Philemon 16-20
Philemon 16 (KJB)
Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
Above - More than
Here Paul continues his thread from the previous verse. It seems that Paul is asking Philemon to free Onesimus. It is more probable that he is asking Philemon to view Onesimus, not as a slave, like he was chattel, but now to view him as a brother in the Lord. (2 Cor 5:16 KJV) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. As Christians we do not look at each other according to how we look or social status, but we see each other as redeemed children of God, all equal at the foot of the cross. However, while we are in this world, there are still social orders which we must follow. If we work, we have a boss. If we are a child, we obey our parents, even if either the boss or the child are saved, there is an order we must follow for the sake of discipline. When Paul speaks of him being in the flesh, Onesimus will now have a new attitude toward his daily duties because the Lord Jesus Christ now dwells in him. Maybe Philemon did release Onesimus from being a slave, we do not know but Paul spoke of him very highly as being someone who is above a servant, that is, he would do his part and more to help the Apostle Paul in his ministry. It is akin to going the extra mile. (Mat 5:41 KJV) And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Before we were saved, we tried to cut corners and save ourselves some work but after we became saved we now take on a different attitude and want to do our best unto the Lord.
Philemon 17 (KJB)
If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
Partner - To identify with one as a partner or sharer
Paul now tells Philemon that if he views or identifies with Paul as a partner in ministry and eternal life in Christ, then he is asking him to receive Onesimus as if he would receive him if he came for a visit. The spiritual bond between them was very strong and Paul was very confident that Philemon would accept Onesimus back without any consequences. How many times does the Lord take us back when we sin against Him and we come to Him to ask forgiveness? Not that we lose our salvation but the fellowship bond is weakened. Paul would have hoped that Philemon would look upon Onesimus as one that has come to his senses about his actions, like the prodigal son did, and returned to his Father.
Philemon 18 (KJB)
If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
Wronged - Act unjustly, injured, or hurt
Oweth - To be indebted financially or morally
Here the apostle Paul is speaking like the Good Samaritan who wanted to take care of the injured man he found on the road. (Luke 10:35 KJV) And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Paul had desired a spiritual reconciliation between Onesimus and Philemon, but there is also a practical reconciliation. Paul is stating that in the wrong that Onesimus did by leaving, if he had incurred any financial debt or if he did anything morally wrong, then Paul is asking Philemon to put it on his account and he will make the restitution for whatever Onesimus owed. Christ did the same thing for us. He took all our sins and put it on His account. We were indebted to God because of our sins but Christ took that debt and cancelled it. Paul is asking Philemon to cancel the debt for Onesimus and charge him.
Philemon 19 (KJB)
I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.
Paul is reassuring Philemon that he is writing this epistle with his own hand which means he will stand behind every word he has written. Paul is very shrewd here as he continues the verse by reminding Philemon that it was he who lead him to the Lord and Paul is basically telling him that he does have somewhat of a spiritual obligation to him, being his spiritual father too. This statement is also a great spiritual principle that when people sin against us, we are to forgive them, just as when we sin Christ forgives us. Paul again reassures Philemon that he will repay the debt that Onesimus incurred. It does no good to know spiritual principles and never use them.
Philemon 20 (KJB)
Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
Paul here rejoices in the hope that Philemon will accept Onesimus back and it will be like a family reunion, just like when the prodigal son returned to his father. There was great celebration and Paul was hoping the same thing here that there would be much rejoicing that Onesimus had left an unsaved man but now returns as one who is saved by the grace of God and a family member in the body of Christ.