I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;
(a) Our sister Phoebe. Paul closes his letter by naming and praising various individuals, and at the top of his list is Phoebe, who probably delivered Paul’s letter and read it out to the Roman believers. Phoebe was Paul’s chosen mouthpiece and the first preacher of his greatest work.
(b) A servant. Many translations follow the lead of the King James Version in calling Phoebe a servant. She was, in Paul’s words, a deacon (diakonos) or minister in the church at Cenchrea near Corinth.
that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
(a) Receive her in the Lord. When Phoebe read Paul’s letter, were the Romans shocked? Paul doesn’t give them the option. “Receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints.” In other words, “Don’t dismiss her because of her gender, but welcome her in the name of the Lord.”
(b) She herself has also been a helper of many. Like the word servant, this phrase can give the impression that Phoebe was merely a woman who made herself useful. However, the original word for helper (prostatis) should leave us in no doubt that Phoebe was a woman of influence. She was a guardian, a protectress, or patroness. Phoebe was a woman set over others, a leader, and a mother in the church.
Further reading: The Silent Queen: Why the Church Needs Women to Find their Voice
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;
Prisca and her husband Aquila were among Paul’s closest friends. They were such dear friends that the apostle called Prisca by the diminutive version of her name, Priscilla.
Priscilla and Aquila were Jewish business people who met Paul in Corinth and travelled with him to Ephesus (see Acts 18). When Paul left Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila stayed behind and continued to preach the gospel. Soon they were hosting a church that met in their house (1 Cor. 16:19). Later, they went to Rome and planted another church. Such was their influence that Paul said the Gentile churches owed Priscilla and Aquila a debt of gratitude.
also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.
At a time when the church only met in homes, Priscilla and Aquila weren’t merely homegroup leaders; they were church planters with a multinational legacy.
Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.
See entry for Romans 16:12.
Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
(a) Junias. Some Bibles, such as the Amplified Version and the 1995 version of the NASB (from which this verse is taken), turn Junia into a man by giving her the masculine name Junias. (This error is corrected in the 2020 version of the NASB.)
From Paul, we learn several things about Junia and her husband Andronicus: they were in Christ before Paul, they had spent time in prison with Paul, and they were outstanding apostles.
(b) The apostles. An apostle is an ambassador or a sent one. Like Paul himself, Junia had been commissioned to preach the gospel. We don’t know where she preached or for how long, but we do know that she made an impact. “She is outstanding among the apostles,” gushed Paul. When you consider who the other apostles were—Peter, James, John, etc.—that was high praise indeed!
Like those men, Junia had been thrown in jail. This would never have happened to a mere Jewish woman or a Greek one. But Christian women were different. Because of Jesus, women like Junia were standing up and speaking out. Junia had found her voice. She was a holy troublemaker who spoke truth to power, and Paul thought she was great.
Further reading: “Women pastors in the Bible”
Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.
In addition to Phoebe (Rom. 16:1), Prisca (Rom 16:3), and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Paul greets four other hard-working women in his letter to the Romans. They were Mary (Rom. 16:6), Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis. These women were fellow servants of the Lord and ministers of the gospel.
The New Testament writers did not forbid women from preaching and teaching, as some do today. Rather, they commended those who taught well and received them as messengers of the gospel. Paul in particular recognized the labor of his female co-workers. He encouraged women to preach and teach, and he publicly praised those who did.
Further reading: “Women preachers? Where’s that in the Bible?”
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