…to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Philemon 1:2
In verse 1, Paul first addressed the letter to Philemon. He now continues with three more addressees. The first is Apphia. It is her only mention in Scripture, and the root of her name denotes “endearment.” Paul calls her “the beloved.” However, the Greek word in some manuscripts says, “our sister.” Either way, it is supposed that she is Philemon’s wife, being noted first after Philemon. If not his wife, it is likely she was some close relation to him.
Next, Paul mentions “Archippus.” He is seen here and in Colossians 4:17 where Paul gives him a note of exhortation concerning the ministry he had received in the Lord. Here, he is called “our fellow soldier.” The term “fellow soldier” is used of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25, and Timothy is said to be a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” in 2 Timothy 2:3. These terms place these men under Christ, the Captain of our salvation, as warriors in His cause. Obviously, it refers to a spiritual battle when this metaphor is used. Various commentaries claim he was probably a son of Philemon, but there is nothing to substantiate that other than that he is noted by name, and before Paul’s final addressee, meaning “the church in your house.”
Again, scholars are divided on what the term means. Some state that this term signifies a local gathering of Christians who met in Philemon’s house because it was a suitable place to meet. Others claim that the term is referring to his own family which is comprised of faithful Christians. There is no reason to assume that the term does not include outsiders who came by to form a local church though.
Life application: There are matters which are extremely important to get right concerning doctrine. These must be defended in a very fixed and rigid manner. There are issues which are important, but which do not affect salvation. These can be debated, but shouldn’t be a point of division. And then there are things like Apphia’s relationship to Philemon which have no bearing on doctrine at all. Unless there is a reliable external source which definitively explains who she is and what her relationship to Philemon is, there is no need to argue the matter. A simple comment, showing the uncertainty of the details, is all that is needed.
Lord God, help us to live peaceably with our fellow believers, and indeed with all people, to the extent to which it is possible. It is certainly not possible to live in a peaceable way with people who are violently opposed to our faith in You, but in those times where we can live in a friendly manner with others, help us to do so. May we be the initiators of peace in the world we live in, setting an example for others to hopefully emulate. Amen.