Romans 16:1 MEANING

Romans 16:1
(1) Phebe.--As the Roman Church is especially exhorted to receive Phebe, it has been inferred that she was one of the party to which St. Paul entrusted his Epistle, if not the actual bearer of it herself.

Our sister--i.e., in a spiritual sense--a fellow-Christian.

Servant.--Rather, a deaconess, keeping the technical term. Deacons were originally appointed to attend to the wants of the poorer members of the Church. This is the first mention of women-deacons, in regard to whom instructions are given to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:11). The necessity for an order of deaconesses would gradually make itself felt where women were kept in a stricter seclusion, as in Greece and some parts of the East.

Cenchrea.--The port of Corinth, at the head of the Eastern or Saronic Gulf, about nine miles from the city.

Verses 1-20. - K. Commendation of Phoebe, and salutations to Christians at Rome. Verses 1, 2. - I commend unto you Phoebe our sister (i.e. fellow-Christian), who is a servant of the Church that is in Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, worthily of the saints, and assist her (παραστῆτε, literally, stand by her) in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she too hath been a succourer (προστάτις, corresponding to παραστῆτε) of many, and of mine own self. This Phoebe was probably the bearer of the Epistle. She appears to have had business, perhaps of a legal kind, that took her to Rome; and St. Paul took advantage of her going to send the letter by her, desiring also to enlist the aid of her fellow-Christians at Rome in furtherance of her business, whatever it might be. Her having business at Rome, and her having been "a succourer of many," suggests the idea of her being a lady of means. Her designation as διάκονος of the Church at Cenchrea probably implies that she held an office there corresponding to that of deaconess, though there is no reason to suppose the distinguishing term διακόνισσα to have been as yet in use. Her function, and that of others (as perhaps of Tryphena and Tryphosa, mentioned in ver. 12 as "labouring much in the Lord"), might be to minister to the sick and poor, and to fulfil such charitable offices as women could best discharge. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:11, where γυναῖκας, mentioned in the midst of directions as to the qualifications of men for the office of deacons, probably denotes women who fulfilled similar duties. Cf. also Pliny's celebrated letter to Trajan (circ. A.D. 107), in which he says that he had extorted information as to the doings of Christians, "ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur." The Latin ministra answers exactly to the Greek διάκονος. Cenchrea was the port of Corinth on the Saronic Gulf; and it appears from this passage that there was a Church or congregation there, as well as one or more in Corinth itself. It is an interesting conjecture that St. Paul, in speaking of Phoebe having been a succourer of himself as well as of others, may refer to an illness of his own at Cenchrea, during which she had ministered to him, and that his shaving his head at Cenchrea because he had a vow (Acts 18:18) may have been during, or on his recovery from, that illness.

16:1-16 Paul recommends Phebe to the Christians at Rome. It becomes Christians to help one another in their affairs, especially strangers; we know not what help we may need ourselves. Paul asks help for one that had been helpful to many; he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Though the care of all the churches came upon him daily, yet he could remember many persons, and send salutations to each, with particular characters of them, and express concern for them. Lest any should feel themselves hurt, as if Paul had forgotten them, he sends his remembrances to the rest, as brethren and saints, though not named. He adds, in the close, a general salutation to them all, in the name of the churches of Christ.I commend unto you Phebe our sister,.... This chapter chiefly consists of commendations and salutations of persons, and begins with the former. It was usual to give letters of commendation of a member of one church to those of another; see 2 Corinthians 3:1; The person who is here recommended was, as appears from the subscription of this epistle, if that may be depended on, the bearer of this letter, and is described by her name, Phebe; as she dwelt at Cenchrea, it is probable she was a Grecian, as is her name. Pausanias (e) makes frequent mention of one of this name in Greece. With the Heathen poets, Pheobus was the sun, and Phoebe the moon. Though it is not unlikely that she might be a Jewess, since there were many of them in those parts; and this was a name in use among them. We often read (f) of R. Ishmael , "ben Phoebi", which I take to be the same name with this. She is recommended as a sister, "our sister"; not in a natural, but spiritual relation; one that was a member of the church at Cenchrea, and in full communion with it; for as it was usual to call the men brethren, it was common to call the women sisters. Elderly men were called fathers, younger men brethren; elderly women were styled mothers, and younger women sisters, who were partakers of the grace of God, and enjoyed the fellowship of the saints:

which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea. This place was a seaport of the Corinthians, distant from Corinth about seventy furlongs, or eight or nine miles: it was on one side of the Isthmus, as Lechea was on the other (g); See Gill on Acts 18:18. In the way to this place from the Isthmus, as Pausanias relates (h), was the temple of Diana, and a very ancient sculpture; and in Cenchrea itself was the temple of Venus, and a wooden image; and near the flow of the sea was a Neptune of brass. But now, in this place, was a church of Jesus Christ; and since it was so near to Corinth, it shows that churches in those early times were not national, or provincial, but congregational. Of this church Phebe was a servant, or, as the word signifies, a minister or deacon; not that she was a teacher of the word, or preacher of the Gospel, for that was not allowed of by the apostle in the church at Corinth, that a woman should teach; see 1 Corinthians 14:34; and therefore would never be admitted at Cenchrea. Rather, as some think, she was a deaconess appointed by the church, to take care of the poor sisters of the church; though as they were usually poor, and ancient women; that were put into that service, and this woman, according to the account of her, being neither poor, nor very ancient; it seems rather, that being a rich and generous woman, she served or ministered to the church by relieving the poor; not out of the church's stock, as deaconesses did, but out of her own substance; and received the ministers of the Gospel, and all strangers, into her house, which was open to all Christians; and so was exceeding serviceable to that church, and to all the saints that came thither: though it is certain that among the ancient Christians there were women servants who were called ministers. Pliny, in an epistle of his to Trajan the emperor, says (i), that he had examined two maids, "quae ministrae dicebantur", "who were called ministers", to know the truth of the Christian religion.

(e) Graec. Deseript. l. 2. p. 125. l. 3. p. 190. l. 4. p. 276. (f) Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 15. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 9. 1. & 35. 2. Jucbasin, fol. 24. 2. & 54. 2.((g) Plin. Natural Hist. l. 4. c. 4. Ptolem. l. 3. c. 16. (h) in Corinthiacis, p. 88. (i) Epist. l. 10. Ephesians 97.

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