Faithlife Sermons

Phoebe: Sister, Succorer and Servant

Women of the Bible  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  49:55
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Women of the Bible

Let’s read our text: Romans 16:1-2
As I announced last week, I am preaching a series of sermons on Women in the Bible:
Both real women, like today’s woman, Phoebe
And figurative women, like last week’s women:
The great harlot
The Bride of Christ
This week we are looking at a woman who is only mentioned here in our text.

Welcome Her

The Apostle Paul begins by telling the Roman Christians to welcome Phoebe.
That’s what the Greek word means in the context of this passage.
The NASB renders the word: “I commend to you”
Other translations say: recommend, introduce, welcome, etc.
This is a woman who has won the approval of the Apostle through her behaviors, attitudes and words.
Apparently she is held in such high regard that Paul trusted her to take his epistle, his letter to the Romans.
High praise indeed when you think about how much labor and money it would cost to produce this letter!
Phoebe is almost certainly a Gentile follower of Christ. Quite likely a widow and yet a woman who had some personal wealth.
She is typical of those who followed Jesus while He was on earth.
Wealthy women supported His ministry.
Poor women received miracles from Him.
Women from every walk of life were welcomed by Him and recognized as being valuable contributors to the Kingdom of God.
An attitude that was very contrary to the prevailing attitude of the day.
That continued even after Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand.
Even in the male-dominated first century women were recognized as equal partners, co-workers in the Kingdom that Jesus brought through His ministry.
There is nothing second-class about the ministry of women.
If anything, women are the dominant volunteers of the church — the predominant volunteers.
So, ladies, we salute you and thank you for your efforts in the Kingdom of God.
Without you, we couldn’t accomplish very much for Jesus.

Sister

He not only recommends her and urges the Roman Christians to welcome her and “receive her in the Lord” (vs.2), but he goes further to call Phoebe “our sister. — a term of endearment.
In the commentary...

Phebe is spoken of as "our sister." In other words, the church is a great family plan where the relationship between members should be that of Divine family ties. Phebe is "our sister." Paul called himself, more than once, "brother," and he spoke of other saints, as his brethren. Likewise, Paul spoke of certain ones whom he had led to Christ, as his "sons." Would that we kept more of this holy relationship in view. Do you not remember how God has spoken of the Church as the "whole family in Heaven and earth"? God is our Father; and ail we be brethren.

I had nothing to do with the renaming of this church from Calvary Assembly Worship Center — I inherited the name New Life Family Church.
I wasn’t interested in seeing this church go through being renamed something more hip.
It was already fairly invisible to the community.
To get people to know where we were located i would say, you know, thee death curve on Pat Colwell.
“Oh, THAT church!”
But when the church was renamed it wasn’t named New Life Church or New Life Assembly of God
It was renamed New Life FAMILY Church
I would like to believe it is because we are the family that many people need as they move here from other places leaving their parents, siblings and children behind.
Loneliness will kill you.
God created us to be in relationship with other people — some need more contact than others.
I pray that we function as Sisters and Brothers in Christ.
That we become spiritual mothers and fathers to those younger than us.
The Apostle Paul trusted her and valued her help to advance the Kingdom of God.
How we need more Phoebes in the church today. radiant, not because of submission to some pagan god’s (her name was a pagan name signifying a moon goddess, but radiant with the love of Christ.
Glowing with the brilliance of Holy Spirit fire.
Imparting that radiance to those around her.
A couple of days ago I received a quarterly magazine from the Assemblies of God to its ministers called Influence.
In the magazine was an article entitled: La Hermandad Pentecostal - The Pentecostal Sisterhood.
The article speaks of Maricel Hernandez who is the secretary/treasurer of the Texas Gulf Hispanic District of the AG.
Born in the US, after Maricel’s father died in a work accident, her mother moved the family to Mexico to be near her brothers.
While there, her Pentecostal next-door neighbor, Sister Lucy, had a church in her home where Maricela was saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit.
But then, when she was 12 years old. Maricel’s mother moved the family back to the U.S. to La Joya (HOE-ja), TX.
Experiencing culture shock, depression and racism, Maricela REALLY wanted to go back to Mexico.
But then she met AG pastors Rafaela and Linda Hernandez (and yes, she married their son Rafael, Jr.).
Pastor Rafaela encouraged Maricela to teach not only the children and youth, but even the adults.
But Maricela says it was the Pentecostal sisters in her life that encouraged her to pursue the call to ministry God had placed on her life.
She has since determined that she will do the same in the lives of other women.
She is has served as pastor, District Women’s Ministry director, the director of a ministry to raise up more women into credentialed ministry with the AG called Women of Fire and now one of only 3 female district executives in the whole fellowship.
Maricela has seen God’s called fulfilled on her life because of La Hermandad Pentecostal — Pentecostal sisters who help women to hear the call, who empower other women to fulfill that call and then release those women to fulfill God’s call on their lives.
I pray there are Pentecostal sisters here who will pour their lives into other women so that they will be raised up to advance the Kingdom of God.

Succourer

Perhaps another reason Phoebe was so dear to the Apostle Paul was because of her help to him.
The Greek word for succourer (archaic word not used now but in KJV) is used only this once in the NT.
The NASB renders it “helper.”
This word was used in secular Greek to mean Patroness, helper, protectress, guardian, champion
Apparently Phoebe made it her business to come alongside hurting people who needed help.
Maybe she was the example Paul had in mind when he wrote in Galatians 6:10 (NASB95) So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Maybe that is what Phoebe did with the resources with which God entrusted her.
She could think of no better activity in which to be involved.
Maybe this is also what Paul had in mind when he told the Roman believers in verse 2: help her in whatever matter she may have need of you.
Help her minister to the lonely, the hurting, the persecuted, the grieving.
Very probably Phoebe acted to comfort those who were hurting. Like the Apostle Paul said in:
2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NASB95
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God is calling us to follow Phoebe’s example.
Remember the scripture I emphasized multiple times year before last?
Philippians 2:3–4 NASB95
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Servant

Finally, the Apostle Paul called Phoebe: “a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.”
There are many who would say that she held a “ruling” position as a deaconness in the church at Cenchrea.”
This stands in opposition to all that the church is and all that a deacon or deaconess is.
Jesus said in: Matthew 20:25–28 (NASB95) But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
The first deacons of Acts 6 were not rulers in the church, they were servants who distributed the aid provided by richer members of the church.
No matter how you look at it, Phoebe helped people in the church.
She acted as a servant to all.
Following Jesus’ example.

What about us?

So what about us?
If Jesus were writing a letter to another church where you were going to do ministry, would it be a letter of recommendation or a letter of warning?
Do we comport ourselves among the other followers of Jesus as a sister, a brother a spiritual father or mother?
Do we come alongside of others when they are hurting so that we can comfort them in their time of hurt and loss?
Do we have the attitude of a ruler or a servant?
The only way we can be like Phoebe, commended and recommended by the Apostle Paul is if we experience life-transformation that comes when we have a relationship with Jesus.
Once we are in relationship with Jesus, He sends His Holy Spirit into our lives so that we have a different heart.
God promised in Ezekiel 36:26–27 (NASB95) “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Come to Jesus

If you have never had a relationship with Jesus, do what Phoebe did — repent of your sins and surrender to Jesus as your Lord.
If you HAVE once given your life to Jesus, but you don’t see the attributes of Phoebe in your life, i want to encourage you to recommit your life to Jesus.
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