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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Philemon 1




Questions For The Book of Philemon

1. State Paul"s condition as a citizen.

2. For what reason was this the case?

3.Who is with him in this epistle?

4.In what light does he estimate Philemon?

5.Who are associated in the address besides Philemon?

6.Explain location of this church.

7.State the usual benediction.

8.State an item in the prayers of Paul.

9.Of what had he heard?

10.Toward whom did Philemon extend his love?

11.Which of these was cause of the other?

12.Can one exist without the other?

13.Give other word for communication, verse6.

14.Can this be said of faith?

15.State what acknowledgment it would cause.

16.In what does Paul have great consclation?

17.What expression shows this was not selfish joy?

18.Did Paul have authority to enjoin another?

19.What kind of things could he so act about?

20.In this case what kind of urge does he use r

21.For what sake does he do this?

22.What was his place in the career of life?

23.In what city is he being kept?

24.Is he deprived of all service for Christ?

25.In what way had be "begotten" Onesimus?

26.Why say he had begotten him "in my bonds"?

27.What was this man to Philemon?

28.How does Paul designate his former service?

29.Has there been any change for the better?

30.What has caused a change?

31.What is Paul doing as to his new convert?

32.In what sense does he request him to be received?

33.Why does he not retain him with him?

34.Could he have assisted Paul in any way?

35. Why say this benefit would have been from Philemon?

36. Explain Onesimus" absence from Philemon.

Verse 1

According to Thayer and Strong, and some commentators, Philemon was a resident of Colosse, and was converted to Christianity by Paul. Timothy is not mentioned as of any authority, but as an associate of Paul. His name is joined by way of friendly interest in Philemon and endorsement of the epistle. Paul calls himself a prisoner of the Lord because his imprisonment was caused by his service to Him. Philemon is designated fellow-laborer because he was working for the Lord in the same cause as was the apostle.

Verse 2

Apphia is described by

Thayer merely as "name of a woman."

Some commentators say she was the

wife of Philemon and that Archippus

was his son. The suggestion is given

by the next phrase, church in thy

house. In early times the congrega-

tions in some places were small, and

had their services in the homes of the

brethren. Or, the whole congregation

may have consisted of the members of

one household, if there were as many

as two disciples in it ( Matthew 18:20).

If Philemon's wife and son were dis-

ciples, they might well have composed

the church in his house.

Verse 3

This is a familiar salutation of Paul, which he used in most of his epistles. See the comments on it at 1 Corinthians 1:3.

Verse 4

The next verse shows what it was for which Paul thanked the Lord. Since the faithfulness of Philemon was a help to the apostle, he would consider it as a blessing, and it is stated in James 1:17 that all good things come from God.

Verse 5

Love as used here means

a sincere desire to help in the welfare

of others in the work of the brethren,

and an interest in the progress of the

cause of the Lord. Faith means one's

practice of the ordinances of the

Lord"s commandments.

Verse 6

The fellowship that Philemon -

mon had with others concerning the

faith, had the effect or was tending to

have a good effect on them. It would

be manifested by their acknowledgment

of the good example that he set before


Verse 7

Love in this passage is from a Greek original that means to be interested in the welfare of others. This is borne out by the rest of the verse, for it speaks of the refeshing that Philemon had brought to the saints, which means the Christians. Bowels is used to mean the intellectual part of the saints, from the ancient theory that the affections were seated in the intestines.

Verse 8

Paul was an apostle and had the authority to enjoin (or order) Philemon to do what was desired for him to do, had he thought it necessary to use that strong a form of speech.

Verse 9

Because of his love for Philemon , the apostle preferred to use a milder basis for his instruction, namely, his age and also his situation. Respect for age should incline Philemon to heed the request of Paul. Also, his imprisonment would indicate his sincerity which should prompt Philemon to heed the request.

Verse 10

The special request Revelation -

ferred to in the preceding verses was

concerning Onesimus. He was a slave

of Philemon , but not the most satis-

factory kind of one. (See next verse.)

He had run away from his master, and

in some way had come to Rome and

fallen into the company of Paul. The

apostle taught him his duty to the

Lord and induced him to obey it. On

this principle he calls him his Song of Solomon , in

the same way he referred to Timothy

as his son ( 1 Timothy 1:2).

Verse 11

Servants are commanded to obey their masters ( Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22). The teaching Paul gave Onesimus, therefore, would include his duty to his master. That would explain why he would be now profitable to Philemon , and also to Paul because of being in fellowship with him.

Verse 12

In keeping with his duty as a part of the life of a Christian slave, Onesimus returned to his master at the instruction of Paul. Thou therefore receive him is a kindly commendation. Mine own bowels. A child is brought forth from the bowels of his parents, and since that part of the human anatomy is used figuratively of mental and spiritual matters, Paul uses it here to signify that Onesimus had been begotten by him in the sense that he had brought him to obey the Gospel.

Verse 13

I would have retained. Had Paul felt free to follow his personal desires, he would have kept Onesimus with him as a helper in his struggles for the Gospel under the handicap of imprisonment. Had such a thing been done, Paul would have considered the service the same as if it was coming from Philemon.

Verse 14

Such a service, however, would have been equivalent to taking some benefit from Philemon without his consent, and the apostle would not do anything like that.

Verse 15

This could not mean that Onesimus left his master with the mo- tive of some advantage to him. A slave who had been unprofitable would not likely be that much interested in the welfare of the man from whom he was fleeing. The meaning is as if it read, "Perhaps it will turn out to be an advantage to you, after all, for him to leave, for now the way that things have happened, he will be a better servant than ever."

Verse 16

Not now as a servant. Onesimus was to continue as a servant to Philemon , but not in that relation only. He was to be regarded as a brother also, which was a spiritual relationship, and far above that of an earthly servant. Especially to me is said because Paul was the one who converted him to Christ. Yet because ofprior relations, he was to be appreciated by Philemon all the more, both as a servant in fleshly or temporal matters, and as a brother in the Lord.

Verse 17

On the ground that Philemon would agree to all these considerations of relationship, Paul asks him to indicate his recognition of the partnership by accepting Onesimus back into his love the same as if he were the apostle.

Verse 18

If he hath wronged thee.

A slave would have many opportunities for doing wrong to his master by taking some of his possessions ( Titus 2:10). Whether that is meant here, or only the wrong he did by his "upprofitable" service (verse11), we do not know. But in either case, Paul was offering to make it up to Philemon. Put that on mine account. Whatever was the obligation that Onesimus owed his master, Paul agreed to have the debt transferred to his account against Philemon.

Verse 19

This obligation or account of Paul against Philemon was not a material one, but a moral one due to what he owed the apostle for having led him into the service of salvation. Albeit I do not say, etc. This unusual sentence is a sort of explanation, to assure Philemon that what he said was not for the purpose of reminding him of his indebtedness (morally) to the apostle for his conversion to Christ.

Verse 20

Let me have joy of thee. This he could do by receiving0nesimus in the way that Paul requested. Such an act of cooperation would constitute a refreshing or encouragement for the bowels or heart of the apostle.

Verse 21

Do more than I say. Not that Philemon would go beyond and add to the inspired word of the apostle, for that would be wrong ( Revelation 22:18). But it means he would even be more thoughtful in good deeds than Paul was requiring.

Verse 22

Paul had hopes of being released and permitted to go out among the churches, and the testimony of history indicates that it was accomplished. In view of such an experience, he asked that Philemon make provision for his lodging.

Verses 23-25

The names mentioned are of some brethren who were with Paul. They were either in chains also, or were otherwise engaged in defence of the Gospel. As Paul was writing this letter, these brethren joined in friendly greeting to Philemon.

Verse 25

Grace is the favor of Christ, which Paul wished to come to Philemon. With your spirit. This is signifi Song of Solomon , for a true Christian is bound to have unpleasant experiences as it pertains to his body ( 2 Timothy 3:12); yet he may be comfortable and refreshed in spirit all the while. (See 2 Corinthians 4:16.)


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Philemon 1:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

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Thursday, May 28th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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