Christian Churches of God

No. F057





Commentary on Philemon

(Edition 1.0 20200928-20200928)



Philemon was written to obtain the release of a converted slave from his master who was also converted.





Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA






(Copyright © 2020 Wade Cox)


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The Epistle to Philemon


Introduction to Philemon

In Paul’s missionary journey (third) to Asia Minor, at Ephesus he seems to have converted many from Ephesus and the cities of the environs.  One appears to have been a man named Philemon from the nearby city of Colossae (v. 19). He must have been possessed of means (v.22). He obviously possessed slaves. Paul seems to have held him in high esteem. Paul addressed his “beloved brother” as a “fellow worker,” a title given to those who served for a time alongside Paul. (Gospel writers Mark and Luke also received this title later in the letter [1:1, 24]). Paul calls on their close relationship for the purposes of the letter.


The Epistle was written during Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome, probably in 61or 62 CE. The epistle shows the care and concern that Paul had, and all of the faith should have for each other. See 2Corinthians 11:28-29.


The purpose of the letter was to appeal to Philemon for the freedom of the slave of his named Onesimus who had run away from Colossae to Rome and somehow either by accident or design came upon Paul and was converted either in his dealings with Paul or the church in which he found Paul. Onesimus is the Latinized form of the Greek Onesimos, which means "useful", or "profitable". He was a slave. In Rome under Paul he was led to become the Lord’s freeman, and sought his freedom through Paul. He was willing to return to his master’s service, either as a slave or as "brother beloved" (v.16).


Paul sends the letter by Onesimus indicating good faith and his trust in Onesimus.


From Colossians 4:9, we see that Paul had sent unto the church at Colossae another of the faith, a Tychicus with Onesisimus “a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you”


Theology of the Epistle

The letter to Philemon reminds us that God’s revelation to humanity is intensely personal. In more formal biblical works such as the Gospels or the epistle to the Romans or even Paul’s letters to churches at Philippi or Colossae, it might be easy to get the impression that God does not care or have time for the trials and tribulations in a single household. Philemon stands as one piece of strong evidence to the contrary, revealing that lofty doctrines such as the love of God, forgiveness in Christ, or the inherent dignity of humanity have real and pertinent impact in everyday life. The book of Philemon illustrates that principles like these can and should profoundly affect the lives of believers.


Paul asked Philemon based on the love and forgiveness that had been developed in Philemon’s heart by God, to show the same to the escaped and now-believing slave Onesimus. The power of the Gospel had been witnessed by Philemon and Paul called on a debt and responsibility he considered Philemon owed to Paul in his conversion, under the law of God (v. 19)). Paul wanted Onesimus’ conversion developed and thus made a request. He wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus, to accept the slave as a brother in Christ, and to consider sending Onesimus back to Paul, as the apostle found him useful in God’s service (1:11–14).


Paul wanted him extended the freedom under the law that was required of a brother under release (cf. The Law of God (L1)).


The letter to Philemon presents the beautiful and majestic transition from slavery to kinship that comes as a result of inclusion of the Gentiles into the Church of God as the Body of Christ.


Philemon 1-25

1Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow labourer, 2And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in thy house: 3Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, 5Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; 6That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. 8Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 9Y et for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. 10I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: 11Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: 12Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: 13Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 14But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. 15For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; 16Not 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? 17If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. 18If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; 19I 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. 20Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. 21Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. 22But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. 23There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus; 24Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow labourers. 25The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.


Companion Bible Notes, 1909 - Phm

The Epistle to Philemon.

The structure of the epistle as a whole.


Notes on the epistle to Philemon.

[Notes 1 -4 omitted and covered above ]

Phm in 2Co 1:2

beloved. The texts read "sister".

Apphia. Tradition says she was the wife of Philemon.

Archippus. See Col 4:11.

Fellow soldier. Only here and Phi 2:25, which see.

church. Ap. 186.

in. Gr. kata. Ap. 104.


Notes to the Verses

1:1    prisoner. Cp. Eph 3:1; 4:1. 2Ti 1:8.

                Jesus Christ = Christ Jesus. Ap. 98.

                our = the.

                unto = to.

                dearly beloved. Gr. agapetos. Ap. 130.

Fellow labourer. Gr. sunergos. See 1Co 3:9.


1:2    beloved. The texts read "sister".

Apphia. Tradition says she was the wife of Philemon.

                Archippus. See Col 4:11.

Fellow soldier. Only here and Phi 1:2, 25, which see.

                church. Ap. 186.

                in. Gr. kata. Ap. 104,.

                church. Ap. 186.

                in. Gr. kata. Ap. 104,.


1:3    Grace. Gr. charis. Ap. 184.

                from. Ap. 104. God. Ap. 98.

                Father. Ap. 98.

                Lord. Ap. 98.

                Jesus Christ. Ap. 98.


1:4    thank. Gr. eucharisteo. See Act 27:35.

                mention. Gr. mneia. See Rom 1:9. Eph


1:6    1Th 1:2.

                always. Ap. 161.

                in. Gr. epi. Ap. 104. is. 1.

                prayers. Gr. proseuche. Ap. 134.


1:5    love = the love. AI. 1300. IL 1.

                faith = the faith. Ap. 150.

                toward. Gr. pros. Ap. 104.

                Lord. Ap. 98. (B. 2. A.

                Jesus. Ap. 98.

                toward. Gr. eis, Ap. 104.

                saints = the saints. See Act 9:13.


1:6    That. Supply the ellipsis by "(Praying) that".

communication = fellowship. Gr. koinonia, See Act 2:42.

effectual. Gr. energes. See 1Co 16:9. Elsewhere, Heb 4:12. See Ap. 172.

                by. Ap. 104. viie

                acknowledging. Ap. 132.

                in. Ap. 104.

                you. The texts read "us".

                in. Gr. eis. Ap. 104,

                Christ. Ap. 98.X.

                Jesus. The texts omit.


1:7    we have. The texts read "I had".

                consolation. See Act 4:36.

                in. Ap. 104.

                bowels. See 2Co 6:12,

                are = have been.

                refreshed. See 1Co 16:18.

                by. Ap. 104. 1:1.


1:8    though . . . bold. Lit. having much boldness (Gr. parrhesia, freedom of speech). Cp. Act 2:29.

                enjoin = command. Gr. epitasso

                convenient. Gr. aneko. See Eph 5:4.


1:9    Yet. Omit.

                for. sake. Ap. 104.

                beseech. Ap. 134. Cp. 1:7.

aged. Gr. presbutes. See Tit 2:2. Elsewhere, Luk 1:18.

                also, &c. = a prisoner also.


1:10  for. Ap. 104.

                son. Ap. 108.

                have begotten = begat. Cp. Phi 1:1, 12, 13.


1:11 unprofitable = not useful. Gr. achrestos. Only here. Fig. Meiosis. Ap. 6.

                profitable. Gr. euchrestos. See 2Ti 2:21.


1:12  have. Omit,

                sent again = sent back. Ap. 174.

thou therefore receive. The texts omit, and read "sent again to thee",

mine own bowels = as mine own self. Fig. Synecdoche. Ap. 6.


1:13 would, &c. = was minded (Ap. 102.) to retain.

                with. Ap. 104. xv B.

                that = in order

                that. Gr. hina.

                in . . . stead. Ap. 104.

                might have, &c. = may minister. Ap. 190.

                gospel. See Ap. 140.


1:14 without = apart from, Gr. choris.

                mind. Ap. 177.

                would. Lit. was wilting to. Ap. 102.

                nothing. Gr. ouden.

                thy benefit. Lit. the good thing of thee.

                not. Ap. 106. IL

                it were. Omit.

                of. Ap. 104.

                willingly = according to (Ap. 104.)

free-will. Gr. hekousios. Only here. The adverb in Heb 10:26. 1Pe 6:2.


1:15 perhaps. Gr. tacha. Only here and Rom 5:7.

                therefore = because of (Ap. 104. 1:2) this.

departed = was separated. Gr. chorizo. First Occ. Mat 19:6.

                for, Ap. 104.

                season. Lit. hour. Gr. hora,

                receive. Gr. apecho. See Mat 6:2.

                for ever. Ap. 181.


1:16 Not now = No longer. Gr. ouketi.

                servant. Ap. 190.

                above. Ap. 101.


1:17 If. Ap. 118.

                count. Lit. have. Gr. echo.

partner = partaker. Gr. Koinonos. See 1Co1:18. receive. Gr. proslambano. "You have received me; receite him in addition, as myself.  "Cp. Rom 15:7.


1:18 hath. Omit.

put . . . on . . . account. Gr. ellogeo. Only here and Rom 5:13 (imputed).


1:19 have written = wrote.

                repay. Gr. apotino. Only here.

                albeit = that. Gr. hina.

                how = that.

owest . . . besides. Gr. prosopheilo. Only here.


1:20 let me have joy = may I profit Gr. oninemi, the root-word from which comes Onesimos "Let me have           profit from thee. seeing I am sending back Onesimus (profitable) to thee. "

                the Lord. The texts read "Christ". Ap. 98.


1:21 Having confidence. Ap. 150.

                knowing. Ap. 192.

                also do more = do more also.

                more than = above (Ap. 104.) that which.


1:22 withal. Gr. hama. See Col 4:3. 2Ti 5:13.

                me also = also for me,

                lodging. Gr. xenia. Only here and Act 28:33.

                trust = hope. Gr. elpizo.

                through. Ap. 104. 1:1.

given = granted as a favour. Gr. chariaomai. Ap. 184.


1:23 salute = greet. Gr. aspocamai. Cp. Col 4:12.

                Epaphras. See Col 1:7.

Fellow prisoner. Gr. sunaichmalitos. See Rom 16:7.

                Christ Jesus. Ap. 98.


1:24 Marcus. See Act 12:12, 25; 15:37, 39. Col 4:10. 2Ti 4:11; 1Pe 5:13.

Aristarchus. See Act 19:29; 20:4; 27:2. Col 4:10.

                Demas. See Col 4:14. 2Ti 4:10.

Lucas. See Col 4:14. 2Ti 4:11; also Int. Notes to Luke's Gospel, especially the foot-note.


1:25 The grace, &c. Paul's constant benediction.

                with. Ap. 104.

                spirit. Ap. 101.