The Berean Expositor
Volume 31 - Page 139 of 181
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"Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have
lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted"
(I Tim. 5: 10).
While it was not permissible for a woman to teach in cases where such teaching would
carry with it the usurpation of authority over a man (I Tim. 2: 12), women were by no
means restricted to domestic duties. In his epistle to Titus, the Apostle writes:
"The aged women . . . . . teachers of good things . . . . . teach the young women"
(Titus 2: 3, 4).
Moreover, the fact that no man could be a bishop or a deacon who was not the
husband of one wife, whose children were not well behaved, and whose home was not fit
to show hospitality (I Tim. 3:), reveals how much fellowship was expected in the
execution of these offices between husband and wife.
Tradition has it that Phebe was entrusted with this precious letter to the Romans. If
this is correct, it was indeed a valuable and exacting service, as any who are acquainted
with the hazards of travel in those days will appreciate. The Roman church is exhorted to
receive Phebe in the Lord in a manner worthy of saints, and also to assist her in any
business in which she may have need.
Phebe is also described as being "a succourer of many". The word here is prostatis
which is equivalent to the Latin patronus, "a defender of meaner persons" (Plutarch).
Athenian writers also use the word of such as took care of strangers (harpocration). To
this title the Apostle adds the phrase "and of myself also". We have no knowledge of the
actual incidents here, but although we do not know anything of the particular dangers or
difficulties out of which Phebe's "patronage" extricated Paul, the Lord has recorded the
fact, and we with the Apostle can feel truly grateful. There are some who consider that
the Apostle was rather stern with regard to women, but such are superficial readers of his
writings. He who, as a Pharisee, had thanked God that he had "not been born a woman",
is the one who, in his epistle to the Galatians, writes:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male
nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3: 28).
In Phil. 4: the Apostle specially remembers "the women" that laboured with him in
the gospel (Phil. 4: 3). It is a narrow view of ministry that limits it to the platform and
public speaking. Anyone who has done much traveling and speaking cannot fail to have
been impressed with the fact that, unless others fulfilled their own ministries in other
ways, the public speaking would become almost an impossibility. We can be sure that
Phebe would feel that there could be no greater honour than to find her name inscribed in
the Epistle to the Romans as one who had succoured Paul in the hour of need.
From verse 3 to verse 23 (Chapter 16:), the Apostle is occupied in sending greetings
to various members of the Church, beginning with the Jewish believers. So great is the
intimacy between the Apostle and Priscilla and Aquila, that he calls her by the diminutive
"Prisca", even as he does when standing in the shadow of death in II Tim. 4: 19.