The Appeal of Onesimus.
Thanksgiving for Philemon's Faith.
Entreaty for Onesimus.
The Change in Onesimus.
An Appeal to Philemon's Love for Paul.
Paul's Hope to Visit Colosse.
1-3. 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.
Timothy our brother. Two other Epistles of the Captivity name
Timothy in the first verse. See
Phil. 1:1 and Col. 1:1.
Unto Philemon. See
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.
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
The church in thy house. As the early church had no houses of
worship, it met in private houses.
3. Grace. The benediction of grace would remind him of God's
4-7. I thank my God. Here he begins to speak directly to
Philemon, whom he always mentions in his prayers.
5. Hearing of thy love and faith. The ground of his thankfulness
is Philemon's godly life.
6. That the communication of thy faith. Rather, "fellowship," as
in the Revision. 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.
7. For I had much joy and comfort. 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
8-14. Wherefore. After this introduction Paul states the purpose
of the letter.
Though I might be much bold in Christ. As an apostle, and as the
one who gave Philemon the gospel, he had the right to command what is
9. Yet. 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 is now a
prisoner suffering for his Lord.
10. For my son Onesimus. His spiritual son, whom he
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.
11. Which in time past was to thee unprofitable. He may not only
have been a restless, discontented servant, but in addition, he ran
But now profitable. Such a change has taken place in him. He has
served Paul in his bonds well, and will also serve Philemon well.
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.
Mine own bowels. Rather, "My very heart" (Revision). I am so
much attached to him. To be unkind to him would wound Paul's very
13. Whom I would have retained. 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, only
(14) without thy mind would I do nothing. He wished, if such a
service was rendered, it might be with Philemon's free consent.
15-17. Perhaps he therefore departed, etc. Perhaps his departure
was providential, to lead to his conversion, to give you a faithful
helper, and to save him forever.
16. Not now as a servant. His relation is changed. He is more
than a servant, a Christian brother,
beloved, specially to me. See
How much more unto thee. 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.
17. If thou count me a partner. Christian fellow-laborers are
2 Cor. 8:23,
where Titus is named as Paul's partner. Then receive him, as you would
18-21. If he hath wronged thee. By defrauding thee of his
service. Some have seen in this a suggestion that Onesimus had robbed
Philemon, but that inference is not necessary. See
the gospel and slavery.
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. 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.
20. Let me have joy of thee. By learning that you have
cheerfully granted all I ask in this letter.
21. Having confidence. 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.
22-25. 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
23. There salute thee Epaphras. See notes on
He probably founded the Colossian church. See also
My fellow-prisoner. Perhaps only in the sense that he shared
Paul's imprisonment by becoming his companion.
24. Marcus. Mark. See
Introduction to Mark.
Aristarchus. A Macedonian. See
2 Tim. 4:10
for his later history,
Introduction to Luke.
These are all mentioned in the closing salutations of the Colossian