I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.(Romans 16:1-2)
She Was A Helper
Paul’s final admonition to the saints at Rome is a remarkable list of noble people who served the Lord in many different capacities. Most of the names listed are unknown beyond this brief mention at the end of his letter to the Roman Christians. The brethren at Rome knew them or had heard of their impact upon the work of the Lord. Men and women are remembered including sons and mothers and fellow prisoners. At the head of the list is a woman named Phoebe of which nothing is known. She appears remarkably brief on this final page and disappears with the stroke of a pen. There would be a natural desire to know so much more about her. What is known is an example by itself because Paul takes the time to mention her and he commends her life as an example of Christian industry. It can be easily assumed she bore the letter to Rome or at least accompanied the letter to be delivered to the saints at Rome. Paul entrusted her with being present when his letter was received by the Italian brethren.
Phoebe was a person of activity. As a servant of the church at Cenchrea, she was not slothful in doing all she could do to help the cause of Christ. These were difficult times for brethren in many cities. It would not be easy to bear the cross of Christ in a world filled with idolatry and emperor worship. For a woman it would be much more difficult. This did not dissuade Phoebe from being a helper not only to the apostle Paul but to as many others as she could help. Her hands were not idle nor did her feet wear the sandals of slothfulness. What Paul was writing has been preserved for more than two thousand years and imprinted on every Bible is the name of an unknown woman who left a mark on the early church because she was a helper. She did what she could do. Paul was so thankful for this benevolent woman. When she arrived in Rome she had a lot to do. The apostle exhorts the saints in Rome to receive this woman with the kindest regards and help her with all her needs. He almost warns them to get ready for what she is going to bring to the church in Rome. They were going to have a worker among them. What a wonderful commendation for a woman. Especially is this true for a Christian woman who is serving the Lord in whatever capacity she can be used.
There is a lot of work to be done in the kingdom of God. Romans 16 is a chapter filled with names of workers, servants, laborers – people who were busy in the church. Growing churches are filled with growing Christians who are busy doing whatever they can do to help the cause of Christ. The spirit of Phoebe is left as an example of someone who served the needs of the church because of her love for Jesus Christ. She did not hesitate to do all she could do. It would be doubtful she had to be told there was work to be done as she seems to be a person who saw a need and took care of it. Paul commends the brethren in Rome to receive Phoebe as a greater worker for the Lord. When brethren work hard for the church the word of God will spread throughout the community. Those who shepherd the flock of Christ love to have their brethren come and ask what they can do to help the church grow. There are many things that are done by the silent brethren who quietly go and help the needy, visit the sick and encourage the downtrodden. Churches that have people like Phoebe in them will be strong and vibrant in the work of God. If Paul were writing his letter today would my name be included as a helper of many?