I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.
In Romans 16, Paul gave personal greetings to 24 individuals. The first person Paul mentioned was Phoebe. In Romans 16:1-2, he wrote, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.”
Phoebe was not a member of the church at Rome. In fact, Paul said she was from Cenchrea, which was just south of Corinth. Paul was in Corinth when he was writing this letter, so why did he say, “I want to commend to you Phoebe”? He wanted them to know her because she was the messenger. She was the one who took Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. Remember there was no FedEx in Paul’s day. His letter had to be hand-delivered. And there were no Xerox machines back then. There was one copy of this letter he had spent months working on, so he needed somebody he trusted to deliver it, and he entrusted this to Phoebe. Since no husband is mentioned, we can assume that Phoebe was single. And not only that, she was probably a woman of some financial means. In Paul’s day, you had to have money to be able to travel, and the fact that Phoebe was able to travel to Rome indicates she was a woman of means. Perhaps she was a businesswoman like Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman who helped found the church at Philippi.
In verse 2, Paul said Phoebe had been a help to him in many ways. We do not know how Phoebe had helped Paul; perhaps because of her position in Cenchrea she had opened some doors in Corinth for the apostle, or perhaps she contributed financially to his ministry. We do not know exactly in what way Phoebe helped him, but she was worthy of being mentioned.
Phoebe reminds us that women play a significant role in the church and the spread of Christianity. One of the problems, I think, in conservative churches is that whenever we start talking about the role of women in the church, we harp on the things women are not allowed to do in the church. The Bible says women are not to be pastors. That is very clear. Women are not to exercise authority over men in the church. But instead of talking about what women cannot do, we ought to be talking about all the things that women can do in the church. Women can be teachers of other women and children. They can serve on committees. They can minister. They can be speakers. They can be writers. They can help financially. They can be missionaries. There are all kinds of ministry opportunities for women and things they can do in the church.
My predecessor, Dr. W. A. Criswell, used to say, “Were it not for women, Christianity would have been born stillborn at the inception of the Christian faith and movement.” I believe that is true. God uses women in a powerful way, and Phoebe is a great illustration of that.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Power Of A Positive Word” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.