Phoebe in the Bible is one of the most outstanding women of faith in Scripture. Although there are just a few verses about her, there are so many qualities of Phoebe that are evident in the tiny passage. And from those characteristics, there are quite a number of spiritual and life lessons we can learn. Let’s dig in!
Who was Phoebe in the Bible
Phoebe was a female associate of the apostle Paul. We know about her because he introduced her to the church in Rome. It is assumed by Bible scholars that he did so by sending a letter to the church in Rome through her.
Phoebe in the Bible verses
Phoebe is mentioned in only one place in the Bible: Romans 16:1-2.
The story of Phoebe in the Bible
There are only two verses in the Bible dedicated to Phoebe. But in those two verses Paul says some loaded statements about her.
Phoebe was a very good friend of Paul and supported him in his missionary work at a place near enough to Corinth.
It seemed that Phoebe had to travel to Rome for business. She would need help to find lodging and so forth.
Paul took the opportunity to write to the church members in Rome to address some issues he had heard had been popping up.
Many scholars agree that it is highly likely he gave Phoebe the letter to deliver because in the letter, he puts in a good word to the church for her. This would ensure she had a more comfortable stay in Rome.
Characteristics of Phoebe in the Bible
In Paul’s letter, Phoebe is mentioned with Priscilla and Aquila, two other dear friends of his.
This is one hint that Phoebe is an extraordinary woman. But the first and biggest hint is that of the approximately 26 names in the letter, Phoebe’s name was the first.
What made Phoebe so outstanding for Paul?
Phoebe was a servant of God by helping people
Paul used the word servant to describe Phoebe. Today, this same word, when translated, is deacon in English.
Although there was no such thing as a deaconess back then, women servants in the church had certain responsibilities.
They cared for the sick, ministered to the poor, catered to strangers and passers-by, and fulfilled the needs of prisoners. These women also helped to disciple newly baptized women and children as well as guided more seasoned women in the early church.
Phoebe was very likely doing all of these activities. Only a woman with such a heart for God could have won Paul’s endearment and recommendation.
Phoebe had strong, courageous faith
In his letter, Paul states that Phoebe is from Cenchrea. Reading this doesn’t mean much to you and me unless we understand what kind of place this was.
Cenchrea was a city in which most of the people believed in many different gods and were idol worshippers.
Walking through the city you would see lots of different shrines and temples and monuments dedicated to worshipping these many different gods.
In a place like this, you could easily fall for anything if you didn’t know what you believed.
Yet, in the middle of all this religious darkness, Phoebe believed God. She lived a life of faith that flowed over into a life of service.
Phoebe was a wealthy woman and a selfless helper of people
Paul refers to Phoebe as a helper. Depending on which translation you are reading from, different words are used for this. But the most accurate word is patron.
Phoebe was a patron. She was very likely an extremely successful business woman and a woman of great esteem in her community.
As a patron she was using her money to support worthy causes and missions. Today she would be seen as a philanthropist of sorts.
As a patron, Phoebe was also one who protected foreigners and strangers. She probably gave them lodging in her home to ensure no harm came to them.
Patrons who took responsibility for religious groups often allowed them to worship in their home. I imagine Phoebe had a pretty nice home for hosting worship.
Phoebe was a woman of strong integrity and Christian character
When someone like Paul, with such great influence puts his name beside someone else’s, we should sit up and pay attention.
Paul recommended Phoebe to the church in Rome, without reservation. And the funny thing is, he had never been to Rome.
The people to whom he was writing were those he met when he went to other places to do missionary work.
Paul was vouching for Phoebe. He was staking his reputation on hers. Putting his neck on the block for her.
It might seem scary. But Paul had had enough experience with Phoebe for him to have so much confidence in her character.
In fact, Paul calls her his sister.
She must have become quite dear to Paul. And if you know anything about this apostle, you will know he was a straightforward, no-nonsense kinda guy.
He wasn’t going to send platitudes that were not true. Paul valued the relationship he had with the churches to do anything to destroy their trust in him.
Phoebe was of outstanding character and integrity for him to identify himself with her so closely.
Phoebe was trustworthy
It seems that the letter that we now know as the book of Romans was given to Phoebe to deliver. This was no ordinary responsibility. The journey would take her across land and sea for many weeks.
Paul must have found Phoebe very trustworthy to have given her this letter.
Next to the Gospels, the book of Romans is the next greatest set of Scriptures because it explains our salvation the way nobody else in the Bible does. It is considered a theological masterpiece.
The freedom in this book cannot be compared to any other. Paul trusted Phoebe to take it to the people in Rome who desperately needed to be set free.
Lessons from Phoebe in the Bible
What we can learn from Phoebe in the Bible could fill an entire book about faith, integrity, and a host more. The picture presented of Phoebe in the Bible is one that calls us to admire her.
Here are a few lessons to start with.
Have firm faith or you will fall for anything
Earlier I explained where Phoebe was from. Her environment was far from favorable. She could not have had it easy to practice her faith in such an atmosphere where the enemy had set up a stronghold.
In this age of religious pluralism, we have to know what we believe.
We have to have firm faith, because…
If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. Isaiah 7:9
No matter what’s happening around us, we have to study the Scriptures so we can fortify ourselves with truth. We need to be able to detect and discern errors and lies. But we can’t do that if we don’t know the truth.
A part of standing firm in faith is staying busy serving others. We have to live out our faith.
Jesus said he would give us power but that power is designed to help us serve other people.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The same power from the Holy Spirit that allows us to minister to people, is the same Holy Spirit who leads us to truth (John 16:13).
If we would open the Scriptures and read them, He could get to do His job.
Cut out the devotionals.
Stop the spiritual snacking on YouTube and social media.
Go directly to the source of truth and armor up so your faith can be strong and resilient!
As you interact with others, you are writing your recommendation
There are so many blessings that come to us when we serve people.
Paul was a man of tremendous influence in the early church. Phoebe used her resources to help and support him.
When she was ready to travel she needed to find a Christian home to stay in and a church to join.
The letter of recommendation was extremely important. In those days traveling was a risky business. Finding somewhere to lodge was equally dangerous. For a lone female, the odds went up.
Paul’s letter was like a phone call or email to say Phoebe was not a criminal or stranger and the church could take care of her without fear of being ripped off.
Paul knew just about every church that met in homes all over certain parts of the empire. On his recommendation, Phoebe would find just what she needed: a safe place to lodge and kind people to help her with her business.
As I said before, Paul was vouching for her. When she turned up, Phoebe would not have to worry about spending nights in unsavory places where harm could come to her.
She wouldn’t have to come under suspicion first before being allowed the dignity of her character.
The kindness she showed to Paul came back in showers of blessings. This life lesson is still applicable today.
You never know who is watching your labor of love and unselfish service. That person may possess the power to bless your life in untold ways.
As you interact with people, whether strangers, acquaintances, friends or family, always remember that you are recommending yourself.
But more importantly, you are also recommending the God whom you say you serve.
God needs to be able to trust you to deliver the message He has given to you
The book of Romans was sent to answer some pressing questions and concerns of the people in the church in Rome.
Hundreds of years later and the truths in that book are still setting people free from all kinds of slavery.
The message you have been given to carry is supposed to uproot and kill destructive ideas about God. It’s supposed to disturb the plans of the enemy. It’s supposed to change the course of history for some people. It’s supposed to reroute some generations and destinies.
Will you be a faithful courier like Phoebe? Somebody is waiting for your courage so that they can be set free.
Like Phoebe we have a message to carry. Each of our messages is unique.
If you really want to be rich, serve people by taking your God-given message to them.
FAQs about Phoebe in the Bible
Here are a few other interesting quick facts about Phoebe.
Meaning of Phoebe in the Bible
The name Phoebe means radiant and bright.
Was Phoebe a nurse in the Bible?
While it is likely that Phoebe did look after sick people, there is no supporting evidence in Scripture to suggest she was a nurse.
Was Phoebe in the Bible married?
There is no information in the Bible about the marital status of Phoebe.
Was Phoebe in the Bible a deacon?
By today’s standards, Phoebe would be considered a deaconess. However, when Paul wrote about her, the word he used to describe her meant servant. That same Greek word has been translated into the English word deacon.
But as I explained earlier in this post, women in the church with this responsibility did alot of things in serving the disadvantaged and vulnerable in the community.
What happened to Phoebe in the Bible?
There are only two verses about Phoebe in the Bible. If she was the courier for the letter to the Roman church, we can at least be sure that she got to Rome safely.
She was able to deliver the letter. Outside of this, there is no information in the Bible about what happened to Phoebe.
Final words about Phoebe in the Bible
Phoebe was truly a great woman. Her example of faithfulness, integrity, unselfish service, hospitality, and sacrifice.
I must say I am happy she got to deliver that letter to Rome. The Scriptures are better for it. My favorite chapter in the whole Bible is Romans 8 so there is some bias, I will admit.
Nevertheless, the lessons from the character and life of Phoebe live on through generations to encourage and inspire.