1:1 The Appeal of Onesimus
SUMMARY OF PHILEMON:
Greetings. Thanksgiving for Philemon's Faith. Entreaty for Onesimus. The Change in Onesimus. His Return. An Appeal of Philemon's Love for Paul. Paul's Hope to Visit Colosse. Closing Salutations.
Paul, a prisoner. A prisoner at Rome. The first words are an appeal to the sympathy of Philemon. He refers to his chains five times in this letter. See also Phm 1:9,10,13.
Timothy [our] brother. Two other Epistles of the Captivity name Timothy in the first verse. See Php 1:1 Col 1:1.
To Philemon. Philemon evidently lived in Colosse, but Paul had never been there. He had probably converted him in Ephesus, the capital of the province, during his long sojourn there.
1:2 [Our] beloved Apphia. Supposed to have been Philemon's wife.
And Archippus. The connection has suggested that he was Philemon's son. He was no doubt a minister. See Col 4:17.
The church in thy house. As the early church had no houses of worship, it met in private houses.
1:3 Grace. The benediction of grace would remind him of God's mercy. See PNT Ro 1:7.
1:4 I thank my God. Here he begins to speak directly to Philemon, whom he always mentions in his prayers.
1:5 Hearing of thy love and faith. The ground of his thankfulness is Philemon's godly life.
1:6 That the communication of thy faith. Rather, fellowship, as in the Revised Version. The Greek word is koinonia, and the prayer is that the fellowship of faith between Philemon and Onesimus may
become effectual in showing forth forgiveness, which would of course be comprehended in every good thing. Here, however, the statement is general.
1:7 We have much joy and consolation in thy love. Alluding to the time when news came to him of the state of the church at Colosse and of Philemon's active Christian life. The news was brought, no doubt, by Epaphras (Col 1:7).
1:8 Wherefore. After this introduction Paul states the purpose of the letter.
Though I might be very bold in Christ. As an apostle, and as the one who gave Philemon the gospel, he had the right
to enjoin thee that which is convenient. To command what is befitting.
1:9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech [thee]. Yet he does not come thus with commands, but as beseeching for love's sake.
Paul the aged. That his appeal may be more sure to touch Philemon, he reminds him that Paul is an old, gray-haired, scarred veteran of Christ, who has grown aged in his service,
and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. And is now a prisoner suffering for his Lord.
1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus. His spiritual son, whom he has
begotten in [his] bonds, while a prisoner in chains, had converted. It is possible that Epaphras met Onesimus, his fellow-townsman in Rome, and brought him to Paul.
1:11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable. He may not only have been a restless, discontented servant, but in addition, he ran away.
But now profitable to thee and to me. Such a change has taken place in him. He has served Paul in his bonds well, and will also serve Philemon well.
1:12 Whom I have sent again. Not only that he may make amends to thee for his wrong, but that thou mayst be able to treat him as a brother in Christ.
Thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels. Rather, My very heart (Revised Version). I am so much attached to him. To be unkind to him would wound Paul's very heart.
1:13 Whom I would have retained with me. Would gladly have kept him with me to render for thee the service you would be glad to give me while I am in chains.
1:14 But without thy mind would I do nothing. He wished, if such a service was rendered, it might be with Philemon's free consent.
1:15 Perhaps he therefore departed for a season. Perhaps his departure was providential,
That thou shouldest receive him for ever. To lead to his conversion, to give you a faithful helper, and to save him forever.
1:16 Not now as a servant. His relation is changed.
But above a servant, a brother. He is more than a servant, a Christian brother, beloved, especially to me. See Phm 1:12.
How much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord. He has both temporal, fleshly relations to thee (those of master and servant), and besides is your brother in Christ. Both these ties ought to bind him to you. The gospel held Christian masters responsible for both the moral and the physical welfare of their servants.
1:17 If thou count me therefore a partner. Christian fellow-laborers are partners. See 2Co 8:23, where Titus is named as Paul's partner.
Receive him as myself. Then receive him, as you would me.
1:18 If he hath wronged thee. By defrauding thee of his service.
Or oweth [thee] ought. Some have seen in this a suggestion that Onesimus had robbed Philemon, but that inference is not necessary. On the gospel and slavery, see topic 9254.
1:19 I Paul have written [it] with mine own hand. If you hold this wrong against him, here is my written bond that I will repay it.
Albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Here is a reminder that Philemon owed his salvation to Paul, a reminder which would certainly prevent him from putting in a claim against the apostle.
1:20 Let me have joy of thee in the Lord. By learning that you have cheerfully granted all I ask in this letter.
1:21 Having confidence... that thou wilt also do more than I say. This letter is written in full confidence that even more than I ask will be granted. Perhaps this is a hint that Philemon might grant Onesimus his freedom.
1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging. All the letters of the first imprisonment express confidence that he will be set at liberty. That Paul visited Asia again is almost certain, and perhaps he visited Colosse.
1:23 There greet thee Epaphras. See PNT Col 1:7. He probably founded the Colossian church. See also Col 4:12.
My fellowprisoner. Perhaps only in the sense that he shared Paul's imprisonment by becoming his companion.
1:24 Marcus. Introduction to the Gospel of Mark.
Aristarchus. A Macedonian. See Ac 27:2.
Demas. For his later history, see 2Ti 4:10.
Lucas. Introduction to the Gospel of Luke. See also Col 4:14. These are all mentioned in the closing salutations of the Colossian letter (Col 4:10,14).