Romans 16:1-2 NLT - I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. 2 Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.
The name Phoebe means “bright and radiant”. The word translated in Romans 16:1 to describe her role in the church can be either “servant” or “deacon”. While deacon has a more official sound to it, the fact is that this was a woman who’s conduct, attitude, faithfulness, and helpfulness to the church and to the Apostle Paul merited special mention in sacred Scripture. Paul commanded the church in Rome to welcome her, honor her, and help her as needed. It appears she is the one Paul entrusted to deliver his letter to the church at Rome. This would have been a hazardous and difficult journey as she traveled from Corinth to Rome to present Paul’s greatest theological letter. What kind of trust must she have earned from the apostle that he wanted Phoebe to make sure the Letter to the Romans arrived safely? Though these two verses may seem simple or inconsequential, they communicate so much about what it means to live as a Christian who may never have a high profile preaching or church planting ministry. The ministry of “helps” is included in 1 Corinthians 12 as a gifting to be used to serve the church. As a woman in a culture dominated by men, Phoebe stood out for the right reasons. Paul would never trust Phoebe if she were emotionally unstable, a gossip, or lazy about kingdom priorities. Phoebe proved herself to be an instrument in the hand of God and a true “help” to the church (including all of us who still read the Book of Romans). What character or honor lessons stand out when considering the deaconess?