Philemon Part 3

New King James Version 19. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.

Now Paul says that he writes this part of his letter to Philemon with his own hand. We might wonder about this, for it is probably our habit to write most of our correspondence with our own hands. Yet we would note here that Paul usually used what is called an “amanuensis,” meaning a scribe who would write down his letters for him as he dictated them. The amanuensis in the case of Philemon appears to have been Timothy, as we read in Philemon 1:1. So most of this letter would have been in Timothy’s handwriting and not Paul’s. Yet at this point Paul wishes to assure Philemon that he will do as he says, and will right whatever wrong Philemon has done or repay whatever debt Philemon has incurred. In order to assure Philemon of this, he wrote this part of the letter of Philemon to him with his own hand. In his own handwriting, which apparently Philemon will recognize, he assures him that he will repay what Onesimus owes.

How could Paul make any such assurance? Was not Paul a prisoner at this time, and hardly able to support himself, not to mention to pay back the debts of others? How could he possibly pay back what was probably the large sum that Onesimus owed to Philemon? We cannot answer this for certain, but we can speculate. And if we would be allowed to make an informed speculation, Paul appears to have come into some inheritance at this time. Remember that Paul was a Pharisee, and so he came from a typical, wealthy, Pharisee family. It seems probable that something, perhaps a death in the family, had left Paul with money, probably from one of his wealthy relatives. Thus, he was able to pay back debts and to act in this way generously at this time. A clue to this fact is found in Acts 24:26, speaking of Governor Felix.

26. Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.

This verse tells us that Felix partly kept Paul in prison in hopes that Paul might bribe him to let him go. We would assume that Felix had ways of finding out, and would have known if Paul had money or not. If he was impoverished and incapable of paying bribes, then Felix would have known better than to try to squeeze blood from a turnip, as the saying goes. Yet he seems to believe that Paul can bribe him, and so hopes for him to do so. Of course, he might merely have been wishing that Paul would persuade some of his more wealthy friends to give money for his release, so we cannot know for sure. Yet this verse too seems to clue us in on the idea that Paul might have had money at his disposal at this time. In Philippians, a book written probably not too much before Philemon, Paul says another interesting statement (in The Resultant Version).

12. For I know both how to be humbled, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in everything I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to lack;

So Paul indicates his experience both with poverty and with abundance. Yet which was he experiencing at the time he wrote Philemon? The fact that he seems to assume himself well able to pay back Onesimus’ debt would lead us to think the latter might have been true. Paul might have received a small fortune as an inheritance at this time, and so he might have been abounding. We cannot know for sure, yet Paul’s words lead us to think that may have been the case.

After promising to repay whatever debt Onesimus might owe to Philemon, Paul comments that he will not remind Philemon that he owes him his own self besides. What did Paul mean by this, we might ask ourselves? How did Philemon owe him his own self? This is probably a reference to the fact that Paul is the one who had proclaimed the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to Philemon. Before Philemon heard this gospel, his own self was forfeited to the claims of sin and death. Now that he had heard and believed the gospel, in Christ he had received his life back again, and could now truly claim it as his own, as he could not have done before. Thus he owed Paul, and Paul says he will not remind him of it.

Notice that when Paul says he will not say this to Philemon, he, of course, actually is saying it and reminding him of it! Paul is truly pulling out all the stops to impel Philemon to do what he should do. Even in claiming he will not use this particular card and bring up this particular truth, yet he does so even as he says this. He truly wants Philemon to do the right thing and to treat his former runaway Onesimus in the gracious way God treats him, and he is using every means he can to encourage him to do this.

In this too, Paul becomes a picture of Jesus Christ. All the wrong we did to God, all the great debt we owed to Him, all this debt Jesus Christ took upon Himself, He took the blame for it, and He repaid it Himself on the cross. We truly do owe Him our very own selves. Now, having done all this for us, He calls upon us to forgive each other, to deal graciously with each other, pleading with us to do it on their behalf as Paul pleads with Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. The Lord too would remind us that we owe Him our very own selves, and so urge us to be gracious with each other. God paid back and forgive our great debt to Him, so we should count that whatever our brothers and sisters owe us, God will pay it back to us, though we too owe Him our own selves! God is ready and willing to pay back whatever debt any brother or sister might owe us. Let us, then, forgive, and know that we will receive from Him a good recompense. Until then, we should remember the great debt we owe him, and deal graciously with other, as He does with us. When we do this, we will have learned the great lesson of Philemon.

New King James Version 20. Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.

Now Paul calls upon Philemon as a brother to let him have joy from him in the Lord. In other words, Paul anticipates that he will have joy when he sees that Philemon has accepted Onesimus back as he would accept Paul and has forgiven him. He has this joy in his mind and heart and in his imagination, and therefore he calls on Philemon to grant him this joy in reality by doing it.

Paul calls upon Philemon again to refresh his heart in the Lord. Yet this is not what the Greek reads. In the Greek, the word for “heart” is splanchnon, which means “bowels,” not “heart.” This might seem very strange to us, for we would not think of or consider the bowels being refreshed by a welcome act of kindness, but rather the heart. Yet of course we need to realize that ours too is a figure of speech, for of course that muscle in the chest that pumps the blood is no more the seat of emotions than the bowels are. We probably use the heart for that figure for the fact that, when we are very emotional, the heart can beat very hard or very fast, and so we could think of emotions coming from the heart. Yet think as well of what happens to our bowels, or to our digestive systems in general, when we get very emotional. Of course, they clench up, and our digestion systems go all out of whack. Therefore, when we think about it, the fact that they thought of the bowels as the seat of emotions might not seem so strange after all.

So Paul wants his bowels, that is, his strong and tender emotions, to be refreshed by Philemon’s attitude towards Onesimus. He will be thus refreshed when and if he hears that Philemon has done even as he asked him to do.

New King James Version 21. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Paul now tells Philemon that he is confident of his obedience even as he writes. He believes that Philemon will not only do what he has said he should do, but will also do even more. No pressure here! As we have pointed out, what Paul was asking of Philemon was radical enough. It would cost him to do what Paul said. It would cost him perhaps in the obedience of his other slaves, it would cost him in his reputation with other slave owners, and it might well cost him in his business partnerships and arrangements. Yet in spite of the huge thing Paul asked him to do, Paul now boldly proclaims that he expects Philemon to do even more than he has asked him to do! This shows Paul’s confidence in the character and obedience of Philemon.

I wonder, if God confidently asserted that we would do even more than He asked us to do, would that assertion be true? Are we prepared to do as our Master commands us and even more, or is even simple obedience to His commands something we are not likely to carry out? It would be good if we could do more even than God tells us to do. We know surely that God will do even more for us than He has told us He will do in His Word. His promises will always prove to be greater than we even could have imagined or desired. Yet of His commands, even what He has told us to do, we probably grasp very little of it. Praise God, we can count on Him to do much more than we even imagine, even if we do not do more than we are asked! Yet let us seek to be like Paul expected Philemon to be. Let us be the kind of people whom God can count on to do even more than we are asked to do!

This is the last we read of this matter, and so we might be inclined to wonder what happened next? We could well imagine that Philemon did even as Paul expected him to do, and received Onesimus back into his home and treated him as if he were Paul himself. Yet ultimately we do not know the outcome of this. Judging from what we read here, if we assume that Paul through the Spirit knew what he was talking about, no doubt Philemon did indeed act as Paul suggested.

New King James Version 22. But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.

In the meantime Paul has another request for Philemon. He asks him to prepare a guest room for him also, for he trusts that, through the prayers of Philemon and others, Paul will be released from Rome to come to them. The others included in the word “your” (for “your” here is plural in Greek, as it used to be in English) may be the other members of his family included in Paul’s address of this letter, or it may mean the prayers of Philemon and his fellow Colossians. No doubt many of Paul’s close friends and converts were praying for his release from Rome and that he might be restored to them once again.

What was it that held Paul in Rome? As we discussed earlier in Philemon, when he got to Rome there were really had no charges against him nor anyone to accuse him, so it may not have been Rome holding him there at all. Perhaps what he waited on was God giving him permission to leave Rome. Paul could only do as his Master bade him to do. Thus, since it may indeed have been dependent on God, prayers for Paul’s restoration to them would have been most effective. Even if it was Rome holding him, God could overrule Rome, and so they might well pray for Paul’s restoration to them. That is what they were doing, at any rate, and Paul acknowledges their prayers.

Paul also says he “trust”s that through their prayers he shall be granted to them. The word “trust” here is the Greek word elpizo, which is often translated “hope.” Yet this is not what we usually think of as “hope,” that is, a wish that something would happen. This Greek word speaks of what you are waiting expectantly to have happen. You believe it is coming and you wait for it, you are not just idly wishing. Paul’s expectation at this time was that through their prayers he would be granted to them. As far as we can tell from the information we can gather from the books of Paul written after this, which are I and II Timothy and Titus, Paul was indeed released from Rome, and doubtless did return to see many of his friends and fellow believers after that.

New King James Version 23. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you,

Now Paul enters into the typical “closing greetings” section of his letter to Philemon. The greetings he offers in this verse are from Epaphras. Epaphras means “Lovely,” and he himself was a Colossian from the same city as Philemon. Epaphras was the one who carried the gospel to Colossae, as we learn from Colossians 1:7 (The Resultant Version).

7. As you also learned from Epaphras, a beloved fellowservant, who is for you a faithful dispenser of Christ,

Epaphras was the one who had first dispensed the gospel of Christ to the Colossians, so he must have been acquainted with Philemon. We learn from Colossians 4:12 that he was constantly laboring for those in his hometown in prayers.

12. Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, he is greeting you. At all times he was contending on your behalf in prayers, that you may stand mature and complete, fully assured in all the will of God.

Epaphras obviously cared deeply about the Colossians, and was contending at all times on their behalf in prayers. No doubt one of those he prayed for was Philemon. Now, in the letter to Philemon, he greets him. In Philemon 23 Paul also calls him a fellow captive in Christ Jesus. Apparently this explains why Epaphras was not carrying this letter to Colossae and greeting these people whom he cared about so deeply in person. Notice that Paul says Epaphras was a fellow captive “in Christ Jesus.” Does this indicate it was Christ Who made them captives, not Rome? It could well be this is what is indicated. At any rate, there is no word anywhere about Epaphras being imprisoned, though of course that might have been. Yet regardless they were both the captives of Christ, and as such, they were bound to do His will! If His will was for them to remain in Rome, then of course that was what they must do.

New King James Version 24. as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

This verse contains a longer list of people with Paul at this time who greeted Philemon. This group matches up well with the group that greeted the Colossians in the book of Colossians. Since Paul was constantly receiving new assistants who joined with him, or was sending people off to perform missions here or there, or having people return from missions to be with Paul, the exact correspondence of names with Paul between Colossians and Philemon points to the fact that these letters were probably written together at about the same time.

Our first name who greets Philemon is Mark. The name “Mark” means “A Defense.” This man was the cousin (or at least close relative) of Barnabas, Paul’s first traveling companion as an apostle, according to Paul’s testimony in Colossians 4:10 (in The Resultant Version).

10. Aristarchus my fellow captive is greeting you; and Mark cousin to Barnabas (concerning whom you have received directions; if he comes unto you, give him welcome);

This man is of great Biblical importance, for as far as we can tell, he is the Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark. We first read of him in Acts 12:12.

12. So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

Here, his given name is said to be John, and his surname is Mark. His mother’s name is also given as Mary or Maria in Greek. He is next mentioned a few verses later in Acts 12:25.

25. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.

This is soon after Paul and Barnabas went to deliver famine relief to the Jews in Judea. Mark was in Judea, as we learned in Acts 12:12. As Paul and Barnabas returned from Judea to their home base in Antioch, they took Mark with them as their young companion. He continued with them as well, as we learn in Acts 13:5.

5. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.

So on Paul’s first apostolic journey, he and Barnabas took Mark as their young helper. Yet this did not work out so well, as we learn from Acts 13:13.

13. Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.

From this verse we learn that, perhaps when the going got difficult on this journey, Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas and went back home to his mother. The story was continued in Acts 15:36-40, as Paul and Barnabas consider another apostolic journey.

36. Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37. Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40. but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.

When Paul suggested to Barnabas returning to the brothers they had brought to Christ in all the cities where they had proclaimed the word of the Lord, Barnabas agreed but wanted to take Mark along again, as they had the first time. However, Paul refused, probably believing that Mark was no more ready to take hardship than he had been the first time, and would just abandon them when the going got hard again. The disagreement between these two was so sharp that it caused the apostles to part. Barnabas took Mark and headed back home to Cyprus in a huff, whereas Paul chose Silas as his new partner and headed out on his second apostolic journey.

By the time Paul was writing Philemon, however, Mark had joined Paul, as we see here. We can also gather this from Colossians 4:10, as we discussed above. Moreover, Mark stuck with Paul, as we learn from II Timothy 4:11.

11. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Here we learn that Mark was one of the faithful who was still with Paul at the end after many others had abandoned him. Moreover, Mark was now considered useful by Paul for ministry. When we consider that the contention between Paul and Barnabas had arisen around the fact that Paul believed Mark was not useful for ministry at that time, we can see that Paul’s attitude towards Mark had changed. Of course, the question then arises if the change was entirely in Paul, or it Mark was the one who had actually changed? I think it highly likely that Mark had grown up since Paul had rejected him for ministry. His impulse at the time would have been to listen to Barnabas and be upset with Paul’s rejection, but perhaps as he got older and wiser he realized that Paul had been right and he had not really been serious about or dedicated to the work. This could explain why he might have gone back to Paul and apologized, admitting that Paul had been right about him. This could explain how he ended up with Paul and became useful to him. Of course, this is just speculation, for we do not know for sure how these two ended up together, only that they did.

The next person who greets Philemon and his household is Aristarchus. His name means “The Best Ruler.” Aristarchus was from Macedonia, and was a traveling companion of Paul during his third apostolic journey. The first we read of him is during the riot in Ephesus, when he was caught by the mob and carried into the amphitheater before the Ephesian ekklesia. We read of this in Acts 19:29.

29. So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions.

Here we learn that Aristarchus was with Paul during his ministry in Ephesus. Though we first read of him in Ephesus, he was not an Ephesian, for he is already called “Paul’s travel companion” here. We learn where he actually was from in Acts 20:4.

4. And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia—also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.

So Aristarchus was from Thessalonica, the city Paul visited in Acts 17 that was in Macedonia. Of course, the letters of I and II Thessalonians were written to this city. The next we read of Aristarchus is in Acts 27:2, wherein we learn that he accompanied Paul while he was a prisoner headed to Rome.

2. So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.

So Aristarchus was with Paul and Luke as they sailed to Rome. We do not read of him again until Philemon 24 and Colossians 4:10.

10. Aristarchus my fellow captive is greeting you; and Mark cousin to Barnabas (concerning whom you have received directions; if he comes unto you, give him welcome);

As we see in Colossians, Paul calls him a “fellow captive,” which in Greek is sunaichmalotos. So he was there with Paul in Rome, apparently throwing in his lot with Paul, and suffering the captivity Paul was suffering along with him. This was a good thing for anyone to do during that time when Paul was acting as God’s representative on earth. This is the last verse wherein we read of him, so this is all we can learn of his character.

The next one who greets them is Demas. Demas means “Governor of the People.” He is listed with Luke here as well as in Colossians 4:14.

14. Luke, the beloved physician, greets you, and Demas greets you.

Since they are twice listed together, we would get the idea that Demas is perhaps of equal standing with Luke the beloved physician who wrote two major books of the New Testament: Luke and Acts. This would put Demas in a very high position indeed. Yet sadly he did not remain there. For as we learn in II Timothy 4:10, Demas abandoned Paul before the end.

10. for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

The word Paul uses here “forsaken” is the same word as Christ used on the cross when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Sadly, Demas forsook Paul, leaving him alone and turning his back on him. Why would one of Paul’s own entourage do such a thing? Why would anyone of Demas’ caliber turn his back on Paul and on his service for God? Paul tells us why Demas did it right there in II Timothy. He says that Demas “loved” this present world. Hopefully my readers are aware that there are multiple Greek words for “love” that signify different kinds of love, unlike English that uses only the one word for many different kinds of love. For example, we speak of “loving” pizza, “loving” sports, “loving” a movie, “loving” our parents, “loving” our children, “loving” our friends, “loving” our spouses, and so forth. Yet we must surely realize that we do not love our children the same way we love our spouses or the same way we love pizza. These are very different kinds of love, and yet we use the same English word for all of them. But the Greeks were much more exact with their words for “love,” specifying much more what kind of love they meant.

So what kind of love did Demas have for this present world? The Greek here is agapao, which is the word for what is really the highest kind of love in the Bible: a love that sacrifices for the sake of the one loved. So this tells us that Demas loved this present world self-sacrificially. How could this be? Consider all Demas gave up for its sake. He was one of Paul’s company. He had done work for the Lord, and as such he had probably earned a great reward and a high position with God in His future kingdom. Yet he loved this present world so much that he was willing to sacrifice all this, to sacrifice any privilege or reward he might have in the future from God, for the sake of obtaining this present world. This was indeed sacrifice. Demas loved this world, and sacrificed what he had with God for it! This is a sad thing, and one we should all be careful not to do. What we have with God is far more valuable than the things the world has to offer. Let us learn from Demas and not make such a sad exchange. Let us not love this present world, rather than the things of God.

The final companion of Paul who greets Philemon and his family and is a fellow laborer of Paul’s is Luke. In Greek this is Loukas which means “Light Giving.” Luke is mentioned elsewhere only twice, in Colossians 4:14 and II Timothy 4:11.

Colossians 4:14 (The Resultant Version). Luke, the beloved physician, greets you, and Demas greets you.

Here, Luke is called “the beloved physician,” from which we learn that he was a doctor. He is listed together with Demas, which would put them on the same level as part of Paul’s entourage. However, Luke’s final position is far different from that of Demas, as we learn from our third passage mentioning him.

II Timothy 4:11 (New King James Version). Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Paul mentions Luke as the last one of his entourage remaining with him at the end of his ministry, as I believe II Timothy is the end of that ministry, being the last book of Paul written. This means he had a far different finish from Demas, who abandoned Paul because he loved this present world self-sacrificially. Luke, however, remained to the end with Paul, and proved himself to be a faithful servant. (Note that even though Luke was the only one still with Paul when he wrote II Timothy, he was not the last one of his entourage faithful to Paul, for there were others whom he had sent on missions elsewhere, as he always did, like Timothy himself.)

These are the only three verses that speak of Luke. Only three mentions might make him seem like a minor character in the New Testament revelation, yet there are few who would think of Luke that way. The cause of this, of course, is that we have reason to believe that two important books of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by him. To back this up, Greek scholars have noted that many words used in his books are technical, medical terms, fitting well with a book written by “the beloved physician.”

Assuming that Luke is indeed the author of Acts, we can follow the actions of Luke in the history of that book. While Luke never mentions himself by name or gives any history of his actions in that book, we can note his participation by noting the use he makes of personal pronouns. First, notice what we find in Acts 16:8-10.

8. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Notice that in verse 8, the author says that “they” came down to Troas. However, in verse 10, after Paul had seen the vision, immediately “we” sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called “us” to preach the gospel to them. Suddenly, with no explanation, the author includes himself in Paul’s company starting in verse 10, whereas he did not include himself in Paul’s company in verse 8. We see the same phenomenon in Acts 20:5-6.

5. These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. 6. But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Luke uses “us” in verse 5 and “we” twice in verse 6, showing that he was in Paul’s company at this time. The same thing occurs in Acts 27:1 when Paul is on his way as a prisoner to Rome.

1. And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment.

This is very interesting, that Luke makes it that “we” should sail to Italy. This makes us wonder if Luke, though he has not mentioned it, was arrested along with Paul, and if he might be one of the “other prisoners” he mentions? He does not give us any details, so it is impossible to say. He may also have bound himself to Paul as a servant or slave, and so Rome was willing to conduct him to Rome along with Paul. Again, this is a guess, and we cannot say for sure. Certainly this man was most faithful to Paul whatever the circumstances under which he accompanied him to Rome, however.

One last time we note the phenomenon of Luke accompanying Paul in Acts 28:16, where we note that he was also with Paul when he arrived at Rome.

16. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

So Luke went with Paul all the way to Rome indeed. He was doubtless there for that momentous day when the Jewish leaders of Rome met with Paul and he proclaimed his important words of Acts 28:28. Now, as Paul is writing Philemon, he is still with Paul toward the close of his two years in Rome. As we already noted from II Timothy, it appears this did not change, and Luke was with Paul to the end. May we all strive to be faithful to the end, even as Luke was.

To close out the consideration of this verse, note that all four of these men; Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke; are called by Paul his “fellow laborers.” This is sunergos in Greek, and shows that they were indeed present with and working alongside Paul at this time.

New King James Version 25. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Paul now closes out his book by wishing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with Philemon’s spirit. Grace, as we hopefully all know, is God’s love and favor bestowed on men without regard to their earning it or deserving it. We live in a dispensation wherein God acts only and exclusively in Grace, so it is indeed His grace that is with us in this day, and it is His grace that we need, just as it was what Philemon needed. May it be with our spirits as well.

It is interesting that he wishes the Lord’s grace to be with his spirit. In this context, his spirit is put for Philemon himself, as a part of the person can be put for the whole. For example, when we say “is anybody home?” we are not hoping to find just bodies but whole people at home. In the same way, the spirit here is put for all of Philemon. The “spirit” is the Greek word pneuma. It has to do especially with the mind and what goes with it, such as the thoughts, the beliefs, the opinions, the judgments, and even the character of a person. It is thus as a thinking, reasoning being that Paul grants Christ’s grace to be with Philemon.

Thus we close out the little letter of Philemon. In it we see an excellent example in the attitude of Paul towards Philemon and Onesimus of the way God deals with us in the dispensation of grace, and of how he would call on us to deal with each other in this same dispensation. As we said in the beginning, it is an illustration of the great statement of Ephesians 4:32.

32. And become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, dealing graciously with one another, even as God also in Christ deals graciously with you.

Paul is the example of this. He calls on Philemon to deal graciously with Onesimus. He does not force him to do so. He does not pull his weight and demand it as an apostle, as he could have done. Instead, he pleads with Philemon to do it, on the basis that Onesimus is now a brother, on the basis that it is Paul who is asking him to do it, and on the basis that he owes Paul his very self (in proclaiming the salvation-message to him). This is just how God deals with us. He does not demand, but asks and even pleads with us to be gracious to each other. He asks this based on the fact that we are brothers and sisters, on the fact that He is asking us to, and on the fact that He has already been so gracious to us and that we owe Him our very selves. Thus, like Philemon, the only proper thing for us to do is to obey Him and to be gracious to our fellow believers. No other course of action could possibly be right.

May we all learn from Paul’s example, and may we all be gracious to each other, even as God has been so gracious to us. Amen!