Tuesday, 24 July 2018
I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. Philemon 1:19
Paul’s previous words were, “…if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.” The words he now writes become important then because he would be bound by his words. In saying, “I, Paul, am writing with my own hand,” it is not as if a scribe had accidentally written something that Paul may have considered and then rejected. Rather, his hand wrote the words, ensuring that Philemon would know his sincerity.
A long-debated question is whether Paul wrote the entire letter himself, or if he took the pen from a scribe at this point and finished the letter from here on. We can speculate on the matter, but in the end, it is unknown. Either way, he personally wrote this portion, and it became his signature of approval for the entire letter. If the entire letter was written by him, it would be an unusual occurrence, and a note of the most tender affection.
After acknowledging his guarantee, he then says, “I will repay.” The word “I” is emphatic. This is the purpose of noting he had written the words with his own hand. If Philemon were to incur any losses from Onesimus’ actions, he knew that Paul would ensure he was paid back. What this means is that even in prison, Paul was able to guarantee the debt was paid. Whether he had saved money over the years, or whether he knew that gifts of support were forthcoming that he could use, he was not destitute, and Philemon would have no fear that there would be loss on his part.
Having now made the guarantee, Paul gives an almost ironic set of words for Philemon to consider by saying, “not to mention to you that you owe me.” In essence, Paul has rightfully agreed to pay whatever debt was owed because of Onesimus, but Philemon would be wrong in even considering requesting such payment. There was a debt still outstanding from Philemon towards Paul which was greater than any debt he incurred from the situation with Onesimus. Whereas Paul might owe a set amount of money to correct Philemon’s loss, Paul tells Philemon “that you owe me even your own self besides.”
Paul had led Philemon to Christ. That is something that could never be repaid. It held eternal significance. The monetary loss incurred by Onesimus was a temporary, earthy debt. There was no comparison between the two. And so Paul is allowing the greater debt to be canceled when Philemon releases the lesser debt. It really is a touching note when considered properly.
Life application: Have you taken the time to thank the person who led you to Christ, or the one who has helped you develop in Christ? There are debts and then there are debts. The debt of gratitude for spiritual matters far outweighs, and will eternally outlast, the temporary debts of this life. Be sure to let those who have spiritually ministered to you know of your appreciation for their willingness to open their mouths and speak the words of life.
Lord God, there was a time when we were far from You. But then someone came into our lives and spoke the words of life that led us to the foot of the cross. Our eternal destinies were changed, our souls were saved, and life took on an entirely new meaning. Help us to be appreciative of those who are willing to share this glorious message, and also help us to be willing sharers of it as well. To Your glory we pray. Amen.