All That Glitters

All That Glitters: Thoughts about Phoebe, the Deaconess from Cenchreae

We know only a little about Phoebe, benefactor of the Apostle Paul. We do know she was highly regarded by the veteran apostle, trusted to carry his letter to the church in Rome. This letter, e.g. the Book of Romans, would later become the quintessential book for understanding Christian doctrine.

Although her mention in Scripture is brief, we are told that Phoebe was a deaconess of the church in Cenchreae, an ancient Greek city, about 8 miles from Corinth (see Acts 20) where Paul resided as he wrote to the church in Rome. In his letter, Paul asked the Roman church to “welcome Phoebe in a manner worthy of the saints,” and to help her in any way they could.

Phoebe radiated the life of Christ. In fact, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the name “Phoebe” means “bright and radiant.” Interesting…bright and radiant. Perhaps we could say the light of Christ was displayed brightly through her. Perhaps we could say she was a beautiful reflection of Christ’s love.

I like to think Phoebe well-understood the source of her radiance. It’s a fair assumption in light of the way Paul commended her to the church. She was a woman of integrity who protected the family of God; of course she would protect His Word as well! Her contribution to the early church is noted as not only displaying exemplary service but also exemplary character.

Imagine being Phoebe. Imagine carrying something so valuable as Paul’s letter, having no idea that through the ages, it would become the bedrock of Christian belief, molding the church in conviction and practice. Did Phoebe understand the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures? Did she know the text would be read and recited to billions of people over thousands of years? Did she know her name and character would become part of God’s story to all nations? Likely not.

Phoebe was there to serve the gospel. She carried her parcel faithfully and delivered it to its intended audience. God did the rest. He spread that Word all over the world, and along with it, the light of the gospel has been understood and followed. God has shown Himself through the Scriptures and transforms our lives as we embrace its message. Jesus has built His church, and His gospel is being spread. Christ’s bride, the church, is being readied for His return.

Dear friend in Christ, I want to talk to you about what you carry. You see, within you is a radiant light. You may not see it, but it shines. I see it in your eyes when you talk about the Father. I see it in your heart when you talk about grace. I see it in your life as Christ transforms you as a new creation.

God has allowed me to realize, especially over the last several years, how He has entrusted me with His Word and how important it is that I carry it to its intended audience. God gives opportunities, opens doors, and prompts with His Holy Spirit. The message I carry is too valuable to keep to myself. It is my most precious possession. It is indeed a gift of His grace, and He intends for me to share it wherever and whenever I can.

Friend, you carry that light too. If God has entrusted you with the knowledge of His Word (even a little knowledge), carry it with integrity. Share it with those in need. Spread it liberally to those who will hear. Don’t let the enemy dissuade you. Your part may seem small to you, but you don’t how how God may multiply His Word through your ministry. Phoebe probably never dreamed what God would do with her faithfulness.

It is not prideful to think you carry something special. It is fact. The Word of God shines brightly through those who bear it. What you carry is a gift! You get no credit for it. You get credit from it! You are a *guardian of the gospel, and a *protector of God’s grace! You carry inside you God’s Holy Spirit. Stand tall, be brave, and realize what a treasure you carry in your heart. Be strong and courageous in the face of adversity. Be faithful, and the Word of God will shine forth from you. For it glitters as fine gold.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows

(James 1:17, NIV)

All that glitters comes from the Father, so let that light shine.

Indeed, all that truly glitters is gold!

Patroness. Greek: Protatis. Definition: a female guardian, protector, patroness. A Feminine derivative of proistémi: to put before, to set over, to rule

Deaconess. Greek: diakonon. Definition: a servant, minister. The word deacon(ess) refers to a Christian designated to serve the church so that the overseers could devote themselves to the ministry of prayer and teaching of the Word (see Acts 6).

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