NEEDED: MORE MOTHERS!
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, May 10, 2020.
Part 3 of Understanding the Times. Various Passages.
As you look back on your experience of following Jesus, has there been someone who had an extraordinary impact on your Christian life? Most people I talk to can point to someone who mentored them in the faith, especially in the early days. It might have been a parent or a pastor or a friend. They were role-models, mentors, advisors, cheerleaders. In 1 Corinthians 4, the apostle Paul gives spiritual mentors a special name:
(1 Corinthians 4:14-15) I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
Paul helped them find Jesus as their God and savior and so he became their father; father through the gospel, spiritual father in Christ.
Today, in honor of Mother's day, I want us to explore the idea of spiritual mothers; women who mentor us in the faith. Here's why: We need more spiritual mothers. I want to unleash you into ministry today.
Here's how I plan to do that: I want to share the stories of four women who were spiritual mothers among the very first Christians. Then, I'm going to finish with a final powerful example. Let's go.
LYDIA: THE MOTHER OF THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI
As the Christian movement spread across the Roman world, it unshackled women from their traditional restrictions. They became leaders and Lydia is a prime example of a woman who stepped into her calling and anointing. We can read the account in Acts chapter 16. First, we read about Lydia's Conversion:
(Acts 16:12-15) From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Next, we read about Lydia's House Church
(Acts 16:40) After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
Lydia became the patron of the church in Philippi. She hosted its gatherings in her home and the scholars tell us that this means she had some kind of leadership in the baby church. She was a spiritual mother.
PRISCILLA: THE MOTHER OF MANY CHRISTIANS
We first meet Priscilla and her husband in Corinth where they helped Paul start the church. They joined his team and ended up in Ephesus. Here's what happened next:
(Acts 18:24-26) Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
I want you to take note of a couple of important insights found in this passage:
Apollos was already well versed in Scripture and he was fiercely devoted to Jesus. In other words, he wasn't a spiritual novice and he didn't need elementary teaching.
Priscilla and her husband Aquila taught Apollos what he needed to know to fill in the gaps in his knowledge of the faith. I'm assuming this was advanced Christian teaching and ...
Priscilla was the lead teacher. I say this because she is mentioned before her husband. This is intentional. Six of the seven times she is mentioned in the New Testament, it is before her husband. Why? Because she was the lead teacher. She gave official, authoritative teaching in her role as Paul's co-worker (Romans 16:3) and as a spiritual mother of many Christians.
EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE: MOTHERS OF THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI
When we read about these two women, they are in conflict with each other. That's an important reminder that spiritual mothers are not perfect people; they follow the perfect Lord Jesus Christ. They had a major role in the baby church in Philippi:
(Philippians 4:2-3) I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Paul calls them his co-workers. That tells us that they had a significant role alongside the apostle. They weren't on the edges of the church. And they did more than provide meals or support. Paul says they contended in the cause of the gospel; they put out maximum effort just as athletes do, straining to win their race. And that tells us that they were probably preachers or teachers alongside Paul.
We don't have a lot of information about Euodia and Syntyche, but we can surmise this: they were prominent enough in the church that their conflict was a big deal and needed to get sorted out for the health of the church. Why? They were spiritual mothers and many people were looking to them for leadership and mentoring.
MARY: THE SPIRITUAL MOTHER OF US ALL
Let's wrap this up with one final and profound example: Mary, the mother of the Lord. I believe that she is a spiritual mother to us all. How? Mary was a teenager when the angel broke the news of the Incarnation to her. Let's read part of the account:
(Luke 1:35-38) The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
Think about that: The first time God shared the deepest truths of the Christian faith, it was with a woman. He made her womb the place in which humanity and divinity joined. The God who fills the universe confined himself to her body. Mary is the God-bearer - Theotokos in Greek. So, as the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, she is the spiritual mother of us all.
That is very significant. God does not expect women to take a back seat in the church. He wants them front and center in what he is doing. Now look at Mary's response to the angel's announcement:
(Luke 1:38) “I am the Lord's servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary's faith and courage nourish us all in faith. She was in full submission to God and his plans. She is a model person of faith in the New Testament. We are supposed to imitate her. In this way also, she is our spiritual mother.
The New Testament is very clear: God wants and expects every woman to step up into her calling and anointing, just as he expects every man to do the same. It's time to step into your calling.
The Lord Jesus is calling every one of us to serve as spiritual parents. In some way or other; he wants you to mentor someone else in the Christian faith.
Look inside: Have you grown enough in the Christian faith that you are now a helpful model someone can follow? And do you have a decent knowledge of Christian teachings that you can share?
Look up: How has God called, gifted, and anointed you to impact the church? We're all different, so be yourself. It might be that you work best on a team, so you work with a friend to parent someone else in the faith.
Look around: ask yourself, who has God brought into my life who needs me to be a spiritual mother or father? It could be your own children, but don't limit yourself. And don't wait to be asked. Pray about it and if the Spirit gives you the green light, step up.