And I entreat you also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also…
We have here a lively picture of lay help as it was in apostolic times. Of all the actors in this busy scene there is no proof that anyone was "ordained." Who St. Paul's "yokefellow" was we know not. If Epaphroditus, there is nothing to show that he was in the ministry as we understand the term. As "apostle" (Philippians 2:25) of the Philippians he was simply a messenger, and the other expressions in the same verse do not imply office. There is nothing to prove that Clement was the illustrious bishop of Rome. He is only mentioned as one of Paul's many "fellow labourers," whom it is quite gratuitous to confound with the bishops and deacons.
2. But the clear words of the text carry us a step further. Women are among the fellow toilers. And here, too, it would be a narrowing idea to suppose that they were deaconesses. It is simply as fellow Christians that they are fellow labourers.
3. There the particular help invited has nothing clerical in its nature. The original bids these friends join in the reconciliation of Euodia and Syntyche. The persons addressed, the persons described, and the help asked for, enforce to one duty, that of laymen consecrating themselves to Divine service. The idea that all the offices of piety and charity are to be heaped upon the clergy; that it is unnecessary and presumptuous for an unordained man to put his hand to the plough of Christian labour, is so directly opposed to every principle of the gospel, that it would have received St. Paul's heaviest condemnation. Christ has called us to a corporate life, a body having many members, each with its office, and all equally helpful and essential (Romans 12:4-5).
I. NOTE THE ADVANTAGES OF ASSOCIATION IN STIMULATING, DIRECTING, AND ECONOMIZING LABOR. Multitudes of men and women stand idle in the Church's market place and give as their excuse, "No man hath hired us." That excuse never, indeed, had any truth in it. Creation, Redemption, Conscience, the Gospel, the Spirit, are enough to silence the plea that God hath no call for us. But how many converted souls have asked themselves, a minister, or a friend, "What shall I do?" without meeting with a response. The principle of association meets this want, giving assurance of sympathy, direction, and help. Loneliness in feeling is melancholy, in working paralysis. United effort prevents superfluous labour upon a spot already cultivated, and directs it on neglected spheres.
II. THE VARIETY OF AGENCIES OFFERED TO THE CHRISTIAN WORKMAN. There is nothing too small to be reckoned, too secular to be consecrated when it has to do with Christ's Church, whether instruction of the young in Sunday or night school, visiting the sick, joining the choir, or placing the worshippers in order and quietness, or bringing the Church by decorations into unison with the joys of Christmas, Easter, etc. All are not bidden to rush into one kind of service, but each is asked to do what is most suitable to his gifts heartily as unto Christ.
III. THE REWARD OF THE WORKER (Proverbs 11:25). There is a reaction of good, not least, upon him. It is a great thing to see for ourselves things of which we have idly read in books; want and sorrow so light in the abstract, so heavy in the enduring; to be shamed out of our luxury, loitering, listless, dreamy, self-indulgent intellectualism; to be enabled to see that in our little part of our day we are decidedly on the side of good, which is the side of Christ.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.