Thursday, 12 July 2018
For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. Philemon 1:7
Here we continue with the parallelistic structure which started in verse 4. It was noted in the previous verse that verse 4 was connected to verse 6. The same is true with verse 5 being connected to verse 7. Thus, there is an a/b/a/b pattern evident –
a. 4. I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers,
b. 6. that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
a. 5. hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints,
b. 7. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
Seeing this pattern, the word “For” which begins verse 7 becomes apparent. It is based on the “hearing of your love…” Paul acknowledges that now by saying that it is the reason “we have great joy and consolation in your love.” It should be noted that some manuscripts say “I” instead of “we.” This would make sense based on the “I” which began verse 4, but there is also no reason to assume that the singular in verse 4 is not now converted to the plural here to include Timothy. Either way, nothing is lost in doctrine.
The important thing is that the love which Philemon displayed is what has stirred up the “great joy and consolation.” This is, again, Paul’s way of continuing to lead Philemon in making a favorable decision when presented with Paul’s request. If there is such great joy and consolation at what he has already done, how much more joy and consolation there will be when he follows through with Paul’s request!
Next, he says, “because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you.” This then is tied to where Philemon’s love was directed in verse 5. It was toward “all the saints.” Philemon’s love toward the saints in turn refreshed those same saints. The word “refresh” signifies “rest after the needed task is complete; to pause (rest) ‘after precious toil and care’” (HELPS Word Studies). Thus, Philemon’s love was directed to saints whose hearts were burdened in their labors in Christ, and Philemon was able to provide them with rest from their labors.
Paul will use this same word again in verse 20 concerning a need for the same rest in his own weary heart in regards to Philemon. Again, it is Paul’s masterful way of making it impossible for Philemon to turned down his request. Philemon had become well known for refreshing the hearts of the saints, and Paul – whom Philemon was indebted to – would ask the same for himself. How could Philemon turn him down!
Paul then finishes with, “brother.” Its placement at the end adds in an emphasis. No more touching word could have been added in to soften the heart of Philemon. Its placement is an immense act of persuasion for that which is forthcoming. Philemon is indebted to Paul (see verse 19), something which would place Paul in the stronger position in his discourse, and yet the use of the term “brother” brings them to equality once again. Paul’s words are so carefully woven together that Philemon would be a heartless soul indeed to not fully comply with what will be requested of him.
Life application: We may be over another Christian in employment, they may owe us money, there may be a great age difference between one another, etc., however, in Christ we are all on the same level when it comes to our position in Him. It would be good for us to remember this, and to never lord our earthly status over another believer. Humility is a trait that is sought out for by the Lord when He evaluates the hearts of His people.
Lord God, help us to be humble before our fellow believers, not exalting ourselves over them because of our position, wealth, age, or whatever other worldly status we may possess. Rather, help us to serve, just as Christ came to serve. Help us to act in humility and with respect to those who are our spiritual brothers in Christ. To Your glory we pray for softened hearts, willing to exalt others. Amen.