Useful Bible Studies > Romans Commentary > chapter 16

Phoebe, a lady with responsibility in the church

Romans 16:1

Christians who travelled often took letters with them, to recommend them to the churches. So, it seems that this lady, Phoebe, took Paul's letter to Rome.

There are several things about Phoebe that surprise us. In fact, it even surprises us to read that she was travelling to Rome. Perhaps she was not travelling alone, but there is no mention of her husband or anyone else. So, Paul gave her the responsibility to take this, perhaps the most important of all Paul's letters, to Rome.

Then, Paul's description of her surprises us. He calls her by a word, from the Greek language, that means a servant. However, that Greek word is the same word that he uses for a church leader in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Paul could perhaps mean that she was the wife of a church leader. However, again, he says nothing about her husband and much about her. It is clear that Paul respected and trusted this lady very much.

Cenchrea, from which Phoebe came, was very near Corinth (Acts 18:18). In Corinth, some women had tried to take authority over the church (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). They were eager and bold; but Paul could not approve of them. They were not helping people to trust God, and the Holy Spirit was not guiding them. They were taking authority over the men; they were behaving in ways that offended people. Phoebe too was a strong person, but she was not trying to control other people. Instead, she used her strength to help many of God's people, including Paul (16:2). Paul approved very much of her.

Phoebe was not the only lady with responsibility in the churches whom Paul mentions here. There was also Prisca, whom the Bible mentions in several places, but always with her husband, Aquila (16:3). Prisca and Aquila worked closely together to establish churches both in Corinth and Rome.

Next part: Phoebe's special work for God (Romans 16:2)


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