I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you might 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.
Paul entrusted Phoebe with the transportation of this epistle. Phoebe was a believer living near Corinth. She was about to take a business trip to Rome and consequently Paul entrusted her with the care of the Roman epistle and certified her as the bearer of this portion of the Word of God.
Phoebe is called a servant of the church. Women have spiritual gifts which function within the local church. Women are great teachers by nature. Teaching is a role that God has given to women for teaching their own children. In the local church this teaching gift carries over many times to a ministry of teaching children or other women. It is possible that the church in Cenchrea met in Phoebe’s home.
The Greek word for diakonos is often misconstrued and distorted into a female deacon [deaconess]. This Greek word for servant also means one who serves others. Perhaps Phoebe fulfilled the role normally assigned to men or perhaps she was married to a deacon in the local church. It really doesn’t matter. The fact is that she ministered in the local by the use of her spiritual gifts. Because of her faithfulness, Paul trusted her to transport this letter to Rome.
The honor code recognizes the concept of helping or standing by other believers. This is an expression of impersonal love in the honor code. It puts impersonal love into action on behalf of another believer. Phoebe represents everything which is great in Christian womanhood – honor, integrity, maturity.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is their house.
Paul first encountered this couple in Corinth according to Acts 18:2. Prisca (Priscilla) was a fantastic woman, the wife of Aquila. She was not only a great Christian but a great Christian wife. She was in total accord with her husband in opening their home for the assembly of the local church in Ephesus. When a woman will go along with her husband’s decisions and backs him and encourages him, it is truly a magnificent thing. (1 Corinthians 16:19) In Paul’s departure from Corinth Prisca and Aquila accompanied Paul as his companions and helpers. (Acts 18:18) Aquila and Prisca were mature believers who God used to instruct Apollos in Ephesus. (Acts 18:24-26)
Supporting Paul and his endeavors had to have been a dangerous thing at times with so many wanting to kill him. Paul was truly grateful for their help. He added that there were a great many others who have received blessing from this couple. Paul obviously had a great love for them. All of the Gentile churches, all of the believers who had come into contact had the same appreciation.
The next stage of this passage has to do with an honor roll of those who had been great in Rome. This seems to be a partial roster of mature believers who assembled in the home of Prisca and Aquila, and in two other homes. All of them had one thing in common: maturity adjustment to the justice of God.
The believers who assisted Paul along his way are listed in these verses. They all came from different backgrounds; economic backgrounds, social backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, etc. The circumstances of their lives were also different. However, circumstances do not hinder either evangelism or the advance to maturity. The thing that hinders spiritual advance is negative volition. If you remain negative you will be hindered; if you remain positive you will advance. Paul makes no suggestion in these verses that the slaves should revolt or seek their freedom. Solving social problems neither advances the plan of God nor is part of the plan of God. Christians getting into social action produce human good and evil, not divine production. Adverse circumstances or social injustice do not hinder spiritual advance. In fact, circumstances are never the issue. What counts is positive volition and Bible doctrine in the soul. Revolution and social reform are not related to the spiritual advance in the plan of God.
Verse 16 refers to an ancient greeting of the holy kiss. The holy kiss is also found in 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12, I Peter 5:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. Its connotation is impersonal love. As far as our passage is concerned, this command must be interpreted in the time in which it was written. We are 2000 years from this custom and therefore we portray this custom in a very simple way: by the fulfilment of the royal family honor code of impersonal love. However, in our society we are Anglo-Saxon by culture and we do not have the holy kiss any longer. The command to greet each other with a holy kiss is simply a command to exercise impersonal love for fellow believers.
Impersonal love is not what we normally think of as love. It is the virtue in your soul that causes you to have a relaxed mental attitude toward others and treat them with kindness, compassion, patience and forgiveness. In other words, impersonal love is how we treat others. Therefore, impersonal love must be based on the virtue of the subject, the one doing the loving (“the treating”). Impersonal love is a function of the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer. It is our love for God that motivates us to exhibit impersonal love toward all. Impersonal love operates from the integrity and virtue that you have developed from learning and applying Bible doctrine.
As a Royal Ambassador, you represent God before the world. Therefore, as royalty, you are to conduct your life accordingly. This calls for high standards of excellence in every area of your life. It calls for honor in your dealings with your fellow-believers and with unbelievers alike. With Jesus Christ as our example, we are to exhibit the same kind of love that He exhibited. This kind of love can be accomplished only by a believer with Bible doctrine in their soul, who is being guided by the Holy Spirit.
When we are properly functioning under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will adhere to the honor code principles found throughout the Word of God. These principles will enable us to exhibit impersonal love toward others. This means that we will treat everyone with respect, not on the basis of our “pet prejudices” regarding race, social status, ability or what a person can or cannot do for us. We will refrain from gossip, maligning, judging, character assassination, etc. In other words, we will “live and let live.” The principle of treating everyone with respect also means that we will be tolerant, be thoughtful and be kind toward others. We will hold no grudges or resentment against anyone. (I John 4:17-18)
The Word of God teaches us who we are to love. We are to love God, ourselves, and others. Husbands are told to love their wives, and wives are told to respect their husbands. Parents are to love their children and children are to honor their parents. We are to love fellow believers. We are even to love our enemies. (Mark 12:30; Ephesians 5:21-6:4; I John 3:14; Luke 6:27)
The Word of God teaches us how we are to love. We are to love unconditionally, as God loves. This means that we are to love others regardless of their race, their beliefs, their language, their place of birth, their body type, the color or style of their hair, their clothes, their behavior, etc. We are even to love them despite their personal sins. We are to love the “sinner” not the sin. And, of course, our great teacher was the Lord Jesus Christ. We simply need to practice loving in the same manner He did. (I John 3:16-24; James 2:1-10)
The Word of God also teaches us why we are to love. Remember what we have learned about God’s love. He loves because He has integrity. Integrity is defined as a state or quality of being complete (God’s love is complete); an unimpaired state of honesty and purity (God’s love is honest and pure); a character of uncorrupted virtue or a loyalty to the truth (God’s love is virtuous and based on absolute truth). Virtue is strength of character based on objective reality. Since God is all of these and more, the objective reality is that He is love. We love because God first loved us. (I John 4:7-11)
Since the entire Godhead indwells each of us as believers in Christ, God’s love also abides in us. The question is, “How do we exhibit God’s love so that it benefits us, and others?” This is what we have studied with regard to the character of Christ being formed in us. Under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, God is able to produce the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the advancing believer. The first fruit listed is love. (I John 4:11-16)
No one can execute the Christian Way of Life without love. This includes love for God, love for yourself and love for others. This is the correct order in which we are to love - God first, ourselves second and others third. Why is this true? The Bible says that if we are unable to love our fellowman we do not love God. Therefore the opposite is true, only by loving God can you have unconditional love for others. The Bible also says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, which means that love for self precedes love for others. As a matter of fact, love of self teaches us how to love others. Love of self is not arrogance; it is a command from God to all believers. Loving self, like loving others involves how we think about ourselves, how we talk to ourselves and how we treat ourselves. Loving ourselves also involves patience, respect and regard for ourselves. Each of us is of the utmost value to God; this is why Jesus Christ paid the penalty on the Cross for our sins – impersonal love. As members of the Royal Family of God, we each have a responsibility to ourselves as well as others. The person who treats himself/herself well most likely will treat others well in turn. (John 15:10; I Corinthians 13:1-3; I John 3:16-24; [Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31 – The Golden Rule])