We've taken a look at Phoebe's character and her standing before God. We've also noted that she was known as a servant in her church.
Paul expands upon this characteristic of service by stating, “for she [Phoebe] has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” The word “patron” can also be rendered as “helper.” It literally means "one who stands by in case of need." Amy Carmichael drives home the importance of such servanthood, “If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider 'not spiritual work' I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”*
In relationship to her help towards Paul, it has been reasoned that Phoebe was a sort of patron towards Paul, helping him out financially by providing hospitality and other assistance. Many commentators also believe that she was Paul’s courier, bringing his epistle to the Romans with her to the church at Rome. The evidence for this lies in Paul’s words that encourage the believers of the church at Rome to “welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints” and to “help her in whatever she may need from you.”
Phoebe’s life was defined by service towards the Lord and His saints. She characterizes the people Jesus Christ commends in Matthew 25:34-40, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
*Carmichael, Amy. If. Fort Washington, Pennsylvania: Christian Literature Crusade, 1997.
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