Philemon 1:8

Friday, 13 July 2018

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, Philemon 1:8

The word “Therefore” is based on what Paul has said in verses 4-7. He has reminded Philemon about his conduct before the Lord, and he has used it as a point of leverage for what he personally desires from Philemon going forward from here. The words of this verse and onward constitute the heart of what is on Paul’s mind, and thus the main subject of the letter. There will be a request made of Philemon, but it could be otherwise. This is seen in Paul’s next words, beginning with, “though I might be very bold.”

Paul has been gracious with his words concerning Philemon thus far. He will be humble in his request going forward also. However, he could be bold instead, meaning more direct and forceful. And further, he would be in his right to do so because his boldness would be “in Christ.”

He and Philemon are brothers in Christ (verse 7), and there is a matter of extreme importance to Paul which Philemon would be unbrotherly to refuse. This is so much so that Paul could be so bold toward Philemon, as he says, “to command you what is fitting.”

What he means is that what he will merely ask for, and that in humility, is something that he could rightfully direct Philemon to do because it is what is right and proper. When an employer has a job to be done, he doesn’t need to ask his employees to do it. Rather, he could simply direct it to be accomplished. However, some employers use a more subtle and gracious tone with their employees. Though they have a right to command, they instead use words which are less forceful. This is what Paul is doing here.

Paul has carefully and methodically built up his case for requesting this great thing of Philemon. He has then shown that he could simply tell him to do it and, as a brother in Christ, he would not be acting according to Christian values to turn Paul down. From here, Paul will lay out his request, anticipating Philemon will do what is right based on the request, without being forced to accomplish the thing he is being asked to do.

Life application: If you go to a fellow Christian, a minister, or a pastor, and you ask what path you should take, be ready to do what they say if it is what is proper in Christ. It is wholly inappropriate to ask for godly counsel, and then reject that counsel when it doesn’t suit your desires. This is what the people of Israel did. They went to Jeremiah and asked for the word of the Lord, saying they would obey whatever word came back to them. However, when the Lord directed them according to their request, they rejected His word. The Lord’s response was, “For you were hypocrites in your hearts when you sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and according to all that the Lord your God says, so declare to us and we will do it.’ 21 And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God, or anything which He has sent you by me” (Jeremiah 42:20, 21). To reject what is right in Christ is to reject the word of the Lord. The people of Israel were judged and punished for their unfaithful stand in this regard.

Heavenly Father, help us to stand on Your word, and to not reject what it says when it is inconvenient or doesn’t suit our personal desires. What You have spoken is not left for us to pick and choose whether we will obey or not. It is given for the guidance of our lives in Your presence. May we keep it in context and, if that context directs us, may we act accordingly – to Your glory. Amen.

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