“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).
Unlike modern day feminists who seem to think the only way a woman can be of any real use to the cause of Christ is by usurping the divine hierarchy of authority (1 Corinthians 11:3) and leadership (1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:34), our sister Phoebe was different.
Like Tabitha (Acts 9:36), Lydia (Acts 16:15), and many other Christian women, Phoebe was a vital and active member of Christ’s church. Paul employs three descriptors of this noteworthy female saint.
She was a Christian. The gospel is for all—men and women (Acts 8:12). So, when Phoebe obeyed the gospel from the heart, she was added to the body of Christ/the family of God. Because there is no hierarchy to spiritual blessings in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29), there are no stepchildren in God’s family. Phoebe was “our sister”. As such, she is an equal and fellow heir of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7) with all her spiritual brothers and sisters.
She was a servant. Like her Lord who was a servant/minister (Mark 10:45; Romans 15:8), Phoebe sought to do what Jesus did (Acts 10:38). The church in the city of Cenchrea had been blessed by her humble mindset and helping hands. There are many good works a godly woman can be diligently and ever involved in—being a help meet to her husband if married, raising children if a mother, being hospitable to strangers, attending to the nitty gritty needs of brethren, relieving the misery of the afflicted (1 Timothy 5:9-10). Phoebe did.
She was a helper. The unique Greek word used here suggests the probability of her being generous with her material wealth. Not only was Phoebe personally generous with her time, energy, and talents, she was also generous with her money. Many, including Paul, had been the recipients of her financial generosity. One can only imagine the impact her generosity had on the Great Collection and gospel preachers.
Christian. Servant. Helper. Phoebe deserved to be received in Rome in a manner worthy of the godly woman she was.