Profiles in (RE)Purpose-Phoebe

By on June 11, 2013

By Cheri Cowell—

Phoebe is only mentioned once in the Bible. It is believed that Phoebe was entrusted with the task of hand-delivering Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In Romans 16:1-2 Paul recommends that the leaders of the Roman church receive Phoebe with the respect accorded a minister of the church. She is described as the minister or leader of the Church in Cenchrea, seven miles outside of the community of Corinth. Paul identifies her as a saint worthy of their help and assistance, and puts an exclamation mark on this remark by extolling her for being not only a great help to many others, but personally as well.


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The name Phoebe is the feminine form of “Phoibos,” a name given to the Greek and Roman deity, Apollo. Phoebe was no doubt converted from a pagan lifestyle to Christianity, possibly during Paul’s ministry in Corinth. The church there may have met in her home. She would have been a bold and confident woman, having traveled from Corinth to Rome via sea and the Appian Way to complete her appointed task of delivering the sacred scrolls from Paul to the Roman Church. Finally, she is the only woman to be ascribed the title ‘deacon.’ A deacon was the minister or administrator of the church. In delivering the letter from Paul she would have been expected to theologically argue and defend the letter once she got there, so she was a minister in every meaning of the word.

(re)Purposing Lessons

We don’t know much about Phoebe’s life prior to dedicating her life to Christ.  However, pagans are described as “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts”(Ephesians 4:18, NIV). Furthermore, “having lost all sensitivity,” Paul explains, “they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more”(Ephesians 4:19, NIV). Phoebe was lost. But then she learned about Jesus from a traveling missionary and the life she lived took a 360° turn. Her boldness and confidence would no longer serve a hardened and dark heart; those gifts would now be used to serve from a heart of joy and light. Her leadership skills would no longer serve a lust for power and prestige; her leadership skills would be used to minister to a flock of new believers. And her sharp intellect would be used to glorify God and serve those sent to serve on his behalf.

(re)Purposing Steps

Have you been in a dark place? Is your background full of things you’d rather not remember? Phoebe’s life took a 360° turn when she met Jesus through Paul. Yours can, too. What can we learn from Phoebe?

  • What gifts do you possess that, once used for darkness, when given to God can be used for goodness and light? Phoebe was naturally bold and confident and she possessed great leadership skills, which God used as she led the Church at Cenchrea.
  • Phoebe had a great intellect and when she turned her life over to the God, her mind was also turned over to Him. Do you have the gift of intellect? Are you hiding it under a bushel or are you offering it to Him for his service and glory?
  • Although a strong and powerful woman, Phoebe was also a servant to the servant Paul. Humility not only makes one a saint, it also makes a woman beautiful. As a strong and powerful woman, are you seeking opportunities to serve? Are you a beautifully humble woman?

Originally posted on My Purpose Now.

About My Purpose Now

Deb is ‘wife’ to her high school sweetheart, mom to three incredible sons and Gigi to two perfect grandboys. She is a former Californian who now lives in the Dallas area. She is excited about the next stage of life and what God has for her now. An author, speaker, and executive coach, Deb travels extensively and is always seeking a quiet place to write. Read Deb at:

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Profiles in (RE)Purpose-Phoebe