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Make Room for My Sister

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
February 9, 2024 12:00 am

Make Room for My Sister

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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February 9, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version of this message or the other messages in this series here:  God knows Your name and He knows everything about you. You might walk down the street or walk down the aisle of your Church and feel like just a face in the crowd. But there is coming a day when God will call you by name. He will embrace you as His child . . . and He will reward you for all the things you did for his glory that no one else saw. What a day that will be!


This is not some bookworm who cares more about theological principle than people. Romans 16 is the declaration of the heart of Paul and his love for the church. But it is also the expression of God, the inspiring agent who, through the personality of Paul, wants these people to know that He knows who they are.

He knows their name. He knows what they're doing and how they're serving. Chapter 16 of Romans is God's way of saying people mattered, and so do you. People mattered to Paul.

He consistently sacrificed his time and comfort for the sake of others. And people certainly matter to God. In Romans 16, Paul mentions several people by name. It's as if he's calling out a roll call of God's choice servants.

And that's why Stephen is calling this series when the roll is called up yonder. We begin this series with a sister in the faith, a lady named Phoebe. This is wisdom for the heart. You're going to be encouraged from God's Word today as you listen to Stephen's message called, Make Room for My Sister.

Let's get started. The writer of Hebrews encouraged the saints by reminding them that God is, in effect, not just knowing or remembering your name, but he says here, God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. Hebrews 6 10. God knows who you are. He knows your name.

He knows where you live. And furthermore, he knows every good deed which he will one day applaud. Nothing, no matter how small or unimpressive, nothing slips through unnoticed by God.

Nobody, nobody gets lost in the shuffle. Some of that truth will immediately spill out and into the final chapter of Romans. As the great leader of the gospel of grace comes to a close on what is undoubtedly the great document or treatise of our faith, he begins to pour out his heart and love toward the saints. He will refer to some 30 people at all and we'll look at all of them. It's as if he opens up his address book and shows us the names of people that he knows and loves and prays for in Rome. People like Urbanus and Stachys and Apeles and Aristobulus. We know very little of.

In fact, we have a hard time pronouncing their names without practice. These are people he evidently has met on his journeys or he's heard about. There are some that he has kept track of and he is aware of several things of their standing and service.

And imagine this is before telephones and jet planes and email. This is not some stodgy theologian who's been stuck away forever and would rather be left alone. This is not some bookworm who cares more about theological principle than people.

Romans 16 is is the declaration of the heart of Paul and his love for the church. But it is also the expression of God, the inspiring agent who, through the personality of Paul, wants these people to know that he knows who they are. He knows their name. He knows where they live. He knows what they're doing and how they're serving.

Chapter 16 of Romans is God's way of saying people mattered. And so do you. You are my fellow laborers and my beloved. I have you in my divine name and address book. And no matter how often you've moved.

I know exactly where you live. No one slips through the cracks. With God. James Black was calling the roll in his Sunday school class one Sunday morning in 1880. I read recently the students, as was his custom, answered the roll call by quoting the verse for the week.

Back to him, their teacher. One of his 14 year old students didn't respond when her name was called out that morning. She was from an alcoholic family, always poorly dressed, malnourished, but radiant faith in Christ as she had come to faith in him.

She had fallen ill. And as things would turn out, she would die from pneumonia 10 days later. He made the comment to his students that it was one thing to miss the roll call for Sunday school. But how glad he was that by faith in Christ, she and they would answer the roll call when it came from heaven.

That afternoon, with this thought weighing on his mind, he sat down and wrote these lyrics. On that bright and cloudless morning, when the dead in Christ shall rise and the glory of his resurrection share. When his chosen one shall gather to their home beyond the skies and the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there. I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that Romans 16 is a foretaste of the roll call of heaven. It is a sermon all in itself, though it is often avoided by preachers and teachers. It is filled with wonderful information as it delivers the names of the beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.

Names who will never be lost, who will never fade from view. For God knows and God sees and God cares. And I hope that that message resonates in your heart today. Well, the opening words of Chapter 16 will cover a few verses here.

Paul begins with a very special commendation. He says in verse one, I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church, which is at Cancria, 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. Now, the name Phoebe tells us several things about her. Her name is the feminine form of Phoebus, one of the names given to the god Apollo. It would have been a mark of honor for her pagan parents to so name their daughter after one of the chief gods of the Greek pantheon, which betrays their own misguided faith. Apollo was supposedly the twin son of Zeus and was regarded as the god of music and medicine and poetry. He was also the god of light in the superstition known as Phoebus, which literally meant radiant. And the feminine form of Phoebus radiant is Phoebe. Parents of Phoebe were evidently thrilled with the birth of their daughter, and they considered her birth the giver of music and mirth and and light. And so they named her in honor of perhaps their favorite pagan god. Since loyal Jews avoided the names of pagan deities, we can also assume that her parents were gentiles.

We have no record of her conversion to Christ. But given the fact that she was connected to the church at Cancria, the eastern port of Corinth, this church at Cancria would have been a daughter church of the believing assembly in Corinth. It's very likely that Phoebe heard the gospel from Paul himself as he served in Corinth for that year and a half. Perhaps Paul had had a significant role in the life of that assembly.

We have every reason to believe he did. Paul knew evidently a lot about her and seemed it seems likely that they knew each other and it worked together. In fact, he mentions at the end of verse two that she personally had helped him in some way. What's especially interesting to me is the way that Paul introduces her.

Look again, he says, I commend to you our what? Our sister. There's a special designation for this special woman to Paul and to the assembly. He will give three words to describe this woman who serves as a declaration of the gospel of grace.

If you can imagine, here is a woman with a pagan background, a woman who has come from an unbelieving home. But it would be this woman who evidently came to faith in Jesus Christ, who now becomes the emissary of the apostle Paul. Most believe that she is actually the one carrying the letter because of the way that she is designated at the beginning of this chapter, set apart from all those who are greeted and all those who will do the greeting. She is carrying this letter evidently on business, a pragmatized the word used of work. Evidently, she is a businesswoman.

She may be single or widowed. She would have had to have had money, been a woman of wealth to be able to travel in this century. She would have not traveled alone. She would have had attendance along with her. It would have been a dangerous thing, in fact, for her to travel alone during this day.

In fact, the inns were typically nothing more than than brothels. And so this one who heard the gospel of Christ through Paul, probably Paul himself, has come to faith. And now she is traveling along carrying with her this great treatise of the truth of the faith of the church.

Donald Gray Barnhouse adds to this thought. He says, never was there a greater burden carried by such tender hands. The theological history of the church through the centuries was in the manuscript which she brought with her.

The Reformation, he wrote, was in her luggage. He commends her first and foremost to them with this first of three descriptive words. He calls her first sister. Paul is reminding the church in Rome that while we might come from many fathers, different fathers of the flesh, we have one father in the faith. There should be no strangers in the family of Christ, since we are sons and daughters of God the Father. We are brothers and sisters of each other. He told Timothy, a young pastor, to respond to older men as fathers, treat younger men as brothers, treat the older women as mothers and act in purity toward the younger women as your own sisters. Has that ever occurred to you that your biological family is temporary, but your spiritual family is eternal? And that should have an impact on the way we treat one another in the family, the way a younger man will respond to an older man who will, with respect, listen, the way a man will treat a younger woman like you would want your sister treated by a man. And how would you want your sister treated?

This has an impact on the way we act in the family. And Paul is concerned that she be given hospitality by this church. The trouble is the church then and now can become a little closed society where people cannot come in from the outside. They cannot feel welcomed. They do not get the feeling. In fact, they get the definite impression that they're treading on somebody's turf or space. Don't park your chariot in my spot. That's my spot.

Don't sit on my bench. Maybe you've lived long enough to visit a church and you can tell within 30 seconds of arriving. In fact, before you ever get through the lobby, you can smell the staleness of an unwelcome spirit. For all of us who come here and the fact that this church continues to grow, more than likely you're sitting around strangers. And both of you might be waiting for the other to greet one another.

Take a look around you and notice your brothers, your sisters, your mothers, your fathers. And make room in your heart. Paul is effectively saying make room in your assembly and your hearts for one more. And specifically he is saying make room for my sister and yours too. Her name is Phoebe. A converted gentile from an unbelieving family who's come to faith successful in business. She carries with her the letter that you are now reading.

Imagine that. You can't imagine, by the way, how proud I was of one woman in our fellowship. I was copied on an email from one of our teaching staff who received this email from her.

What an incredible spirit she had and has of allowing people to crowd in and even crowd her out. She wrote, I am one of the parents who gets to church earlier and earlier each Sunday to stand in line at the butterflies class. And I just wanted to thank you for making it worth the wait.

And that doesn't typically follow. I have to stand in line waiting in class and I want to thank you for making it worth the wait. She goes on to write, two weeks ago we were unable to get our son into the class, which he loves. I told him that his class was overflowing and now full. And he began to cry. I was kicking myself for not arriving earlier. My son is two and a half years old. And this week, as we pulled into the parking lot, he said, hurry, Mommy, hurry.

I don't want my class to be full. She just wrote, I wanted to encourage you all and thank you and praise our Lord for all the wonderful things that you are doing in tiny hearts. Isn't that great? That is a spirit who says we will somehow make room for sisters and brothers.

May her tribe increase. I personally think, ladies and gentlemen, that Paul was a bit concerned that Phoebe doesn't get the hospitality she needs. Paul doesn't know firsthand. He hasn't traveled there yet. He doesn't know the temperature and personality of the church in Rome.

He doesn't know the feel that you get when you show up. He does know that there are problems between the Jews and the Gentiles welcoming one another. And now this Gentile woman is going to show up and she's carrying the letter from Paul and she's wearing the clothing of wealth and she's bearing the name of a pagan god. And no doubt all heads are going to turn and everybody's going to check her out and the tongues just might start to wag and the heads begin to nod.

So Paul says where he should have put this commendation here at its appropriate place. I want to introduce to you the one carrying this letter for me. Welcome her. She is my little sister, Phoebe.

Notice his strong words in verse two. You receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and help her in whatever matter she may have need of you. You see, you write that because you're not sure it is automatically going to happen. Help her any way you can. Make her welcome. Bring her in. Show her hospitality.

Treat her like one of the worthy saints that she is. The second word he uses to describe Phoebe is the word servant. Back in verse one, he writes, I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church, which is at Cancria. The word servant comes from the Greek word Diakonos. The word is neuter here as a general term used for service or servants of any kind. The word is used in the New Testament of the household servants who drew the water that Jesus turned into wine. In John 2, 5 to 9. Diakonos has already appeared in an unlikely place in Romans 13 for secular governmental officials who serve as diakonos, ministers of God for your good. Certainly they're not deacons in the ecclesiastical sense of the word.

In fact, they're not even saved. The word is also used of Jesus Christ himself in Romans 15, 8, who came as a diakonos, who came as a deacon, a servant, literally rendered to the Jews. During the first few centuries of the church, we do know that a role called this deaconess role developed out of a practical need, more than a biblical mandate. Women were appointed as deaconesses in the early church to specifically care for the sick, to care for the poor, to provide hospitality to strangers who were passing through or believers, and even for the inmates who were imprisoned.

They were also responsible to help the women who were candidates for baptism and to mentor new converts who were women to the faith. Now, the question as to some ongoing officially elected position of deaconess is difficult to define since diakonos has no feminine form in the Greek language and the word is used in a variety of ways. However, I will say this, in a biblical church that has men serving as elders, pastors, overseers, and men serving as deacons in their role of serving, to add the role of deaconess, some official role who will serve alongside, to use that term for women serving the body in a variety of ways, would not violate any scripture which entrusts authority to the office of elder and service to the office of deacon. I'm aware of some good churches who have chosen to establish the office of deaconess even though scripture doesn't mandate the office.

In fact, it doesn't even define for us the office. There's a question as to the qualifications. But whether any good church officially mandates the office of deaconess or not, the truth remains every effective, every progressing, advancing church understands that without women serving as it were as deacons, serving the body, serving the church, that church would not last a weekend as we know it. Praise God for women who serve whether they are elected to some office or not. In fact, it's no surprise that the majority role in any assembly is the role of the deaconess, that is the servant role. In fact, the apostle Peter told the entire assembly, men and women, all of the members of the body to serve the acanuntes, that is the verb form, to serve one another with the spiritual gifts which God has entrusted to you. In other words, everybody on a run around acting like a deacon, acting like a servant. How can I help?

What can I do? No matter what your title. Phoebe was a remarkable servant in her home church. We don't know exactly what she did, but we do know she served the body at Cancria, humbly meeting the needs of her spiritual family. Ladies and gentlemen, the church is not advanced by a few mighty pushes, but by many little pushes of ordinary people who are willing to be servants of God. On one occasion, Hudson Taylor, by now the world renowned missionary to China as an older man, was to speak at a large church in Australia. The moderator of the service introduced this missionary statesman in eloquent and glowing terms.

He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China and then presented him, and I quote, our illustrious guest. Taylor approached the pulpit and stood quietly for a moment and then said, dear friends, I am the servant of an illustrious master. Sister, servant. There's one more word that Paul uses to describe her. Notice the latter part of verse two, for she herself has also been a helper of many and of myself as well.

She is sister, servant and supporter. The word used by Paul translated helper is the word prostatus, which corresponds to the Latin word patronus or patron. The word is more than simply another word or a synonym of serving.

He's already said that. This word is a little different. It refers to a financial supporter of the work of God. Paul effectively is saying that Phoebe is financially supporting the church at Cancria. Evidently, this woman of wealth had open hands and an open purse. Her wealth was wealth that belonged to God. And Paul adds at the latter part of the verse, she has also contributed to me.

We don't know how. Maybe he preached and she came up and slipped him a few coins. Maybe she supported one of his trips. No fanfare.

Not ever expecting anything in return. Phoebe just simply served and supported and gave and and acted as a family member in this cause. And to her surprise, I'm sure as Paul is commending her, which is only proper for an emissary to be introduced and to be commended. It's a letter of reference. It is, in fact, the basis for letters of transfer that we have even 2000 years later between churches where we commend one to another fellowship or assembly. But I don't think she expected this.

I think it's sort of pulling back the curtain of time and it gives us just a little breath of the day when every sister, every servant, every supporter of Christ and his cause will be called by name and recognized by none other than Jesus Christ himself who will say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant. The poet asked, Father, where shall I work today? And my love for him flowed warm and free. And he pointed me out a tiny spot and said, tend that for me. I answered quickly, Oh, no, not that. Why, no one would ever see no matter how well my work was done, not that little place for me. And the word he spoke, it was not stern. He answered me tenderly, Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.

Art thou working for them or me? Nazareth was a little place and so was Galilee. I believe that Romans 16 will reveal the truth that your support, beloved, your deeds, servants of God, your patronage, dear friends, will never be erased.

It will fade from divine recognition, no matter if it is in a big place or a little place like Galilee or Cancria or Kerry. One day when the role is called up yonder, we will, with personal invitation, stand before the great servant who took that form and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross for you and me. As James Black finished writing the lyrics to that hymn now sung by millions of people around the world, he wrote this final stanza. And I couldn't help but think of Phoebe and Paul's challenge to all of us when I read these words. Let us labor for the master from the dawn till setting sun. Let us talk of all his wondrous love and care. Then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done and the role is called up yonder, I'll be there.

Let's labor to be found faithful until that day. Stephen's lesson today is called Make Room for My Sister. It's the first lesson in a series called When the Role is Called Up Yonder, and we'll be bringing you the rest in the days ahead. Thanks for joining us today here on Wisdom for the Heart. Your Bible teacher, Stephen Davey, is the president of Wisdom International, located in Cary, North Carolina. We have a website you can use to access all of Stephen's resources or interact with our ministry. You'll find us at Join us again for our next Bible lesson here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-09 01:11:46 / 2024-02-09 01:21:20 / 10

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