Phebe was a sister in the Lord. She was saved. She knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour.
Phebe was a servant of a church. This was the church at Cenchrea, which was a seaport that served Corinth.
- “Corinth was situated on the middle of the isthmus, and had two harbours, or ports: Cenchrea on the east, about eight or nine miles from the city; and Lechaeum on the west. Cenchrea opened into the Aegean Sea, and was the principal port” (Barnes).
- Phebe as a servant of the church at Cenchrea teaches us the importance of church membership and the importance of faithfulness to the church. We serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but we serve Him in this world through the assembly. It is the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Ti. 3:15). Those who despise the church today and despise church membership are disobeying the clear teaching of Scripture.
- Some commentators have speculated that Phebe was a deacon at Cenchrea, but a woman does not qualify for the office of deacon. The Greek word “diakonos” is often used of servants of Christ in general, as in Romans 16:1 and Colossians 4:12. But when it is used for the office of a deacon, it requires that the holder be the husband of one woman, which is limited to men (1 Ti. 3:12).
Phebe had a powerful testimony.
- She had the testimony of commendation by the apostle Paul.
- She had the testimony of a servant. A servant is not a great thing in this present world. People labor and strive not to be servants. But servants are great in Christ’s kingdom (Mt. 20:26-27). One of Christ’s names is “Servant” (Isa. 42:1-7; 49:5; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11). The Messiah as God’s Servant is a major theme of the Gospels (Joh. 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:29; 14:31; 17:4). The Gospel of Mark describes Christ as the Servant who is always doing God’s will. No lineage is given in Mark, because a servant needs none, and there is no information about Christ’s birth or early life. The keyword is “straightway,” which is the language of a servant who is busy in his master’s service. See Mk. 1:10, 18, 20, 21; 2:2, 3:6; 5:29; 6:25, 45, 54; 7:35; 8:10; 9:15, 20, 24; 11:3; 14:45; 15:1. By this standard (that the person with a servant’s heart is great in God’s eyes), it is evident that many godly women will be great in the kingdom that will be established after the overthrow of this present world system.
- Phebe also had the testimony that she was a succorer of many. This was the essence of her Christian life. She did not live for herself. She lived for Christ and lived to minister to the saints, to help in the service of Christ wherever possible, however possible.
Phebe was one of Paul’s helpers. She was sent by Paul on business to the church at Rome. She was probably carrying the Epistle of Romans, one of the most important writings in human history. We see that women had a major role in the early churches, and it wasn’t limited to the home or to teaching children.
Phebe was to be received “in the Lord, as becometh saints.” The believing woman in Christ should be treated with great respect. This has not been the way of most societies in this world, except for those which were highly influenced by Scripture. but the Lord’s people are in Christ’s kingdom spiritually (Col. 1:13), and we must treat one another according to Christ’s laws rather than the world’s.
Phebe was to be assisted in her business. Paul instructed the believers to give her whatever assistance she needed. We aren’t told exactly what her business was or what she needed, but whatever she needed the church was to give her. It was a blank check for a servant of Christ. What we learn is that women can do any business in the church that is not forbidden by Scripture (such as teach men or hold positions of authority), when they are so appointed, and those so appointed should be honored by the brethren.
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