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Lectures on Romans 16

Lectures on Romans 16

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Published by glennpease



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Published by: glennpease on Aug 16, 2013
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ROMAS XVL 1—15.Let us now attend more particularly to the passage before us : — ■verses 1, 2. " I commend unto you Phebe our sister, whichis a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that yereceive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that yeassist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you:for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also."The Apostle wrote from Corinth, and sent his letter by thefemale messenger here named. Cenchrea was the seaportof Corinth — about nine miles from the city, on the Saronicgulph. There a Christian church had been formed; of which church Phebe was "a servants I have no doubtthat this means an official servant; that she acted in thecapacity of deaconess* Paul recommends her both as a sister — or member of " the household of faith," the spiritual familyof God, and as an office-bearer in the Cenchrean church.You will ask me, perhaps, if there was a deaconess, or if there were deaconesses, in that church, why have we notdeaconesses still ? I answer this question by another — ^Whywere there no deaconesses in the church at Jerusalem?" When the number of disciples was multipHed," we are toldin the sixth chapter of the Acts, " there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows wereneglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve calledthe multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is notreason that we should leave the word of God, and servetables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you sevenmen of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,* So Alford and others. — Ed.whom we may appoint over this business.'** In this in-stance, it is remarkable, the objects of attention more imme-diately in view were females — ivldoics. Yet no females areappointed to office. From what could this difference between
the Judean and the Grecian and Asiatic churches originate?We find it readily in the difference in the state of manners inthe different countries? In Greece, and still more in Asia,the freedom of intercourse between the sexes was under re-strictions; and it was necessary, to avoid reproach amongthe disciples, that these restrictions should not unnecessarilybe broken through. In these circumstances, the same kindof necessity which gave origin to the office gave occasion tothis peculiarity of it — its administration in part by females,who could at all times have free access to the sisterhood of the churches that required their attendance and aid. Youwill from this be sensible, that it is the office that is thedivine institution; and that where men are in circumstancesto fulfil its duties, their appointment is a satisfactory confor-mity to the rule and example of the Apostles ; and that incircumstances of a different description, it would be more than justifiable, it would be a duty to conform to the Grecian andAsiatic custom, which has evidently the sanction of the sameauthority.Paul enjoins the believers at Eome to " receive Phehe in theLordr They were to receive her, that is, as belonging to Christ, — one of his true spiritual disciples. It is the same disposi-tion of mind with that which the Lord himseK commends,and promises to rewardt They were to receive her to thefellowship of the church, to friendly intercourse, to needfulaccommodation. Thus, the Apostle taught them, and teachesus, "iY hecometh saints^ It becomes them to "receive oneanother," not with cold reserve and distant formality, withworldly ceremony and hollow-hearted politeness, but with theopen sincerity and warmth of love, as members of the samefamily, — all ahke " sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty."The relation between them is ever the same; and when• Acts vi. 1—3. t Mark ix. 41.328 LECTURE LXIXstrangers come amongst ns from a distance, we do well tobear in mind the admonition — " Let brotherly love continue.Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby somehave entertained angels unawares."*The reception was not to be confined to kind words ; therewere to be kind deeds too: — "And assist her in whatsoever
business she hath need of you." Phebe seems to have goneto Rome on some business of her own, of the nature of whichit would be fooHsh and silly to conjecture. They were toshow their kindness by forwarding for her the object of her journey. Such, in similar cases, is our duty. It is the dutyof ordinary friendship, and much more should it be felt theduty of Christian love, — There is a special reason assignedin the case before us for their practical regard : — " for shehath been a succourer of many, and of myself also." Theword is by some rendered patroness. It means one whostands forward for the help of another. + It is unnatural toconsider this as relating to the discharge of her official func-tions. In this view the aid would have been, not so muchhers as the church's; and it is very unlikely that suchaid should either have come to the Apostle and his fellow-labourers through her hands, or, if it had, should have been sowarmly commended by him as if it had been her own. — Shewas probably a woman of substance, who had in this way agood deal in her power. There were such godly women in ourLord's time — "women which had been healed of evil spirits andinfirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went sevendevils, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, andSusanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.":}: The record is to their perpetual honour.To what higher or better purpose could they apply any por-tion of their wealth, than in contributing to His relief, who,"though rich, yet for our sakes became poor;" and whosevoluntary poverty was such that he could say, " Foxes haveholes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head?" — We know that there* Heb* xiii. 1,2. f ^i'trrdns. X Luke viii. 2, 3.ROMAS XVI. 1—15. 329were, in various places, women of rank and property broughtunder the saving power of the truth.* — Phebe was neitherashamed nor reluctant to " take upon her the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." She felt it an honour to bea "servant of the church for Jesus' sake;" and in minis-tering of her own private substance for the support and com-fort of the servants and brethren of Christ, she rememberedHim who said, " Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye havedone it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye havedone it unto me."

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