the role of leadership as God designed. Preachers need wives who encourage, exhort and bless the efforts of their husbands. Older women have much to offer in showing grace in their lives as Christians. There is a lot of work for women to do. God bless them each one for the spiritual legacy they leave on the hearts of others.
Let it be said to the credit of womanhood that there is no record in the gospel of any woman ever opposing Jesus. (Vance Havner; 1901-1986)