Philemon 1:25

Monday, 30 July 2018

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philemon 1:25

This final greeting is extremely similar to that of the closing of the book of Galatians. The only difference is in Paul’s use of the word “brethren” in Galatians. That was explained then as being necessary because, despite the temptations of the Judaizers, Paul still considered them brethren and wanted that point highlighted, even at the very last moment of his direct and purposeful epistle. The inclusion of the word here is unnecessary. Paul has already called Philemon “brother” twice. Those also greeted in the epistle were in good standing with him, and so he skips the term. Instead, he simply speaks to all of them collectively with a plural pronoun.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is one of the greatest concepts found in the Bible. Man is fallen and man needs grace for his salvation and for his continued walk with the Lord. Paul asks for this marvelous blessing to be bestowed upon Philemon and those with him. In this petition, it is understood that they are undeserving of it. One cannot merit grace. Therefore, the petition is one of hope that this unmerited favor “of the Lord Jesus Christ” will continue to be lavished upon them – sinners already saved by that same grace.

This grace, being unmerited, is especially highlighted here for them to consider their position before God. They have been granted grace in the spiritual renewal found in Christ, and from the bonds of sin-debt which tied them down, and he is now in the highest hopes that grace will likewise be bestowed upon Onesimus in an earthly way. Paul is reminding them that they stand by grace and that this grace should be with their “spirit.” The spirit is the highest part of man. It is the aspect of us which is reconnected to God because of grace, not works.

Man spiritually died when Adam disobeyed God; Jesus Christ regenerates our spirit through His work. Faith in that deed, and faith alone, is what brings this about. Paul asks them to consider this and let this grace continue to be that which guides their spirit. It is certain that he desires it to be especially directed toward the wayward slave who is standing there awaiting a decision on his fate as Philemon’s eyes fall upon the last words of the letter. And with that said to his dear fellow Christians who meet in the house of Philemon, he closes with “Amen.” So be it!

In coming to the ending of the letters of Paul which bear his signature, we should stop and be thankful for how God used him to bring us such wonderful epistles of doctrine, instruction, training, and encouragement. He spent his life’s energy to the glory of God, understanding the immense debt that he owed, and which had been canceled because of the shed blood of Christ. It is more than fitting then that his final epistle is not one of actual prescriptive doctrine, but one which appeals to the very heart of the gospel in another way. In a chest full of precious jewels, Philemon radiates out its own splendor among them. It shines out prominently as a reminder to each of us that we have received grace and mercy, and so we should also consider bestowing it upon others. Their offense against us is far less than our offense against God. Let us remember this always.

Life application: If you have come to the book of Philemon, after having read it and contemplated it, has it changed your heart towards another who needs your loving grace and tender mercy? At the foot of the cross, the ground is level. We all needed His forgiveness, and we received it. Are you prepared to give it to someone who has offended you far less than you have offended God? Convert your heart of stone into one of tender flesh, look upon the affliction of the one who stands near, and grant them the pardon they need to be restored in their spirit towards you. Let peace and fellowship be seen in you towards others because of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Lord God, we all have debts owed to us, and debts that we owe. Some are debts which must be paid because of earthly responsibilities. And, some are debts that we can forgive, or ask to be forgiven, because of our position in Christ. Help us to be willing to cancel those debts among our fellow believers that will allow them to more freely live in Your presence, knowing that we have been forgiven so much more because of Jesus. Help us in this, O Lord. Amen.

Philemon 1:24

Sunday, 29 July 2018

…as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. Philemon 1:24

This verse, along with verse 10 (which mentions Onesimus), place the writing of Philemon at close to the same time as the writing of the book of Colossians. Here is what it says in Colossians 4 –

Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. 15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

Later in Colossians 4:17, Paul addresses Archippus, who is still in Colossae, and who is also an addressee in this letter to Philemon (verse 2). It can be inferred then that the timing is the same, and the letters were probably sent at or near the same time.

“Mark” is John Mark who went along with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey, but who left that task before it was finished. Because of this, on the next missionary journey, there was a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along again. The disagreement was so severe that they split apart, each going his own way. Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas, and off they went in different directions. However, Paul had obviously received Mark with an open hand once again and they were there together.

Aristarchus is a fellow Jew who is listed three times in Acts (19:29, 20:4, and 27:2). He is also named in Colossians and here in Philemon. Though a Jew, he was a Macedonian from Thessalonica as well (just as Paul was from Tarsus of Cilicia).

Demas is noted next. Eventually, he will forsake Paul as is recorded in 2 Timothy –

“Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:9-11

Finally, he mentions “Luke.” This is the same Luke noted in Acts 17:10, and he is recorded as being with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11. He is a Gentile. He is also a physician, something readily supported by his annotations in both the Gospel of Luke and in the book of Acts. His carefully worded statements demonstrate an observant eye and an understanding of both health and healing issues.

These men are called “my fellow laborers.” They all sent their personal greetings to Philemon, thus adding in one more reason for Philemon to grant Paul’s request. All of them were aware of the situation, they were obviously aware of Paul’s letter and its contents, and they were all friends of Philemon. It would be hard indeed to not approve the request Paul has made without offense to all of them.

Life application: Is holding fast to one’s pride worth losing friends in Christ? Philemon had been offended by the actions of Onesimus, but he was also faced with either forgiving him and doing as Paul requested, or he might lose his Christian brothers in the process. In the end, anything lost through Onesimus’ disobedience was promised to be restored. The only reason to not approve the request would be pride. Let’s hope he did the right thing, and let us also endeavor to do the right thing as well.

Lord God, the one thing we cling to in this life, and which is the most detrimental of all, is the sin of pride. This is especially true in salvation. We don’t want to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior, that nothing we can do will save us. Instead, we must submit ourselves to the only One who can – Jesus. Help us to put away our pride for salvation, and to keep it away in our salvation. Help us in this, O God. Amen.

Philemon 1:23

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, Philemon 1:23

Paul now begins his final words to Philemon. He starts with greetings from five individuals. The first is found in this verse, Epaphras. This individual is mentioned in Colossians 1:7 & 4:12. In Colossians, he is called by Paul, “our dear fellow servant.” He is also noted there as a being from Colossae and “a bondservant of Christ.” Some tie him in with Epaphroditus who was seen in the letter to the Philippians. Epaphras is merely a shortened form of the same name, and so it is possible. However, as he is from Colossae, this is unlikely because Epaphroditus was elsewhere said to be from Philippi.

Here, Paul calls him, “my fellow prisoner.” This would be the reason for naming him first. As both were in prison, it would show a special bond existed. However, it is debated as to whether his bondage was literal or spiritual. It could be that he voluntarily shared in Paul’s confinement in order to assist him. Or, it could be that he was temporarily confined because his relations with Paul brought him under suspicion of the empire.

Whatever is specifically meant by the term, he is a fellow prisoner “in Christ Jesus.” The meaning of this is obvious. Regardless of his status as a prisoner, it is because of his faith in Christ that he is in this state. There with Paul, he also sends his greetings on to Philemon.

Life application: Paul was in prison, others with Paul were made prisoners, and countless other souls in Christian history have been imprisoned (and worse) for their faith. If such treatment comes upon us in the future, we need to understand that there is no shame in this. It is better to be in chains as a Christian than it is to deny Christ and walk about in earthly freedom.

Lord God, it’s difficult to think of how many people have been willing to give up their freedom, and even give up their lives, for the exalted name of Jesus. And yet these countless souls did just that. They realized that the glory ahead far outweighs any temporary gain in this fallen world. Should such a time come in our own lives, help us to be willing to follow in that same mindset. Give us strength in this, O God. Amen.

Philemon 1:22

Friday, 27 July 2018

But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you. Philemon 1:22

Paul has completed his words of petition concerning Onesimus, and so he now changes the direction of his letter using the Greek word homa, translated here as “But, meanwhile.” It is word giving the sense of, “at the same time.” He is assuming that his request concerning Onesimus will be acted on; and so he asks that, while that is occurring, Philemon will “also prepare a guest room for me.”

Translating this as “guest room” is too familiar for Paul’s intent. A “guest room” implies a room in one’s own house, whereas the Greek word simply means “hospitality,” or “a lodging.” The only other time it is used is in Acts 28:23 while speaking of Paul’s lodging while he was awaiting trial. Paul is asking that accommodations be made by Philemon (the verb is singular), probably hoping that they will be at Philemon’s house; but he tactfully refrains from asking for this, demonstrating his usual courtesy of not being a burden on another.

Paul is in prison at this time, and yet he asks for this to be done anyway, next giving the reason with the words, “for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.” Here the words are in the plural. It is not just Philemon, but all mentioned in verse 2 (including the church) that he knew were praying for him. He is certain that because of their prayers he will be released and able to return to see them. The word translated as “I shall be granted” indicates “a favor.” In other words, God would have Paul released as a favor through their prayers.

This statement is, of course, another reason why Philemon would need to be especially considerate of how he handled the situation with Onesimus. Paul would be back, and the response to his letter’s request would be evident the moment he arrived. How would Philemon have acted upon his heartfelt words? He certainly had other places to visit, and other churches to minister to, but he would be coming to this one when he was released. Though the subject of Onesimus has ended in the letter, it is still on prominent display in how the letter would be responded to.

Life application: How do you act towards others in Christ when you have a need? Paul was careful to not ask for a room in Philemon’s house. He simply asked for help finding lodging. The amount we impose on others is often an indicator of our respect for their personal time and capabilities. The less we ask, while still asking some small thing, shows that we respect them enough to ask for help, but care about them enough to not be overburdensome on them.

Lord God, give us wisdom in how we deal with others. Help us to evaluate their situations, and not demand too much of them time-wise, or favor-wise. Some people have lots of time, and we can chat with them on the phone for an hour. Some lead very busy lives and we should keep our talks short. The same is true with all aspects of relying on others. Help us to be aware of their constraints before we impose too heavily upon them. But in all our relationships, let us be thankful that they exist. Close friends are a true blessing from you! Amen.

Philemon 1:21

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. Philemon 1:21

Paul has made several requests, specifically stating in verse 8, that he might have been bold and commanded what is fitting, but instead, he appealed for love’s sake. It is as obvious as the nose on a person’s face that Paul is asking for Onesimus to be freed from his slavery, but yet he never states this. He only said that he would pay any debts (v. 19) and that he desired Onesimus to minister to him (verses 13 & 14).

It is these things that are referred to with the words, “Having confidence in your obedience.” Paul has made a set of requests, and he is sure that Philemon will comply with those requests. They are not commands, but they will answer the heartfelt desires of Paul when they are met by his obedient son. This is why he wrote what he had thus far. But then Paul adds on his next words; words which can only be seen as a desire for Onesimus’ complete release from slavery. This is what Paul is seeking in writing, “knowing that you will do even more than I say.”

What more could he do? The answer is threefold. First, he could forgive Onesimus completely, including any outstanding debts, and even not charging Paul for them. Secondly, he could grant Onesimus freedom from his slavery. And thirdly, he could then send him to Paul to minister to him. This is what would show a true and complete granting of Paul’s implicit requests, along with his explicit ones. Paul has said as much about slaves elsewhere, telling them that they are to serve faithfully as slaves, but if they can be made free, to accept that freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21). Paul wants this for Onesimus, and he is hoping for it from Philemon.

Life application: As has been noted in other verses of the book of Philemon, Paul is not speaking against the practice of slavery. The verses here and elsewhere cannot be used to say the practice is right or wrong. It is explicitly allowed in both testaments of the Bible. It may be true that it is not what was originally intended for man, but with the fall came many things we must accept as a part of the fallen world. In the case of Onesimus, Paul would have him freed because of his status as a Christian, and his love for both the master and the slave. The issue does not go beyond this. Be careful to not force into Scripture what Scripture does not say.

Lord God! Praises to You for what You have done for Your redeemed. We may be in unhappy situations in this life. We may have an unhappy marriage, we may be bound to a job which is highly displeasing; and some of Your people may be in bondage of one type or another, having lost all worldly freedom. But in Christ, we are the freest beings of all. We know that these trials and troubles are temporary, and so we can endure through them in the sure hope of something much better yet ahead for us. Thank You for this wonderful assurance! Amen.