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Lesser-known biblical women of faith. 238, Aug 6, 2020

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Taken from Romans 16 Another favourite Bible passage of mine is Romans 16. The Epistle to the Romans was written by the Apostle Paul who, at that stage, was "called to be an Apostle" but not yet an Apostle.  All the meat of scripture is from Chapter's 1-15 and seems to finish at 15:33 with "Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen." Yet, there is this final chapter as if it were added as an appendix, not with more meat of the Word, but a tribute to a lot of people. Some of those are known to us, such as Priscilla and Aquila, but the rest mean nothing to us. When we read Biblical history as well as the history of the two thousand years after it until now, we find more Christians are unknown to us than known. We've heard of some of the great reformers in Huss, Zwingli, Latimer and Ridley, Tyndale, and  Martin Luther, and others, but what about the hundreds that helped them?  For instance, when William Tyndale wrote the first English language Bible to appear in print in the 1500’s, changing it from the Latin which nobody could read, how many faithful helpers did he have? Can you name any? Like me, you probably cannot name one of them. Does God know them? God never forgets the work of his servants regardless of how small the assistance. Matthew 10;42 says, "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." What about when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the wall of the Wittenberg church, challenging the abuse by the church and the Pope? Did he have people he confided in and worked with? Who were they? This was Paul's point. We all know Paul, but his humility in attributing part of his success to the people God put around him allows us to know them as well. In this final chapter of Romans, Paul's appreciation was succinct but broad enough to identify the character and testimony of these helpers. It was also humble enough to show us the way of keeping perspective in our own walk, and not to forget the many people who got us to where we are today.  As I have mentioned before, I still have every letter written to me when I was in prison, and that was nearly thirty years ago. It’s just a case of never wanting to forget our helpers during that time.   V 1-2 “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.” Paul speaks very clearly of the faith of Phebe and the personal trust and assurance he had in her, that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you. This is a type of key-pass from the chief minister himself allowing Phebe access to anybody and anything within the church. It's a phrase of high regard that anybody would like to have written on their Resume. 

V 3-4 “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”  This husband and wife team were well-known in the times of Paul, accompanying him for a while on his journey. Also, they trained Apollos in the ways and language of the new Church, after they heard him speak.  (Acts 18:26). Paul made sure everybody understood that all the churches of the gentiles” owe these two a huge debt of gratitude.  V 5 “Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.” V 12 “Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.”  Bestowing much labour upon Paul may sound trivial and not really worthy of such accreditation, but let’s look deeper. When Paul and his troupe came into their region, they already had lots of work on their agenda. Scripture states that Paul laboured wherever he went, both in preaching and hands-on work for his keep, often working well into the night with prayer meetings, preaching and Bible studies. There is nothing better in those situations than to have the tasks of amenity and hospitality taken care of by the locals. This minor term of “labour” is actually a very important joint-labouring with Paul and his team. I can imagine the thoughts of Mary, Tryphena and Tryphosa and Persis about their role in Paul’s visit, “We’ll take care of your natural needs, so you can take care of our spiritual needs.”

Gracious hosts are worth their weight in gold.  

V 13 "Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine" One line is all they got, but Paul acknowledged the closeness of this seemingly unknown mother to himself. Although unfamiliar to us, this family had a rich and very personal attachment to Jesus Christ himself. Simon of Cyrene, who carried Christ’s cross was the husband of this ‘mother.’ (Mark 15:21). This family played an active role in the church, and Paul attributes the highest honour to this elderly woman, figuratively calling her his mother. 

V15 "Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them."

These are converts from Rome and remembered dearly by Paul. Certain traditions say Julia and Nereus may have been of the Christians of Caesar’s household. 

SUMMARY Chapter 16 shows a diverse mixture of people. It seems to be a snapshot of the New Testament church of Jesus Christ, comprising people of all cultures and former beliefs. God does not care who you are, what you have done, or what your background is because he is interested in you and your salvation. He sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross many years ago so you may live and experience eternal life today.  Throughout history, men and women have searched for salvation through other means, never reaching the pinnacle of their desires. Every other way to God is a rabbit hole, a dead end. None of them goes through to the other side. Jesus Christ is the only path designated by God Almighty. Only through Jesus Christ alone can we reach the other side, Eternity. All other pathways offer many things. They have much advertised, but in the end, all they deliver is death.  Every one of these lesser-known Biblical women of faith gave their hearts to Jesus Christ at some stage in their lives. Prior to that, they would have died a spiritual death, but now they have been given eternal life by making that one decision.  Their passion back then shows us now how much of an impact they made on the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They just did their simple jobs well. We don't need to be the preacher or anybody important, we just need to play our little parts in the jigsaw properly, otherwise, bits are missing when it all comes together. 

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