David Fees is the founder of Christ Fellowship Ministries, a
prophetic and teaching ministry to the body of Christ. Part of this
ministry consists of building up the body of Christ in small towns and churches
in the area south of the Midland/Odessa area in far west Texas. He is the
editor of The Torch and the Trumpet. He and his wife Anne live in Plano,
Texas with their daughter Sara.
Priscilla and Phoebe Show Us About Paul
by David Fees
Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and
mighty in Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in
the way of the Lord, and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught
accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.
So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and
Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God
more accurately (Acts 18:24-26).
Acts 18:1-3 states that Paul came to Corinth and stayed with and worked with
a Jewish husband/wife tentmaking team named Aquila and Priscilla. We can
assume that by staying in their home and working with them, they would have not
only understood Paul's doctrine, but more importantly, would have caught the
essence of his heart. It is safe to say that his being there for that
season in their lives would have impacted them greatly. Also, it is
probably safe to say that they saw him reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath,
since we are told that Aquila and Priscilla later heard Apollos in the
synagogue. In fact, as was the custom of many Jewish converts, the
practice of attending worship on the Sabbath did not change when they became
believers. It just became enhanced. Safe to say, Paul's life and
ministry would have greatly touched Aquila and Priscilla in the home, at work,
and at the synagogue.
When Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos expound the Scriptures, they realized
that he was a man with the right heart, but he needed further explanation of the
Gospel. They took him aside and then the unthinkable happened. The
unmentionable. The undenominational. The excommunicable.
Priscilla, along with her husband, taught a man.
Now, it would seem that if Paul really believed and taught that a woman should
not teach a man, does not it make good sense that Priscilla, having him around
him both day and night for one year and six months (Acts 18:1 1), would have
known that it was not the perfect plan of God to have done such a "hideous"
deed? Would not she have backed off and either verbally or quietly made it
known to her husband that to explain the Gospel to a man was her husband's job
"Aquila, go talk to him man to man. You know that is Paul's way.
That's the perfect way. I'll go home and throw something in the
No, the opposite is true. Priscilla caught the true spirit of Paul, which
was the true spirit of God. In Christ, there is no male or female.
The cross brings equality to all. She was accustomed to ministering and
working alongside her husband, and they both brought a life-changing word to
Later, Paul referred to them in the last chapters of Romans and I Corinthians.
In Romans, he puts Priscilla first; in I Corinthians, Aquila. They
evidently had an equal anointing and ability to teach, a model of husband and
wife ministry. Never do we hear him saying something like, "Now church,
beware. Priscilla likes to teach men. And you know I don't condone
that." No, he gave her honor and recognized the validity of her ministry, even
stating that all the churches of the Gentiles gave thanks for her (Rom. 16:4).
He gave them equal footing with himself, calling them fellow laborers. He
also stated they had a church in denoting the probability of co-pastorship.
A Fresh Look at Phoebe
I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in
Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the
saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed
she has been a helper of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2 I
commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,
that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and
assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been
a helper of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2
The word servant is the word diakonos, from which we get our word
deacon. Strong's Concordance states that the general understanding of the
meaning of this word was a Christian pastor or teacher. It can mean
minister, servant, or deacon. Paul used it or a derivative of the word
thirty-four times. Six times it clearly refers to the office of a deacon.
Twenty-seven times it is translated minister. Only once, when Paul uses
the word, is it translated servant--in describing Phoebe.
It is found eighteen times in the Gospels. Fourteen of those times it is
translated minister. Most of these are clearly what we would consider
ministry in the acts and teaching of Jesus. Four times, when the context
is clearly what we would term a hired-servant type, it is actually translated
My point is very clear. When the male translators dealt with Phoebe, they
had a choice. Do we make Phoebe a servant, thus in line with our views
where women should be in church? We surely cannot make her a deacon.
That's too much authority. And we surely cannot make her a minister.
That would leave too much room. Why, she might have been an elder, a
prophetess, a pastor, or an apostle. No way! Make her a servant!
Now, we all should be servants. But when Paul wanted to denote servanthood
as a holy characteristic of Christian life, he usually used the word doulos,
the Greek word for bondslave. He understood that servanthood meant death
to self and sacrifice for others. But when describing the function of
another, he did not use this word. But the translators did. That's
the fifteenth century translators hired by King James--not the first century
apostle chosen by God.
Now, the translators did a marvelous job on 99% of the Scriptures. But on
some male-fernale issues, their choice of words was colored by their gender.
Maybe not intentionally, but certainly in effect.
For instance, in Ephesians 6:21, Tychicus is referred to by Paul as a beloved
brother and faithful minister. Same word, different sex, different
Look at Colossians 1:7. Epaphras, our dear sundoulous (fellow
servant), is a faithful diakonos (translated minister) of Christ. Why not
Phoebe? Then Paul refers to himself as a diakonos in Col. 1:23,
1:25, and Eph. 3:7 and follows in Eph. 3:8 that because he was made a
diakonos, he can preach! If Paul, why not Phoebe!
Eph. 3:7-8... of which I became a minister [diakonos] according to the
gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
To me who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I
should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Now, I know there are some who would quote I Timothy 3:12: Let the deacons be
the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
This same principle is applied to bishops/elders. My response is that Paul
was most concerned with the polygamy of that time. If we take this
Scripture from a highly restricted sense, then we must say that Paul could not
have held office in a church, because he was not the husband of one wife--he had
Sound doctrine, as I have stated before, must come from an overview of all the
scriptures on a subject. Then the seemingly hard to understand into the
context of the whole, not the other way around. What we have done with
teaching on women in ministry is the other way around. We have ignored the
practice of women being used in ministry and concentrated on a few Scriptures
that may have missed out on the translation boat when the translators took their
It is true that the word diakonos is primarily used to describe a person
who would minister in what we would term the ministry of helps. And Phoebe
may have ministered to the church in this fashion. But the word has a
fuller meaning, including the one mentioned above in which Paul received grace
to preach from his grace to minister (diakonos).
Look at some other Scriptures where diakonos or a derivative of that word
is translated ministry:
- The ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5)
- The ministry of the spirit (2 Cor. 3:7)
- The ministry of righteousness (2 Cor. 3:7)
- Addicted to the ministry of the saints (1 Cor. 16:15)
- Able ministers of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6)
- Civil authorities as ministers (Rom. 13:4)
Paul is a minister, Tychicus is a minister, Epaphras is a minister, and
Timothy is a minister. Why not Phoebe? Only one reason. She
was a woman. Who made her less? Not God. Not Jesus. Not
Paul. Only man and his pride that has perpetuated womenless ministry.
The Cross Sets Free
The first Adam was male and female. Male and female created he them; and
blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created
(Gen. 5:2). God then took the female out of him, placed those
characteristics into Eve and told them to multiply and subdue. God put
sleep into Adam and took his bride out of his side in order that the plans and
purposes of God might come to pass.
Jesus is the last Adam. Through the cross, the church was taken out of His
side in death. In Him now through the cross, we are placed back into Him
so that together male and female, in Him, we can accomplish that in which the
first Adam failed.
Together, united in the last Adam, we have the same commission--multiply and
subdue. We subdue through the power of love and the Gospel of redemption.
We rule and reign in His name. We are called to take ground--to tame the
"wild" of the earth. Not in the frailty of the first Adam but in the power
of the last--the risen, resurrected One who beckons to women and men, "Come."
Preach on Phoebe
The word Phoebe means bright. It comes from the Greek root word, phos,
from which we get phosphorus, the ingredient in matches. Perhaps through
the ages, even though men have tried to dim her light and that of other women,
God never has. Paul never did. Now, it is time for the Phoebes of
the world to shine. Let us allow them to come forth even as the Timothys
and the Pauls.
Preach, sister Phoebe with all your being. Prophesy, sister Phoebe with
all your might. Teach, sister Phoebe with all diligence. Evangelize,
bless, and minister to the church and to the world. Let your light shine
so all can see the grace of the Lord. We speak to the shackles of religion
that have reduced the giftings of women in the name of Scripture. To the
powers of darkness that have placed cultural bondages over God's creation.
To the tyranny of prideful man. Chains, be broken. Prison doors,
open. In the name of the Lord. According to His Word. Let the
wonderful, God-given, unstained, untainted, blood-bought truth set you free!