Euodia and Syntyche: Female Leaders in the New Testament
By Crystal Schmalz
Philippians 4:2-3 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (ESV)
How would you like to have the name Euodia or Syntyche? These are such interesting names! They are also very important names in the book of Philippians. These are the names of women who labored with Paul. Paul states, “who have labored side by side with me in the gospel.” Many have questioned the authority and leadership of women in the first century, but it is very clear through the writings of Paul women held leadership positions and labored alongside men in the gospel. When I look at this scripture I am not sure how else to interpret what Paul is saying. These women labored with Paul, which most likely meant they were doing the work of ministry. They also were significant enough to mention in scripture and to survive the test of time. These names have never been deleted from scripture. We cannot know exactly how these women labored, but often when Paul mentions other laborers in the New Testament he mentions other men and women who held leadership positions within the Church. Some early church scholars believe Euodia and Syntyche were the leaders of the Church of Philippi (John Chrysostom c349-407, Homilies on Philippians, 13). It is also interesting to note that Paul uses episkopoi (overseers-bishops) and diakonoi (ministers-servants) in the opening greeting of Philippians 1, which gives good indication that Euodia and Syntche, along with Clement were overseers-bishops/ministers-servants of the gospel. In our modern language we might call them senior pastors and church leaders.
Secondly, I mention Euodia and Syntyche because Paul is addressing certain issues of unity within this church. There must have been some type of disagreement between these two women, and so Paul asks them to “agree in the Lord.” I believe we can learn a significant lesson from this scripture. We need unity in the Church. Women do not need to be fighting about who can and cannot be in ministry. Honestly, some of the greatest opposition I have faced thus far in ministry has come from women who do not believe women should be in ministry and leadership. It is a “silent no,” which is probably more hurtful than if they just vocalized their thoughts and opinions. When a woman begins to think about how God is calling her, they need encouragement more than anything. Many women have not studied or searched the scriptures, and decide in their minds based solely on culture and tradition which has often not allowed women to preach, pastor, or fulfill their calling and gifts within the church. You might not speak openly against women in ministry, but if you sit in silence you are not advocating or encouraging your sisters. I do not know exactly why some women want to hold other women back, or establish clubs and tribes. Humans have always formed organizations and institutions, and while these are not wrong, when they go against scripture we must reevaluate these “tribes and clubs.” Fear might be a reason why both women and men have a problem with women in ministry. Sometimes women in ministry, especially pioneers and path-makers are bold and bossy. Men are bossy too though, and they seem to be praised for their boldness as a leader. Bold female leaders with vision who are called by God are not feminists trying to destroy the church. Bold female leaders with vision who are called by God are trying to work alongside and help change a culture which needs to conform more to the image and purpose of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a bold path maker and culture changer. Let Jesus be our example. Another reason why some women might be reluctant to see women in ministry is because it might feel threatening to their ministry and purpose. As a female minister I believe women who stay at home, raise children, and support their husbands are doing the work of the ministry. There is nothing wrong with this, but when this is all that is “allowed” for women, we are in trouble. When scripture talks about the gifts given to the church, there is no part of those scriptures which are gender specific. Scripture does not say God has given the gift of faith to men and the gift of leadership to women. Scripture says I have given faith, leadership, giving, prophecy, teaching, service, exhortation, mercy to the whole body of Christ (Romans 12). Likewise in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 we see scripture saying the gifts are given to the church, not specifically to women or men, but to the whole church.
In conclusion, I am grateful for yet another example of women in leadership in the New Testament. It is great to see female preachers, pastors, teachers, prophets, servants, overseers, bishops, apostles, and counselors in the New Testament. Thank you Euodia, Syntyche, and the other women and men of Macedonia who followed the call of God!
Copyright 2016 Crystal Schmalz