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Commending Phoebe

Commending Phoebe

In going through the book of Romans, we’re now in the final chapter. Here, Paul gives his greetings to various people he knows in the church.

Don’t ignore these verses. They still contain truth and insight that will benefit us.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

Romans 16:1-2

The first person he talks about is a woman named Phoebe. I need to take some time to talk about her. The English translations don’t do her justice.

I understand that there are churches and denominations who believe that women have no place in leadership. I don’t want to offend any of these people, but truth is truth.

Suffice it to say that there are a few places in Scripture where the translators try to blur the more controversial verses. They want believers to be happy, reading them in church.

Some are happy because the translation doesn’t offend their traditions. Others are happy simply because they don’t know what the verse is actually saying. This is one of those places in Scripture.

One of my pet peeves with translators is their treatment of women in the Scripture. Let me explain with this section. It has a number of examples.

First, the word, servant, is the word, diakonon in the Greek. In reality, it literally means a household servant – so what’s the problem?

Actually, the problem is this…when it refers to a man (1 Timothy 4:6, Colossians 1:7; 4:7) it’s translated as minister or deacon. Yet, when use for Phoebe, they chose the word, servant.

While the words servant, minister, and deacon all have the same original meaning; in our modern terminology, they imply much different functions. We get the idea that women servants are somehow less important than men servants.

In this section, Paul is commending her to the church. That tells me that they are just meeting her for the first time. Phoebe must have been one of the group of travelers who brought this letter to the church in Rome. He asks the church to receive her worthily.

He instructs the church to give her any help she needs. That Greek passage literally reads, stand with her, be at hand, ready to assist her in her work. But what is that work? Here’s where it really gets interesting.

The NIV says that she has been a great help to many people including me. The Greek word that Paul uses for her is a prostatis. This is the only place that word is used in Bible. It’s a word that’s full of meaning.

It’s definition is a woman set over others. According to Thayer’s Lexicon, it describes a female guardian, protectress, or patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources.

This word basically means that she is the head of a mission’s organization. Phoebe runs an organization that raises money for missions. More than that, according to Paul’s own words, he is one of those missionaries that she supports. That’s why Paul asks them to help her any way they can.

It’s sad that many translations water down these verses that show women in a place of authority. God will use whoever is available to further His kingdom.

I have a problem with people who try to erect a glass ceiling in God’s church. Any person, no matter who they are or where they came from, can rise as far as God calls them in His kingdom.

Question: What is God’s calling on your life?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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