Romans 16:1 says, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.” (KJV).  The Greek word for ‘servant’ here is “diákonos” and is defined as “to run errands, an attendant.”  It is the same word that is translated as ‘deacon’ in 1 Timothy 3:8, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.”  This word is sometimes translated ‘servant’ (Matthew 23:11, John 12:26).  It is also translated ‘minister’ several times in the Bible (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 1:7). 

What are the duties of a deacon according to the Bible?  Let’s look at the first instance of officially appointed deacons in Acts 6:1-6 which says, “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” 

While the work of the deacon involves physical work (serve tables), the qualifications of the deacon required honest, spirit filled men who were spiritually wise.  You can read of the strict qualification of a deacon in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.  You may think that since the work of a deacon is to labor with their hands, then the qualifications would not be so rigorous…not requiring any spiritual maturity or wisdom.  However, the deacon represents the local church in his duties and so must show a godly life to those who see them doing this work so as to give a good testimony to the Lord.

In Romans 16:1, Paul commended Phebe for her role as a servant of the Lord.  Romans 16:27 tells us, “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. Written to the Romans from Corinthus, and sent by Phebe servant of the church at Cenchrea.”  The subscription at the end of this epistle has no real authority, yet it appears to be quite correct in this case, especially considering Paul’s words in verse 1.  Phebe was a faithful servant who delivered this epistle to the church in Rome.  Referring to Phebe as a servant, minister, or deacon does not necessarily mean that she served as an official deacon.  She served, or ministered to, the believers in Rome by faithfully carrying this epistle from Paul to them.  For that Paul commends her and acknowledges that she is a servant of the Lord.  (CC)  (555.2)