And so we come to the last chapter of Romans. Paul commends to the Roman church Phoebe – a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Quite possibly it is she that is delivering this letter to the Roman church. Paul notes that she is one worthy of honour among God’s people. She is one who has been very helpful to many – especially Paul.
Of particular note is the fact that this is a woman who is called a deacon in the church. Clearly, it was the practice of Paul and the early church to recognise that women as much as men could be gifted to the church as deacons.
There are other women also listed in Paul’s (extensive!) greetings. As far as the gospel is concerned, it would seem that Paul is very happy to work alongside and support both men and women who are involved in sharing the good news of Jesus. What matters is not gender so much as the gospel of God.
Which brings us nicely to Paul’s final plea. He begs the Roman church – and us! – to watch out for those who cause divisions and upset people’s faith. How do they do so? By teaching this contrary to what has been taught. Paul writes that we should stay away from them. These are people who are serving their own interests, rather than Christ our Lord. They talk convincingly, deceiving the innocent.
What about issues like women in ministry? Well – we should decide what it is that the gospel teaches, and stick by it. Will there be those who disagree? Possibly – but it is there that we should act out of love, as Paul wrote at the start of the previous chapter.
For Paul, it was a delight to know that the Roman Christians were being obedient to the Lord. He wanted them to be wise in doing right and innocent of any wrong. Oh – that that would be true for us today as well. We know now as then that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet – so why would we act as slaves to Satan. No. With the grace of our Lord Jesus with us, we can and shall prevail.
God is able to make us strong: the good news says so. The message about Jesus Christ has come to us, and is being shared abroad to all the world – so that they too might believe and obey Jesus. How gracious of God to include us!
Lord Jesus – thank you that you are able to keep me strong. Thank you that you will never let me go. Please help me to stay true to you. Keep me innocent of any wrong and wise in doing right. I know that at times I fail that test – but I’m asking for your strength. Please – be glorified in and through me.