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Is there a Phoebe in the House?

Notes & Transcripts

Text: Romans 16:1 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.

2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.

4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.”

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.”

Subject: Is There a Phoebe in the House?

Introduction:  The book of Romans has been called “the constitution of Christianity.”  This book is crucial to every believer in Christ, because it carefully explains the doctrines most needful and necessary for a correct comprehension of the Christian faith.  It had addressed and treated matters of interest in the Christian church throughout the centuries.  Some of the questions asked throughout this letter are: Are the heathen lost?  How can a condemned sinner stand in the presence of a holy God?  Is it actually possible to live a Christian life? 

How do we account for the placement of this letter in the New Testament Canon of the Bible?  When we consider the New Testament from our point in history, we find that it may be divided into three major sections:

a.    A past

b.   A present and

c.    A future

The Gospels and the Acts form the historical foundation upon which our faith is built. 

The four Gospels narrate the life of Christ, as each writer stressing a different aspect of his ministry.  Together they present a fourfold picture of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Christ.  The book of Acts gives the history of the initiation, establishment, and the outreach of the early church.  But in the Epistles, we discover the explanation of the historical events recorded in the Gospels and Acts. 

In the Epistles, we find standards and instruction for believers today.  And the book of Revelation discloses the consummation of everything God promised, past, present and future.  In other words, the Gospels disclose the Prapagation, the letters disclose the explanation, and the Revelation discloses the consummation of Christ. 

However, the Apostle Paul writes at least thirteen of the New Testament letters. 

·       Nine of them were written to the seven churches

·       Five were written from Prison

·       Three were written to pastors and

·       One was written to a personal friend by the name of Philemon

How do we know that Paul is speaking?  All of the fourteen letters are signed with his signature, and sealed with that great word of crowning, acceptance and satisfaction.   Even so, let it so be.  In other words, these letters initiate with Paul and terminate with the word, “Amen.”

The nature of the Epistles is different from that of the Gospels and the Acts, for the Epistles all refer to the salvation story and the finished work of Calvary’s Cross.  They are addressed not only to the Jew or Gentile, but to every baptized believer in Christ.  They are all in latter form, which makes them both interesting and personal.

Just as Esther 8:9 is the longest verse and the 119th, stanza of the Psalms is the longest chapter of the Old Testament, we find that   

Romans stands first in the order of the New Testament Epistles and is the longest of these letters.  And within its sixteen chapters, 433 verses, 9,447 words, we discover the explanation of the doctrine of sin, the plan of salvation, the essence of the cross, and the reasons for the believer’s hope.  It is the gateway that connects the Epistles to the Gospels and Acts. 

I.                 Paul’s Recommendation.  We find that Phoebe did not toot her own horn.  Neither do we find her bragging on her accomplishments or boasting in the light of her accolades.  Her nature was more important than her name and all she touched was simply a reflection of her character.  Therefore, it is by the mere fact that she exercised her ministry on his behalf that she became Paul’s recommendation to the church in the house at Rome.  Perhaps, Paul reminds them that church is not about large edifices, soft pews or bright chandeliers but, the bible says that John Mark’s mother had a house in Jerusalem which was known as the church in the house, and often the Women met for prayer down by the riverside.  (this is, I believe, the essence of the Negro spiritual, “I’m gonna lay my burden, down by the riverside and study war no more).  My brothers and my sisters, if we were in the helping profession, I wonder if Paul would have recommended us to the church in the house at Rome?  In other words, when was the last time that you helped somebody?  I believe Paul realizes and makes reference to the adoption of son and daughter; perhaps he makes is alluding to the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, when he calls her, Sister Phoebe, which means that not only is the church a fellowship but, as believers, we are family.  John the evangelist explains this kinship at I John chapter 3, verse 2; for he reminds us, not of who we sued to be, but who we are in Christ:  and he says:  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”  Now that we are sons and daughters of the same father, its time to walk like daddy.  Its time to talk like daddy.        

II.             Phoebe’s reputation.  However, it was because of Phoebe’s reputation that Paul recommended her as one who exercised the gift of helps.  Paul does not say that Phoebe cast out any demons.  Neither does he mention any great wonders of her wisdom.  Phoebe has no great titles neither does she have great credentials.  Perhaps Paul is saying, its good to be what you are and live the life.  Folk don’t talk about the gift of helps anymore.  The church has gone from volunteer believers to the paid staff.  And when you mention gifts, everybody wants to speak in tongues, grease foreheads and lay on hands.  In other words, There are some folk, every time you see them, they have a word from the Lord.  But God is not seeking your revelation as much as he is needs your willing heart and your working hands.     

The work of the deaconess is not a gift of appearance, but it is a gift of application.  It is not one of passive resistance, but it is a gift of active participation.  It is a gift of servitude and discipleship.  It is a ministry of servitude, because often times, we find ourselves on the way to worship having neglected the service.  However, it is important that we realize that we ought to enter the church for worship, and upon leaving, we should depart to serve.  The ministry of the deaconess is a ministry of discipleship because Paul writes to his pastoral friend, Titus and puts upon him, the mandate to perpetuate holiness, sanctification and righteous living from one generation to another; in this pastoral Epistle to Titus, Paul says the first thing I want you to do, is to speak the things that become sound doctrine, get the men in order, tell them that they ought to be sober and sound in their faith.  In other words, I want you to start with the men.  And then at verse three; I want you to tell the elder women to teach the younger women how to live holy and love their husbands and their children.  Teach the younger women how to keep the house clean and listen to their husbands.  When we are conducting the ministry of discipleship it is important that we realize that there is more to serving than setting the communion table, and showing up in white dresses and hats with tassels.  But the ministry of discipleship often becomes the exhortation of believers.  And it is during this time of encouragement, that we learn that there are so many wounded folk in the church.  And when folk have been wounded, they experience hurt and the hurt becomes anger, and the anger becomes bitterness, and the bitterness becomes hate.  And if these people are to stay with the church, there must be a Phoebe in the house. 

I know there’s a Deborah in the House, because there is always somebody that’s ready to take over and run things.  I know there’s an Esther in the house, because you can always find somebody with the boldness to say or do the things that are not pleasing in the Lord’s sight.  But what the church needs is a Naomi that will stay with Ruth, no matter what; but because there is a Hanna In the house, a woman of sorrowful spirit, we need a Phoebe that can hold Hanna’s problems in confidence and just reach out and take Hanna by the hand and reassure here that the Lord will make a way somehow.  So then, I say to the deaconess ministry of Mentrotone church, you must be willing to get your hands dirty. 

If you don’t dishes

If you don’t do hospitals

If you don’t do beds

And if you don’t do cooking…

Sometimes the job can seem worthless.

Sometimes the journey can seem lonely

Sometimes the road may seem endless

Sometimes the mission may seem thankless

Sometimes the deeds may seem thoughtless but

Serving the Lord will pay of afterwhile.         
III. Willing hearts and helping hands.., the essence of this ministry is that of discipleship.  The church of God ought to operate on at least five perspectives, and they are:

Worship

Evangelism

Fellowship

Discipleship and

Three perspectives of reaching ought to take place in the life of every believer and they are:

Upreach

Inreach and

Outreach

The church ought to reach up to God in worship

Reach in by way of discipleship and

Reach out through evangelism. 

Two perspectives are important in outreach and they are:

Finding and fencing.  Evangelism assumes the role of finding the sinner, and bringing him or her to the fold, but it is discipleship that cultivates and develops a life fit for witness.   In other words, evangelism brings them in but, discipleship keeps them in.     
Evangelism calls us into the hedges, the highways and byways of life but, discipleship keeps us in the fold.  The same has been said of preaching and teaching.  Preaching brings us out of the world, but teaching will bring the world out of us.   

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