The pages of the Bible are filled with the names of many great women. For instance, there is Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus. There is Eunice and Lois who taught young Timothy the way of God ‘s salvation. There is Lydia, the merchant from Thyatira, who was converted under Paul’s ministry and was greatly used of the Lord. The book of Acts speaks of a woman called Dorcas. She was a talented woman who ministered to the needs of the church and was raised from the dead by Peter. Then, in this chapter, we are introduced to a woman named Phoebe. She is a special woman, who demonstrates the attributes of holiness, servanthood.
This woman was a great servant of the early church. There is a statement in some Bibles after verse 27, that says the following, “Written to the Romans from Corinth, and sent by Phebe servant of the church of Cenchreae.” When she left Paul at Corinth to go to Rome, she carried in the folds of her robe the greatest declaration of Christian doctrine the world had ever witnessed. Evidently, she was a much trusted and esteemed worker in the early church.
What we have in these first two verses is a letter of commendation. The word “commend” means to “introduce or recommend to another.” Paul is taking the time to introduce Phoebe to the believers in Rome. He wants them to know that she is pretty special and that she will be a blessing to them. It appears that in those days, when a person left one church to go to another, they carried with them a letter of commendation from the home church. We still do this today, to a certain degree. Although we do not do as good a job with it as we should. When someone leaves the church to go to another, we ought to tell the church they went to the truth about them! That way, good Christian workers could be introduced and troublemakers could be identified. That might cut down on some of the church-hopping we see going on today.
Our focus this afternoon is the glowing letter carried by Phebe. Paul introduces her to the church in Rome and it is that introduction that I want to look at today. In these two verses, I see a portrait of a Godly Christian Woman. Notice three words that are used to describe Phoebe in these verses. Join me as we consider together the thought of Introducing A Godly Christian Woman.
SHE IS CALLED A SISTER
Her Relationship With The Father – The word sister indicates that this woman is in a father/daughter relationship with God. Now, her name, Phoebe, means “radiant or bright”. It is also another name for the Corinthian goddess Diana. With a name like that it stands to reason that this woman was raised in a home of idol worshipers. She was undoubtedly a pagan before she heard the Gospel of grace and was converted. However and whenever this woman met Jesus, she been brought out of the darkness of idol worship and into the glorious light of the Lord’s salvation. She was saved! Once she was a “radiant and bright” worshiper of the Greek gods. Now, she is a “radiant and bright” worshiper of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Friend, regardless of your background, if you are saved, the greatest thing you can say about yourself is that you are a child of God! To know that you have been saved and are in a relationship with God is the greatest knowledge in the world! She is a sister because she knows the Father.
Her Relationship With The Family – Not only is she in a relationship with the Heavenly Father, but she is also in a relationship with all the other redeemed children of God. We might imagine that because she had trusted Jesus, she was considered an outcast by her family. But, when she met Jesus, she got a new family! She was received into a family that was made up of redeemed people from all kinds of races and backgrounds. When a person comes to Jesus, all the barriers of life are broken down, Gal. 3:28. In Jesus, there are no racial barriers, no social barriers, and no sexual barriers. We are all made one in Jesus! It is on the basis of her relationship with the Christian family that Paul encourages the Roman Christians to receive her, Verse 2. In other words, just the fact that she is a woman should have no bearing on how they were to receive her. According to Paul, we are to receive one another just as Jesus received us, Rom. 15:7. So, here you have a Jew, recommending a Gentile to a group of Romans. Only the grace of God could do that! When we are in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are placed in a family where there is love, acceptance, and joy. Thank God for the family for the Lord!
SHE IS CALLED A SERVANT
Here is where we going to encounter some interesting material. I will preface this section by saying, “Thank God for the godly, active women of this church. You fill a place here that would ever remain vacant if it were left up to the men to do what you do.” Not only is Phebe called a “Sister”, but she is also called a “Servant.”)
Her Position – Paul says that Phoebe is a “servant”. This is the same word that is translated “deacon” elsewhere. This does not necessarily mean that Paul is taking the time to introduce Phoebe to the believers in Rome, but it does mean that she carried out the spirit of that office in her work for the Lord. You see, the word translated “deacon” and here “servant” means “a table waiter or one who waits on orders from his master.” At times it referred to “one who kicked up dust.” The idea is that the servant was so busy carrying out his duties that he left a trail of dust behind him. Of course, we believe that only men are qualified to be deacons, 1 Tim. 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-4. But, there is an application here to women who acts as servants to the church as well.
Just as a note, the deacons in the church, have no authority at all! But, they are to be in submission to the church. They are to be the servants of the people of God. A deacon who tries to rule is a deacon who is out of his place! A deacon who thinks he is the watchdog of the church is overstepping the bounds of his authority. There are many who are good, godly men. There are some who think it is their job to tell the preacher what he can and cannot preach. They are dead wrong about that! A deacon is a servant, nothing more! By the way, the same is true about preachers, teachers, leaders on any definition. We are all servants! Notice that this is what Paul says about Phoebe. Do you see the phrase “of the church.”? Phebe was under the authority of the local church. Whatever kind of service she rendered, whatever place she held in the church, she was a servant.
Thank God for those people who will humble themselves and serve the church! Thank God for those women who will willingly do those things that need to be done around the house of God, often without thanks and most of the time without compensation. Yet, they do is because they truly love the Lord and His church and sincerely want to be a blessing! I want to say thank you to all the women of the church who are humble servants! Keep up the good work!
Her Praise – Paul calls on the Roman Christians to receive Phebe “as becometh saints.” He lets them know that by her life and her work she has demonstrated the fact that she is a saint of God. She is worthy to be honored because of her dedication to the Lord.
What a blessing it is when people’s lives match their professions! Those who are saved and who live like it are to be honored and respected! This is the Lord’s desire for each of us, Phil. 1:27, Col. 1:10.
Friends, there is something special about a godly woman! A woman who doesn’t gossip, who dresses, talks and acts like a lady. A woman who shows the world what Jesus can do with a life that is presented to Him by faith. A woman that is prudent and godly is a lovely woman! I thank every woman in this church who is willing to be all that Jesus wants you to be! I praise the Lord for you! Keep up the good walk!
Her Partners – Paul challenges the Romans to fall in line with Phoebe and help her with her work. The word “assist” means “to take one’s place beside another to offer help.” They were not to hinder Phebe, but they were to help her as she ministered for the Lord.
There is a lesson in that for us this afternoon! When the godly ladies of this church are ministering in those areas that they are so good in, the rest of us should come alongside them and help them in any way we can. I am speaking especially to the men this afternoon! Think about it fellows, there are some things that the ladies are just better at than us. We need to stay out of their way and let them work for Jesus. Let’s give them our prayers, our encouragement, our support, and our resources. Let’s help them in every way they need our help and thank God for making them as He did. He fixed it so that they would take care of the areas of ministry that never would cross our minds!
SHE IS CALLED A SUCCOURER
(This is an old word that means “to come to another’s assistance.” It comes from an old word that means “to run under.” In Paul’s day, this word was used to refer to “a female guardian or protector of others who cared for the affairs of others and aided them with her resources.” This may indicate that Phoebe was a wealthy woman. Be that as it may, she gave much to the work of the Lord. Let me just touch on a few gifts she gave as a servant of the Lord.)
She Gave Of Her Talent – Whatever it was that Phoebe was good at, she dedicated that to the Lord and used it to be a blessing to the church. She helped Paul and she helped others. She was unselfish and not self-centered. She placed the needs of others first and made a difference in their lives for the glory of God. She took her life and placed it all on the altar for Jesus. She did what she could. This was what was said concerning Mary when she anointed the feet of Jesus, Mark 14:6. Phoebe didn’t try to do everything, she just did what she could!
Here is what the church needs today! We need women, and men, who will do what they can do! Did you know that everyone should not try to preach? If you haven’t been called you should stay out of the pulpit as a preacher. Not everyone can teach. Not everyone can sing, or write, or lead, or whatever. But, everyone can do something! That something that you can do is what you should do for the Lord and for His church. Do what you can for Him and He will bless it in a great way!
She Gave Of Her Time – Paul says that Phoebe was a blessing to him and to many others as well. A ministry like that takes a lot of time! She was willing to spend her life on behalf of the church and for the glory of her redeemer. She gave everything she had for God.
Have you ever thought that your time may just be the most valuable asset you have? If you give money, you can always earn that back. If you give of your property, you may be able to buy more. But, when you give of your time, you have given something that you can never get back again! However, in the light of eternity, what is the investment of time for the glory of God?
I praise the Lord for those people in the church who are willing to give of their time! Time to pray for others, to visit a sick one, to minister to the bereaved, to make that phone call, to prepare that meal, to do what needs to be done so that others might be blessed. What a ministry! I want to thank you this afternoon for the gift of your time. Thank you for giving your life to the church!
She Gave Of Her Tenderness – In giving of her talent and her time, she was, in effect, opening up her heart to the believers around her. She was putting feet on her love, 1 John 3:17-18. Phoebe knew that love for the saints was something you said, it was something you showed! She proved her love for Jesus by loving the church.
Again, I praise the Lord for those saintly ladies who open their hearts to minister to the church. I thank God for everyone who shows their love for the Lord and the church by opening their heart and giving in the name of the Lord. Those who do this are a rare commodity! More precious than silver or gold. More valuable than diamonds. The church that has them is rich indeed! I just want to say thanks!
Look at the opportunities God has given you to serve Him and come to the understanding that He has opened areas of service to you that no man could ever fill. He has blessed you godly Christian women and I thank God for every one of you!