Philemon was a wealthy Christian and a leader in the church in Colosse. He had a human slave. Paul urges Philemon to release his slave. [UPDATED]
VERSE 1. Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our beloved fellow worker,
a prisoner of Christ Jesus. This is the only time Paul ever referred to himself with these words in any of his Letters.
to Philemon. Philemon was a wealthy Christian and a leader in the church in Colosse. We find it ironic that already by this point in history, wealthy people are taking over church leadership.
the beloved Apphia. Probably the wife of Philemon.
Archippus our fellow soldier. Possibly Philemon’s son.
the assembly in your house. That is, “the church that meets in your home.” Christians met in private homes until about 200 AD. There were no church buildings until the third century.
VERSE 3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always. Paul starts all of his Letters with thanks for his recipients.
VERSE 5. hearing of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints,
VERSE 6. that the fellowship of your faith may become effective in the knowledge of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus.
KJV translation: That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
GOD’S WORD Translation: As you share the faith you have in common with others, I pray that you may come to have a complete knowledge of every blessing we have in Christ.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English: That the sharing of your faith would produce fruit in works and in the knowledge of every good thing which you have in Yeshua The Messiah.
the fellowship of your faith. That is, sharing our faith with other people.
may become effective. That is, being active in sharing our faith. Actually doing it.
in the knowledge of every good thing. When we share our faith with non-Christians, we grow in our understanding of the good things we have in Jesus Christ. When we exercise the Ministry of Evangelism, we grow in our own blessedness.
VERSE 7. For we have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
refreshed. The Greek word is hanapepautai. It is the same word that Jesus Christ used when he said:
Matthew 11:28. Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you hanapausô.
the hearts of the saints. The word “hearts” is not the normal Greek word “kardia” but rather “splanchna.” It means the “inner parts of the body.” In those days, people imagined that our emotions originate in the inner parts of our body.
VERSE 8. Therefore though I have all boldness in Christ to command you that which is appropriate,
VERSE 9. yet for love’s sake I rather beg, being such a one as Paul, the aged, but also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
Onesimus. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who had ran away and was taken in by Paul. Now Paul and Timothy urge Philemon to release Onesimus from slavery.
Some Christians imagine this passage makes it OK for Christians to own slaves. However, Paul does not endorse slavery. Rather, Paul wants a Christian to release a slave.
VERSE 11. who once was useless to you, but now is useful to you and to me.
sending him back. Now the responsibility rests on the shoulders of Philemon. Onesimus will soon arrive, and what will Philemon do?
heart. The Greek word is hsplanchna. It means “emotions.”
VERSE 13. whom I desired to keep with me, that on your behalf he might serve me in my chains for the Good News.
VERSE 14. But I was willing to do nothing without your consent, that your goodness would not be as of necessity, but of free will.
your consent. From a legal perspective, Onesimus is still the “property” of Philemon. Philemon is the only one who can make decisions about his slave.
VERSE 15. For perhaps he was therefore separated from you for a while, that you would have him forever,
VERSE 16. no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much rather to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
receive him. That is, “welcome him.”
VERSE 18. But if he has wronged you at all or owes you anything, put that to my account.
VERSE 19. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self besides).
with my own hand. This places Paul under legal obligation to carry out his commitment.
you owe … me … your … self. Philemon may have been won to the Christian faith by Paul. If so, Paul is invoking an obligation.
VERSE 20. Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in the Lord.
VERSE 21. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even beyond what I say.
VERSE 22. Also, prepare a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be restored to you.
prepare a guest room for me. Paul says he will soon stay at the house of Philemon. It is probably so he can verify that Onesimus is freed from slavery.
VERSE 23. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you,
VERSE 24. as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
VERSE 25. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.