Three more women who Paul sends greetings to in Romans 16 are Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis. Verse 12 reads:
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
It is obvious what these women were known for. All three of them were hard workers for the Lord. As they were, so should we also be.
1. Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis were women who worked hard for God. Some have suggested that Tryphena and Tryphosa were likely sisters, maybe even twins, since their names are derived from the same root and sound so similar. Put above their names, these women, along with Persis, had something far more important in common. They loved the Lord. They were devoted followers of the Lord, and they showed their love and devotion by working hard for Him. We don’t know exactly what their roles were in the early church of Rome, but no doubt the church back then (and the church today) is better because of their sacrifice and faithfulness. They laid aside their own desires and dreams to pursue the desires and dreams of God and to accomplish great things for Him. They worked hard to lay up eternal treasures in Heaven instead of temporary treasures on earth.
The names Tryphena and Tryphosa come from a Greek word which means “dainty, delicate, or luxurious.” Put don’t let their seemingly mild names fool you. Daintiness and delicateness did not stop them from doing their God-giving duties. Luxury did not make them lax in their service to the Lord. They were active and fully involved in the Lord’s work. They were all in for God. Persis’ name means “one who takes by storm,” and her name could well describe all three women. They were positive wrecking balls, breaking down strongholds of Satan and seizing every opportunity to promote the spread of Christianity and bring glory to the name of God. Persecution, hardships, and difficulties could not keep them from wielding the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith. Each day, they fought the good fight. They finished their race. They kept the faith.
Paul was grateful for their work in the Lord. He showed His gratefulness by giving them a shout-out in his letter. If we work hard for God, we too will be recognized for our service. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” We do not have to have a role in the church to work hard for God. We should work hard for God, putting all our heart into whatever we do, wherever we are, and whoever we are around. Working for ourselves or others only holds temporary significance and only brings temporary rewards. But working for God holds eternal significance and brings an eternal reward of inheritance.
Christian history is replete with biographies, books, movies, sermons, etc., of the Peters and Pauls and Johns of the Bible, as if there were no women who served alongside them. Paul himself lets us know that this was not the case. He salutes women who stood firm, who let nothing move them, who gave themselves fully to the work of the Lord. God salutes those women as well. He will also salute us if we follow the good example of Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis, and work hard for Him.
2. Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis were united in faith. Historians believe that Tryphena and Tryphosa were most likely Roman ladies with high social standing. On the other hand, historians believe that Persis was likely of Persian descent and was brought to Rome as a slave. Several of the other names that are mentioned in Romans 16, including Ampliatus, Hermes, and Herodion, have also been identified as common slave names. Even though they came from an upper-class Roman family, Tryphena and Tryphosa are mentioned alongside Persis and others who were probably slaves or former slaves. Tryphena and Tryphosa did not look down on Persis or consider themselves better than her. They worked together. They worshiped together. They loved one another. This was easy for them to do because they shared one faith.
Instead of letting their differences divide them, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis let Christ unite them. These women truly believed the Scripture, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
We are one with anyone who believes in Jesus the Christ as Savior. We should not let differences in race, class, social status, or education, divide us. The one thing we have in common, our faith, is more powerful and uniting than one hundred things we don’t have in common. The love of Christ and the truth of His Gospel brings us together, binds us to one another, and lets us know that we belong.