Monday, March 20, 2017

Phoebe, a dedicated single

Do we remember who Phoebe was?
Paul thought so much of her that he sent the letter to the Christians in Rome either in her hands, or with her and others as they traveled. He thought so much of her that he wanted the Christians there to make sure they did their utmost to make her welcome.

Let's see where she is mentioned:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 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 NIV)
Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess (servant) of the church at Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord [with love and hospitality], as God’s people ought to receive one another. And that you may help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many, including myself. (AMP)
We can see that we don't know very much about this lady who delivered Paul's letter to Rome. We just have this brief mention of her, and her service.

This is the "tying up of loose ends" here in the letter to the Romans. Many will be mentioned here, saluted as friends and co-workers, and will live for all time because Paul notes them here in chapter sixteen. What an honor! To be mentioned in this page of personal messages . . .

Phoebe's name means "light of the moon," but she certainly had exchanged that for the "Light of the world," had she not? The Bible commentaries suggest that she must have been a woman of some means; she was planning to travel from Achaia (a province in Greece) to Italy. It may have been a change of residence, or perhaps a business venture that took her on this long journey. She must have proven herself both reliable and brave, for Paul to entrust her with this important task.

So we have a reliable, well to do, pious woman, who is carrying this precious letter. We also see that she is called, in different translations, a servant, or a deaconess. Not only is she a believer, but she is an integral part of the church in Greece; she was not only a Christian, but a servant "of the church." She may have been set apart by the laying on of hands, or she may simply have assumed the role of inquiring and relieving distressed members, and teaching others about the Lord.  Paul mentions that she has helped many, including the apostle himself.

Paul urges the Christians in Rome to do their utmost to receive her and assist her. We'll learn more about her this week.

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