- Philemon 1-5
- The dating of this small letter is difficult but it is placed around
61-62 A.D where Paul was facing his first imprisonment. Paul had never gone
to Colosse and therefore Philemon and Onesimus must have met Paul while in
Rome. There were definitely many common friends among them as the list of
friends at the end of this letter have commonality with the list in the last
chapter of the book of Colossians. The basic story of this letter is that
Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, runs away and meets Paul while in Rome. While
he meets with Paul, Onesimus becomes saved and now his responsibility is to
return to his master. However, Paul sends this letter not only to Philemon
but he also addresses others in the church that meets in the house of
Philemon. Paul urges Philemon to receive him back, not as a runaway slave
but as a brother in Christ. There were severe penalties for a runaway slave
and also for those who harbored them and Paul had asked Philemon not to look
at Onesimus as property but as a fellow Christian. Since Philemon was a
member of the church at Colosse, Paul wanted the rest of the church to have
input into the situation between Philemon and Onesimus because Paul knew
that wisdom would prevail.
- Philemon 1 (KJB)
- Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto
Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
- Paul was a prisoner of Jesus Christ, held captive in “gospel bonds.”
Although Paul was a prisoner of Rome, he was stating that he was a prisoner
of Jesus Christ. Notice something else that he stated he was a prisoner of
Jesus Christ and not of Nero. Paul did not begin this letter stating that he
was an apostle because he did not want Philemon to think that Paul was
somehow lording it over him by reason of his office. Paul wanted to identify
with Philemon as a brother in the Lord and the fact that he was in prison
for bringing the gospel. Timothy must have been with Paul at this time and
maybe he was also a prisoner in the jail.
(Heb 13:23 KJV) Know ye that our brother
Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.
This verse in Hebrews would harmonize with this verse in
Philemon. Paul addresses Philemon as one who is dearly beloved and also a
fellow laborer or worker as the word could also be understood.
- Philemon 2 (KJB)
- And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and
to the church in thy house:
- Apphia’s name means “that which is fruitful.” It is believed that she
was the wife of Philemon and either the sister or mother of Archippus.
Archippus was also an office bearer in the Colossian church and a close
friend of Philemon. (Col 4:17 KJV) And
say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the
Lord, that thou fulfil it. Paul also addresses
this letter to the church which met in the house of Philemon. Paul wanted
the fullest exposure on the Onesimus situation so Philemon would receive the
- Philemon 3 (KJB)
- Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Grace to you is the beautiful salutation which means, “May God grant you
the joy of His great salvation.” Notice he also wishes them all grace and
peace. In the Jewish setting the Jews would greet with Shalom and Paul is
continuing the greeting as both Jew and Gentile would, while realizing there
is no difference in Christ. Paul is wishing Philemon peace and also for the
rest of the church. First, there is the peace we have with God upon
salvation when the war between us is over. (Rom 5:1 KJV) Therefore
being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ: Secondly, after salvation, we have the peace that
God gives to His children that can
- under gird us as we go through life.
(Psa 29:11 KJV) The LORD will give strength
unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
Philemon 4 (KJB)
- I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
- Mention - Recollection, memory, or remembrance
- Paul is stating that when he prays, he is letting him know that he is
not forgotten and that he always remembers him in prayer. He not only makes
petition for him but he thanks God for him on a perpetual basis. Paul was
not one to leave a place and forget. Unfortunately, that is too often the
case in modern Christianity. Someone asks us to pray for them and we say a
little prayer and then we forget about them as we go to pray for ourselves
in the bulk of our praying. I can guarantee that Paul was not making a
casual mention but a strong prayer.
- Philemon 5 (KJB)
- Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus,
and toward all saints;
- Paul now gives the reason that he is always thanking God for the person
and ministry of Philemon. We must always remember that we do not look at
another Christian as just a ministry but as a person first. Paul states that
he is hearing of the love and faith that Philemon has toward the Lord Jesus
Christ and toward all the saints. The word “hearing” in this verse does not
only mean that Paul had heard as if he was reading a report, but that he
heard with understanding. Paul knew that the reason Philemon was such a
great Christian was because of his dedication to the Lord and to His saints.
It is one thing to hear but it is another to hear and understand. The word
“toward” shows us that Philemon’s life was always ministering to the Lord
Jesus Christ and to the Saints. Philemon was not doing ministry for his own
benefit but for the benefit of others.