Romans 16:1-2: Deaconesses?
What is the role of women in the church? Can women be deacons? These are some of the matters that we will be looking into today as we deal with Romans 16:1-2, ‘I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.’
We come to a new chapter and the last chapter of the book of Romans. Where the last part of Romans 15 gave us insights into ministry and missions, Romans 16 gives us insights into local church life and community. This conclusion to Romans is the longest of all Paul’s letters and has the most people mentioned. There are 33 names in all, 24 belong to people in Rome and 9 belong to people from Corinth from where Paul is writing. A few things strike you as you give this chapter a first read: Paul is deeply interested in people. Look at all the people he mentions, he is in earnest to mention as many as possible by name. But more than that he has something to say about nearly everyone. Some things he mentions are commendations where he sings their praises before the church. He is liberal with praise and encouragement. Many have an intimate and personal connection with him and are called beloved showing Paul to be large-hearted. This is a significant point to note. Many think that to be deeply theological you have to be emotionally bankrupt, not so with Paul.
Now in this chapter Paul makes a commendation in v1-2; he sends and conveys the greetings of others, v3-16, 21-23; he warns of false teachers v17-19; gives assurances v20 and closes with a doxology. We are going to be looking at the commendation of Phoebe.