Philemon 1:8

Friday, 13 July 2018

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, Philemon 1:8

The word “Therefore” is based on what Paul has said in verses 4-7. He has reminded Philemon about his conduct before the Lord, and he has used it as a point of leverage for what he personally desires from Philemon going forward from here. The words of this verse and onward constitute the heart of what is on Paul’s mind, and thus the main subject of the letter. There will be a request made of Philemon, but it could be otherwise. This is seen in Paul’s next words, beginning with, “though I might be very bold.”

Paul has been gracious with his words concerning Philemon thus far. He will be humble in his request going forward also. However, he could be bold instead, meaning more direct and forceful. And further, he would be in his right to do so because his boldness would be “in Christ.”

He and Philemon are brothers in Christ (verse 7), and there is a matter of extreme importance to Paul which Philemon would be unbrotherly to refuse. This is so much so that Paul could be so bold toward Philemon, as he says, “to command you what is fitting.”

What he means is that what he will merely ask for, and that in humility, is something that he could rightfully direct Philemon to do because it is what is right and proper. When an employer has a job to be done, he doesn’t need to ask his employees to do it. Rather, he could simply direct it to be accomplished. However, some employers use a more subtle and gracious tone with their employees. Though they have a right to command, they instead use words which are less forceful. This is what Paul is doing here.

Paul has carefully and methodically built up his case for requesting this great thing of Philemon. He has then shown that he could simply tell him to do it and, as a brother in Christ, he would not be acting according to Christian values to turn Paul down. From here, Paul will lay out his request, anticipating Philemon will do what is right based on the request, without being forced to accomplish the thing he is being asked to do.

Life application: If you go to a fellow Christian, a minister, or a pastor, and you ask what path you should take, be ready to do what they say if it is what is proper in Christ. It is wholly inappropriate to ask for godly counsel, and then reject that counsel when it doesn’t suit your desires. This is what the people of Israel did. They went to Jeremiah and asked for the word of the Lord, saying they would obey whatever word came back to them. However, when the Lord directed them according to their request, they rejected His word. The Lord’s response was, “For you were hypocrites in your hearts when you sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and according to all that the Lord your God says, so declare to us and we will do it.’ 21 And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God, or anything which He has sent you by me” (Jeremiah 42:20, 21). To reject what is right in Christ is to reject the word of the Lord. The people of Israel were judged and punished for their unfaithful stand in this regard.

Heavenly Father, help us to stand on Your word, and to not reject what it says when it is inconvenient or doesn’t suit our personal desires. What You have spoken is not left for us to pick and choose whether we will obey or not. It is given for the guidance of our lives in Your presence. May we keep it in context and, if that context directs us, may we act accordingly – to Your glory. Amen.

Philemon 1:5

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

…hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, Philemon 1:5

This verse is very similar to Colossians 1:4 –

“…since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;”

The difference often puzzles scholars though, especially the idea of “faith” being directed “toward all the saints.” But this isn’t the intent. In what occurs numerous times in Scripture, Paul’s mind is transferring two separate thoughts to the letter in what is known as a chiasm. He is associating “love” with “toward the saints,” and “faith” with “toward the Lord Jesus.” Laid out in order we see the following:

a. hearing of your love
b. and faith which you have
b. toward the Lord Jesus
a. and toward all the saints

This is somewhat similar to what Luke does in Acts 2:38 concerning baptism –

a. Repent [second person plural]
b. be baptized [third person singular]
b. each [singular] of you
a. for the remission of your [second person plural] sins.

These subtle nuances are intended to direct our attention to what is being said, but we often will miss them, especially in translations, and even more especially when rules of grammar change between languages. Having it laid out clears up the confusion. Philemon’s faith is not being directed toward “all the saints,” but only toward the Lord Jesus. At the same time, his love is being directed “toward all the saints.”

This will be seen worked out in the coming verses as Paul will speak of faith in connection with Christ Jesus in verse 6, and then he will connect love with the saints in verse 7. For now, Paul’s prayers (verse 5) are in thanks to God because of the faith and love which is found in Philemon.

Life application: There are often perceived difficulties in Scripture which can be cleared up by referring to similar thoughts found elsewhere in Scripture, or by laying out verses in the various types of patterns which the Bible uses, such as parallelism, chiasm, etc. In learning these various patterns, and then evaluating verses based on them, the lights often come on as to what the true intent of a passage is.

Lord God, thank You for the wonders which are found in Your word. It is an endless stream of delight, if we will simply open it up and study it. In the end, it always reveals wisdom right from Your mind. What more splendid thing could we pursue than that! Thank You for this beautiful gift. And thank You for Jesus who is the Subject of it all. Praises to You for what You have done in Him, and how He is revealed in Your word. Amen.

Philippians 4:23

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen Philippians 4:23

This final greeting is similar to that of many of his other closing statements. “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 stupendous blessing to be bestowed upon those in Philippi (and thus us!). 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 our 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. As with other churches addressed in his epistles, they have been tempted by those who reject Christ; they have been led astray to deeds of the flesh; etc. Paul is reminding them that they stand by grace and that this grace should be with them all. Some Greek manuscripts instead say “…with your spirit.” Which is correct is debated. Either way, 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. And with that, he closes with “Amen.” So be it!

Life application: If you have come to the book of Philippians, read it, contemplated it, and still think that you should be pursuing works of the law in order to make God happy (or happier) with you; or if you believe that you can live a life of licentiousness because you are “already saved” and so it doesn’t matter, you have a serious issue with understanding grace. You may not be saved at all. One cannot earn grace, and considering grace as a license to sin is perverse. Put away such things, and stop sneering at God’s offer of peace. Be reconciled to God through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Lord God, we are all on different levels of spiritual understanding, but there is one point which even the youngest child can grasp – we cannot earn grace. You have offered it to us, and all we need to do is to reach out our hand and receive it. Help us to never add to what You have done through the grace found in the cross of Jesus. May we boast in what He has done, and put away our deeds of the flesh in our pitiful attempt to please You. And also, O God, may we never use the grace You have granted us as license to sin. Instead, may we live holy lives, dedicated to You. We praise You for Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Philippians 4:22

Friday, 10 March 2017

All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. Philippians 4:22

“All the saints” seems to show that “brethren” of the previous verse are those who were with Paul more directly. The others, being referred to as “all the saints,” are those who were found throughout Rome. They, either personally, or by representative coming to visit Paul, had asked to be remembered to the Philippians when he hailed them in this letter.

He goes on to say though, “but especially those who are of Caesar’s household.” This is a term which included all levels within Nero’s scope of influence, from the lowest slave or freedman even to the highest official. The term “Caesar” is an appellation applied to the office, just as Pharaoh was ascribed to the ruler of Egypt. Thus it speaks of whoever is in the office at the time, which during the time of Paul’s letter was Nero.

It is debated why Paul would single these people out, but it may be that it is showing those in Philippi that even the very halls of power were being converted to Christ. If those in such a high place had bowed the knee to Christ, then it was a warm assurance that this life truly means far less than what lies ahead. The place of wealth, power, and pomp was considered as of less importance than that house which is being prepared for those who wait patiently on the Lord.

It can even be deduced that Paul’s chains, as are noted in verse 1:13, were to be preferred above anything that this world could offer, even in the highest place of the Roman Empire.

Life application: There have been many powerful people in church history who have willingly bowed the knee to Christ Jesus. As Isaiah prophesied so long ago, “Kings shall shut their mouths at him.” It is the highest honor of all to be called a Christian, and therefore, we should never feel that our personal state – whether rich or poor, popular or not, or any other worldly distinction – is a reason to be exalted or humiliated. When we have Christ, we are the most blessed of all.

Lord God, there is no greater honor to be found than to bear the title of a follower of Christ. Whether a president, a movie star, or a janitor, all are on an equal level before the matchless King. Whether we have much or little, we who are in Christ are the fullest of all, even to overflowing, because of the abundance He provides. Let us never be ashamed of our worldly position, but let us glory in our state which is derived from being called a Christian. Thank God for Jesus Christ who exalts the lowly and who brings us into favor with the Father. Amen.

Philippians 4:21

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. Philippians 4:21

In many letters, Paul personally addresses individuals. Here he makes a more general statement without specifically noting anyone. It is unsure why this is the case, but it may be because he has already mentioned several people in the epistle, and he does not want to make specific greetings which might then give the impression that his attitude was less favorable to those he earlier mentioned (such as Euodia and Syntyche) than he led on.

For whatever reason, he simply says, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” All who are in Christ Jesus are, by default, saints. The idea of sainthood found in the Roman Catholic Church is wholly unbiblical and without any merit at all. Rather, any and all who have received Christ Jesus are “in” Christ Jesus and they are saints. He would have all greeted in accord with this distinction.

He then notes that “The brethren who are with me greet you.” Why the term “brethren” is used here instead of “saints” is of great talk among scholars. Many say that he is speaking of the Jewish believers that were with him. It is true that there were Jewish believers with him, but this would then leave obvious omissions, and it would also illogically divide the body.

First, it would omit any Gentiles with him. We know from 1:1 and 2:19 that Timothy is there with him. It is not to be expected that he would so faithfully mention him twice and then ignore him in his final words. Secondly, to say that the Jews only were brethren would leave out the Gentiles, but he uses the term of Gentiles elsewhere many times. Suffice it to say that Paul is simply using the term “brethren” as an indication of the believers there with him, each a saint as well.

And as an important note, Peter is never mentioned here, in Philemon, in Romans, etc. when addressing or referring to those in Rome. It shows us without any doubt at all that Peter was not the first “Pope.” If he were, it would be the highest dishonor to overlook such a lofty thing as that. The Roman Catholic claim that Peter was the first Pope does not bear up at all when the words of the Bible are considered. The claim is false.

Life application: When reading commentaries, be careful to not just assume that the commentator is correct, thus making a new squiggle in your brain which is incorrect. Instead, read commentaries, and then evaluate what has been written against what you already know about Scripture. Oh but wait! How can you do that unless you ALREADY KNOW SCRIPTURE? Read your Bible!

Lord God Almighty… We are often provided with commentaries on Your word. We must then decide if what those commentaries say is in line with the rest of Your word. If they are not, and we accept them as correct, our theology will be faulty. But how are we to know UNLESS WE ALREADY KNOW OUR BIBLE? What a shame it is that we would ask questions of others concerning Your word without first having at least a basic idea of what it says. If we do not, we are only setting ourselves up for disaster. And so give us the wisdom to get up each day and read this precious, marvelous gift which You have given to us. May we stand approved before You in our life and doctrine. Amen.