Philemon 1 - Outline of Philemon (MENU page)
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Philemon
WRITER: The Apostle Paul (1:1)
DATE: Probably A.D. 64. It is one of the Prison Epistles.
See the Introduction to any of the others: Ephesians, Philippians, or Colossians.
THEME: Onesimus ("profitable"), a slave of Philemon, a Christian of Colosse, had robbed his master and fled to Rome. There, he became a convert through Paul, who sent him back to Philemon with this letter. It is of priceless value as a teaching:
(1) in practical righteousness;
(2) in Christian brotherhood;
(3) in Christian courtesy;
(4) in the law of love.
The divisions are four
I. Greeting, 1-3.
II. The character of Philemon, 4-7.
III. Intercession for Onesimus, 8-21.
IV. Salutations and conclusion, 22-25.
[The above introduction was adapted from the Scofield Reference Bible, pub. 1917.]
1. Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy [our] brother,
unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2 And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier,
and to the church in thy house:
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ...
At the time of writing, Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the 'crime' of preaching the Gospel (Eph 3:1; 4:1-3; 6:18-20). This was probably Paul's first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:16,30,31). Timothy, one of Paul's sons in the faith, was with him, either as a fellow-prisoner, or as an assistant to the apostle (Php 1:1; Col 1:1; cp. Heb 13:23). About two years after he wrote the 'prison epistles,' Paul was again arrested and imprisonment in Rome. At that time, knowing that he would soon be executed, Paul wrote to ask Timothy to come to him (2Tim 4:6-9).
...unto Philemon...
The name 'Philemon' means 'friendly' or 'affectionate.' Paul expresses his love for this man who had labored with him in God's work of proclaiming the Gospel. cp. 1Cor 3:5-9; 2Cor 5:18-21
...and to our beloved Apphia {some MSS have, 'to our sister Apphia'}, and Archippus...
It is probable that these were Philemon's wife and son. This family hosted a local gathering of believers in their home.
     Archippus {meaning 'ruler over horses'} had also aided the apostle in spiritual warfare. Paul calls him a 'fellowsoldier' (cp. Php 2:25), but in a separate letter to the Colossian church (sent at the same time as this personal epistle), he warns him not to neglect the work which the Lord had given him (Col 4:17).
Grace to you and peace...
Paul's greeting is always in this order, in all of his epistles. Grace and peace belong to those who trust in God the Father and the Son.
4 I thank my God, making mention {remembrance} of thee always in my prayers,
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast
toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6 That the communication
{GK=koinonia, fellowship} of thy faith may become effectual
by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love,
because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
Paul thanked God for Philemon's fellowship in the Faith (cp. Php 1:3-6), and prayed that his work of faith, in furthering the Gospel and in assisting other believers, would become increasingly fruitful, to cause many to thank God for His grace demonstrated through Philemon's selfless life and generosity (cp. 2Cor 9:12-14; Php 1:9-11; Jam 2:14-17).
     In Paul's trials, he found joy and comfort, in hearing of Philemon's work of love in relieving the burdens of less fortunate believers. cp. Php 2:1-4; 1The 1:3
8. Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ {ie., to speak with apostolic authority}
to enjoin
{command} thee that which is convenient {fitting, appropriate},
9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech
{GK=parakaleo, draw near to implore} [thee],
being such an one as Paul the aged,
and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
Paul appeals to Philemon, on the basis of his love for the Lord, as demonstrated in his care for other believers (v.4-7), and on the basis of his mutual love and fellowship with Paul over many years, and through many trials, including his current imprisonment. Paul was confident that Philemon would do the right thing, for Christ's sake.
10 I beseech thee for my son {GK=teknon, born one} Onesimus {meaning: 'profitable'},
whom I have begotten in my bonds:
{cp. 1Cor 4:15; 1Pet 1:18-23}
11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable,
{cp. Luk 17:10; Rom 3:12; 1Pet 2:10}
but now profitable to thee and to me:
Apparently, some time previously, Philemon's slave, Onesimus, had run away and traveled to Rome, using resources stolen from his master. In Rome, without documents to identify himself as a free man, he was unable to get a job. When his money ran out, he turned to the apostle Paul, who had established the church in Colosse, several years earlier.
     [Because there is no record of Paul visiting Colosse, it is assumed that this church was an extension of Paul's lengthy ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10). It is likely that Philemon and other men from Colosse had heard the Gospel in Ephesus and carried the message back to their home town.]
     Now, in prison, Paul had led Onesimus to faith in Christ, and had counseled him to do the right thing, in service to his ultimate Master (cp. Eph 6:5-9).
12 Whom I have sent again:
thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
13 Whom I would have retained with me,
that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
14 But without thy mind would I do nothing;
that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity
{constraint}, but willingly.
In v.12, 'bowels' refers to the seat of affections. Onesimus, as a newly born-again child of God, was dear to Paul's heart. He had also become a valuable assistant to the apostle, as Paul sought to proclaim the Gospel from behind bars. Yet, Onesimus rightly belonged in Philemon's service and household.
15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season,
that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
16 Not now as a servant
{GK=doulos, slave, bond 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?
Paul asks Philemon to consider the possibility that the Lord had turned a bad situation to good: the temporary flight of a unprofitable rebellious slave, had resulted in the return of a godly brother who would faithfully serve both his heavenly Master, and his earthly master (1Tim 6:1,2).
     Paul's affection for this son in the faith was relatively recent. But Philemon's relationship with his household servant had a long history. Now that they were brothers in the Lord, their affection for one another would be greatly enhanced. 1Joh 5:1
17 If thou count me therefore a partner {GK=koinonos, associate},
receive him as myself.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth [thee] ought, put that on mine account;
Phm 1:17-18 perfectly illustrate imputation:
[above comment adapted from ScofRB]
     cp. Jam 2:23; Rom 4:1-5,21-25; Isa 53:4-8; 2Cor 5:21
19 I Paul have written [it] with mine own hand, {cp. 1Cor 16:21,22}
I will repay [it]:
Paul sealed the contract of v.18,19, with his handwritten signature.
albeit I do not say {ie., lest I say} to thee how thou owest
unto me even thine own self besides.
{cp. 1Cor 4:15; 9:1,2; Jam 5:19,20}
20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord:
refresh my bowels in the Lord.
{v.7,12; Php 2:1,2}
21 Having confidence in
{Being persuaded of} thy obedience {attentive heakening, submission}
I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
Knowing Philemon's heart for the Lord and His people (v.4-7), and his love for the aged apostle who had won him to the Lord, Paul was convinced that Philemon would welcome Onesimus graciously. Although we have no further record, it is possible that Philemon loaned his servant to Paul (v.13,14), perhaps as a gift at Paul's next visit.
22 But withal {at the same time} prepare me also a lodging:
for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
Paul was expecting to be released from prison, in answer to the prayers of many.
eg., Php 1:19 (where 'salvation' refers to 'deliverence' from prison); Php 2:24; cp. 2Joh 1:12
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
Epaphras, a member of the Colossian church, was in prison with Paul, at that time. Col 4:12
24 Marcus, {Acts 15:37-39; Col 4:10; 2Tim 4:11}
{Acts 19:29; 27:2}
Demas, Lucas,
{Col 4:14, but two years later: 2Tim 4:10,11}
my fellowlabourers.
These men (v.24) were ministering with Paul in Rome, though they were not in prison, at that time.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen. {cp. 2Tim 4:22}

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