Philemon 1:15

Friday, 20 July 2018

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, Philemon 1:15

Paul now sums up his thoughts of verses 12-14, as is indicated by the word “For.” He is making a summary statement as to why he is sending Onesimus back, including a possible reason why things turned out as they had. This is indicated by the word tacha, translated as “perhaps.”

The word’s meaning is “quickly,” and thus it is used in the sense of “quick to assume as true.” Paul is making a speculation about why things turned out as they did concerning Philemon, Onesimus, and himself. He knows it is not mere chance, but he also cannot speak for God as to why things occurred as they did without God specifically revealing the matter to him. And so to avoid claiming something as God’s actual intent without knowing what the actual intent was, he simply speculates. And the speculation is based on the separation which occurred between Philemon and Onesimus.

The words, “he departed,” fail to convey Paul’s masterful use of the language employed here. The word is in the passive voice, not the active. First, he doesn’t say, “ran away.” This would have reopened a wound which he has spent many verses trying to heal. To say he ran away would simply bring back to memory the need for punishment of his disobedient slave. Everything said thus far would be overshadowed by the act of disloyalty perpetrated against him. He also doesn’t say “departed,” which would indicate an active leaving for whatever reason – be it to escape permanently or to take off for a summer to join the circus. Rather, the passive voice should be translated as, “was parted.” This then fits like a glove over the word “perhaps,” uniting them into a combined thought concerning the guiding hand of God.

God was still behind what occurred. Even if it was active on Onesimus’ part, it was still passively directed by God. This then would correspond to the similar account of what occurred between Joseph and his brothers. They actively cast him into the pit, and they actively sold him off to slavery; but Joseph confirms that God was in the background, directing the events for a greater purpose –

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45:5

Next, Paul notes that this parting was “for a while.” The Greek reads, “for an hour.” It was both a finite amount of time, and a short one at that. If there was a parting, the time was well used in meeting a set, determined purpose. Philemon could argue over a long separation, filled with exotic travels and interesting stories, but how could he not see that such a short separation, filled with such obvious, carefully orchestrated, and specific events was intended to reveal the behind-the-scenes workings of God? In this, he could not argue that he was truly deprived of his property in an unnecessary way.

Understanding Paul’s intent of these words, he next says that all of it was “for this purpose…” It is an introductory statement leading to his climatic conclusion which is, “that you might receive him forever.”

He said that they “were parted.” There was intent and purpose in what occurred, and there was an end to that parting, as is evidenced by Onesimus standing there awaiting Philemon’s completion of reading Paul’s letter. Now, instead of a parting there is receiving. In the parting there was perceived loss. However, in his return there is gain. The Greek word Paul uses here, apechó, signifies “to have by separating from.” In other words, by letting go of one thing, you are able to possess another. It is used at times to signify “receiving payment.” Someone lets go of their time in employment in order to receive payment in return.

Therefore, Paul is saying that Onesimus was parted from Philemon so that Philemon could receive Onesimus in a new way. The parting was temporary (for an hour), but now the return can be “forever.” The word Paul chooses, aiónios, is consistently translated as “eternal.” There was the breaking of a lesser-quality human bond, and there is now new gain in an eternal one. The spiritual has replaced the carnal. This is not speculation on Paul’s part. Even if the purpose of God for the separation was not fully known, the result of that separation is. Onesimus has become a believer, and so – by default – there is now a new relationship between him and Philemon which exists. It will now be up to Philemon to decide which relationship is of the highest value to him.

Life application: Paul would not claim inspiration in what occurred when it was not specifically granted to him. He, an apostle of Jesus Christ, was denied the full revelation of events which specifically pertained to him and to two of his brothers in Christ. What an absolute tragedy that people believe the lies of preachers and other supposed “holy men of God” who continually make claims concerning God’s purposes in things they have no idea about. The very best thing you can do is run from someone who claims they have a word from the Lord or a special insight into what God intends – be it prophecy (the rapture is next week!) or life guidance (give, and your breakthrough is just ahead!). Stand on the word of God alone, and know that not everything that occurs will be explained to us in this present life.

Lord God, help us to be wise and discerning concerning people who claim to have “a word” from You. It is true that we have “the word” from You in the Holy Bible. That is sufficient. Those who go beyond this are showing their true nature; a nature we should quickly walk away from. Help us to be sound in our theology, reasonable in what we believe, and not duped by those who falsely claim that they have special revelation from You apart from Scripture. Amen.

3 thoughts on “Philemon 1:15

  • Friday, July 20th, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Being a sceptical person I am always Leary of these people that claim to have the inside track with Gods plans for us! Yet I have to look at people that share the dreams and visions they have and weigh out what they are saying with a heavy dose of scripture showing the validity of their reports and be open minded about them. We were told that In The last days dreams and visions would be on going! Myself I have had two rapture dreams! The first one was more of a this is what is what going to happen at the moment of the rapture, unbelievers acting like deer in the headlights and totally ignoring the signs happening before their eyes, the second dream left me with the most amazing feeling of peace and love that I have never ever experienced here! And the need to share it with others. So I have no problems with people saying the lord showed me this or that In a dream or vision with others was over whelming. My sceptical mind kicks in when they put etched in stone dates on events they say will happen.or try to control you by saying things like you can’t do this or that because the lord showed me what needs to be done etc etc etc if they say you can’t do this or that and it’s backed up by scripture that is fine but if the only reason they give you is because they have Gods cell phone number and they are getting inside trader tips ??? Ya time to leave. I kinda went off here but with so many false preachers and teachers coming out of the wood worki am very concerned for those that are on the fence of turning to Christ and being miss lead by these snake oil preachers. Gezz I hope I make sense here???

    I will shut up now lol

    Grace Mercy and Peace on you and yours
    We are another day closer to home Amen

    God bless my Friend(s)

  • Friday, July 20th, 2018 at 10:38 am

    BLESS GOD PRAISE JESUS! Charlie my experience in LE came about as I was helping teach the defensive tactics portion of the county sheriffs academy training with my hapkido instructor who was swat and the sheriff dept defensive tactics instructor. I was one of his top students . ( 3 years kickboxing exp black belt hapkido , instructor level phillipino lameco eskrima and knife and LE edged weapon defense instructor and training in jujitsu , shotakan karate, tae kwan do as well as dabbling in a few other styles during my younger years and military time in the army reserves) The sheriff dept however did not like civilians being employed as such so I was given the opportunity to serve my community as a volunteer reserve deputy for a few years. I unfortunately had to give it up when my job took me across the state for a extended period of time. Although I maintained my martial art experience for a few years more before stricken with neurological and thyroid problem I was unfit physically to return to LE.

  • Friday, July 20th, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Shane, thank you so much for sharing that. My hat is off to you. You are a lethal weapon! Gordon, as far as folks who make claims. My question is “what prophecy of the countless supposed prophecies over the past 2000 years has made any difference to Scripture? What has endured? Not one. So what on earth do we need them for? Answer: We don’t. It’s the word. That is all that matters in this regard!


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