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Archive for July, 2014

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2,3).

The Philippian church was founded after Paul led Lydia to Christ. Do you remember that story? Lydia’s story is in Acts 16. You can read about her in my May 2014 post as well. The newly founded church in Philippi met in Lydia’s home. It grew philippi-basilicarapidly and when Paul wrote his epistle to them it was a great joy to him. There were far fewer problems in the Philippian church than in some of the other churches Paul wrote to.

It seems that there was one problem at the church that caused Paul some grief. Two of his companions in the Gospel work, Euodia and Syntyche, just couldn’t get along. We are not told what the exact trouble was, only that their behavior was disruptive to the peace of the Philippian church.

Who were these women and why did the apostle Paul take out time to address this issue specifically?

Paul tells us three important things about Euodia and Syntyche.

First, they are Christians. Paul is certain that their names are in the book of life. Many times it is hard for us to tell who is really a believer and who isn’t. Some people “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk”. Apparently there was no doubt that these two women were dedicated workers in the Kingdom of God. Paul assures the elder at the Philippian church, his “true companion”, that these women deserve his attention.

Secondly, Paul relates that these women shared in his struggles in the cause of the Gospel. Another translation says it this way, “these women who labored with me in the gospel.” The original word in the Greek is actually “synathleo” a term that is used in athletic contests. It implies the actions of teammates who are striving to win. And so it could be translated as sharing a struggle or working together. The goal is to win the lost for the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is saying that Euodia and Syntyche were team members who supported him in the work of the Kingdom. They worked hard and the fruit of their labors is seen at the Philippian church where the congregation is one of the most mature in love and faith that Paul established. These women had a part to play in making this congregation such a joy to Paul and it is a shame that the joy may be marred by their unbecoming behavior. So Paul pleads with them to solve their differences and live in harmony.

Thirdly, Euodia and Syntyche are part of the growing group of women in the New Testament who take their place alongside the men to work in the Kingdom. Over the last few months we have seen that Jesus brought new freedom for women. Jesus did not try to overthrow the Patriarchal system, but He showed how it should be reformed. Men were not treating women with the love and care that God intended. The Jewish leaders and the pagan leaders treated women as objects or second-class persons. Jesus treated women with love and respect.

In the book of Acts, Luke tells many stories of the men and women who worked side by side in the New Covenant. The disciples learned from their Master that women could be disciples and should be helping to spread the Gospel.

early church womenPaul will show in his letters to the churches that women will indeed minister alongside of the men. He commends many women in his epistles.

Paul includes Euodia and Syntyche with his other fellow workers including Clement. Clement went on to become a bishop. It is possible that he is the same Clement who wrote letters that the early church fathers saved. We have copies of them today. Paul listed these women as important as these male workers.

It is probable that Euodia and Syntyche had some sort of leadership position. We are not told what it was. At the very least, they were probably leading in the study of Scriptures and the new faith in Christ. Hence, it was imperative that they solve their differences in order to bring peace back to the church.

In an epistle to Titus, Paul instructs older women to be “reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:3-5) As leaders they would be setting an example with their behavior. It was important that they live in harmony with each other as they were entrusted with the spiritual nurture of younger women.

Paul does not talk about these women with qualifiers such as “for women they did quite well”, or “even though they are women” please help them. He speaks straight across about these women even as he spoke highly of Phoebe. (See last week’s post.) Paul speaks of Euodia, Syntyche, and Phoebe as co-laborers, fellow workers, and supporters. He tells the believers who receive his epistles to receive women with respect and love.

A look through Paul’s epistles shows his attitude toward women. If the Church today wants to know just what women can and cannot do to serve in the body of Christ, a study of the epistles focusing on Paul’s references to women would be a good place to start. The kingdom of God will advance much faster and further when all of the soldiers of Christ, male and female, work alongside each other using the gifts that God has given them.

Let us put aside our own prejudices and really look at the history of women in the Church. Not only in the Scriptures, but in the records of Church history we will find that God does indeed use women to serve in His kingdom. Just how high in the ranks of leadership a woman may go is a discussion for another day. Certainly working in the church, serving in the home and community, and teaching are tasks that women can do. A lot of heated discussion and hurt feelings could be avoided if we will only turn to the word of God for the answers. Thank you, Lord, for the humble service of the early church women.

 

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I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 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. (Romans 16:1,2)

These words were addressed to the church at Rome by the apostle Paul. Perhaps it was Phoebe who carried this epistle to the Christians in Rome. We know that Paul entrusted his epistles to others when he could not deliver them himself. For example, Tychicus delivered Paul’s letters to Ephesus and Colossae (Ephesians 6:21,22; Colossians 4:7-9).

Paul chose his sister Phoebe to deliver this letter and he had confidence in her. Hephoebe - deacon asked the Roman Christians to treat her with respect when she arrived with his epistle. This was because Phoebe had been a faithful helper both to her church and to Paul himself. The Roman Christians were asked to show her kindness and give her any aid that she required.

There has been much controversy over the position that Phoebe held at her church in Cenchrea. Depending on which version of the Bible you have, the word diakonos has been translated as “servant” (as in the NASB above), or “minister” or “deacon” (the most accurate translation).

In the New Testament church the term “deacon” became synonymous with selfless service to God for others. For example, in Acts 6:3,4, we see that seven men are called to “serve tables” so that the apostles can be free to pray and preach the Gospel. This same word is used by Paul to describe Phoebe and many of his other co-workers. Many women served in the early church in this way.

cenchrea mapPhoebe was probably a wealthy businesswoman. She was from Cenchrea, the eastern harbor of Corinth. This was a major passage for trade along the shores of the Mediterranean. Perhaps Paul met Phoebe on his second missionary journey to Syria when he went through this port.

Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during his third journey. He was in Corinth when he wrote this letter. How he learned that Phoebe was going on a journey to Rome is not explained to us. We only know that he heard that she was going and that he knew that this trustworthy sister had independent means and could travel. Paul sent her with the letter and it included his commendation.

Travelers often took letters of commendation with them when they traveled. This gave them protection. It also certified that the person carrying the letter was indeed a legitimate envoy for the person who was sending the important message. Since Phoebe had been Paul’s helper, he could vouch for her. The Roman Christians could trust her as a faithful and dedicated servant of the Lord.

We don’t know as much about Phoebe as we would like. We don’t know if she had been married, or widowed, or was always a single woman. We do know that her service for the Lord in her church was so outstanding that Paul entrusted her with an extraordinary task and commended her to others. What high words of praise.

In our day, many churches have turned diakonia into an office. The deacon is supposed to be a servant. The original deacons waited on tables. Today the people in the church who wait on tables are mostly women. The ones who take meals to the sick and visit the lonely are women. Many churches will not recognize these women by giving them an office. But do they really want it? Most women serve because they love Jesus.

In many churches the men who hold the office of deacon meet twice a month and dole out the donations to various ministries. This is not the picture of a servant that the Lord Jesus Christ gave us.

“And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.’” (Mark 9:35)

Those who want to be honored in the church should be known for their service, not for the office they hold. Actually, we don’t really see that the deacons were office bearers; only the elders had an office. Are many of our churches today overly structured? Have we unwittingly given opportunities for those who just want to “be first” to have a position that makes them feel like they are important when the really important people are the ones who are serving others?

Phoebe was just one of many men and women who served faithfully in her church at Cenchrea. The feminists who want to see her as an office bearer are missing the point. The seven men in Acts 6 who were appointed (note: not elected) to wait on tables were servants. I don’t believe that New Testament deacons saw themselves as office bearers. If I am wrong and the deacon was an office bearer, then Phoebe was an office bearer.

Women took their place among the men as servants in the early church. As we have seen in the Gospels and the book of Acts over the last few months, men and women were to work side by side in the new community of faith. Jesus started it. The apostles continued it. Paul assures us that men and women would be equal partners in the kingdom. All have the responsibility to take the Gospel to sinners. All are to do these things in the name of the Lord, not in their own names. A true servant is like Jesus – she is concerned about God and others, not her position.

The most important thing about Phoebe was that she was a faithful servant – so faithful and trustworthy in fact that the apostle Paul commended her. God has given us her example of faithfulness for all eternity in His Word. Phoebe did her work for the glory of God. What a wonderful example for us.

 

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If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be freeindeed. (John 8:36)

Our gracious heavenly Father inspired Luke the evangelist to write about the New Covenant in the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke tells the story in two parts – his Gospel and the book of Acts.

luke 8 1 3For the last six months we have looked at the ways that life changed for women with the coming of Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel we see that Jesus modeled the new way of living as He went about treating women like equal human beings. Jesus shocked His disciples on many occasions, but He expected them to learn from Him. He expected them to see that in His kingdom women as well as men were to serve. He did not hand out specific job descriptions; He meant for women to follow Him in whatever way they were called. For most women this would still mean being a good wife and mother. Other women were single or widowed and Jesus affirmed them in their callings as well.

Not only did Jesus treat women with respect and kindness, He made no differentiation as to social class.

– Some women were really poor – Mary His own mother, and Mary the mother of James.

– Other women were very wealthy – Joanna, the wife of Chuza who was a steward in King Herod’s household, Susanna, and Jairus’ daughter.

– Some women had relative freedom and responsibility – such as Martha and Mary of Bethany, who were landowners.

– Others were castoffs due to illness or demon possession – such as the hemorrhaging woman, the woman bent double, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna.

– Some women were prominent – Susanna, Joanna, and Jairus’ wife.

– Other women were considered unclean and lowly because they were prostitutes – The Samaritan woman, the “sinful” woman, and an unnamed anointing woman.

– Many women were widowed – Anna the prophetess, the widow of Nain, and the widow with the two mites.

One thing all of these women had in common was that they had sadness or troubles in their lives. Even one as wealthy as Joanna had been demon possessed and needed Jesus’ help. For all of these women life changed when they encountered the Savior.

Jesus saved all of these women not only spiritually, but also physically and socially. Women who were sick were considered unclean and were social outcasts. Single women were not given the same respect as married women. Impoverished widows were neglected and were in danger of starvation and illness. Prostitutes were socially unacceptable anywhere. Jesus brought salvation and hope to all of these women.

The apostles learned their lessons well from Master Jesus. When the Holy Spirit descended on the pentecost copygroup of believers at Pentecost, men and women were included. The coming of the Spirit confirmed that new communities of God worshipers would include everybody with no exceptions because of ethnicity, religion, or gender. Luke tells us that “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14). No longer was the worship service to be for men only. Women were to participate. Luke goes on, “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:3,4).

This was not a one-time event. Luke tells us that God had been planning this change all along. “’And it shall be in the last days’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy’” (Acts 2:17a). Note that the Holy Spirit fell on all of them and the women as well as the men would prophesy.

Some might say, “Well this was just a single special event to inaugurate the Church. After this women were to be silent in the Church.” But we don’t see this happening. Luke, the author of the book of Acts, makes a conscience effort to show how the status of women would be greater in the Church than in their previous position in Jewish culture. We see women evangelizing, teaching, prophesying, supporting the apostles and other workers, and starting house churches. Women will serve in the Church and out of the Church by caring for the poor and underprivileged. Women will share in the blessings of the Spirit. Women will also have the privilege of being persecuted or martyred for Christ.

Why would Luke take time to tell all of these stories if he did not want us to see that the way for women to serve in the kingdom of God alongside men was now open in this new era? Though women live in a patriarchal society, they are no longer second-class citizens. All are members of the priesthood of believers. All are expected to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling he word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Nowhere in the New Testament is it suggested that women can get by without taking their responsibility to witness for Christ seriously. Far from hanging around in the wings as silent observers, women are enjoined with men to study the Word of God and be ready to witness to others with the truth of the Gospel.

Again, some might suggest that this was all part of the early Church and would fall away at the end of the apostolic age.

In the coming weeks we will see that that is not true either. Luke’s friend, Paul, will work with women, junia apostlewrite about women, and commend women for their part in the New Community of Christ. In his epistles, Paul will give his judgment on life in the home, in the Church, and in society for women. Life for the new Christians would look very different from the old life they had in Judaism or paganism. They would have a new identity – children of God. All relate to God equally through the Holy Spirit and because of salvation in Jesus. This will cause a shift in the way men and women relate to each other.

Now instead of a domineering hierarchy, leadership will be like that of Christ. Jesus told His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lordit over them, and their great men exercise authority over them” (Matthew 20:25). The disciples were not to follow the example of the worldly rulers, but to follow His example. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Christ died to give His followers freedom to serve not to lord their position over others.

Act as freemen, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2:16).

 

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Prominent Women in the Book of Acts

And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. (Acts 13:49,50)

Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. (Acts 17:12)

Luke spends a great deal of time talking about women in both his Gospel and in the book of Acts. For the last several posts we have discussed mothers, sisters, disciples, widows, servants, evangelists, prophets, and teachers. These women have been from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. All who came to believe were filled with the same Holy Spirit as the men at Pentecost. All of the women were expected to follow and serve Jesus Christ as part of the one body of Christ. This was a remarkable change from the Jewish system that only allowed men to serve.

The women also came from all walks of life. Believers could be rich or poor, slave or free, prominent or “lower-class”. We already saw that some women of means, such as Joanna (Luke 8:3), used their wealth to support Jesus and the disciples. Women in the Greek culture would have the same opportunities to respond to the Gospel. As we see in the two verses quoted above, some could be incited to reject or even persecute Christians. Many others would have their hearts opened by the Holy Spirit and become believers and be welcomed into the Church.

So it was not wealth or social class that determined whether or not a woman came into the Kingdom of God – it was faith in Jesus alone.

This week we will look at the stories of three prominent women. One woman will believe and be saved; the other two will reject the Gospel.

But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:34).

V&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)Damaris lived in Athens and was probably one of the Hetairai, a highly intellectual class of women. These women were associated with judges, statesmen, and philosophers. This may have been the reason that she was on Mars Hill when Paul was giving his sermon on Jesus; she was a part of the group of philosophers who were questioning Paul.

Paul had been speaking to the philosophers about God. They had some deep questions for him. Most of them were only interested in visiting Athens “to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Paul’s Gospel was a curiosity to them. Most went away sneering. Some people’s hearts received the Gospel that day including Dionysius and Damaris.

Here is a woman who was not only prominent, but also highly respected for her intellect. In Rome in those days wealthy women had a lot of freedom and could even attain public office. They were in a better position than in the Greek or Jewish cultures. We do not know what became of Damaris, but surely her new faith would have had some influence in the philosophical and governmental circles of Rome. What a testimony to the Gospel that a woman of wealth and position would be humble enough to accept Christ.

Luke tells us about two other prominent women who did not believe Paul’s sermons – Drusilla and Bernice. These women were both granddaughters of Herod the Great. Their father was Herod Antipas, who had John the Baptist beheaded at the request of his wife Herodias. This family had a long line of people who did not honor God.

As Jews these women should have already known about the Messiah, thereby having an advantage over Damaris – a Greek. But just as social position did not matter when it came to being open to the Gospel, religious background was no guarantee of whether or not a woman would come to the faith. Let’s look at their remarkable stories.

But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. (Acts 24:24)

In the Bible we find out that Drusilla was the wife of Felix, the Roman governor of Judea. But historians tell us muchFelix and Drusilla more about Drusilla. She had originally married King Aziz of Emesa at age 15. Later she married Felix without bothering to get a divorce. Felix, an ex-slave, was a brutal man. He got his wealth extorting money from prisoners.

Drusilla was about twenty years old at the time that Paul was tried before Felix. We can speculate that she must have heard about Paul. Everyone in Caesarea would have heard about Jesus and many would have known who Paul was. We have already seen that some prominent women knew all about Jesus and Paul (Acts 13:49,50). We also know that Joanna the wife of Chusa was a believer. Chusa was Herod’s steward. It was common in those days for the wives of officials to be part of the court. Did Joanna tell Drusilla and Bernice about the Lord? It’s an interesting thought.

In any event, Drusilla was curious enough to hear Paul speak that she was present when Paul came before Felix. One wonders what she was thinking when Paul spoke of “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). Did her conscience even prick her a little bit? What an opportunity she had to repent of her sins and accept Christ. Perhaps she was too haughty to ask for forgiveness and too young to care about a future judgment.

Her husband became frightened at Paul’s words and told Paul to go away for the time being. Two years passed. We don’t know how many more times Paul or even Luke may have been able to witness to Drusilla and Felix. The couple moved on without having come to faith.

About twenty years later Drusilla was near Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted. We won’t know until we get to Heaven if Paul’s words came back to her as she was perishing in the disaster. We can only hope that she cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness.

Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. … So on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice amid great pomp, and entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. … The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them,” (Acts 25:13, 23; 26:30).

Bernice was Drusilla’s sister. These two women did not get along. Bernice also was married to royalty – King Agrippa.

After Felix and Drusilla left Caesarea, Festus governed Judea. Felix had left Paul in prison hoping for some bribe money. Festus left Paul imprisoned in order to please the Jews who were still trying to get Paul convicted and executed. Festus decided to get the opinion of King Agrippa. Agrippa and Bernice desired to hear Paul for themselves.

Drusilla was a bigamist, but Bernice really outdid her sister for immorality. Bernice had an incestuous relationship with her brother Agrippa. She had married a man named Marcus and then her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis. Bernice was consort to Agrippa for some years then left him to marry Ptolemy, king of Cilicia. She returned to her brother as his mistress for a while and then eventually had affairs with Vespasian and his son Titus, two emperors of Rome.

She must have been quite beautiful and charming having had so many relationships with kings and emperors, even her own brother. We can imagine how arrogant and disdainful she must have been when Paul spoke.

Agrippa and BerniceAgrippa and Bernice and many courtiers listened to Paul. Paul was a very persuasive speaker but neither Agrippa nor Bernice became believers in Christ. Agrippa did admit that Paul had done nothing worthy of imprisonment, but he went away leaving Paul in prison.

Bernice left to go her way scandalizing all of the Roman Empire with her behavior.

Why does Luke tell us about these women? He could have only mentioned Paul’s trials before governors and the king and left out the names of their wives. Perhaps one point he was making was that God changes the hearts and the lives of those who are ready to ask for forgiveness. Perhaps Luke was giving us the contrast to the godly Joanna and Damaris.

All through the Gospels and Acts we see people from all walks of life coming to Christ even the very rich and prominent. Jesus died for His whole church – His single body in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the Gospel of Luke we see that Jesus’ coming changed the way that women were viewed in the community of faith. In his book of Acts, Luke shows that Jesus’ disciples continued to include women in their ministry.

Luke spends quite a bit of time talking about women. In the last few weeks I have posted stories about Mary the mother of John Mark, Lydia, Priscilla, Tabitha, Sapphira, and the prophesying daughters of Philip the evangelist. The lives of these women cover the gamut of church service – hospitality, church hosting, teaching, serving, and prophesying.

There are a number of other females in the book of Acts. We can learn something from all of their stories. We have already seen that Luke can tell us much in only a few sentences. There are so many wonderful stories that we will divide them into two parts – Part 1 this week and Part 2 next week.

This week let’s especially note that women were coming into the kingdom of God just as the men were. This is a significant break from Judaism where women were not allowed to minister as the men were. In our day it is hugely different from other religions such as Islam and Hinduism.

Women come into the Kingdom of God with the men:

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the women at pentecostmother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (Acts 1:14)

And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number. (Acts 5:15).

But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. (Acts 8:12)

But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (Acts 8:3)

When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until were were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. (Acts 21:5).

We see from these verses that women were accepted immediately as disciples. They gathered and prayed with the men before the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.

Whenever Peter or one of the other apostles would preach, large numbers of Jews would respond. All came to be baptized and all were included in the number of the church. Church membership is based solely on faith in Christ. The number of those who followed Christ was increasing rapidly and it worried the Jewish authorities.

Saul began to arrest them. So we find that not only were men and women allowed to worship and serve together, they got to suffer or die together. “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of he Lord, went to the high priest and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1,2). All through history we will see as many women martyred for the faith as men.

Of course Saul would be converted and take the name of Paul. He spread the Gospel that he once hated to his fellow Jews and to Gentiles for many years. When he took his final journey to Jerusalem men and women gathered to bid him farewell. This new community of believers looked radically different from the old Jewish faith.

A servant-girl and a slave girl:

When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. (Acts 12:13-16).

Rhoda1Here again Luke takes time to tell the story of a seemingly insignificant person. Rhoda was a girl, and a servant girl at that. Why is she important? Rhoda was a new believer and she was apparently included in the household prayer time.

Rhoda was the servant of Mary, mother of John Mark. (You can read more about Mary in my May 14, 2014 posting). Mary hosted the young church’s prayer meeting at her home. Though Rhoda was her servant, Mary allowed her to be involved in the life of the Christian community.

Rhoda also displayed a good characteristic that we can emulate. Rhoda was persistent. Though the adults in the room doubted her, she kept insisting. She knew that their beloved leader, Peter was at the door. The only reason she left him standing there was because she was so overjoyed that she couldn’t help running and telling the others.

All believers are on an equal footing when it comes to praying and worshiping Jesus. Rhoda was no exception just because of her youth, gender, or economic status.

It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment. (Acts 16:16-18).

This young girl was not only a slave, but she was demon possessed. We are not told how the demon got control of herPhilippian slave girl life, only that unscrupulous men realized that they could make a profit off of her and used her to divine the future for them.

Something about this story is rather mysterious to us. The demon in her was apparently telling the truth. We are used to the fact that Satan is a liar and cannot be trusted. In this story the demon is proclaiming the truth about Paul’s mission. Why? It is most likely that the demons were mocking Paul or at the very least just trying to irritate him. Perhaps their noisy shouts kept people around Paul from hearing the Gospel. In any event, after a few days of this annoyance, Paul cast the demon out of the girl.

We don’t know what happened to her after this. We do know that her owners ignored her and went after Paul and Silas. They dragged Paul and Silas to the authorities because they were angry that they would be losing money now that their slave could no longer tell fortunes for them.

This story is important. We had many stories of Jesus casting demons out of women – Mary Magdalene for instance. Now the apostles would continue in Jesus’ footsteps freeing men and women and girls from the dark bondage and oppression of the evil one.

Mothers who raised their children well:

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:1)

Lois and Eunice  IntroThere are a number of women who are mentioned incidentally. This does not mean that they are not important. Luke takes time to mention the women who were involved in the lives of the apostles and leaders of the church. He could so easily have left them out, but he didn’t. His friend Paul would give credit to women in his ministry as well.

Luke and Paul must have known Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother.

Luke tells us about Timothy’s family including the fact that his father was a Greek. Later Paul will remind Timothy that the gift of faith came to him “which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and our mother Eunice,” (II Timothy 1:5). The testimony of these godly women was so tremendous that it inspired many.

Another mother of course was Mary the mother of John Mark. She has been mentioned several times as a woman who showed hospitality and willingness to open her home to the new believers. Her son, John Mark was also well known to Luke and Paul.

But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. (Acts 23:16).

Another woman briefly mentioned by Luke is Paul’s sister. We do not know her name, but Luke made sure we knew that she was involved in helping Paul to escape the plot against him. Luke did not need to mention her; he could have simply said “Paul’s nephew”. But here again, we see that Luke takes the opportunity to show how involved women were in the new church.

Women in the New Testament were living in exciting times. They were limited in what they could do under the old Jewish laws. The pagan religion also kept them in bondage. Now with their new freedom in Christ they could participate in all of the life of the new community. They would be included in worship services and could pray, sing, prophecy, and serve along with the men.

Jesus died for His whole church – His single body in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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