1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Phoebe means “bright”. Phoebe was a real person and she was also a servant or minister according to the Revised English Bible or a deaconess in the NASB, NIV notes. A deacon usually meant “servant” or “minister” in the NT, the word diakonos which was used 29 times in the NT was most often translated as such.
Paul when referring to Phoebe as a servant of the church…used the masculine form for servant or minister – diakonos, not the feminine which would be more official. According to my Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, deacons were more of a supporting role to bishops within the church performing more administrative duties. Deacons were different than Bishops in that deacons were not required to teach, whereas Bishops taught.
Some would use this verse to say Paul supports women deacons in the church and that may or may not be correct. We simply can’t tell from this verse. We know that Phoebe was on official church business and Paul was requesting that these believers take care of her and help her. He used a term to reference her that he also had used on himself and others, like Timothy. But, whether or not she actually held a “formal” position in the church, we do not know.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; 5 also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
Here Paul is greeting the saints by name. He mentions many times that we should greet the saints by name and we see him doing so here. I can imagine that it would be really very cool for believers to be acknowledged by Paul, himself! I keep thinking, these believers will be reading this letter over and over to their various home churches and congregations and these names are a part of it.
There is power in a name and all names mean something. I look at the names of God. I look at the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is definitely power in a name. Paul recognizes this and that is why I think it is important to him that we greet the saints (other believers) by name when we are able.
The fact that he does use names in this letter is interesting because in other letters Paul was exceptionally vague. It made me think he was purposefully masking details so not to take the chance that the letter would be intercepted by the enemy. But we don’t see that same caution here.
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.
Paul is forever watching out for the believers, for the brethren. In almost all his letters he includes various warnings. Paul is hearing and seeing evil trends as travels from place to place. He knows what he’s talking about and passes these warnings on. He sees and referees what hurts one church and passes on that knowledge to the rest to hopefully prevent the same issues from cropping up again.
Here he is warning about those who come in causing problems, maybe trying to teach or spread opinions based on something other than the teachings of Christ.
Here Paul is referencing Christ’s return. All we know is that Christ will return “soon”. We don’t know when “soon” is. Obviously, we are still waiting and persevering for “soon” to arrive. But really…when you think about it, 2000 years is the blink of an eye for a God that is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, our Creator. They say 1000 years is like a day and a day is like 1000 years to God. If so, humanity may have a much longer wait to go. What we do know is that God is always on time so even if Christ’s return isn’t in my lifetime, or even not for another 1000 years or more, He will be right on time.
Here we see the actual “writer” of this letter is Tertius, meaning Tertius was transcribing this letter for Paul. More greetings are given.
And more greetings.
25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
Here Paul is referencing how the writings and prophesies of the Prophets of old have come to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He is praising God for bringing to light the mysteries of old and manifesting these in the form of Christ Jesus.