Philemon 1:4-16

Philemon's Love and Faith

4 1I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,
5 because I 2hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the [a]saints;
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective [b]through the 3knowledge of every good thing which is in you [c]for Christ's sake.
7 For I have come to have much 4joy and comfort in your love, because the [d]hearts of the [e]saints have been 5refreshed through you, brother.
8 Therefore, 6though I have [f]enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is 7proper,
9 yet for love's sake I rather 8appeal to you-since I am such a person as Paul, [g] the 9 aged, and now also10 a prisoner of 11 Christ Jesus -

Plea for Onesimus, a Free Man

10 I 12appeal to you for my 13child [h]14Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my [i]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 [j]15imprisonment for the gospel;
14 but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would 16not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.
15 For perhaps 17he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever,
16 18no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, 19a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both 20in the flesh and in the Lord.

Philemon 1:4-16 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 1:4-16 In-Context

2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to 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, making mention of you in my prayers,
5 because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints;
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ's sake.
7 For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
8 Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper,
9 yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you-since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus -
10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my 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 imprisonment for the gospel;
14 but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.
15 For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever,
16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord .
17 If then you regard me a partner, 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;

Cross References 20

  • 1. Romans 1:8
  • 2. Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:6
  • 3. Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 3:10
  • 4. 2 Corinthians 7:4, 13
  • 5. 1 Corinthians 16:18; Philemon 20
  • 6. 2 Corinthians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:6
  • 7. Ephesians 5:4
  • 8. Romans 12:1
  • 9. Titus 2:2
  • 10. Philemon 1
  • 11. Galatians 3:26; 1 Timothy 1:12; Philemon 23
  • 12. Romans 12:1
  • 13. 1 Corinthians 4:14
  • 14. Colossians 4:9
  • 15. Philippians 1:7; Philemon 10
  • 16. 2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Peter 5:2
  • 17. Genesis 45:5, 8
  • 18. 1 Corinthians 7:22
  • 19. Matthew 23:8; 1 Timothy 6:2
  • 20. Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22

Footnotes 10

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