Philemon 1

Salutation

1 1Paul, 2a prisoner of 3Christ Jesus, and 4Timothy [a]our brother, To Philemon our beloved brother and 5fellow worker,
2 and to Apphia [b]6our sister, and to 7Archippus our 8fellow soldier, and to 9the church in your house:
3 10Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon's Love and Faith

4 11I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,
5 because I 12hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the [c]saints;
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective [d]through the 13knowledge of every good thing which is in you [e]for Christ's sake.
7 For I have come to have much 14joy and comfort in your love, because the [f]hearts of the [g]saints have been 15refreshed through you, brother.
8 Therefore, 16though I have [h]enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is 17proper,
9 yet for love's sake I rather 18appeal to you-since I am such a person as Paul, [i] the 19 aged, and now also20 a prisoner of 21 Christ Jesus -

Plea for Onesimus, a Free Man

10 I 22appeal to you for my 23child [j]24Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my [k]imprisonment,
11 who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.
12 I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart,
13 whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my [l]25imprisonment for the gospel;
14 but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would 26not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.
15 For perhaps 27he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever,
16 28no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, 29a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both 30in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 If then you regard me a 31partner, accept him as you would me.
18 But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account;
19 32I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (33not to [m]mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well ).
20 Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; 34refresh my heart in Christ.
21 35Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.
22 At the same time also prepare me a 36lodging, for 37I hope that through 38your prayers 39I will be given to you.
23 40Epaphras, my 41fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you,
24 as do 42Mark, 43Aristarchus, 44Demas, 45Luke, my 46fellow workers.
25 47The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be 48with your spirit.[n]

Philemon 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

Philemon was an inhabitant of Colosse, a person of some note and wealth, and a convert under the ministry of St. Paul. Onesimus was the slave of Philemon: having run away from his master, he went to Rome, where he was converted to the Christian faith, by the word as set forth by Paul, who kept him till his conduct proved the truth and sincerity of his conversion. He wished to repair the injury he had done to his master, but fearing the punishment his offence deserved might be inflicted, he entreated the apostle to write to Philemon. And St. Paul seems no where to reason more beautifully, or to entreat more forcibly, than in this epistle.

The apostle's joy and praise for Philemon's steady faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints. (1-7) He recommends Onesimus as one who would make rich amends for the misconduct of which he had been guilty; and on behalf of whom the apostle promises to make up any loss Philemon had sustained. (8-22) Salutations and a blessing. (23-25)

Verses 1-7 Faith in Christ, and love to him, should unite saints more closely than any outward relation can unite the people of the world. Paul in his private prayers was particular in remembering his friends. We must remember Christian friends much and often, as their cases may need, bearing them in our thoughts, and upon our hearts, before our God. Different sentiments and ways in what is not essential, must not make difference of affection, as to the truth. He inquired concerning his friends, as to the truth, growth, and fruitfulness of their graces, their faith in Christ, and love to him, and to all the saints. The good which Philemon did, was matter of joy and comfort to him and others, who therefore desired that he would continue and abound in good fruits, more and more, to God's honour.

Verses 8-14 It does not lower any one to condescend, and sometimes even to beseech, where, in strictness of right, we might command: the apostle argues from love, rather than authority, in behalf of one converted through his means; and this was Onesimus. In allusion to that name, which signifies "profitable," the apostle allows that in time past he had been unprofitable to Philemon, but hastens to mention the change by which he had become profitable. Unholy persons are unprofitable; they answer not the great end of their being. But what happy changes conversion makes! of evil, good; of unprofitable, useful. Religious servants are treasures in a family. Such will make conscience of their time and trusts, and manage all they can for the best. No prospect of usefulness should lead any to neglect their obligations, or to fail in obedience to superiors. One great evidence of true repentance consists in returning to practise the duties which have been neglected. In his unconverted state, Onesimus had withdrawn, to his master's injury; but now he had seen his sin and repented, he was willing and desirous to return to his duty. Little do men know for what purposes the Lord leaves some to change their situations, or engage in undertakings, perhaps from evil motives. Had not the Lord overruled some of our ungodly projects, we may reflect upon cases, in which our destruction must have been sure.

Verses 15-22 When we speak of the nature of any sin or offence against God, the evil of it is not to be lessened; but in a penitent sinner, as God covers it, so must we. Such changed characters often become a blessing to all among whom they reside. Christianity does not do away our duties to others, but directs to the right doing of them. True penitents will be open in owning their faults, as doubtless Onesimus had been to Paul, upon his being awakened and brought to repentance; especially in cases of injury done to others. The communion of saints does not destroy distinction of property. This passage is an instance of that being imputed to one, which is contracted by another; and of one becoming answerable for another, by a voluntary engagement, that he might be freed from the punishment due to his crimes, according to the doctrine that Christ of his own will bore the punishment of our sins, that we might receive the reward of his righteousness. Philemon was Paul's son in the faith, yet he entreated him as a brother. Onesimus was a poor slave, yet Paul besought for him as if seeking some great thing for himself. Christians should do what may give joy to the hearts of one another. From the world they expect trouble; they should find comfort and joy in one another. When any of our mercies are taken away, our trust and hope must be in God. We must diligently use the means, and if no other should be at hand, abound in prayer. Yet, though prayer prevails, it does not merit the things obtained. And if Christians do not meet on earth, still the grace of the Lord Jesus will be with their spirits, and they will soon meet before the throne to join for ever in admiring the riches of redeeming love. The example of Onesimus may encourage the vilest sinners to return to God, but it is shamefully prevented, if any are made bold thereby to persist in evil courses. Are not many taken away in their sins, while others become more hardened? Resist not present convictions, lest they return no more.

Verses 23-25 Never have believers found more enjoyment of God, than when suffering together for him. Grace is the best wish for ourselves and others; with this the apostle begins and ends. All grace is from Christ; he purchased, and he bestows it. What need we more to make us happy, than to have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with our spirit? Let us do that now, which we should do at the last breath. Then men are ready to renounce the world, and to prefer the least portion of grace and faith before a kingdom.

Cross References 48

  • 1. Philippians 1:1
  • 2. Ephesians 3:1
  • 3. Galatians 3:26
  • 4. 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1
  • 5. Philippians 2:25; Philemon 24
  • 6. Romans 16:1
  • 7. Colossians 4:17
  • 8. Philippians 2:25; 2 Timothy 2:3
  • 9. Romans 16:5
  • 10. Romans 1:7
  • 11. Romans 1:8
  • 12. Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:6
  • 13. Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 3:10
  • 14. 2 Corinthians 7:4, 13
  • 15. 1 Corinthians 16:18; Philemon 20
  • 16. 2 Corinthians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:6
  • 17. Ephesians 5:4
  • 18. Romans 12:1
  • 19. Titus 2:2
  • 20. Philemon 1
  • 21. Galatians 3:26; 1 Timothy 1:12; Philemon 23
  • 22. Romans 12:1
  • 23. 1 Corinthians 4:14
  • 24. Colossians 4:9
  • 25. Philippians 1:7; Philemon 10
  • 26. 2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Peter 5:2
  • 27. Genesis 45:5, 8
  • 28. 1 Corinthians 7:22
  • 29. Matthew 23:8; 1 Timothy 6:2
  • 30. Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22
  • 31. 2 Corinthians 8:23
  • 32. 1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:2
  • 33. 2 Corinthians 9:4
  • 34. Philemon 7
  • 35. 2 Corinthians 2:3
  • 36. Acts 28:23
  • 37. Philippians 1:25; Philippians 2:24
  • 38. 2 Corinthians 1:11
  • 39. Acts 27:24; Hebrews 13:19
  • 40. Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12
  • 41. Romans 16:7; Philemon 1
  • 42. Acts 12:12, 25; Acts 15:37-39; Colossians 4:10
  • 43. Acts 19:29; Acts 27:2; Colossians 4:10
  • 44. Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10
  • 45. Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10
  • 46. Philemon 1
  • 47. Galatians 6:18
  • 48. 2 Timothy 4:22

Footnotes 14

Chapter Summary

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 Commentaries