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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament


- Philemon

by William Baxter Godbey



Philemon was one of the few rich men, gloriously saved and supporting a Christian Church in his house. His fugitive slave, Onesimus, took refuge in the hiding-places of the world’s great metropolis. Fortunately hearing of Paul, the spiritual father of his sainted Master, far away at Colosse, in Asia, he comes to the mission, gets genuinely converted, becomes a worker in the enterprise, and so thoroughly sanctified that he wants to go all the way back to Asia, see his Christian master, and make it all right with him, Paul favoring him and Philemon, his owner, with this beautiful letter, and complimenting him with the companionship of Tychicus, entrusted with the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, these three, all being written in Paul’s hired mission in Rome, A.D. 61-63. This brief epistle is brimful of beautiful flashes of deep Christian affection and profound spiritual shrewdness, literally sparkling with heavenly coruscations.


This brief epistle has a grand and beautiful symbolic signification. Philemon, a wealthy Christian gentleman, emblematizes God the Father; Paul, the Lord Jesus Christ; and Onesimus, man. Here we see Onesimus did badly, fled away from his master, and was found, reconciled, and restored to the delightful home of his offended lord by Paul. Thus man sinned and fled away from God, and was restored back to Divine favor and reinstated in the Father’s family by the Lord Jesus Christ. O we are all restored Onesimi, happy fugitives in our Father’s home.


The climacteric peculiarity and interest of this book is the fact of its purely Pauline authorship. The providence of God in the existence of Paul is miraculous, and in every way extraordinary. As an intellectualist, he is without a peer in all ages. I have ransacked all the world for books, and been a lifelong student at the feet of the master spirits, not only of Israel, but Greece, Rome, Germany, England, and America. Amid all the intellectual lights that flash along the ages from Moses to the present day, Paul is without a peer, like Pike’s Peak amid the Rockies. While his intellect among the sages of all ages and nations is peerless, his learning is transcendent. The conversion of Paul in the splendors of its unearthly glory was adumbratory of our Lord’s second coming, when the coruscations of his heavenly splendor and glory he will appear to all the earth, inundating the wicked with paroxysms of trepidation, transfiguring and translating his saints.