Paul sends Phoebe ahead of him to Rome with the Letter
Romans 16:1-5 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. NKJV
Paul most certainly did not ever imagine that his journey to meet and fellowship with the Christians in Rome would be by way of him being bound and chained as a prisoner. The prayers he offered up for himself and the striving in prayer by those brothers and sisters waiting for him in Rome were answered by our Lord Jesus Christ in the most ominous of ways that certainly made those in Rome somewhat uneasy. We recall from the previous study that Paul requested the saints in Rome to “strive together in prayer with me” and certainly they did, but we read from Dr. Luke’s documentation that once Paul arrived in Caesarea Philippi and stayed there several days a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea and said this, Acts 21:11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” NKJV Paul knew what those in Judea thought of him and his message of the grace of God in and through only our Lord Jesus Christ and this is why he begged the Christians in Rome to “strive in prayer with him.” Paul was beaten and would have been killed by the Jewish mob (Acts 21:30-32) except our Lord Jesus Christ was not finished doing His Work through the Apostle Paul and rescued him through the hands of a Roman centurion soldier in Jerusalem.
Paul was then continually pursued by those in Judea and Jerusalem but kept under custody by the centurion and Paul was encouraged and strengthened with these words, Acts 23:10-11 And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks. But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” NKJV Paul then knew he would get to Rome but he did not know when, so he decided to send sister Phoebe ahead of him to those in Rome with this letter. Paul ended up imprisoned in Caesarea Philippi for over 2 years as the Scriptures declares with these words, Acts 24:27 But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned. NKJV It had been over 2 years since Paul arrived in Jerusalem and ended up in prison only after almost being murdered, so it would be understandable that the Christians in Rome would wonder if Paul would ever come to them. When we think of his journey that eventually brought him to Rome, we are apt to forget that during those days there were no airports with airplanes that could take people from one end of the globe to the other in a matter of hours. Paul’s journey (as it is chronicled for us in some detail (Acts 27) was more than just a casual sailing trip, but they encountered severe weather that would cause shipwreck. This is how Dr. Luke described the ordeal from his eyewitness account (as he also was aboard that very ship headed to Rome), Acts 27:18-20 The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned. NKJV
There is no record anywhere else written for us in the Book of Acts that Paul had some sort of dream or vision of his arrival to Rome being severely delayed, but because Paul was accustomed to much sailing on the many demanding waters in the region and he did say these words before, “Three times I was shipwrecked, and I have been in dangers from rivers and I have been in dangers on the sea” (2 Corinthians 11:25-26). Paul wanting to make the Gentile believers there more comfortable and also less impatient with the waiting on him to finally arrive and come to them physically in the flesh, Paul writes to them informing them that he was going to send sister Phoebe with this letter ahead of him from the Church in Cenchrea, which is an eastern port city of Corinth. Phoebe being a fellow Gentile convert born again by the Spirit of God just as these Gentile believers in Rome would be able to help them as they continue to wait for the Apostle Paul to finally arrive, for Phoebe was a “deaconess” in the Church at Corinth. Paul had acknowledged earlier in this same epistle or letter how often he had tried to come to them and was hindered as he said it in this manner, Romans 1:13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. NKJV
Paul’s proclamation of this truth to them here in Romans 1:13 surely must have wearied them once again as it did before when they expected him to come at a certain time and he was unable to get to them. Paul recommends Phoebe to those fellow believers in Rome to assist her in anything she needs to do there for Christ sake and Paul wanted them to know how dear she was to him and how often she helped him during his time spent in Corinth. Paul wanted them to look upon Phoebe as they would receive him for she loves our Lord Jesus Christ and is loved by Him just as much as is the Apostle Paul. Paul then commends to them Prisca and Aquila whom he long knew from his days in Corinth and they were Roman citizens, but driven out of Rome (Acts 18:2) and now have returned to Rome and Paul wanted those believers there to know about them and their faithfulness for our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Paul was a tent maker by trade and so were they and this initially is how he met them, but Paul wants them to know how this couple risked their very own lives helping him. The couple were eager to help all new believers to better understand God’s Truth as well (Acts 18:26) and they were a model couple before others witnessing by word and deed the will of God concerning the relationship between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33). Paul was very moved by love for Epaenetus recounting him as the first person from Asia to be born again and receive our Lord Jesus Christ.
“The clefts have closed, and the very line of demarcation is obliterated; and these clefts were deeper than any of which we moderns have had experience. It remains something like a miracle that the members of Paul’s churches could ever be brought together, and that their consciousness of oneness could ever overpower the tremendous divisive forces. We sometimes wonder at their bickerings; we ought rather to wonder at their unity, and be ashamed of the importance which we attach to our infinitely slighter mutual disagreements. The bond that was sufficient to make the early Christians all one in Christ Jesus seems to have lost its binding power to-day, and, like an used-up elastic band, to have no clasping grip left in it.” Alexander MacLaren
“Paul always found himself in danger from the Jews and it made him always recall those who lovingly and courageously helped him in those times of trouble, even putting their own lives on the line for him.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…