Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi

Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi

The Forum at Philippi ©V. Gilbert and Arlisle F. Beers (Visual Bible Alive)

In the current discussions about the participation of women in the Church, Phoebe, Junia and Priscilla have received a great deal of attention. These three women are mentioned in the New Testament as being involved in significant Christian ministry. Much of the discussion surrounding these women concerns identifying their actual ministries, and evaluating the precedent, if any, they set for women in the Church today. Euodia and Syntyche are two lesser known women who were ministers in the church. This article looks at these two women who were members of the church at Philippi

Euodia and Syntyche cf. Timothy and Epaphroditus

The apostle Paul names Euodia and Syntyche in his letter to the Philippians and, in just two verses, he gives us a glimpse into the value and significance of their ministries.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to think the same thing in the Lord. Indeed, I ask you, my true companion [or, yokefellow], to help them—these women who have contended together with me in [the cause of] the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.  Philippians 4:2-3

When he describes the ministry of Euodia and Syntyche,[1] Paul uses a couple of the same terms he had applied previously to Timothy and Epaphroditus. For instance, Paul writes that Euodia and Syntyche had contended[2] together with him “in the Gospel”. Earlier in the letter, Paul had described Timothy as someone who had served with him “in the Gospel” (Phil. 2:22). Furthermore, Paul goes on to refer to Euodia and Syntyche as his “co-workers“. Earlier, Paul had referred to Epaphroditus as his “co-worker” (Phil. 2:25).[3] So, according to Paul, the ministries of the women Euodia and Syntyche were in some ways comparable to the ministries of the men Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Euodia and Syntyche cf. Phoebe the Deacon

Bishop and theologian John Chrysostom (c. 349-407) believed that Euodia and Syntyche were leading women in the Philippian church, and he compared them to Phoebe, a woman minister (diakonos) in the church at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1-2).  In his 13th Homily on Philippians he wrote:

These women [Euodia and Syntyche] seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and [Paul] commends them to some notable man whom he calls his yokefellow; [Paul] commends them to him, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he does in the Epistle to the Romans, when he says, I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a minister of the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16:1). (Homilies on Philippians, 13)[4]

Women in Macedonia

It was not unusual for women to have leading roles in Philippi. Philippi was the chief city of Macedonia (Acts 16:12) and it has been well documented that Macedonian women enjoyed greater freedoms, rights and powers than many other women of that time.

Tarn and Griffith have noted,

“If Macedonia produced perhaps the most competent group of men the world had yet seen, the women were in all respects the men’s counterparts; they played a large part in affairs, received envoys and obtained concessions for them from their husbands, built temples, founded cities, engaged mercenaries, commanded armies, held fortresses, and acted on occasion as regents or even co rulers.”  W. Tarn and G.T. Griffith in Hellenistic Civilisation, 3rd Edition (London: Methuen, 1952)  98-99; quoted by Ralph Martin (1983:16)

William Barclay comments on the of freedom Macedonian women mentioned in the book of Acts.

“We can see this [freedom of women] even in the narrative in Acts of Paul’s work in Macedonia. In Philippi, Paul’s first contact was with the meeting for prayer by a riverside, and he spoke to the women gathered there (Acts 16:13). Lydia was obviously a leading figure in Philippi (Acts 16:14).[6] In Thessalonica, many of the chief women were won for Christianity, and the same thing happened at Berea (Acts 17:4 & 12). . . . it is well worth remembering, when we are thinking of the place of women in the early church and of Paul’s attitude to them, that in the Macedonian churches they clearly had a leading place.” (William Barclay 2003:86)

Were Euodia and Syntyche leaders of house churches?

Paul’s letter to the Philippians differs to his other letters in that he specifically includes the supervisors/overseers (episkopoi) and ministers/deacons (diakonoi) in his opening greeting.[6] Instead of the more usual English translation of “overseers and deacons”, FF Bruce (1981) translates this phrase in Philippians 1:1 as “chief pastors and other ministers” which more helpfully conveys the meaning of these ministry roles to modern readers. It is possible that Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement who is mentioned with them, were the supervisors or chief pastors of house churches at Philippi. In the first century, independently wealthy women, as well as men, who hosted a church in their own home functioned as pastors and supervisors (episkopoi). Or perhaps Euodia and Syntyche, like Phoebe, were ministers/deacons (diakonoi).[7]

In Philippians 4:2, Paul urged Euodia and he urged Syntyche to, literally, “think the same thing”. That Paul addressed Euodia and Syntyche personally and individually, reinforces the idea that these women were influential members of the Philippian church and possibly were its leaders. (The NRSV translates the Greek faithfully showing that Paul addresses the women individually.)

Were Euodia and Syntyche quarreling?

A common assumption is that the women were quarreling, and many English translations of Philippians 4:2 perpetuate this assumption.[8] Paul, however, does not explicitly state that Euodia and Syntyche were quarreling. Rather, he urged each of them, literally, “to think the same thing in the Lord”. “Think” (phroneō) is a key word in the letter to the Philippians.[9] In preceding verses, Paul had been encouraging mature people to have the same thinking as himself, that of reaching out for the goal spiritual perfection (Phil. 3:14-15). It could be that Paul is carrying on this thought and, using almost identical language (in the Greek), is saying, “I encourage/urge Euodia and I encourage/urge Syntyche to have the same thinking in the Lord”, that of aspiring to spiritual maturity and perfection (Phil. 4:2).

Chrysostom did not see any sign of a quarrel in Paul’s plea to Euodia and Syntyche; he saw only praise and wrote: “Do you see how great a testimony he [Paul] bears to their virtue?”  (Homilies on Philippians, 13)

In the New Testament text there are many examples of women who were involved in significant gospel ministry, some as leaders. Even though these women—women such as Euodia and Syntyche—are mentioned briefly, they do serve as valid, biblical precedents for women in ministry today. Since Paul valued the ministries of certain women, and regarded them as his fellow workers in the gospel, we should be careful not to hinder godly, gifted and capable women from following their calling to be ministers and leaders in the church today.


[1] Euodia is probably pronounced: “yew-oh-DEE-ah”. Syntyche is probably pronounced “Sin-TICK-ay”.

Euodia’s name comes from the Greek verb euodoō which means “. . . to give a prosperous journey; to cause to proper or be successful . . . ” (Perschbacher 1990:181) [eu=well, hodos= road]  The word is used in Rom. 1:10; 1 Cor. 16:2; and 3 John 2 (twice). The name can be likened in meaning to “Bon Voyage”.

Syntyche’s name comes from the Greek word suntuchia, which means “the unexpected coinciding of two events, happening, chance” (BDAG 976) This word is used in Luke 10:31. The name can be likened in meaning to “Serendipity”.

[2] Sunathleō (“contend”) is used twice in Philippians, in 1:27 and in 4:3. It means, to contend on the side of someone; to cooperate vigorously with a person; or, to make every effort in the cause of, or support of something. (Perschbacher 1990: 388) Euodia and Syntyche’s ministry was not light-weight. (See comments section, here, for more on this word.)

[3] Paul mentions several of his fellow workers or co-workers (sunergoi) in the New Testament: Priscilla and Aquila (Rom 16:6); Urbanus (Rom.. 16:9); Timothy (Rom. 16:21); Titus (2 Cor. 8:23); Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) Euodia, Syntyche and Clement (Phil. 4:3); Aristarchus, Mark and Justus (Col. 4:10-11); Philemon (Phm. 1); Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke (Phm. 24).

[4] Here is John Chrysostom’s entire commentary about Euodia and Syntyche:

I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yea, I beseech you also, true yokefellow, help these women.  Philippians 4:2-3a

Some say Paul here exhorts his own wife [as yokefellow]; but it is not so, but some other woman, or the husband of one of them.

“Help these women, for they laboured with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3

Do you see how great a testimony he bears to their virtue? For as Christ says to his Apostles, “Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the book of life” Luke 10:20; so Paul testifies to them, saying, “whose names are in the book of life.” 

These women seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and he commends them to some notable man whom he calls his yokefellow, to whom perchance he was wont to commend them, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he does in the Epistle to the Romans, when he says, I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the Church that is at Cenchrea. Romans 16:1. Yokefellow; either some brother of theirs, or a husband of hers; as if he had said, Now you are a true brother, now a true husband, because you have become a Member. For they laboured with me in the Gospel. This protection came from home, not from friendship, but for good deeds.

Laboured with me.

What do you say?  Did women labour with you?  Yes, he answers, they too contributed no small portion.  Although many were they who wrought together with him, yet these women also acted with him among the many. The Churches then were no little edified, for many good ends are gained where they who are approved, be they men, or be they women, enjoy from the rest such honor.  For in the first place the rest were led on to a like zeal; in the second place, they also gained by the respect shown; and thirdly, they made those very persons more zealous and earnest. Wherefore you see that Paul has everywhere a care for this, and commends such men for consideration. As he says in the Epistle to the Corinthians: Who are the first-fruits of Achaia, 1 Corinthians 16:15. Some say that the word yokefellow, (Syzygus,) is a proper name. Well, what? Whether it be so, or no, we need not accurately enquire, but observe that he gives his orders, that these women should enjoy much protection. (Chrysostom, Homilies on Philippians, 13, from newadvent.org)

[5] Lydia was a wealthy woman and the first Christian convert in Philippi. (In fact, Lydia was the first Christian convert in Europe.) It is likely that Lydia hosted and led the first house church in Philippi when Paul and his colleagues moved on from there to continue Paul’s missionary journey. (See Acts 16:13-15, 40.) Perhaps Euodia and Syntyche were with Lydia and the other women who had gathered at the place of prayer (i.e. a synagogue) by the river when Paul first came to Philippi and told them the gospel (Acts 16:12-15, 40). Another possibility is that “Lydia” was a kind of nickname showing her place of origin—she was from the city of Thyatira in Lydia—and her real name was Euodia or Syntyche.

[6] The word “deacon” (diakonos) is problematic as this role is understood very differently today by different denominations. Whenever Paul uses the term diakonos, he typically uses it in reference to an agent with a sacred commission. Even the diakonos in Romans 13:4, who is a magistrate or other government minister, is described as an agent with a sacred commission: as a “diakonos of God”. In 1 Corinthians 11, however, he refers to false apostles as diakonoi (“agents”) of Satan (1 Cor. 11:13-15). All other diakonoi in Paul’s letters refer to Christian ministers. These include: Paul (Rom. 15:25; 1 Cor. 3:5; Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23, etc), Epaphras (Col. 1:7), Tychicus (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Apollos (1 Cor. 3:5) and even Jesus Christ (Mark 10:42-45; Rom. 15:8). [More on diakonoi here.]

[7] Paul fondly mentions many women in his letters: Apphia (Philem. 1:2), Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Claudia (2 Tim. 4:21), Euodia (Phil. 4:2), Julia (Rom. 16:15), Junia (Rom. 16:7), Lois and Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5), Mary (Rom. 16:6), Nereus’ sister (Rom. 16:15), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Persis (Rom. 16:12), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Priscilla (Rom. 6:3-5); 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19), Rufus’ mother (Rom. 16:13), Syntyche (Phil. 4:2), Tryphena and Tryphosa (Rom. 16:12).  These women were actively involved in significant ministry, some as leaders. [More about these women in Paul’s Personal Greeting to Women Ministers here, and in Paul and Women, in a Nutshell here.]

[8] Note that 1 Corinthians 1:10 contains the Greek word meaning “same” (auto) three times in the context of quarrels and schisms. (This verse does not contain a word related to phroneō.) The King James translates 1 Corinthians 1:10 (a little too literally) as, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.” (Italics added.)
1 Corinthians 1:10 is about harmony, as is Romans 12:16 which contains three cognates of phroneō (two participles and one adjective), as well as the phrase, “Be of the same (auto) mind one toward another.” Considering how he uses auto and phroneō, Paul may have used these words when urging for harmony and unity in churches. Yet, as in Romans 12:16, Paul may have been urging for harmony and unity in Philippians 4:3 without necessarily indicating that Euodia and Syntyche were quarrelling.

[9] The verb phroneō occurs nine times in Philippians.

Adapted from Ministers in Philippi: Men and Women, Philippians Bible Study, Week 19. 

 © 13th of December, 2010, Margaret Mowczko.

An abridged version of this article was published by Christians for Biblical Equality (International) in their Arise e-newsletter on the 4th of August, 2011. (Arise archives)

Related Articles

Junia and the ESV
Did Priscilla Teach Apollos?
Was Phoebe a Deacon of the Church at Cenchrea?
Paul and Women, in a Nutshell
Paul’s Personal Greetings to Women Ministers
1 Timothy 2:12 in Context
Paul’s (gender-inclusive) Qualifications for Church Leaders
Old Testament Priests and New Testament Ministers
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Working Women in the New Testament

Posted August 4th, 2011 . Categories/Tags: Bible Women, Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Ministry, Women in Ministry, , , , , , , , , , ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

36 comments on “Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi

  1. Marg, excellent study. Thanks!

  2. Marg says:

    Thanks Wiley. 🙂

    BTW, I mailed the CDs the other day. Not sure how long it will take for them to get to you.

  3. Lynda says:

    Excellent. Thank you. I learned something new.

  4. Rachel says:

    Hi Marg

    Very interesting and informative. I feel so naive when it comes to the role of women in ministry in the New Testament. I never realised that Euodia and Syntyche were women AND that they had such a significant role in the Church.

    Thank you!

  5. Grant says:

    I think you are “clutching at straws” to make Euodia and Syntiche out to be church leaders. In fact I would go further and suggest that your analysis demeans and trivialises those in the church who do not hold office.

    It seems that the whole basis for you argument is that Paul is concerned that these two women agree because of the office they hold and the issues that could arise if there is not agreement between two leaders in the church. Your argument also belittles the concept of non-officers of the church being co-labourers. It also makes Paul out to be elitist in that he seems only to address himself to officers in the church.

    My impressions of Paul are that he addressed himself to the unimportant and the important alike. For all we know Euodia and Syntiche could have been enthusiastic lay people in the church. Their disagreement though, whatever it was, could be equally damaging even though they were not officers of the church.

    If we teach along the lines that you propose, then the general congregation is not challenged about their standard of Godliness. If however, Paul has concern for the behaviours and attitudes of the lay within the church then we are calling the entire body of Christ to a greater degree of holiness.

    And I am not just picking on Eudoia and Syntiche. I would say likewise that Alexander and Hymenaeus were probably lay members of the congregation too. Paul was concerned they had made shipwreck of their faith regardless of the the office they held in the church.

  6. Marg says:

    Hi Grant,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I’ll work backwards through it in my response.

    Paul does not address Alexander and Hymenaeus directly, but he does address Euodia and Syntyche directly. (This is not clear in some English translations.)

    Paul says some lovely things about the two women. They were good ministers of the gospel. Conversely, Paul writes that Alexander and Hymenaeus had rejected the faith, and he strongly implies that they had blasphemed (1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:17 cf 2 Tim 4:14-15). I cannot see that a reasonable comparison can be made between Euodia and Syntyche with Alexander and Hymenaeus. I do not think these men were ministers of the gospel. Rather they were opponents of the gospel.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “along the lines I propose”. What are these lines?

    I completely agree that God wants the Church to be holy. Moreover, every believer is called to spiritual maturity and perfection. Perfection/maturity is one of the main themes of Philippians. I suggests that this perfection is “the same thing” that Paul was urging in Euodia and urging in Syntyche.

    I’m not sure what you mean by important and unimportant. We are all important to God. I can’t think of any person who Paul mentions who qualifies as an unimportant person. Who do you think was unimportant?

    Some people are more prominent in the church and are mentioned by Paul in his letters. Euodia and Syntyche were prominent in the church and they were well known to him. They had worked side by side with Paul in the ministry of the gospel. They were his co-workers. Paul used the word “co-worker” for ministers. (See endnote 3 for Paul’s other co-workers mentioned in his letters.)

    I agree with you that any disagreement in the church is a problem. The more prominent the people are with the disagreement, the more problematic it becomes. It is possible that Euodia and Syntyche has a disagreement, but it is not certain that this is the case. Unfortunately many English translations assume this in their version. (I have provided a literal translation of the relevant verse in my article above.) Chrysostom did not notice a disagreement. Note that Paul does not criticise Euodia and Syntyche.

    I don’t use the word “office” or “lay” when describing ministry. (I know the KJV uses the word “office” once, or possibly twice, but that is a mistranslation.) I think we have different understanding of the role, function and status of ministry and church leadership. I cannot understand at all, why you think that suggesting that Euodia and Syntyche were church leaders demeans or trivialises the function of church leadership. For all we know they were great house church leaders. Chrysostom had no problem with their leadership.

    What part of my analysis demeans or trivialises church leaders? How does it demean or trivialise church leaders? I think I have a healthy respect for church leadership.

  7. Bev Murrill says:

    WOW! Thanks for this, Marg. I never thought that through. Powerful.

  8. Jonathan Parker says:

    Is there strong reason to reject an interpretation that Lydia is the true yokefellow who is called upon to minister to Euodia and Syntyche? Consider Lydia the primary reason that the Philippian church was so appreciated by Paul for its repeated support to his missions. Paul graciously extends a partnership relationship to the entire congregation because he considers her ministry so effective among them. Philippians has the most intimately personal tone of all Paul’s epistles – even sharing his thoughts on whether to carry on living. It would be at Lydia’s house that Paul would choose to spend his last Passover before traveling to Jerusalem and becoming a prisoner headed for Rome. Paul’s respect and openness with Lydia explains why partnership is Paul’s choice in describing his relationship with the church at Philippi. Most Christian use of the word partner in referring to those who contribute to a ministry does not really fully qualify for how Paul used the term regarding Lydia and the church at Philippi, but that is another discussion.

    • Marg says:

      Some great thoughts and observations here, but, yes, there is a strong reason to believe that Paul’s true yokefellow is a man and not Lydia.

      In the Greek it is clear that Paul is directly addressing a man because “true yokefellow” (γνήσιε σύζυγε) is masculine. If this person was a woman we would expect the last letter in these two Greek words to be alphas and not epsilons as they are here.

      While grammatical gender doesn’t always correspond to the actual gender of a person or group of people, in this case it is quite clear. Moreover, the word “help” (συλλαμβάνου) is a masculine participle.

      I’m interested in your statement that Paul stayed at Lydia’s home for a Passover. What scriptures do you deduce this from?

  9. Jonathan Parker says:

    BTW, to whose house in Philippi would you suppose this letter would be delivered to? Acts 16 seems to make Lydia’s the obvious answer.

    • Marg says:

      Five Philippians are named in the New Testament: Lydia, Euodia, Syntyche, Clement, and Epaphroditus.

      Epaphroditus seems to have been the letter carrier, but the letter may have first been delivered to any of the named people, or even to Paul’s “true yokefellow”.

      There may have several house churches in Philippi by the time Paul wrote his letter (or letters) to them. If Paul wrote his letter(s) from Rome, there may have been ten years between the founding of the Philippian church in Lydia’s home, to Paul’s last letters.

      Several Pauline scholars identify three letters which, combined, form the canonical letter to the Philippians. They believe that Philippians 4:10-20 is the original letter of thanks. Philippians 3:2-4:3 with 4:21-23 is a polemical letter written in response to Judaisers who were adversely influencing the Philippian Christians. Philippians 1:1-3:1 with 4:4-9 is Paul’s “farewell” letter. Polycarp in his own Letter to the Philippians (3:2) mentions that Paul wrote letters (plural) to the Philippian church. From here.

      • Jonathan Parker says:

        Thank you, Marg. Considering the true yokefellow as male disqualifies Lydia. I find that portions of Philippians seem to be primarily expressed to an individual to whom Paul feels especially close. It is this level of trust and openness that justifies using the word partner, and that without the effectiveness of this person in the church at Philippi, Paul would not use the term extended to the whole congregation. In other words, the partnership is because of the trust level between this individual and Paul. Without a truly trusting and open relationship existing, as is possible between individuals, the idea of being a partner would not be appropriate.

        • Marg says:

          Hi Jonathan,

          The instruction given to Paul’s “true yokefellow” does seem to be addressed to a person Paul is particularly close to; however I would not rule out the the idea that Paul may have the entire Philippian church in mind here. He gives a similar instruction in Romans 16:1-2 where he tells the church in Rome to help Phoebe.

          I don’t doubt that Lydia and Paul were particularly close, but the Greek grammar of Philippians 4:3 does point to the yokefellow as being a man.

          • Roy D Oosthuizen says:

            To my mind, there is a biblical precedent for Spirit-filled, ministry for both men and women which is found at the beginning of Joel’s prophecy, cited by Peter in Acts 2:17-18.

            Joel’s prophecy says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy . . . ” (prophecy meaning “to speak forth for someone”, Rogers & Rogers, p.232)

            “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, (This is a clear reference to what was taking place on the Day of Pentecost) and they will prophecy.”

            This raises the question, where and under what circumstances were these Spirit-filled women expected to exercise their speaking ministry?

            This clear biblical statement surely settles the issue. Any restrictions which the early church placed on women, were possibly cultural, and should be understood in this light.

  10. Marg says:

    Hi Roy, I think we are on the “same page”. The qualifications for ministry in the church were, and are, spiritual and moral, unlike the physical qualifications required for temple service.

    • Roy D Oosthuizen says:

      Correct, it cuts both ways. Peter citation of Joel’s prophecy settles this matter at the very birth of the church. This is humanity’s God-given charter to spread the Gospel in the power of the Spirit. (Which in essence is moral power.)

      Besides all the women Paul mentions as his co-workers, other women also exercised ministry in the early church. In Acts 21:9 Luke mentions the fact that He, Paul and their companions, stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven handpicked by the apostles for ministry, at Caesarea, and who had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

      Did they prophesy to each other in the kitchen while making tea for the venerable apostle? Prophecy was a public ministry which had specific checks and balances (1 Cor. 14:29), it wasn’t done in a corner somewhere.

      Furthermore, it is very likely that because most women were poorly educated (R&R) that Paul’s statement in 1 Tim 2:11 is culturally conditioned. He says, “I do not permit . . .”, which suggests to me he might be speaking in his personal capacity in the same manner as he does in some places in 1 Cor. 7:1-17.

      In 1 Cor. 17 at verse 10 he says, “I give this command (not I but the Lord.) Here he appeals to a divine command. However, in verse 12 he says, “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)” He makes no appeal to a divine command.

      In verse 17 Paul is even more explicit, he says, “This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.” Is he here speaking in his personal capacity? I think so. In other words, is this rule to be understood in the sense that it is not meant to be an absolute divine law for all time?

      There are occasions (not many) in the NT where Paul tells us he is speaking in his personal capacity, (as I’ve shown), this should be taken into consideration as part of the context of what he is saying. When we understand Paul’s cultural context, then we are in a position to interpret his meaning.

      Another type of thing I mean where understanding the cultural context is critical to our interpretation, is in Acts, where the apostles drew straws to choose Judas’ successor. Should we say this is the divinely revealed method of choosing leadership in the church until Jesus returns? I don’t think so. In the Bible, we must separate cultural conditioning from absolute truth, or we’ll tie ourselves up in knots and look like real idiots.

      The NT tells us that the Holy Spirit is given to all believers to exercise their God-given gifts (1 Cor. 12 and Rom. 12 etc.). If only men are permitted to carry out Spirit-filled public ministry, then the body of Christ has no place for women to share their gifts and help to build up the body in Christ-like maturity. This makes sheer nonsense of the plain meaning of Joel’s prophecy, and of the NT. besides, church history is replete with the records of sacrificial, competent ministry by women.

      God never intended to build a church in which everyone is brought into unity in Christ, but where only one sector is permitted to speak and teach the Gospel, while the rest look on as observers.

      Paul himself teaches in Gal. 3:28 that in Christ believers (men and women) share a divine unity which transcends both artificial and even God-created human distinctions. I can find no NT precedent which excludes women from ministry on the basis of a divine command.

      What the church desperately needs now, and which it has always needed, is men and women who will submit themselves in utter obedience to Christ, so that His Spirit can do what He likes with and through them to convict the world of sin and righteousness, in order to bring about the birth and creation of a new humanity (men and women) who walk humbly with God. I pray that God will give me this privilege, along with many others who feel the lostness and despair of humanity as I do.

  11. Marg says:

    Someone on Facebook asked me about the verb sunathleō used in Philippians 4:3. Here is some of my reply.

    Sunathleō (“contend together”) is used twice in the New Testament, only in Philippians 1:27 and 4:3. It means, to contend on the side of someone; to cooperate vigorously with a person; or, to make every effort in the cause of, or support of something. (Perschbacher 1990:388)

    The prefix sun means “together”, while athleō is a verb from which we get the word “athlete”.

    Athleō has two main senses:
    (1) to engage in a contest, contend in public games, contend for a prize. (This word occurs twice in the New Testament, both times in 2 Timothy 2:5)
    (2) to endure, suffer. (This second definition is close to the sense in Philippians, that of struggling and striving together.)

    The prefix sun is important because athletes contended and competed against each other, but in Philippi the Christians worked and struggled together with one another and with Paul.

    In Philippians 1:27 (NIV) it says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”

    The only problem I have with “contended at my side” (used in some translations) is that “contended” is not a word we use everyday, and many readers may not be fully aware of its range of meanings and nuances. However, Paul also refers to Euodia and Syntyche as his “co-workers”, and this helps to interpret sunathleō. It is a difficult word to translate nicely into English.

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