The Light of Christ Journey

Encouraging people on their journey with Christ

How did Paul send Romans a letter? We are used to email, cell phones, and faxes in our culture. Once in a while, we may even use the postal service to mail a letter. But in the first century, Paul had none of those options available. Paul used a friend named Phoebe to hand-carry his letter to the Roman church.

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.[1]

Who was Phoebe?

Phoebe was a woman who was serving at the church in Cenchrea. Cenchrea is six miles east of the city of Corinth in what we now know as Greece. This church was probably a daughter church of the one in Corinth. Phoebe was highly regarded in her church and had been very helpful to Paul and his ministry.

More than likely, Phoebe was a businesswoman of some wealth who financially supported Paul. Because Paul specifically mentions her, she likely delivered this letter from Corinth to Rome. Her business may have taken her to Rome before Paul could get there. Therefore, Paul asked her to deliver this letter to the Roman church.[2]

Those who delivered Paul’s letters often read them out loud to the church and commented on Paul’s teaching to the listeners. As a supporter of Paul, Phoebe would have been familiar with his teachings. This provides evidence that women had important positions both in business and the church at that time. In chapter 16 of Romans, Paul mentions nine women calling them “fellow workers.” Again, this shows the significance of women in the church during Paul’s time.

The Helped Become the Helpers

Believers who traveled from one place to another could count on a warm welcome and hospitality from other believers. Paul asked the Roman church to extend this specifically to Phoebe. From that time to the present, life within the body of Christ has been a constant exchange of help. Phoebe had been a helper to Paul and now may need help in Rome. By contrast, those who are helped one day may be empowered through Christ to become helpers on another day.

How did Paul send the Romans a letter? To learn more, listen here:

[1] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. 

[2] Barton, B. B., Veerman, D., & Wilson, N. S. (1992). Romans (pp. 286–288). Tyndale House Publishers

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