on Romans 16 :1
I commend unto you Phoebe - As the apostle had not been at Rome previously to his writing this epistle, he could not have had a personal acquaintance with those members of the Church there to whom he sends these friendly salutations. It is likely that many of them were his own converts, who, in different parts of Asia Minor and Greece, had heard him preach the Gospel, and afterwards became settlers at Rome.
Phoebe is here termed a servant, διακονον, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea. There were deaconesses in the primitive Church, whose business it was to attend the female converts at baptism; to instruct the catechumens, or persons who were candidates for baptism; to visit the sick, and those who were in prison, and, in short, perform those religious offices for the female part of the Church which could not with propriety be performed by men. They were chosen in general out of the most experienced of the Church, and were ordinarily widows, who had borne children. Some ancient constitutions required them to be forty, others fifty, and others sixty years of age. It is evident that they were ordained to their office by the imposition of the hands of the bishop; and the form of prayer used on the occasion is extant in the apostolical constitutions. In the tenth or eleventh century the order became extinct in the Latin Church, but continued in the Greek Church till the end of the twelfth century. See Broughton's Dictionary, article deaconess.
Cenchrea was a sea-port on the east side of the isthmus which joined the Morea to Greece, as the Lechaeum was the sea-port on the west side of the same isthmus. These were the only two havens and towns of any note, next to Corinth, that belonged to this territory. As the Lechaeum opened the road to the Ionian sea, so Cenchrea opened the road to the Aegean; and both were so advantageously situated for commerce that they were very rich. These two places are now usually denominated the Gulf of Lepanto, and the Gulf of Ingia or Egina. It was on the isthmus, between these two ports, which was about six miles wide, that the Isthmian games were celebrated; to which St. Paul makes such frequent allusions.
on Romans 16 :1
I commend - It was common then, as now, to bear letters of introduction to strangers, commending the person thus introduced to the favorable regards and attentions of those to whom the letters were addressed; 2 Corinthians 3:1; Acts 18:27. This Epistle, with the apostle's commendation, was designed thus to introduce its bearer to the Roman Christians. The mention of Phebe in this manner leaves it beyond a doubt that she was either the bearer of this Epistle, or accompanied those who bore it to Rome. The Epistle was therefore written, probably, at Corinth. (See Introduction.)
Our sister - A member of the Christian church.
Which is a servant - Greek," Who is a deaconess." It is clear from the New Testament that there was an order of women in the church known as "deaconesses." Reference is made to a class of females whose duty it was to "teach" other females, and to take the general superintendence of that part of the church, in various places in the New Testament; and their existence is expressly affirmed in early ecclesiastical history. They appear to have been commonly aged and experienced widows, sustaining fair reputation, and suited to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced; compare 1 Timothy 5:3, 1 Timothy 5:9-11; Titus 2:4. The Apostolical Constitutions, book iii. say, "Ordain a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministries toward the women." Pliny in his celebrated letter to Trajan, says, when speaking of the efforts which he made to obtain information respecting the opinions and practices of Christians, "I deemed it necessary to put two maidservants who are called "ministrae" (that is "deaconesses") to the torture, in order to ascertain what is the truth." The reasons of their appointment among the Gentiles were these:
(1) The females were usually separate from the men. They were kept secluded, for the most part, and not permitted to mingle in society with men as is the custom now.
(2) it became necessary, therefore, to appoint aged and experienced females to instruct the young, to visit the sick, to provide for them, and to perform for them the services which male deacons performed for the whole church. It is evident, however, that they were confined to these offices, and that they were never regarded as an order of ministers, or suffered "to preach" to congregations; 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34.
Of the church ... - This is the only mention which occurs of a church at that place. It was probably collected by the labors of Paul.
At Cenchrea - This was the "sea-port" of Corinth. Corinth was situated on the middle of the isthmus, and had "two" harbors, or ports: "Cenchrea" on the east, about eight or nine miles from the city; and "Lechaeum" on the west. Cenchrea opened into the AEgean sea, and was the principal port. It was on this "isthmus," between these two ports, that the "Isthmian" games were celebrated, to which the apostle refers so often in his epistles.
on Romans 16 :1
16:1 I commend unto you Phebe - The bearer of this letter. A servant - The Greek word is a deaconness. Of the church in Cenchrea - In the apostolic age, some grave and pious women were appointed deaconnesses in every church. It was their office, not to teach publicly, but to visit the sick, the women in particular, and to minister to them both in their temporal and spiritual necessities.