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.

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