OceanSide church of Christ

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Romans 16:1, Role of Women

Victor M. Eskew


            The church of our Lord has been ordered and structured by the all-wise God of heaven.  He has established the various areas of work for men and women.  He has provided their responsibilities.  He has also set the limits upon their roles.  Sadly, many are not satisfied with God’s design.  Many are advocating for an expanded role of the woman in the church.  Some would like to see women occupying such positions in the church as elder, deacon, and preacher.

            One of the passages used to justify their desires is Romans 16:1.  Paul wrote:  “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.”  The argument for the expanded role of women stems from the word “servant” in Romans 16:1.  In the Greek language, the word is “diakonos.”  It is the word from which we get the term “deacon.”  The contention is that Phebe was a “deaconess” within the first century church.  Thus, many are advocating for woman deacons today.

            The term “deacon” is much like the word “apostle.”  It has a general definition and a restricted definition.  One definition of the word “diakonos” can be applied to all Christians.  The other applies to a specific group of men within the church.  All Christians can be and should be servants.  “And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any many shall desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant (diakonos) of all” (Mark 9:35).  Phebe falls into this general classification of servants in the early church.  There is another definition of deacon that is restrictive.  It refers to a man who has met the qualifications of a deacon and serves within that office (I Tim. 3:10-13).  This work is not designed for woman.  This is clear from one of the qualifications:  “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife…”  (I Tim. 3:12).

            There is not a person in the church who would argue against women being servants in the church.  There are many, however, who would strongly argue against women occupying the office of a deacon.  God, in His wisdom, has restricted that work to qualified men of the church.