When you think of Paul in the Bible, what characteristics do you think of? Do you think of him as a missionary, as a writer, maybe as a scholar? Some non-Christians have even accused him of being a male chauvinist pig. But when you examine Romans 16, you see that Paul was intensely interested in people. In fact, judging by Romans 16, Paul might even be said to show more interest in people than anyone else in the Bible except Jesus!
“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 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.” (Romans 16:1-2)
Phoebe is a pagan name, a feminine form of Phoibos, which was a name given to the god Apollo. But she had become a Christian.
Since Phoebe is the only one commended to the church (the first time the word “church” appears in Romans), it seems likely that she was the bearer of the letter to the church at Rome. She probably had people traveling with her, since it was not safe for a woman to travel alone in the ancient world. She was probably single and a prominent, wealthy woman, since it took money to travel, especially with companions. She had been a servant to the church in Cenchrea (the eastern port of Corinth).
In Romans 16:3-16, Paul sends greetings to over 24 people in Rome, even though he had never been in Rome. When you think about the fact that there was no Internet back then, no TV, no radio, no phones, and not even a postal service as we have today, it is amazing that Paul knew all these people, and knew so much about them. Paul knew most of them personally, so they may have been people he had come to know in his travels and missionary work. As far as the others, possibly someone had come from that city (like Priscilla and Aquila, for example) and had told Paul about them. He may have led some of them to Christ, or maybe they worked with him, or they might have been with him in prison. In any case, Paul remembered them and had kept track of them.