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1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy [our] brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2 And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
Now, I don’t want to accuse Paul of anything, nor detract any from his character, nor who he was. However, after such introductory verses could anyone, but a cold hearted nasty man, not feel that he has been complimented and set forth as a prominent citizen to be looked up to? Nor could someone so complemented say no to any request that might come along later. Paul has given credit where credit was due.
Note that Paul points out that he is a prisoner rather than the apostle that he often mentions. Seems he is putting himself on the lowest plain possible.
Philemon is not only a slave owner, but he has opened his home to the meeting of the brethren, and he is a loving caring person. Not a bad example for us to follow.
1. A church was meeting in his home. Not only must it have been fairly large, but it was open to believers to use. This was the common occurrence in the early church as they did not have First Baptist church down on the corner to go to, and they weren’t large enough, nor wealthy enough to build buildings at the first.
A question has arisen in recent days as to the validity of home churches. They are seen as a distasteful and often cultic work. True, many of them have cultic leanings, but there is nothing in the Word to say that a church in a home is not right and proper, indeed Scripture seems clear that it is a valid methodology, if not the norm to be followed.
Imagine what we could do for world missions if we had no building mortgage and repair costs. If we met in homes, we could assist the owner with upkeep which would not take much in the way of cash and have lots left over to support missions and other outreach work.
Imagine, the time the pastor would have to study the Word - no painting, no lawn mowing, no lawn fertilizing, no taking care of wedding rentals, no cleaning of the church, no setting up of chairs and all that stuff. (This is of course if it is meeting in someone else’s home - we had one in our home awhile and I was the one doing all that stuff :-) He might even have some time to call on the congregation now and then.
The advantages of home churches are many.
a. Low overhead
b. Low maintenance
c. More small groupish - comfortable for many people that don’t like crowds
d. More personal - time to get to know all in the congregation
e. More challenging - more personally known people to challenge your life
f. More accountability - people will know what you are doing and assist you in knowing right
g. More supportive - all know when one is hurting and all can be involved in helping
If you are a small group just getting started consider the possibilities of a home church or at the least a church in a rented facility. Many buildings that are not used on Sundays can be rented very reasonably.
While on deputation, I was in the home of a church board member for dinner. After dinner several other men showed up for a meeting of the board and they invited me to sit in. They were meeting in a rented facility and were meeting to consider building their own building.
While others discussed the need of a building, my host was busy with a pencil and paper. The meeting went on for a while when one of the men asked our host what he was thinking. He said that he had been doing some figuring. He was a contractor so knew building costs quite well. He said we have a monthly cost of this much with our rental, which by the way is quite adequate for us now and for a lot of growth in the future. We have possibilities of long term use of this facility. On the other hand to build a building of sufficient size it would take so many thousand dollars which if financed would cost us this many dollars. We would also have cleaning and maintenance of the facility on top of that.
The men looked at each other and to a man agreed that their present situation was the best decision hands down. There was no further discussion of the new facility, only thankfulness to God for His good provision.
I am not saying buildings are wrong, but consider what a church could do with the millions of dollars of real estate that they already own and will have to acquire to continue their growth.
2. No clearer understanding of the Christian/slavery topic can be found than this small letter from Paul.
He does not decry slavery.
He does not tell Philemon he ought to know better.
He does not tell Philemon he should set Onesimus free.
He does not tell Philemon he ought to set all his slaves free.
There is no indication that anything was wrong here, other than Onesimus had wronged his owner.
I am not suggesting that the people of the South were correct, nor that they were right concerning slavery before the Civil war, but this passage as well as others that speak to proper treatment of slaves by their owner, may well be some of the reasons why they felt slavery was okay and maybe even Biblical.
There is also the principle of living under the governmental system that is over you that related to the slave owners.
No, I do not condone any of the wrongs of our country’s slavery, nor do I say that slavery is right and correct; I am just saying there are some things we should understand about people before we rush to judgment and condemnation.
3. In verse five we are shown three characteristics of Philemon. "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;"
Love: This is not just brotherly love, but it is the self sacrificing love "agape" which Paul has heard about.
One must wonder if Paul heard of Philemon’s love from Onesimus. It would seem a logical conclusion. What a testimony this man must have had before his fellow man.
Faith: Faith is simply believing in what someone says. Faith in God is belief in His Word. Faith in man is no different, faith or belief in the truthfulness of their word. Now, I have to tell you I have this faith in God, but in His saints - not always.
Not only to Christ but to all saints: It is understandable that Philemon would love Christ and have great faith in Christ, but it is said of Philemon that he had this love and faith for all the saints, or all the holy ones as the term translated "saints" means. It is the normal word that is translated holy in the New Testament.
I always try to give everyone a freebie trust. After they have betrayed that trust the books may remain open, but I am protecting them quite closely. I have been wronged and lied to by so many believers over the years that my faith in the saints is little, I fear.
This is not necessarily wrong in my mind, because many of those that have wronged me are not saints in the meaning of the word - holy. They may be saints in that they are believers, but they are not saints in that they are holy living people - that is kind of obvious if they are liars and people that wrong other people.
We should attempt to keep a good respect and faith in our fellow believers, even though it may be difficult at times.
Barnes suggests that the love is toward the saints alone and the faith is toward God. "Hearing of thy love and faith. Either by Onesimus, who, after his conversion, would be disposed to state all that he knew that was favourable of Philemon, or hearing it by some other persons who had come from Colosse to Rome. The faith which is mentioned here refers to the Lord Jesus; the love, to the saints. The order in the Greek is indeed the same as in our version, but it is not unusual by synthesis, or uniting two or more things together, to arrange words in that manner. Thus Matthew 12:22; "The blind and dumb both spake and saw;" that is, the blind saw, and the dumb spake. The meaning is that he had strong faith in the Lord Jesus, and ardent love towards all who were Christians."
4. There is a point of interest in the why of Onesimus leaving Philemon. Philemon sounds like a really neat believer, thus why would a slave leave such a good master? There is the possibility that he just wanted to be free, but there are some other possibilities.
The term translated servant is the usual term that is used of a believer’s relation to God - that of a servant, one that has placed themselves under the control/authority of another. This could possibly relate to an adoption, or even a relative that has placed themselves under Philemon’s authority.
At any rate why would a man leave a great situation for the unknown? I suspect the desire for freedom or self control might be the biggest possibility.
This may be a good lesson for anyone that is in a position of controlling others. Even though you might be a great guy there is still a strong desire to be out from under that control.
There is also a possibility that Onesimus had stolen something when he left. This might be assumed from Paul’s offer to repay anything that Onesimus owed Philemon.
A little more might be drawn from Paul’s statement "I have begotten in my bonds:" in that Paul was imprisoned, thus Onesimus must have sought out Paul when he reached Rome. Why would a man run away from a good master to seek out Paul?
There might be the possibility that Paul had spoken to him while in Colosse at some point in time. They might have been friends and a mutual concern may have drawn Onesimus.
Barnes lists some reasons why Onesimus may have been uneasy about returning and the reason for the letter from Paul.
"(a.) that he had done his master wrong by the mere act of leaving him, depriving him of valuable services which he was bound to render; or
"(b.) that he may have felt that the mere act of running away had injured the character of his master, for such an act always implies that there is something in the dealings of a master which makes it desirable to leave him; or
"ɮ) that he had in some way injured him in respect to property, by taking that which did not belong to him, Philemon 1:18; or
"(d.) that he owed his master, and he may have inferred from his leaving him that he meant to defraud him, Philemon 1:18; or
"(e.) that the laws of Phrygia were such, that Onesimus apprehended that if he returned, even penitent, it would be judged by his master necessary to punish him, in order to deter others from committing a similar defense. The laws of Phrygia, it is said, allowed the master to punish a slave without applying to a magistrate."
5. We see in Paul and Onesimus a great illustration of spiritual leader and believer relationship. Paul led him to the Lord and immediately talked to him about the wrong of leaving Philemon and the need for his return. OR there is the possibility that Onesimus was seeking Paul for a limited time and was planning to go back to Philemon, however I’m not sure there would have been a need for this letter if that were the case.
I would suspect that Paul and the Spirit of God brought about this change of mind. Anyway, to the application. When a leader confronts you or you realize you are wrong and the leader encourages you to do what is right, following that admonition is the correct action.
6. Colossians 4:9 states "With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is [one] of you. They shall make known unto you all things which [are done] here." Philemon twelve says " Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:" It seems that Onesimus may have been with Paul before, and was one of the men that conveyed the letter to Colosse, and then here he is sent again, to return to his master.
This may be part of the why that Onesimus left. He may just have had a strong desire to see or be with Paul in the ministry. However, Paul mentions in verse eleven that Onesimus is "now" profitable to Paul so their relationship prior to this meeting was limited it would seem.
7. We note in this letter that Paul, in verse four, tells Philemon that he is praying for him. This is not uncommon to Paul. He mentions his prayers for people in other books as well. (2 Corinthians 13:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9.)
It would have been interesting to know how Paul prayed. We do know from this that he and the Lord kept tabs on those that he knew and those that were ministering to others. He was concerned that they do a good job for God.
A solid prayer life is founded on praying about God and for others. It is not wrong to ask for personal assistance, but "others" seem to be the focus. We can’t be the center of the universe all the time, though if there is need in your life, certainly pray for it.
What are some of the items that we might pray for as we seek the Lord’s assistance for them?
a. Spiritual strength to face the day.
b. Physical strength to face the day.
c. Mental strength to face the day.
d. Emotional strength to face the day.
e. Physical provision of needs.
f. Strength of character in light of our society.
g. Strength of courage to witness as there is opening.
h. Wisdom to seek the Lord’s direction in all actions.
I. Desire to serve God.
Remember some of this prayer/concern for others was while he was a prisoner. He certainly had strength of character to concentrate on others when he has such a large need of his own.
8. In verse six we see "That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus." The term communication is the Greek word "koinonia" - the word which we call fellowship. Paul is saying that he trusts that Philemon’s fellowship of his faith would be effectual, by the good things within him. This sounds to me like as he lives his life he will be showing others all the good things within and that this will effectively fellowship or share his faith with others.
Relate this to the previous point relating to prayer. Paul was praying that Philemon would be a good witness.
Both Barnes and Calvin agree with my astute observation (:-) when Barnes quotes Calvin, "What, therefore, did he desire for Philemon? That his faith expressing itself by good fruits might be shown to be true and not vain. For he calls that the communication of his faith when it does not remain inoperative within, but bears itself forth to benefit men by its proper effects. For although faith has its proper seat in the heart, yet it communicates itself to men by good works."
Guess that kind of puts us all on notice to be sure our lives are on the right track and showing forth Christ and not ourselves.
9. I wish I had a Corvette for every time I’ve heard the phrase, "We are not supposed to judge others." Well we have in this passage the call to evaluate and understand what sort of person we are dealing with. No, we aren’t supposed to judge others on eternal matters, matters that are clearly God’s jurisdiction, but He does expect us to view a person’s life and evaluate where they are, from time to time. In the pastorals there are qualifications for elders - if you have qualifications, if you are going to make them meaningful and useful then you must use them to evaluate a person’s life.
Here in Philemon Paul has evaluated a number of people. He has looked at their lives and come to conclusions about their worth, trustworthyness and usefulness. Not only generally, in those that are mentioned in the letter, but of Philemon and Onesimus. First, in Onesimus, he had to have evaluated his worth to himself and to Philemon and then he also had to evaluate whether he was trustworthy after running away. As a side note there is another truth here. A person that has just sinned or committed a crime, as Onesimus had, may deserve a good word in spite of his actions.
Secondly, Paul has evaluated Philemon and approached him in the best manner to gain the most advantage for success of the mission. He has pretty much evaluated his spiritual strengths and weakness based on what he had heard of his character.
No, don’t condemn people to hell, but certainly evaluate them in light of the Scripture and react to them as needed. Over the last couple of years one of my neighbors has borrowed a number of items. He has not brought all of them back and some items I had to ask for return. I have evaluated him and his actions and have come to know, that if I loan him something, the chances of getting it back would dictate that I view handing him the tool as not really a loan, but rather a gift, for it shall not return.
Evaluation is a part of life, and if you have someone state we aren’t supposed to judge, you might take a moment to clarify the truth surrounding the statement.
10. There is another very important point. Paul, when he had brought someone to Christ felt a father/son bond with the person. This is a concept many in today’s church fail to understand. Many are the evangelists that go nation to nation winning people, but never setting any relationship up with the person. This is understandable in that it would be hard to have a close relationship with hundreds of people, but on the other hand the Scriptural example might make one wonder if winning hundreds at a time is really the proper work of an evangelist.
I’m sure they would argue that they do as much as they can to get the people to go to church, and give literature etc. which is admirable but it still is not the Scriptural father/son relationship. Possibly it would be better to spend more time in pre-service training to set up a one on one relationship with people in the local area so that closer relationships could be developed.
Years ago while doing door to door visiting, one of our team ran into a couple that had accepted the Lord at an evangelistic campaign over three years prior. The couple had no idea what they should do with their new found faith, and had not gotten into a local church. They were invited to our church and they became quite faithful in attendance and began to grow spiritually. Three years of wasted time in their lives because this close discipling relationship was not established.
The problem with some of these campaigns is that even though they try to get people to go to church after accepting the Lord, they try to get them to go back into their state and/or Catholic churches - this is not where new believers should be sent. Would you send a new born child into a wolf den to be raised?
11. We see in verses twelve and thirteen a neat concept. We see Paul sending Onesimus back because it is the right thing to do, even though he really wanted to keep Onesimus for his own gain; he was sending him back - the right thing to do. It would have been quite easy to just keep Onesimus busy with ministry, and forget about Philemon.
In many business colleges around the country they have added "ethics" courses to their curriculum. Ethics is a concept that has been lost in our society. This is part of the problem today between business and customers. The business is in it for the huge profits that they can make rather than to make a profit while giving a good product.
We have seen this lack of ethics in the banking problems, the business collapse of Enron and the many others. We see a lack of ethics in the way churches operate. I was sitting in a church office one day and overheard (because the voice level was getting quite high) a discussion between a secretary and church business manager. They discussed whether their church should deal with businesses in town based on Scriptural principles, or as other businesses would act. The manager was quite emphatic that the church should never give heed to Scriptural principles with outside businesses. The secretary was arguing hard from a Scriptural standpoint, but the manager flat rejected the Scriptural points for his own ideas.
Ethics must be a basis for our lives or else we will be operating as the world operates. In my younger days the business world operated ethically, but no more - not today.
Actually Paul is living the proper Christian life in this area. Proper love between believers brings one to be self-sacrificing for the benefit of the other believer. Paul wants Onesimus for his own assistance, but will do the right and natural thing by returning him to his master. Not that Paul didn’t lay a healthy dose of, "I sure would like to have you send him back to me" on this master that is a believer.
This concept is again seen in verse eighteen where Paul offers to pay for any damage Onesimus might have done. This was not Paul’s responsibility, but he wanted to take on the responsibility if there was one.
12. As I view this passage I am reminded of two passages that teach us a very important concept. Romans 10:12 "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." and Galatians 3:12 "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him."
The concept is that all believers are equal and should recognize one another as equals. This could translate into elders and deacons being selected on a "all are equal" basis rather than as a winner of a popularity contest. It might come to application in making all activities available to all economic classes of people. There are many areas of application, just take some time to dig them up out of your own church experience.
We visited a church and were sitting in a Sunday school class that seemed quite adequate for our spiritual needs and desires. At the end of the lesson they began talking about their monthly social event which was exciting - we could get to know some of the people and get more settled into the church. The social event turned out to be bowling and then pizza at one of the local pizza parlors - not an event that we could afford to even consider attending in our economic state.
Many times we have been limited on finance and long on desire to fellowship with believers, but the two could not happen. There are some ways that a church or class can avoid these problems.
a. If there are people that can’t afford things and you really want to have that particular event, those that have the finance could invite others to go with them. You could also take up collections and finance the event out of the collection so that all may attend, but not feel that they had to put themselves in a financial bind to be part of the congregation.
b. Plan events that aren’t costly. Picnics, potlucks etc. are all quite acceptable to most believers as events and are minimal in expense.
c. Center some of your events on service to the church or community. These would be gatherings where fellowship can occur without the expenditure of money. Community projects, church maintenance days, sports events etc.
d. Make it a get together where the Word of God is studied and discussed. You don’t always have to have "fun" at events; you could have some "LEARNING" now and then.
13. In verse seventeen the word partner relates to someone that is partaker of the same beliefs, someone that is on the same page with you, someone that agrees with your principles and wants to advance the same ideals as you. Notice, that Paul’s only basis of commonality with Philemon seems to be the work of the Gospel, the evangelization of the lost.
Reflecting back for a moment, this is Paul the APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST - Christ had appeared to this man personally. Yet, this man associates with a common criminal on a one to one basis. If Paul thought himself to be one on one material, I think every single one of us ought to have the same attitude. Now moving on to the evangelization topic.
I have to wonder if we aren’t looking at the basis for what we ought to be doing as a church. We are in the business of evangelization, not all the other things that the church is involved in.
We attended Sunday school in a church in the south while we were on vacation. The class was filled with professors from a local denominational college. The text was Matthew 28:18 ff which is called the Great Commission. It is Christ’s commission to the apostles to go forth winning and discipling.
The class began to discuss how we might apply the passage today. The discussion covered all sorts of social gospel type ministries, the food bank, the rescue mission, the soup kitchen etc. They covered a number of other ways to minister to people socially, but nothing much was said of spiritual ministry to people.
The teacher at the close of the class turned to me and point blankly asked, "Well, Mr. Derickson, you haven’t said anything, what do you think?" So, as is my usual self I gave them my view of missions and evangelization. The class was rather quiet, but at least they listened without casting stones.
The church is involved in about everything but evangelization today. By evangelization, I am not talking about the big campaigns and the big rock concerts that are common today, but that one on one transfer of saving faith that was the keynote of Paul’s ministry - that one person sharing the gospel with another - that one person listening to the Word presented by another in love and concern. This is evangelization, not what we do today.
We ha visited a church a number of times and were seriously considering attending there. However, two Sundays in a row the pastor followed us out into the parking lot trying to convince us that we belonged in his church. The last time he told me that we really needed to come to the Sunday evening services, because that was when the Word was preached. He went on, that the morning service was for the Gospel, it was a time to evangelize. I was tempted to ask him who he was evangelizing, because the only people there were members, and all should be saved. There he is feeding believers things which they don’t need for the sake of "We’ve always done it that way." syndrome.
We are to evangelize outside of the church and bring the new believers into the church to be trained.
14. Barnes mentions a letter that is of similar content done by Pliny and it is regarded as good literature, yet this letter from Paul is much superior in content, courtesy and love, yet literature buffs ignore it - probably just because it is Biblical.
Barnes points out some characteristics that are of note.
a. Paul was the model for politeness and correctness in his letter. He was most courteous in his request of Philemon.
b. The letter shows that Paul was a master of tact and proper decorum. He did not demand, he only made a good logical argument for a hoped for outcome.
One sees a letter that ought to be studied in the secular realm as literature and manner.
Barnes seems to go quite far in attempting to suggest that Onesimus is not set forth as a slave in this book. It seemed that he was reacting to the many commentaries of his time that held to this position. It also seemed that he was reacting to the many people that used the book to point out the Biblical support for slavery. I would guess that the two are closely related in the minds of the commentators.
Again, I would suggest that the book does not support nor disclaim slavery, only the Christians proper lifestyle within that system. The Bible seems clear to me that we are to live a proper life no matter what system of government we find ourselves in. The Biblical life is the key, not the system.
In the way of final thoughts on the Pastoral Epistles, I only would encourage all pastors to seriously consider the ramifications of these books upon their ministry. If these books were applied to today’s church there would be a modern day reformation of the church and we might see righteousness returning to the believers life on a more regular and permanent basis.
8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,
9 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.
Again, Paul reminds Philemon that he is a prisoner and that he is OLD, that old age, senior citizen card might bring some sympathy to the request. Also, he has called upon Christ - in fact kind of blames it on his boldness in Christ.
We don’t know how old Paul was, but in Acts 7:58 he is mentioned as being young. Commentators place him in his twenties to thirties at this point which would make him in his fifties or sixties at the writing of Philemon. Either way in that day and culture he was old and probably was feeling most of the physical problems of age as well as the compounded problems of all his beatings and ruff living over the years with the addition of age. Many physical problems get worse with age and then there is the age problems themselves.
There are days when one feels like all they do is labor at trying to stay healthy. Exercising an hour or so, taking pills, moving around at a slower pace, taking longer to plan and cook healthier meals and spending time trying to figure out what the doctor DIDN’T tell you about your maladies. Trust me, getting old ain’t for sissies as many have said before me.
10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
Now to the point - we need to discuss your servant Onesimus - note nothing has been said about why Onesimus is with Paul - that he had run away from his owner Philemon.
Barnes sees a significance of the order of verse ten. He says that the verse appears thusly "I entreat thee concerning a son of mine, whom I have begotten in my bonds--Onesimus." He points out that Paul declares this man to be his son before naming him to give Philemon time to know the sonship before knowing it is Onesimus, thus avoiding the displeasure of hearing the name till he knows that Paul has a spiritual father/son relationship to the man.
The old "Give them the good news first and then get to the bad news" tactic. All through this letter you can see the wisdom and in my mind cunning of Paul as he writes with a very specific purpose in mind - get Onesimus off the hook or at least get him back into good graces with his owner with as little upset as possible.
We see that Paul has given the gospel and Onesimus has responded. He has, in the time Paul has known him, come to find out he was unprofitable to Philemon, that he, as a Christian, is quite beneficial to Paul and most likely will be also for Philemon.
Since Paul does not know what it will be like when Onesimus returns, how can he say that he will be profitable to Philemon? I assume that Paul knows what the new creature in Christ is like. It seems to me that it must be, in Paul’s mind, a guaranteed item for a new believer to be a profitable person to all around them.
Think on that truth for a few days and see what you come up with for new believers - for how old believers live their lives - well, how you live your life.
12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: 13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
Paul has determined to send this new believer back to his owner - to slavery, even though he is a new Christian. Christianity does not guarantee a grand life.
Paul wanted to keep him for assistance with the ministry, but is sending him back - with a request for Onesimus to return to him a free man, is the implication.
15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
16 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?
17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
Here we see the request - take him back not only as a returning slave, but as a brother in Christ, a man that can be profitable to you. He is your brother and you should treat him as such is the implication.
Paul is not going to leave it at that. He even offers to pay anything that Onesimus owes Philemon.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth [thee] ought, put that on mine account;
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.
I will pay it and not even mention, well in passing, that you owe me big time brother Philemon. You owe me so big time that you really ought to do this for me, even if you think I should cover the wrong - I will.
20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
I know you will do as I ask, in fact if you are the man I know you are you will do even more. I don’t think this is a way of getting more out of Philemon, but more just a valuation of Philemon’s character and way of living.
22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
Two items to see here. First the fact that not only was Philemon housing a church, but he was opening his home to the apostle for a place to stay. Not a bad way to use that huge house you have folks - it is empty and gathering dust, why not put it to use for the Lord. Invite missionaries/speakers into your home for their time with your church.
Secondly, Paul is suggesting clearly that his itinerary was dependant on the Lord and prayers offered on Paul’s behalf. He often made plans, but he was always open to the Lord’s leading and closing of doors. Remember, that he is in prison and he is making plans to travel - he may have had some thought of coming freedom, but he may also have just had the desire and was waiting on the Lord to take care of the details.
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen. [Written from Rome to Philemon, by Onesimus a servant].
We see here as we did in our study of Titus, if you have gone through the Pastoral Epistles that Paul knows a lot of people in the churches, and he recognizes them as fellowlabourers, people that are assisting him in his work for God.
It is good for the minister of God to have many co-workers - men and women that are able to give of their time to assist in the work of the Lord in the local church. This is the way the Lord seems to want it. If He didn’t want all involved, He wouldn’t have had the Spirit gift EVERYONE with a spiritual gift for use in the local church.
We also see that he appreciates these people enough to send his greetings to them.
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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Philemon 1". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26