John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1 (Romans 16:1)

Verse 1

1.I commend to you, etc. The greater part of this chapter is taken up with salutations; and as they contain no difficulties, it would be useless to dwell long on them. I shall only touch on those things which require some light by an explanation.

He first commends to them Phoebe, to whom he gave this Epistle to be brought to them; and, in the first place, he commends her on account of her office, for she performed a most honorable and a most holy function in the Church; and then he adduces another reason why they ought to receive her and to show her every kindness, for she had always been a helper to all the godly. As then she was an assistant (469) of the Cenchrean Church, he bids that on that account she should be received in the Lord; and by adding as it is meet for saints, he intimates that it would be unbecoming the servants of Christ not to show her honor and kindness. And since it behooves us to embrace in love all the members of Christ, we ought surely to regard and especially to love and honor those who perform a public office in the Church. And besides, as she had always been full of kindness to all, so he bids that help and assistance should now be given to her in all her concerns; for it is what courtesy requires, that he who is naturally disposed to kindness should not be forsaken when in need of aid, and to incline their minds the more, he numbers himself among those whom she had assisted.

But this service, of which he speaks as to what it was, he teaches us in another place, in 1 Timothy 5:9, for as the poor were supported from the public treasury of the Church, so they were taken care of by those in public offices, and for this charge widows were chosen, who being free from domestic concerns, and cumbered by no children, wished to consecrate themselves wholly to God by religious duties, they were therefore received into this office as those who had wholly given up themselves, and became bound to their charge in a manner like him, who having hired out his own labors, ceases to be free and to be his own master. Hence the Apostle accuses them of having violated their faith, who renounced the office which they had once undertaken, and as it behooved them to live in widowhood, he forbade them to be chosen under sixty years of age, (1 Timothy 5:9,) because he foresaw that under that age the vow of perpetual celibacy was dangerous, yea, liable to prove ruinous. This most sacred function, and very useful to the Church, when the state of things had become worse, degenerated into the idle order of Nuns; which, though corrupt at its beginning, and contrary to the word of God, has yet so fallen away from what it was at its commencement, that there is no difference between some of the sanctuaries of chastity and a common brothel.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible