There are many obscure people mentioned in the Bible. Phoebe is mentioned only once. Yet she is one of the most important people in the establishment of the Church. It may seem strange, a woman occupying this role. but is it really?
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. (Romans 16:1-2)
It is likely that Paul entrusted Phoebe to carry his letter to the church in Rome. This letter is sometimes known as “The Constitution of the Church.”
So, who was Phoebe? We can’t tell directly from the Bible. The two lines quoted above state only that she was a servant and a great help to many, including Paul. But we can assume a great deal about her from these passages and the letter she carried within the context of the time.
“A servant of the church in Cenchrea” probably means she held a position of great importance in the church, perhaps a deaconess. This would indicate 1) women held important roles in the early church, and 2) Paul supported this role for women.
Paul had to have trusted Phoebe greatly. He understood the importance of this letter to the church in Rome, a church he had not founded. Most, if not all of his other letters were carried by men. This one may have been the most important letter of them all. He entrusted it to a woman. Absolutely out of keeping with the practices of the time.
Phoebe had to have been able to succeed in a man’s world. She was possibly a feminist. Not a women’s libber, a feminist… fulfilling the important role of women not only in the church, but in society as a whole.
Paul spoke many times about the role and importance of women in the Body of Christ. He walked the talk in assigning Phoebe this important role.
How can we, both women and men, fill the role of Phoebe? How can we take the message of Hope, the message of Grace, the message of Salvation through our living Lord and Master, Christ Jesus, into the world?
Alive in The Word