Summary: Ministries and churches don’t go far without faithful workers. Paul devotes 16 verses to ordinary christians who made ministry happen.
ROMANS 16: 1-16
GREETINGS AND LOVE EXPRESSED
The capital city of Rome was a magnet that drew people from all over the empire. In addition Paul’s travels to many of the major population centers—Jerusalem, Syrian Antioch, Philippi, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus—brought him into contact with the Christians in Rome who traveled. These factors help explain the presence of Paul’s many friends in Rome, but his knowledge of their whereabouts remains a tribute to his deep concern for people. It is enviously clear that he was careful to remember names and details of the people with whom he ministered. [Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983, p. 499]
Paul was not only a soul-winner and a church planter, but he was also a friend-maker and ministry supporter. The apostle’s comments about these mostly unknown individuals are all the more poignant because this great apostle takes time to speak so warmly and appreciatively of these "ordinary" Christians, who were as much his brothers and sisters in Christ as Peter, James, John, and other New Testament notables. He here reveals his deep affection for those whom he had served, for those who had served him, and for those who served with him. [MacArthur, John. NT Com. Romans 9-16. 1994. Moody: Chicago. p. 358.]
So in chapter 16 Paul focuses on his relationship to other Christians with whom he has been associated in one way or another in his ministry. The chapter contains a list of thirty-three people to whom Paul is sending his greetings. The first list in verses 1–16 is comprised of those who Paul is greeting. [The second list (verses 21–23) is comprised of those who are with Paul in Corinth.] He specifically identifies, and sometimes briefly comments about, those to whom he felt the closest. He reveals his love for the community of the redeemed, his mutual accountability with them before God, and his dependence on them for his own ministry and for his own well-being. [MacArthur, p 359].
I. SISTER PHEOBE, 16:1-2.
II. PRISCA AND AQUILA, 3-5.
III. FRIENDS IN ROME, 6-16
Ministries and churches don’t go far without faithful workers. Paul devotes the first two verses to the commendation of a particular individual, Phoebe. Verse 1, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;"
Phoebe was Paul’s emissary to deliver this letter, so he wrote officially, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe." "Phebe" (which means "bright, radiant") is another name for "Diana." [Evidently, Phebe was named after the goddess Diana, Corinth’s most famous deity. If that be so, Phebe was not Jewish but was most likely a heathen Gentile who had been converted to Christ.]
Paul’s sister in Christ Phoebe was a servant of the church in Cenchrea, a seaport a few miles east of Corinth (Acts 18:18) where Paul had stopped during his third missionary journey. The word translated "servant" is literally diakonos, or "deaconess" is used for the office of deacon (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 10, 12) as well as used generally (Rom. 15:8; 1 Cor. 3:5). Use of the word with the phrase "of the church" strongly suggests some recognized position, a fact appropriate for a person serving as Paul’s emissary. [Walvoord, & Zuck, p. P. 449]. [In NT times it could indicate a woman in a position of ministry in the early church. According to the writings of the church fathers, deaconesses visited the sick, helped young women grow in the Lord, and tended the poor. How we need those who have a heart to be servants like Phebe—those who say, "Our call is to tend those who are sick, poor, and young in the Lord." [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson’s Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 997]
Paul commend this woman not only for what she had done as a faithful sister and servant of Christ but also for what she was doing and would in service to their Lord as we see in verse 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."
The journey from Corinth to Rome would not be easy, and would involve considerable sea as well as land travel. Travel in those days was often hazardous, and the few inns that existed usually were connected with the worst sort of taverns, many of which were also brothels. The only safe places to stay were with a friend or a friend of a friend. Consequently, letters of commendation were routinely given to travelers by friends who had relatives or friends along the way who could provide food, lodging, and sometimes escort through dangerous areas. Such help was especially important for ladies.