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Commending Phoebe

Commending Phoebe

In going through the book of Romans, we’re now in the final chapter. Here, Paul gives his greetings to various people he knows in the church.

Don’t ignore these verses. They still contain truth and insight that will benefit us.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

Romans 16:1-2

The first person he talks about is a woman named Phoebe. I need to take some time to talk about her. The English translations don’t do her justice.

I understand that there are churches and denominations who believe that women have no place in leadership. I don’t want to offend any of these people, but truth is truth.

Suffice it to say that there are a few places in Scripture where the translators try to blur the more controversial verses. They want believers to be happy, reading them in church.

Some are happy because the translation doesn’t offend their traditions. Others are happy simply because they don’t know what the verse is actually saying. This is one of those places in Scripture.

One of my pet peeves with translators is their treatment of women in the Scripture. Let me explain with this section. It has a number of examples.

First, the word, servant, is the word, diakonon in the Greek. In reality, it literally means a household servant – so what’s the problem?

Actually, the problem is this…when it refers to a man (1 Timothy 4:6, Colossians 1:7; 4:7) it’s translated as minister or deacon. Yet, when use for Phoebe, they chose the word, servant.

While the words servant, minister, and deacon all have the same original meaning; in our modern terminology, they imply much different functions. We get the idea that women servants are somehow less important than men servants.

In this section, Paul is commending her to the church. That tells me that they are just meeting her for the first time. Phoebe must have been one of the group of travelers who brought this letter to the church in Rome. He asks the church to receive her worthily.

He instructs the church to give her any help she needs. That Greek passage literally reads, stand with her, be at hand, ready to assist her in her work. But what is that work? Here’s where it really gets interesting.

The NIV says that she has been a great help to many people including me. The Greek word that Paul uses for her is a prostatis. This is the only place that word is used in Bible. It’s a word that’s full of meaning.

It’s definition is a woman set over others. According to Thayer’s Lexicon, it describes a female guardian, protectress, or patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources.

This word basically means that she is the head of a mission’s organization. Phoebe runs an organization that raises money for missions. More than that, according to Paul’s own words, he is one of those missionaries that she supports. That’s why Paul asks them to help her any way they can.

It’s sad that many translations water down these verses that show women in a place of authority. God will use whoever is available to further His kingdom.

I have a problem with people who try to erect a glass ceiling in God’s church. Any person, no matter who they are or where they came from, can rise as far as God calls them in His kingdom.

Question: What is God’s calling on your life?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Silent Women?

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  As he talks about prophecy and tongues in worship, he makes a statement that upsets and confuses a lot of people.

Women should remain silent in the churches.  They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.  If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35

We have to realize that the context of this passage is so that the greatest number of people get to hear, understand, and receive the Word of God.  It’s NOT a teaching about the role of women in the church.  It’s unfortunate that some people use this as a proof text to erect a spiritual glass ceiling in the ministry.

First of all, we need to understand what they meant by the church.  A church wasn’t a particular building where they had their meetings.  In this context, Paul is not even referring to the entire community of believers on earth.  (If that were the case, then a woman could never speak because they would always be in the church.)

In this chapter, the church is the gathering of believers in a worship service.  This method of worship was based upon the structure of the Jewish synagogue meetings.

This brings me to the next point – the freedom of women under the New Covenant.  Under the Old Covenant, women were not allowed to participate in synagogue worship.  Even today, in many synagogues there’s a women’s gallery that is separated from the main hall by a glass window.

In that gallery, women can do whatever they want.  They can knit, check their email, chat with the other women, etc.

Now, in Christ, women were brought into the main body of worshippers during the church service.  But, because they had never been a part of this before, they were unfamiliar with the protocol of the meeting.

In the synagogue, only the main speaker was allowed to say anything.  It was improper to interrupt what they were saying.  Even when Jesus and Paul spoke before synagogues, the gathering waited until they were finished before trying to drag them out and stone them!

Women, who were unused to this format, would interrupt by turning to their husband and saying, “What did he mean by that.  I don’t understand what he said.”  That was the disgraceful thing that was happening.

The passage explains that this exhortation is to be followed, as the law says.  There is nothing in the Old Testament about women being silent.  So the law Paul is referring to must be the social law.

Among the Greeks, Romans, and Jews, women were at the bottom of the social ladder.  At best, they were treated as pets; at worst, like slaves or personal property.  Very few women were treated as equals by men.

Now, in Christ, women are co-heirs of the blessings of God (1 Peter 3:7).  Women could prophesy (Acts 21:9).  After His resurrection, Jesus assigned a woman to go and direct a group of men to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:10).  Women are in no way second class citizens of God’s kingdom…at least in the eyes of the Lord.

The reason for the above verse was so that the people of that culture would be more open to the Gospel of Christ.  If they came to a meeting and saw the women breaking social protocol (interrupting the meeting), they would leave thinking that the church had no relevance.

In our society, women and men are on equal terms with God.  They can go as far in ministry as the Holy Spirit leads them.

Question: Why do some ministries have a “glass ceiling” mentality for women?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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