Phoebe (whose name means “radiant”) was probably a pagan convert to the Christian faith… maybe even a former worshiper of Artemis, her namesake.
Paul provided little detail concerning the women mentioned in the last chapter of Romans – only that Phoebe was from Cenchrea, a seaport near Corinth (located in present-day Greece). It is likely that Paul wrote his letter to the Roman church while staying either at Corinth or in nearby Cenchrea.
When Paul described Phoebe as a servant, he used the Greek word diakonos. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the same word is used for the office of deacon. It is impossible to know at this point which Paul referred to… but, either way, Phoebe was an important member of the church and played an important role in supporting Paul’s ministry. Maybe she provided encouragement… or financial assistance… or hospitality – or all of the above. Very likely, Paul and Phoebe worshiped and worked side by side in the church at Cenchrea.
Over time, Paul developed great trust in Phoebe. The reference to her near the close of Paul’s letter to the Romans was meant to serve as a letter of introduction. Evidently, it was Phoebe who delivered Paul’s letter to the Romans to the church at Rome – a 600mile journey over land and sea. Without Phoebe, this great servant of the church, we would not have in our possession what is maybe Paul’s greatest theological contribution: his letter to the Romans. Think about that… for several weeks, the single, handwritten copy of this letter was in the personal care of Phoebe.
Paul’s words concerning Phoebe reveal his confidence in her character.
What traits do people mention when they introduce you? To what degree would you be considered a dependable person? Have you practiced the kind of trustworthiness that makes others want to introduce you to their friends? Who’s counting on you today?
You can read Phoebe’s brief introduction in Romans 16:1,2.