Philemon 1:1-22

Greeting

1 Paul, 1a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and 2Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker
2 and Apphia our sister and 3Archippus our 4fellow soldier, and 5the church in your house:
3 6Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon's Love and Faith

4 7I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,
5 because I 8hear of your love and 9of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints,
6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full 10knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.[a]
7 For I have derived much joy and 11comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints 12have been refreshed through you.

Paul's Plea for Onesimus

8 Accordingly, 13though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do 14what is required,
9 yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you--I, Paul, an old man and now 15a prisoner also for Christ Jesus--
10 I appeal to you for 16my child, 17Onesimus,[b]18whose father I became in my imprisonment.
11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)
12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.
13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me 19on your behalf 20during my imprisonment for the gospel,
14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be 21by compulsion but of your own accord.
15 For this perhaps is why 22he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever,
16 23no longer as a slave[c] but more than a slave, as 24a beloved brother--especially to me, but how much more to you, 25both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me 26your partner, receive him as you would receive me.
18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
19 27I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it--to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.
20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. 28Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 29Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for 30I am hoping that 31through your prayers 32I will be graciously given to you.

Philemon 1:1-22 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO PHILEMON

This epistle was written by the Apostle Paul, when a prisoner at Rome, as appears from its inscription and subscription; and seems to have been written at the same time, in the year 60, and sent by the same hand, as the epistle to the Colossians; seeing the same persons were with the apostle at the writing of both, and send their Christian salutations in the one, as in the other; compare Phm 1:23,24 with Col 4:10,12,14 and Archippus, the minister in Colosse, is made mention of in both, Phm 1:2, Col 4:17 and it is very probable that Philemon, to whom it was written, was a Colossian, since Onesimus, his servant, on whose account, and by whom it was sent, is said to be one of the Colossians, Col 4:9. Philemon is said to be one of the seventy disciples, and afterwards Bishop of Gaza; \\see Gill on "Lu 10:1"\\. The occasion of the epistle was this; Philemon's servant, Onesimus, having either embezzled his master's goods, or robbed him, ran away from him, and fled to Rome, where the apostle was a prisoner in chains in his own hired house, under the custody of a soldier, and where he received all that came, and preached the Gospel to them, Ac 28:30 and among those that went to hear him, this fugitive servant was one, and was converted under his ministry; and who not only received the grace of God, but had such gifts bestowed on him as qualified him to be a preacher of the word. Now the design of this epistle is to reconcile Philemon to his servant, and to entreat him to receive him again, not only as a servant, but as a brother in Christ; and the most proper and prudent methods and arguments are used to engage him to it. The epistle, though it is a familiar one, and short, is very instructive; it shows great humility in the apostle, and that he did not think it below him to be concerned in doing such an office as to reconcile a master to his servant, and which is worthy of imitation; as also it teaches the right that masters have over their servants, which is not lost by their becoming Christians, and even ministers of the Gospel; and that recompense should be made unto them for injuries done by them: it likewise displays the riches of the grace of God, in the conversion of such a vile creature: and the wonderful providence of God in overruling that which was sinful in itself, running away from his master, to the greatest good, even the conversion of him; and is an instance of surprising grace: and from hence may be learned, that there is salvation in Christ for the chief of sinners; and that the conversion of them is not to be despaired of. The authority of this epistle was not questioned by the ancient writers, and stands always in their catalogues of the canon of the Scripture; and Marcion the heretic, who either rejected, or changed, or mutilated the rest of the epistles, could not lay his hands on this, because of the brevity of it, as Tertullian {a} and Jerom {b} observe.

{a} Advers. Marcion. l. 5. c. 21. {b} Proaem. in Philem.

\\INTRODUCTION TO PHILEMON 1\\

This epistle has an inscription, salutation, and preface, the same with others, which are in Phm 1:1-4, the principal view of it is to persuade Philemon to receive his servant Onesimus; the arguments used are taken from the general character he had for love to the saints, and people of God, and therefore it was hoped he would act up to it in this instance, Phm 1:5-7, from the consideration of the person who made the suit to him, who could have used authority, but chose rather to entreat him in love; and also of his age, and the condition in which he was, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, Phm 1:8,9 from the spiritual relation Onesimus was in to the apostle, who had begotten him in his bonds, Phm 1:10 from the present usefulness of him, both to Philemon and the apostle, who before was useless, Phm 1:11, from the strong affection the apostle had for him, being as his own bowels, Phm 1:12 from his unwillingness to do anything without his consent, though he could have detained him upon the foot of equity and justice, to have served him in his stead, Phm 1:13,14, from the overruling providence of God, which had so ordered it, that he should depart from him for a time, that he might be received for ever, Phm 1:15 from the character under which he could now be received, not as a servant, but as a beloved brother, Phm 1:16 from the partnership and association in which the apostle and Philemon were, Phm 1:17 from the assurance he gave him of repaying him whatever his servant owed him, and making good whatever he had injured him in, Phm 1:18,19 and from that pleasure, delight, and refreshment he should have, should he receive him, Phm 1:20. And, upon the whole, the apostle expresses his confidence that he would grant his request, obey his commands, and even do more than he had mentioned to him, Phm 1:21. And then gives him some hope of his being delivered from prison, through the prayers of Philemon, and others, and of seeing him shortly; and therefore desires he would prepare a lodging for him, Phm 1:22 and closes with the salutations of several friends to him, mentioned by name, with their characters, Phm 1:23,24 and with his own common salutation, Phm 1:25.

Philemon 1:1-22 In-Context

1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker
2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,
5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints,
6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,
9 yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you--I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus--
10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,whose father I became in my imprisonment.
11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)
12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.
13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,
14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.
15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever,
16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother--especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.
18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it--to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.
20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you,
24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Cross References 32

  • 1. ver. 9; See Ephesians 3:1
  • 2. See 1 Thessalonians 3:2
  • 3. Colossians 4:17
  • 4. Philippians 2:25
  • 5. See Romans 16:5
  • 6. See Romans 1:7
  • 7. See Romans 1:8, 9
  • 8. Colossians 1:4
  • 9. Ephesians 1:15
  • 10. Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9
  • 11. [2 Corinthians 7:4, 13; Colossians 4:11]
  • 12. ver. 20; 2 Timothy 1:16; [Romans 15:32; 2 Corinthians 7:13]
  • 13. [1 Thessalonians 2:6]
  • 14. Ephesians 5:4
  • 15. ver. 1
  • 16. See 3 John 4
  • 17. Colossians 4:9
  • 18. ver. 13; 1 Corinthians 4:15; [Galatians 4:19]
  • 19. See 1 Corinthians 16:17
  • 20. ver. 10; See Philippians 1:7
  • 21. [2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Peter 5:2]
  • 22. [Genesis 45:5, 8]
  • 23. See 1 Corinthians 7:22
  • 24. Matthew 23:8; Colossians 4:9; 1 Timothy 6:2
  • 25. Colossians 3:22, 23; [Ephesians 6:5]
  • 26. 2 Corinthians 8:23
  • 27. See 1 Corinthians 16:21
  • 28. See ver. 7
  • 29. See 2 Corinthians 2:3
  • 30. Philippians 1:25; Philippians 2:24
  • 31. See 2 Corinthians 1:11
  • 32. [Hebrews 13:19]

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or for Christ's service
  • [b]. Onesimus means useful (see verse 11) or beneficial (see verse 20)
  • [c]. Greek bondservant; twice in this verse