Romans 16:1 I commend unto you Phebe
(= bright, or pure. Her name indicates a convert from paganism [i.e. the fem. of Phœbus, otherwise Apollo.)
our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
(See Acts 18:18)
2 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.
Phebe is making the trip and carrying this letter to the Romans. In other words, a woman carried the letter from Paul and delivered it into the hand of the Romans. Paul is telling the Romans to accept her in high regards, and assist her in any way that she might need your assistance. Lets look at the word "succourer" from the Greek text; the word is "prostatis", # 4291 in the Strong's Greek dictionary. It is the feminine form of the word "patronus", "To stand over, to preside over, to practice, be over, and rule over."
Paul called her “our sister, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. Cenchrea was a seaport town near Corinth. She had traveled a long way to deliver Paul’s message. Paul informed his readers that she had been a great help to many others as well as to him. He asked the church in Rome to stand by Phoebe and help her in whatever she needed - a way that was worthy of Christ’s followers. It is plain to see that Phoebe was one of the women in the early Christian church who were active servants. They worked alongside the men in furthering the cause of Christ.
She practiced or taught, and ruled over that church. Today we call them preachers, and ministers. Women always have been the church builders of the church. You will find large numbers of women on the mission field, preaching and teaching the gospel of Christ. At home some of the best teachers in the church are women. Today many pastors come down hard on the women, saying they have no right to be pastors in the church, and in saying such, they totally disregard these first two verses of Romans 16. They spout off that women should be silent in church, as they quote from I Corinthians 14.
They run off to I Corinthians 14:34; "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak: but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law."
Their entire sermon is about the grace that God offers, but when it comes to women, they like to place you back under the law. They overlook the fact of the subject being taught here in I Corinthians 14, is "confusion caused by the speaking of many different languages in the services", and the message to keep silent in the church service is directed to both the men and women, as well as the children.
When taking verse 34 out of context, you distort the entire subject given of Paul's message from I Corinthians 14:27-40. Paul was saying that when the service is being given and the word is taught, men, women and children should stop chattering in church, and talking in many different languages. Cut out the confusion and put order in your services. This applies today as well as then.
Phebe was a woman that stood before the church, and she handled those proceedings that went on in the church at Cenchrea. Paul has even put the responsibility of carrying the very doctrinal letter that all churches of all times will rely upon, in the hand of Pastor Phebe. Then Paul orders them to be good to her and assist her wherever you can.
Phebe has converted and taught many people, and she has even blessed Paul when he sat under her. Some preachers have a real fear against competing against a woman in a promoted position in the church. Whatever it is, it is part of their tradition, and not from the Word of God. Friend, when you add to the Word of God, as Paul said earlier, it cuts you off from the blessings of God. It is time to teach dignity and respect of all people, and saints, regardless of race, or gender, Gentile and Israel. Not that we are alike, but that we respect what we are under Christ. God uses whom ever He pleases, and to each He gives gifts.
In the early church, the 12 apostles were responsible for not only ministering the Word of God but also taking care of the physical needs of the church. The church was growing fast and a problem arose when the Grecian Jews complained the their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. (Widows with no one to take care of them were cared for by the church.) The Twelve asked the disciples to choose seven men who were known to be full of the Spirit and of wisdom. The physical responsibilities would be given to those seven men and the Twelve would devote their time to spiritual matters. The apostles prayed over and laid hands on the seven men. Those seven men were chosen by the disciples and ordained by the apostles.
Our churches today need workers too. There are women leaders who are given the responsibility of seeing that the physical needs of the church are met. Many of us are guilty of enjoying the fruits of their service without taking part in the work. Many hands are needed. As believers, we should all be feeling the prompting of the Spirit to take part in His kingdom. Phoebe was recognized for her service. You may be serving without a title and without recognition.
Maybe you are standing behind and helping in whatever matter your church needs. You may never be honored as Phoebe was. Live a life worthy of the calling. Your reward is in knowing that you are helping your brothers and sisters in Christ and taking part in kingdom work. Humbly serving in the cause of Christ is a great privilege. Rest assured that nothing escapes God‘s notice. The name Phoebe means bright and radiant. This is how we should be as we work in helping the church run smoothly - bright and radiant - smiling!
As you continue in the salutations in Roman's 16, see just who was in the church.
* notes by Roger Christopherson, were the transcription/ location is provided by http://www.theseason.org, and Lynne Chapman - BellaOnline's Christian Living Editor