“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.” (Romans 16:1-2 KJV)
The opening words of Romans, Chapter 16, got my attention as I was searching for a totally unrelated passage in Romans. The first verse is a recommendation of Phebe, who it appears, is travelling to Rome. Paul is introducing her to the church members there, and asking them to receive and assist her in anything she may need.
After reading Paul’s complimentary words about Phebe, I wanted to know more about her. My search did not yield a lot of information. I found out this is the only time Phebe is mentioned in the New Testament. I was left with questions. Why was she going to Rome? Is it just to deliver Paul’s letter? Was she commissioned to help the believers there? Was she to be a “succourer of many” there as she was in Cenchrea, a port of Corinth? Was she returning to Corinth after her assignment was completed? We don’t know.
I discovered that there has been much speculation about Phebe’s position and “title” in the Church. Some seem to think the Greek word “diakonos” used by Paul, indicates she was a deaconess.
Whether she was rich or poor, “titled” or “untitled” seems trivial and irrelevant to me. I want to remember Phebe as trustworthy, faithful and committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was definitely not concerned with titles or words, but with our actions. It seems that, even if Phebe’s name did not appear on the “Staff List” of the church at Cenchrea, it certainly would appear on “The Lamb’s Book of Life” and on the pages of the Scriptures we read to this day.
Her true value was in being a helper. I like the word succourer, as used in the King James version because it reminds me of the Spanish word “socorro.” It means to help and to aid, but the connotation of this word is much stronger. The word “soccur” suggests coming to the rescue of those in dire straits or being a relief to those going through difficult times. This one word says more about Phebe than any title she may or may not have had.
All we need to know about Phebe is that she was a blessing to many and a messenger of the Lord, sent to Rome for His purposes. I want to be like her. Maybe her name is in the Scriptures as an encouragement to all women who quietly and faithfully serve.
Dearest Heavenly Father,
You have used many saints in the telling of His story. Thank you for allowing us to be the “Body of Christ” so that others will come to know Him. We accept our role as servants and messengers preparing for and announcing the coming of Your Kingdom.
In the name of Jesus, who was sent to us, highly commended by the Father of us all,