Philemon 1:20

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Philemon 1:20

The translation here, following the KJV, misses the pun which Paul is making. The Greek literally reads, “Yes, brother, from you may I have profit in the Lord.” The word he uses, rightly translated as “may have profit,” is oninémi. It is found only this once in the Bible, and it signifies to derive “benefit,” or “profit.” The similarity of the word to Onesimus is not to be missed. Paul is making a confirmatory statement as indicated by the word “Yes.” He then makes it an endearing statement by again stating the word “brother.” And then from that, he makes his verbal pun by saying, “let me have profit from you.”

He is asking for a type of gain from the hand of Philemon, and that gain is the pardon and release of his profitable son in the faith Onesimus, or Profit. The words are as carefully written now as they were when he was preparing to state what was on his mind in the earlier verses. And to show the depth of his request, he adds in, “in the Lord.” In essence, he is saying that Philemon’s approval of Paul’s request would indicate that the Lord’s hand was, in fact, involved in everything that has happened. It would then confirm the Lord’s presence as Paul had surmised was the case in verse 15 with the words, “For perhaps.”

From there, Paul restates his desires with the words, “refresh my heart in the Lord.” The word translated here as “heart” signifies the inward parts; the internal organs. It thus refers to the deep-seated, visceral feelings of a person. Paul is looking to have the aching in his heart, the growling pains of his stomach, and the empty feeling which is deep inside of him refreshed by Philemon’s granting of his request.

As a side note, some manuscripts say in this second clause, “in Christ,” instead of “in the Lord.” As Christ is the Lord, nothing doctrinal is missing. Either way, he is placing the entire request, including the easing of his heart, in the context of being united together with Philemon in Christ the Lord.

Life application: Sticking to one translation of the Bible is not a wise way of pursuing the word of the Lord. If one doesn’t know the original languages, reading multiple versions, and then studying why there are differences between them, will greatly help the reader learn what is actually being said. For example, the use of irony is often missed by one translation, but brought out well in another. Be a wise student of Scripture and read the Bible as often as you can, and in a multitude of translations.

Lord God, thank You for the many varied translations of the Bible that You have granted to us through the hard work of many scholarly teams. We now have a much rounder idea of what is actually said in Your word by comparing various translations with the originals that are also available to us. What a blessed generation we are. Help us not to squander the great blessing of such marvelous access to Your word. Our lives are brief. May we use our time wisely in the pursuit of Your superior word! Amen.

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