You may not remember Phoebe. She is a woman of the Bible who is remembered in but a few sentences in the book of Romans. It is thought that Phoebe delivered Paul's letter to the church of Rome. In it Paul gave her a formal introduction. He 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.
Phoebe was probably what we would call a deaconess or woman deacon. Deacon and deaconess are English words derived from the Greek word diaconos, meaning servant. Deacons and women deacons were given the responsibility of taking care of the practical matters within the church. They served the physical needs of the people so that the apostles could concentrate on praying and preaching the Word of God.
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. Acts 6:1-6 tells of the first deacons. 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 deacons and women deacons 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. (Romans 16:1-2) You may be serving without a title and without recognition.
Maybe you are standing behind and helping in whatever matter your church's deacons and women deacons need. 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!
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