Philemon 1:10

Sunday, 15 July 2018

…I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, Philemon 1:10

The structure of the Greek is much different than it is laid out here. It more literally reads, “I beg you for my child whom I have begotten in the chains, Onesimus.” Placing his name last is Paul’s way of emphasizing the entire thought. “I have a child; I begot him while I was in chains; he is Onesimus.”

Everything written thus far by Paul has been penned for this particular individual, Onesimus. It is apparent that Philemon knows who Paul is speaking about, and there is something that he desires of Philemon concerning him. It is also obvious that there is a problem which exists between Philemon and Onesimus. It is one which would otherwise be an insurmountable problem, but because of Paul’s careful wording, even including the way he has structured the words in this verse, a resolution is possible. It will be one not based on the relationship of Philemon to Onesimus, but on the relationship between Philemon and Paul, and because of Paul’s new relationship with Onesimus.

The reason for his heartfelt plea is at least partially understood now with the words, “my son.” Paul has become a father to him. He has used the word when speaking of the Galatians –

“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” Galatians 4:19

He then spoke of Timothy as his own son in Philippians, 1 Timothy (twice), 2 Timothy (twice), and of Titus in his letter to him. It is a term of endearment based on having led someone to Christ, or having adopted him through instruction about Christ. In the case of Onesimus, Paul further says, “whom I have begotten while in my chains.” In other words, while Paul was still in prison, he had met with and converted Onesimus to the faith. From there, it is obvious that he continued to tutor him as a father would tutor his own son.

The name Onésimos essentially means “Useful,” as in “profitable,” or in “advantage.” In order to understand the situation, it is necessary to go forward in the letter to determine what had happened. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave, but he ran away from Philemon. This would obviously be hugely problematic, and this is why Paul has so tenderly arranged his thoughts about Philemon first, and then about Onesimus. Because he is now Paul’s son, there is a new dynamic which must be considered.

Life application: When a person becomes a Christian, a new set of possibilities arises in how we can and should treat that person. We may have been enemies, but that should now change. There may be debts owed, but those should be forgiven. And so on. This is the attitude we should have toward those who come to Christ. Understanding this, Christians should endeavor to maintain those feelings of forgiveness to those who have been brothers and sisters all along. This is a tough challenge, because some never mature in Christ. They fail to grow in wisdom and knowledge, they continue to act immaturely, and they are real sore spots within the fellowship. Paul gives advice on how to handle fellow believers like that elsewhere in his letters. Be well brushed up on those things so that you are ready to properly handle difficult people who are believers.

Lord God, help us to do our best to be forgiving of our fellow believers, but help us to be wise in Your word and what it says, concerning those who fail to mature in You, and who continue to act in a way which is unsound. In knowing what Your instruction says about these things, we don’t have to feel guilty when we cut off fellowship – even from believers. Help us in this, O God. Amen.

Philemon 1:9

Saturday, 14 July 2018

yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— Philemon 1:9

Paul, having built his case concerning the command he could make, now completely changes the nature of such an appeal. Instead of a rightfully stated command, he says, “yet for love’s sake.” For Paul to command Philemon concerning the weighty matter which he will speak of might then put up a wall of resentment between the two. Though he has not yet stated his request, it is obviously something of great importance, and which could possibly be a burden of great measure on Philemon. Rather than imposing such a burden, he instead appeals to Philemon’s love, towards Paul and towards their common faith in general. This is then fully revealed in the words, “I rather appeal to you.”

From what could be commanded, Paul instead appeals based on love. Instead of a wall of enmity, he is looking for a holy kiss of fellowship. Instead of taking what could be taken, he asks for that which could be denied. Paul is placing his request back under Philemon’s authority, chancing that it may be turned down, but counting on it being granted – even to over and above what he hopes for (coming in verse 21).

Having stated that what he desires is a request based on love, he then continues to lead Philemon’s decision, providing words that would make it a cold-hearted gesture to refuse. He does this by stating two huge limitations which are placed on his own life. First, he says, “being such a one as Paul, the aged.”

It is unsure how old Paul was at this time. The only real clue is the word used to describe him in Acts 7:58, translated as “young man.” It signifies a man in his prime, even up to the age of 40. If he was 20, he might now be about 50. If he was 40, he might now be about 70. The facts concerning Paul’s life, as revealed elsewhere in the New Testament, mean that he would be old even if only 50. He had lived a hard life from the day he met Christ, and his body would bear the pains associated with that. It would be that much more so if he were now 70. No matter what, the appeal to his age is one which will make it difficult for Philemon to turn down. But then Paul adds in more; something he has written about frequently over the years, and which is his sad state once again. He says, “and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ…”

He had obviously been free when he was with Philemon, but now he was imprisoned. All people in the empire would know what that meant. It would be a weary existence, cramped and dirty living, painful cold, tormenting heat, and constant deprivation. Those in prison were dependent on others for their very food. Whatever Paul’s request is, he has tied his advanced age in with his miserable conditions, and he is basing it on Philemon’s love. How could Philemon turn down his request and be considered a true and faithful brother in Christ? One can now see why Paul so carefully highlighted the positive attributes ascribed to Philemon by others in verses 4-7. Was such a record true or not? His response to Paul’s coming request would reveal the truth or falsity of those reports.

Life application: How do people speak of you in your walk with Christ? If you feel you have a good record of service, or at least faithfulness in Christ, will you respond according to that record when a true need is asked of you by another brother in the Lord? This doesn’t mean that we need to respond to every request. It is obvious that people prey upon churches and individual Christians. But when true needs arise, are you going to be a part of meeting them? Be as ready to meet the challenge as you were to accept the praises for your life in Christ in the past.

Lord God, there are always needs brought before Your people. Some are by sharks who simply want to prey upon us because we are Yours. But there are many true needs which must be met, and which we may be asked to help with. Are the good words spoken about us in the past concerning our faith and generosity going to be met with deeds comparable to those accolades? Help us in this Lord. Grant us wisdom in who we should give help to, but grant us a generous heart when we give. To Your glory. Amen.

Philemon 1:7

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.

Philemon 1:6

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

…that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. Philemon 1:6

Paul’s words here are tied into what he said in verse 4. He said he was “making mention of you always in my prayers.” This was so “that the sharing of your faith may become effective.” The word he uses, which is translated as “sharing,” is koinónia. It signifies participation, communion, and fellowship. It is “what is shared in common as the basis of fellowship” (HELPS Word Studies). As his words are tied into verse 4, and as the next verse will be tied in with verse 5, there is a parallelistic structure to these verses. This will be seen when we arrive at verse 7.

For now, Paul is praying for an outward display of the fruits of Philemon’s faith, thus he will have demonstrated an effective (an active and energetic) faith. Understanding this, Paul is praying about what he hopes will be the character of Philemon concerning his actions as they are directed towards what Paul hopes he will do in regards to the issue that lies ahead in the epistle. One can see that the issue ahead is something important to Paul, and he is therefore praying that a positive response will be forthcoming from Philemon.

Paul then says that this demonstration of the fruits of his faith will be “by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” The words, “by the acknowledgment,” are an indication of the actual existence of his faith. He has faith; in sharing that faith, he is showing that his faith is genuine.

The words “every good thing which is in you,” speak of an outwardly revealing of his faith. It is an expression of the faith that he possesses, and which acknowledges that he possesses it, and is now demonstrating it.

And finally, “in Christ Jesus” signifies that the faith is not a misdirected faith, but one which is based on the foundation of the faith, Jesus Christ. He is the basis for the faith; and therefore, Paul is praying that Philemon will exhibit an outward display of his faith, thus acknowledging that his faith is genuine, developed, and willing to go to the lengths necessary to meet the request that lays ahead in Paul’s letter.

Obviously, if Paul is writing this, and Philemon were not to follow through with the request Paul then makes, it would be an indication that his faith had not met the standard which Paul speaks of here. Paul is delicately leading Philemon to the point where he can hardly say “No” to the request which Paul will make.

Life application: Paul is directing his words in a very careful manner in order to elicit the desired outcome from Philemon. He is not manipulating him, because everything he says is in accord with what one would expect from a Christian. But he is making it exceedingly hard for Philemon to turn down the request that is forthcoming. One should never challenge another’s faith in an inappropriate manner, but it is acceptable to ask for a demonstration of faith from those we fellowship with.

Lord God, help us to not just have saving faith, but to live out that faith in proper demonstrations of having it. When we are given a chance to exhibit our faith in meeting the real-life requests and needs of others, help us to do so. May our faith and deeds work together to demonstrate to the world that we are not only Christians in word, but also in deed. This we pray, that You will be glorified through the things we do. Amen.

Philemon 1:4

Monday, 9 July 2018

I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, Philemon 1:4

The words of this verse are rather similar in content to Romans 1:9, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3,4, Colossians 1:3, 4 & 1 Thessalonians 1:2. In other words, it is a greeting which, even if slightly amended for the occasion, is common to Paul’s letters. In some letters, the stress is on the thanks, in others it is on the prayers. For example, it is rather close to the words of Colossians 1:3 –

“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,”

However, when he wrote his letter to the Colossians, he noticeably mentions “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here in Philemon, he has already carefully placed Christ Jesus within the Godhead in the previous verse, and so the thanks are obviously to Him as much as they are to the Father. Therefore, Paul combines the two into the simpler term “God.”

Here he notes that he is “making mention of you always in my prayers.” Paul’s idea of “praying without ceasing,” which he states in 1 Thessalonians 5, is evident in words such as these. Whenever the thought of one of his beloved brethren or churches came to mind, he would utter forth a prayer to God on their behalf. To him, praying was certainly a normal extension of his regular life and conversation with others.

Life application: God already knows the end from the beginning. His plan is also complete in His mind. Despite this, we should not have a fatalistic view of life where we ignore prayers. Instead, God figures our prayers into the plan, just as our free-will calling on Jesus is figured into the plan. If we don’t receive Jesus, we will not be saved. Likewise, prayers that are not uttered are not heard. God’s foreknowledge of all things outside of time factors in our actions within the stream of time. Pray!

Heavenly Father, You have granted to us is the opportunity and honor to pray. When we open our hearts to You, You hear and respond according to Your great wisdom. With Jesus as our Mediator between us, we can know that those prayers which are offered through Him are acceptable to You. We have no need to worry if what our lips have prayed out to You are heard or not. They are! Thank You for our Mediator! Our prayers are heard because of Him. Amen.