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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Philemon 1

 

 

Verse 1

Philemon 1:1. Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, —

This is one of Paul’s private letters, though it has the stamp of inspiration upon it. It was not written concerning church business, nor to teach some great doctrinal truth, but there was a runaway slave who had come to Rome, and who had been converted under Paul’s ministry, and Paul was sending him back to his master; and this was the letter which he was to take with him, to make some sort of apology for him, and to ask his master to receive him with kindness, and to forgive his fault. Every word of this Epistle is very wisely put. Paul begins by calling himself “a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” Who would not grant him his desire when he was wearing a chain for Christ’s sake? If a letter were to come to you from some beloved minister, whom you knew to be lying in a dungeon and likely soon to die, you would be greatly touched if you noticed the traces of the rust of his fetters on the letter. “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” —

Philemon 1:1-2. And Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

He joins Timothy with himself, to give double weight to the message. Probably Timothy was well known to Philemon, and much respected by him, so he puts Timothy’s name that there might be two to plead with him. Then, notice the loving titles with which Paul addresses Philemon: “our dearly beloved, and fellow labourer.” Probably the person whom Paul called “beloved Apphia” was Philemon’s wife, so he writes to her also. Perhaps the wife was the more tender-hearted of the two, and might put in a good word for Onesimus, and her husband would all the more readily grant Paul’s request. He also mentions Archippus, who was either the pastor of the church at Colosse, or an evangelist who stayed occasionally at the house of Philemon. So he mentions him with all the rest of the household who met there for worship, and so made up the church in the house.

Philemon 1:3-7. Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

Paul recalls how much Philemon had done in the comforting of persecuted and poor saints. And when you are about to ask a favor of anyone, it is well to show your gratitude for what you or others have already received from him.

Philemon 1:8-9. Therefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

He says in effect, “I am an apostle, and I am your spiritual father, so I might have spoken with authority to you, and have said, ‘It is your duty to do this;’ but I am not going to do anything of the kind. I am going to plead with you, and beseech it of you as a kindness and a favor. Pay a loving tribute to my old age; and beside that, I am a prisoner shut up in the dungeon for Christ’s sake; hear the clanking of my chains, and grant my request for love’s sake.”

Philemon 1:10. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

“He came to hear me preach in the prison. He has been listening to me while I am still a captive, and he has been given to me, as another son in the gospel, to be a comfort to me in my bonds. I beseech you for him.”

Philemon 1:11-12. Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: whom I have sent again:

“He was thy slave, and therefore I have sent him back to thee.”

Philemon 1:12. Thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

“Look upon him as though he were my very heart, and receive him as you would receive me if I could go to you.”

Philemon 1:13-14. Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: but without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

“I would have kept him,” says Paul, “for I need someone to be my companion, to comfort me in my distress; but I would not do it without asking your leave, lest I should seem to take advantage of you. Though I know that you would willingly consent to it, yet, nevertheless, that it might be perfectly voluntary on your part, I have sent him back to you, that you may do as you will with him.”

Philemon 1:15-17. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; not now as a 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? If thou count me therefore a partner,--

“If thou hast true fellowship and communion with me,” —

Philemon 1:17. Receive him as myself.

How beautifully this is put all through! It very much reminds me of our Lord Jesus Christ, who seems to say to the Divine Father, “This poor child is in fellowship with me. Receive him, therefore, as myself;” and this is just what God does in the case of repenting and believing sinners; he receives them just as if he could see Christ in them.

Philemon 1:18. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

How generously this is put by this poor prisoner at Rome, and how gloriously, in this, he is like our Master, who stands as Surety for us!

Philemon 1:19. I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

Paul had been the means of Philemon’s conversion, so he was immeasurably in debt to the apostle; but Paul only gently reminds him of the fact as a reason why he should deal kindly with Onesimus for his sake.

Philemon 1:20. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

“You have refreshed others, then, surely, you will not let me be without refreshment now You have been very kind to all sorts of saints; then you cannot be unkind to the man who is your own spiritual father.”

Philemon 1:21. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

This is delicately yet forcibly put, and we feel certain that Philemon must have done as Paul wished, even though we have no record of the fact.

Philemon 1:22-25. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisioner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Philemon 1:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/philemon-1.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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