The second vital aspect implied in Paul’s recommendation of the sister in Romans 16:1, Phoebe, is that she was a sister more than one hundred percent related to the church. She was a sister in the church. She was recommended as one serving in the church, serving for the church, and serving the church directly. She served so many dear ones not in any other sphere but in the church. She was a sister one hundred percent in the church.
As long as you sisters are serving in the church, there is value to the Lord. Anything you do in the church has meaning. Whatever you do outside the church doesn’t mean much. In my Christian life, I have seen many good sisters loving others, taking care of others, but all outside the church. Eventually what they did became pitiful because it was done outside the church. What the Lord wants is the serving in the church, serving for the church, and serving the church directly. This is a major point.
The sister in Romans 16:1, Phoebe, was a serving one, a serving nurse, a church nurse, a serving patroness, and she was one hundred percent in the church. Paul’s recommendation is very good.
The second sister in Romans 16 is Prisca, or Priscilla. I do believe she was much stronger in the church life than her husband, and in a sense she did take the lead to take care of the church. Wherever they went, she and her husband took care of the church in the way of having the church meeting in their home. When they were in Ephesus, the church met in their home. When they were in Rome, also the church met in their home.
Paul said that these two risked their own necks not only for him, but also for the churches. Therefore, the Apostle Paul was grateful to them, and the churches were grateful also.
In a family, if the wife does not take the lead to have the practical church life, the husband would always be frustrated. The best way and the highest way for a family to take the church life is for the wife to take the lead. In any other matter the wife should not take the lead. But in the matter of taking the way of the practical church life for the family, the wives may take the lead. I don’t mean in matters such as teaching, making decisions, and giving direction, but in serving the church, the sisters may take the lead.
In every family, if the wife takes the lead to have the church life, it could be so easy to bring the whole family into the church life. But if the wife would not take the lead in this matter, if the husband takes the lead for the church life, it may be hard for the family to be wholly for the church life. The frustrations would always come from the source of the wife who would not take the lead for the church life.
The brothers must forgive me for encouraging all the sisters to be bold to take the lead in relation to the practical church life, to let all the Aquilas follow the Priscas in this one matter. It may even seem that the sisters are breaking the principle of the headship, but they should not allow legality or religion to hold them back from taking the lead in this one matter. In every local church there is the need of a group of sisters to be so bold to take the lead for the practical church life. Someday the Lord will show us all that this is exactly what is on His heart.
Only in one unique thing are the sisters allowed to take the lead. Romans 16 does have such a revelation that the sisters may take the lead to risk their necks for the church. For this reason Aquila is behind Prisca. The Lord would not allow the sisters to take the lead in any other matter—not for their spirituality, not for their spiritual taste, not for anything else. To do so is the real breaking of the principle, and the sisters should not do that. But among thousands of things, in this one unique matter, the sisters may take the lead for the practical church life. The sisters have to be so bold only for the church life, not for their own spirituality. Spirituality does not mean that much. The only thing that is so meaningful is the church life. There is no need for you to ask the Lord to excuse you or to forgive you for taking the lead in relation to the church life, for the Lord would encourage you to do this. He would be so pleased for a sister to take the lead in this matter, because in this age there are so few families who would be for the church life in a practical way. The Lord would be so happy for any wife to take the lead for her family to have the church life.
The sisters need to be encouraged to take the lead in their families for the church life—not for teaching, not for spirituality, not even for gospel preaching. If the sisters would not do this, they could not be up to the standard, they are not qualified before the Lord. Even here in the church, for the church life the sisters have to take the lead, to be the Priscas.
(Serving Sisters in the Church Life, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)