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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Balmer

Spiritual Mothers

This is a sermon preview for the fourth week of our Kingdom Family Values series. Visit FBCM’s website to listen to our livestream.

“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.... Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” - From Romans 16:1-16 (NIV)


Last week, we spoke about the seemingly endless articles about the "crisis with men." Women and girls also attract media attention concerning the unique expectations and social pressures put on them.

Meanwhile, in the church, denominations have split, and continue to argue, over the role of women in the church. The proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention's denominational meeting drew national attention and generated headlines about women in the church, just more a week ago.

(Note: FBCM is an American Baptist Church, and affirms God's call on women's lives to serve in any area of ministry for which they may be gifted, and has no formal connection to the Southern Baptist Convention. At the same time, we pray for the SBC, as we do for all Christian churches, whatever our disagreements may entail.)

With such discussion, such women may wonder: Is there a place for me in the church?

Going to Scripture may surprise us: God is everywhere using faithful women for his work.

“Don’t Call It A List!”

Back in the late ‘80s the preacher Fred Craddock thundered these words when speaking on this passage, imagining Paul remembering his experience with each of the people he listed. He says:

IN THE LIST there is a husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla. There’s a man and his mother, Rufus and his mother. There is a brother and sister, Nereus and his sister. There are brothers, Andronicus and Junias. There are sisters, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. There is an old man, Epaenetus. Isn’t that an interesting profile of the church? There’s a single woman, Mary. There’s a single man, Herodion. Not a lot of nuclear family there at all except as Christ has called them together. . . . [But] Paul doesn’t call it a list”

Craddock is right, there are people from all over: and this is yet another picture of “Kingdom Family” more than nuclear family. There are people who went to jail with Paul, people who treated Paul as a child like Rufus’ mom who was a mother to Paul as well. But there is one detail Craddock got wrong.

In that list, the name “Junia” not “Junias.” Paul calls a woman and (likely) her husband: “outstanding among the Apostles.”

As Scot McKnight has points out: “Junia Is Not Alone.”

There are countless women involved in vital Gospel work in the New Testament church. Junia is a good example of how many of their stories have been covered up, intentionally or unintentionally, making it difficult for us to recognize how God was at work in their ministry.  

This week, we’ll not only learn how “Junia” was turned into “Junias,” and how modern Bible translations recovered her original name and title of Apostle – but also how countless other women serve as spiritual Mothers in the church.


Spiritual Mothers proclaim, explain, and represent the good news of Jesus Christ.

Reflection Questions
  1. Who are women in your life who have been witnesses, teachers, and examples of the Good News in your life?

  2. Have you noticed these New Testament women before? What questions do you have about their ministry?

  3. If you were writing your own list of believers influential in your own life, who would you include and why (both men and women)?


N.T. ("Tom") Wright responds to the charge that the Apostle Paul is sexist (in under three minutes!).

Check back for our Series Resources with more information on women in ministry, and both men and women (ordained and lay people, working in and outside the church), mentoring and being mentored in the faith.


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