Summary: An honorable woman, but not what many think she was.
16:1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. KJV
Much ado has been made in recent years trying to make dear Phebe a deaconess because Paul used the word diakonos, which is the same word, used of a deacon because a deacon is servant of the church. The word meant servant before the office of deacon was ever created. Indeed, all saints are to be the servants of Christ as they were all given various gifts to do so. However, all do not hold the office of deacon.
In I Timothy 3 the requirements of those who would occupy the office of pastor or deacon are well delineated. It then gives an injunction about the character of the wives. Why? Not that they will hold the office of pastorette or deaconess but in their role as wife of one in these offices they have great influence upon the success of their husbands and the ministry.
1 Tim 3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. KJV
Note that with all the requirements listed for both pastor and deacon there is only one verse that even speaks to their wives. It has four qualifications because the wife of a pastor or deacon who does not possess these qualifications can bring his ministry and even the church down into flaming defeat.
I once used the illustration that if my Senior Pastor’s wife and mine walked into church one morning braless in see through blouses and mini-skirts that did not cover them being loud and rowdy, cussing, smoking and holding a bottle of Jack Black he could be Charles Spurgeon and I, Dr. R. A. Torrey but our ministries would be history. He and I have often commented that we could never do what we do without the support of our wives.
In the beginning, deacons had one duty; make sure the widows got fed. This would necessitate some funds being entrusted to them as well as getting the food to them in a timely manner. If his wife were not grave or honorable, i.e. honest, she might sneak some of that money or offer to do the shopping for him and get inferior goods, inflate the costs or do some other dishonorable deed.
Being she might be privy to much of what is going on with the widows (or all the women in the case of a pastor’s wife) if she were a slanderer or a false accuser, literally a devil, she could be running from house to house starting all sorts of wildfire. That would not build but destroy a ministry. I actually had a women say, "I wonder if I could be the woman to destroy the church." That husband was certainly NOT a candidate for deacon because of her, yet that pastor did take them into his confidence and they stirred up all sorts of hornet’s nests.
Certainly you would not a drunken wife, but the sober here means circumspect or prudent woman, not a reckless gadabout or a party girl. She needs to be mature and carry herself as a Christian woman with the wisdom and diligence of Proverbs 31.