Study 10 PHOEBE: SHINING FOR JESUS
(Scripture Portion: Romans 16: 1-2)
This lady is mentioned in Romans chapter 16, which is a fascinating chapter containing some names which are very difficult to pronounce! Her name means, “The shining one”, and she certainly appears to have lived up to it. Not all those of whom Paul wrote were like Phoebe; for example, look up Romans 16:17 and Philippians 4:2! Some people can be a hindrance in the church; but others, like Phoebe - what a blessing they can be! There are two things to notice:
1. PAUL’S COMMAND TO THE CHURCH
Paul was writing to the church in Rome, and see what he said in verses 1 and 2a. Phoebe almost certainly carried with her a letter of commendation from Paul, in which he asked the Christians in Rome to receive her. He mentioned three ways in which they were to do this, for there are different ways of receiving a person!
- They were to receive her “in the Lord” (verse 2). This means that they were to receive her because, like them, she was “in the Lord”, that is, a believer. But it may also mean that they were to receive her as they would receive the Lord Himself. If the Lord Jesus came to your church or your home, how would you receive Him? - look up Luke 10:38.
- They were to receive her “in a way worthy of the saints” (verse 2). That is, they were to receive her in a worthy manner; as believers should receive one another at all times - into their hearts, into their homes and into their churches.
- They were also to “give her any help she may need” (verse 2). She would be a stranger in a strange city, and Paul wanted the believers in Rome to give her all the help she needed; indeed, he put his request very strongly - “.. to give her any help she may need from you.” She would actually need the help, comfort, guidance and support that they could give.
All this is very practical in its application to ourselves. Here is a picture of what is required in our churches, of real Christian friendship and fellowship, of the truth in Ephesians 4:25, that “we are all members of one body”. Paul was very concerned that Phoebe would be well received, loved and cared for, so he gave this lovely lady a special word of commendation, and thus gave the believers in Rome special reasons for receiving her.
2. PAUL’S COMMENDATION OF PHOEBE
The apostle commended Phoebe by mentioning three important things about her.
- He described her as “our sister” (verse 1). This meant that she was in the family of God - look up Galatians 3:28; and that she was just as much the sister of the Christians in Rome as she was Paul’s sister - look up 1 Corinthians 12:12-14.
- He described her as “a servant of the church… ” (verse 1). She was an active member of the assembly of believers which met at Cenchrea. She was a (1) servant, a deaconess who ministered to the saints; she was willing to do anything to further the gospel. How indebted our churches are to such godly women! God has a special place for them in His work; we should honour them and see that they have scope to exercise their special gifts.
- He described Phoebe as “a great help to many people, including me” (verse 2). Someone who is a great help is one who goes to the aid of another to give encouragement and support. This means that she must have been gracious, kind, gentle, sincere and sympathetic. In some special and practical ways she had ministered to Paul, and this qualified her to exercise a similar ministry to the believers in the assembly to which she was going in Rome.
In concluding this study, consider some of the ways in which we may all emulate Phoebe.
- By mothering the new converts. These were babes in Christ - look up 1 Peter 2:2; and just think what help new converts would need in Corinth of all places! – look up Acts 11:19-23. And what scope there is today for “Nurture Groups” and for individual believers to “foster” those newly saved.
- By comforting the sorrowing. Maybe Phoebe was a widow, or perhaps she had never been married, but whichever way it was she was qualified to help and encourage others in their special circumstances. There are so many in our churches who are carrying heavy burdens - look up Galatians 6:2 and 10.
- By helping the aged and the infirm. There are many such in our churches, and what great souls they are! But they are often overlooked and neglected; some need financial assistance, some are lonely, and others just need to be loved.
- By the ministry of prayer. Do you have a prayer list? Many who are in the front line of gospel work are dependent upon those who, like Phoebe, pray for them – look up Ephesians 6:18-20. How about making a list right here of your six most wanted loved ones and friends - that is, the six for whose salvation from now on you will pray regularly?
- MY MOST WANTED SIX
2 . …………………………………
3 . …………………………………
4 . …………………………………
5 . …………………………………
6 . …………………………………
Look up Jeremiah 33:3; John 14:13-14; 1 John 3:18-24 and 1 John 5:14-15.
- By opening our home to the lonely and discouraged. Your home may be very small, or it may be large, but it could be a veritable heaven to some who feel lonely and perhaps even unwanted.
Phoebe: The Shining One! - the one who quietly and radiantly reflected the grace and the glory of the Lord - look up 2 Corinthians 3:18, and compare Psalm 34:5 which, literally translated, reads - “They looked unto Him, and became radiant …”