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The two opening verses of Romans chapter 16 provide lots of useful instruction: "I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church that is at Cenchreae, that ye receive her in the Lord, worthily of the saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever matter she may have need of you, for she herself also hath been a succourer of many, and of mine own self".

She was a sister in the sense in which all Christians are brothers and sisters. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we've been born again into the family of God, and we're brothers and sisters in Christ.

She was also a saint - all Christians are saints - and Paul asks the church of God in Rome to receive her worthily of the saints. Because we're saints we're expected to live saintly lives. When the apostle Paul wrote to the church of God in Corinth he described them as "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints". It simply means a person set apart. When we receive Christ as our Saviour God sets us apart in Him. From that moment we're different from unsaved people. That should not make us proud - far from it. But we should show the difference God has made by the way we live.

Phoebe did. Of her own choice she became a servant of the church. She lived to serve others. Maybe she remembered her Master once said, "I am in the midst of you as He that serveth". So she became like her Master, a servant of others, and one she served was the apostle himself. And by the way he wrote about her we can tell how greatly he appreciated it.

Her service was something special. Succourer is the word Paul used to describe it. It was a word of dignity. In Greek it was used of a citizen who'd responsibility for seeing to the welfare of resident aliens who were without civic rights. And that's the word he used to describe Phoebe's work. She protected others. What a lovely service.

Sister, saint, servant and succourer. A person like that enriches the life of any church. Have you any Phoebes among the Christians with whom you gather? I'm sure you have. Maybe you're one yourself. And if some of us feel we don't quite measure up to it, can we not ask the Lord's help that in the future we also might be a servant and succourer of others?