Women of the Word: Rufus’ Mother

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In Romans 16:13, Paul gives a shout-out to Rufus and his mother. He calls Rufus “chosen in the Lord” and identifies Rufus’ mother as a woman “who has been a mother to me, too.” The Bible gives scarce specifics about Paul’s family. We know that his father was a Pharisee. In Acts 23:6, Paul says, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.” We also know that he had a sister who raised her son to be brave. No mention is made of Paul’s mother, so we can only speculate about who she was. Perhaps she died while Paul was young and he grew up without knowing his mother. Or perhaps she was a devout Jew who was proud of the Saul version of her son as he persecuted Christians, but was displeased when he became a Christian and changed his name to Paul.

This latter speculation is quite possible. Jesus often warned His twelve disciples (of which Paul was not one), that they risked losing everything – their lives, their friends, and even the affection of their families – by choosing to follow Him. When Paul gave his heart to Jesus the Christ, Paul’s mother may have disowned him, and Rufus’ mother may have taken him in and loved him as she did her own son.

Whether Paul grew up without a mother or whether he and his mother just weren’t on good terms, it is clear that he found a maternal figure in Rufus’ mother, from whom we can learn to care for others. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis

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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. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Paul’s Sister

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The apostle Paul was often put in prison because he refused to shut up about his faith in Jesus the Christ. On one such occasion, while he was in Jerusalem, the book of Acts records that nearly the whole city went into an uproar after some people saw him at the temple. This angry mob tried to beat Paul to death. Some Roman soldiers who were nearby delivered him from the mob by arresting him. Paul then barely saved himself from being flogged and interrogated before he was taken before the Sanhedrin and, finally, put in prison.

While Paul was in prison, some Jews plotted to kill him. They were so dedicated to carrying out this evil plot that they refused to eat or drink until he was dead. They probably would have been successful too if it weren’t for Paul’s nephew saving the day. Acts 23:16 says:

But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

When Paul was told about the plot, he called a Roman soldier and told him to take his nephew to the commander. This was done, and Paul’s nephew told the commander about the plot. He said, “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.” The commander believed Paul’s nephew and told him not to tell anyone that he reported the plot to him.

In this way, Paul was saved. Instead of being killed, he was transferred safely to Caesarea. Perhaps Paul’s sister deserves some credit for this just as much as her son. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Drusilla

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The Bible mentions Drusilla only once in Acts 24:24. History, however, has much more to say about her, and it is from there that we gather most of our information about this beautiful Jewish woman. Drusilla’s name means “watered by the dew.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives us the below background information on her from the historian Josephus:

Drusilla was the youngest of the three daughters of Agrippa I, her sisters being Bernice and Mariamne. She was born about 36 A.D. and was married when 14 years old to Azizus, king of Emeza. Shortly afterward she was induced to desert her husband by Felix, who employed a Cyprian sorcerer, Simon by name, to carry out his purpose. She was also influenced to take this step by the cruelty of Azizus and the hatred of Bernice who was jealous of her beauty. Her marriage with Felix took place about 54 A.D. and by him she had one son, Agrippa.

Drusilla’s second husband, Felix, was not Jewish, but he knew a lot about the Way. They both wanted to hear more from Paul about faith in Jesus the Christ. Acts 24:24 says:

Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.

After listening to Paul, did Drusilla and Felix come to faith in Christ? The Bible bears no record that they did. It is both likely and unfortunate that they rejected the message of salvation and died in their sins. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Chloe

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Chloe is a woman mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:11. Besides her name, which means “green herb”, we don’t know anything else about her. Since Paul was informed by some from her household that there were divisions among Corinthian Christians, we can assume that she herself was a Christian and showed hospitality toward Paul and his Gospel work. We can further assume that she was not among those brothers and sisters who quarreled. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Bernice

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Bernice is mentioned in the book of Acts in these places – Acts 25:13, 23; 26:30. She was the oldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, and despite her royal heritage, she was not a very chaste woman. After her first husband died, Bernice married her uncle Herod. After he died, she was romantically involved with King Agrippa, who was also her brother. It is when she is with Agrippa that she hears Paul passionately tell his testimony of how God changed his life. When Agrippa listened to Paul, he said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” But from Bernice, we get no such exclamation. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Apphia

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Apphia was a Christian woman who was probably very much involved in ministry work. She is mentioned once in Philemon 1:2. In Paul’s letter, he first greets Philemon. He also greets Apphia and Archippus. Apphia was not Paul’s biological sister, but she was his “sister in Christ,” and she is our sister as well. We don’t know what she looked like or what she did, but we all share one thing in common – faith in Jesus. What can we take away from Apphia our sister? Continue reading

Women of the Word: Phoebe

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We don’t know exactly what ministry work Phoebe did (some say she was a deacon), but whatever it was must have been significant and executed with excellence. In Romans 16:1-2, Paul gave Phoebe high praise for her service. Here is what we can learn from her:

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