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Chapter Commentary

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved and fellow-worker,2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier, 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 always, making mention of thee in my prayers,5 hearing of thy love, and of the faith which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints;6 that the fellowship of thy faith may become effectual, in the knowledge of every good thing which is in you, unto Christ.7 For I had much joy and comfort in thy love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through thee, brother.8 Wherefore, though I have all boldness in Christ to enjoin thee that which is befitting,9 yet for loves sake I rather beseech, being such a one as Paul the aged, and now a prisoner also of Christ Jesus:10 I beseech thee for my child, whom I have begotten in my bonds, Onesimus,11 who once was unprofitable to thee, but now is profitable to thee and to me:12 whom I have sent back to thee in his own person, that is, my very heart:13 whom I would fain have kept with me, that in thy behalf he might minister unto me in the bonds of the gospel:14 but without thy mind I would do nothing; that thy goodness should not be as of necessity, but of free will.15 For perhaps he was therefore parted from thee for a season, that thou shouldest have him for ever;16 no longer as a servant, but more than a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much rather to thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord.17 If then thou countest me a partner, receive him as myself.18 But if he hath wronged the at all, or oweth thee aught, put that to mine account;19 I Paul write it with mine own hand, I will repay it: that I say not unto thee that thou owest to me even thine own self besides.20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my heart in Christ.21 Having confidence in thine obedience I write unto thee, knowing that thou wilt do even beyond what I say.22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I hope that through your prayers I shall be granted unto you.23 Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus, saluteth thee;24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow-workers.25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Chapter Introduction
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Brief Quotations
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History of Interpretation
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Verse by Verse Exegesis


v. 1.  By identifying himself as a “prisoner of Christ Jesus,” Paul begins implicitly by identifying himself with Onesimus, the runaway slave, a man in bonds and bondage like Paul himself. 


v. 2.  The phrase “the church that is in your house” is one of the clearest references in the New Testament to the phenomenon of the "house church."  



v. 4.  Paul takes time in vv. 4-7 to commend Philemon.  





v. 8.  Paul says that he might command Philemon but instead wishes appeals to him “for love’s sake.” 



v. 10.  Onesimus is mentioned in Col. 4:9 as a member of the church that is in Colossae.






v. 15.  “For this reason parted from you.”  Paul hints that God may all along have had a reason—a providential purpose in Onesimus’s separation.  Note Paul’s tactful and even euphemistic language in speaking of being “parted” from Philemon.  “Ran away” from Philemon would be more strictly descriptive.  Yet Paul uses the language that might be appropriate between friends rather than between a master and a slave.  


v. 16.  “No longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother.”  This was to be a virtual if not an actual, legal emancipation.  In some ways Paul’s perspective moves beyond the issue of legalities.


v. 17.  “Accept him as you would me.”  By so strongly identifying himself with Onesimus, Paul makes Philemon’s relationship with Onesimus a function of Paul’s own relationship with Onesimus.  Note that Paul the Roman citizen places himself on the same level as a mere slave.


v. 18.  “Charge that to my account.”  Paul offers to pay for any damages brought by Onesimus the runaway.  This is yet another aspect of Paul’s identification with Onesimus.


v. 19.  “You owe to me even your own self as well.”  Philemon owes an unrepayable spiritual debt to Paul, and Paul is willing to remind Philemon of this in the current situation. 


v. 20.  “Refresh my heart.”  This is not a legal obligation, or any sort of command or demand for compliance (v. 8).  Instead it is in every way a personal appeal.



v. 22.  “Prepare me a lodging.”  Perhaps this comes across as somewhat cheeky, in light of the rest of this letter, in which Paul urges Philemon to receive back Onesimus without punishment and to free Onesimus without payment.  Yet Paul is concerned to continue his relationship with Philemon no less than to aid Onesimus in his difficulty.  The customs of hospitality would help to cement the future relationship of Paul with Philemon.   




Comparison / Typology
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Introduction to Philemon

Book Introduction Coming Soon.

Commentary List

  • Ambrosiaster. Commentaries on Galatians-Philemon. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2009.
  • Attersol, William. A Commentarie Upon the Epistle of Saint Paule to Philemon. London, 1633. [Public Domain]
  • Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible; The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003 [1975].
  • Bruce, F. F. Commentary on Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans.
  • Calvin, Jean. Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1856. [Public Domain]
  • Clarke, Adam. The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments . . . With a Commentary and Critical Notes. 7 vols. New York: Ezra Sargent, 1811. [Google Books]
  • Dabney, J. P. Annotations on the New Testament . . . Part II. The Epistles of Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude. Cambridge: Hilliard and Brown, 1829. [Google Books]
  • Dickson, David. An Exposition of All St. Pauls Epistle Together With an Explanation of Those Other Epistles of the Apostles St. James, Peter, John & Jude. London: Printed by R. I. for Francis Eglesfield, 1659. [Public Domain]
  • Erasmus, Desiderius. Paraphrase on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, the Epistles of Peter and Jude, the Epistle of James, the Epistle of John, the Epistle to the Hebrews. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.
  • Ewald, Paul. Der Brief des Paulus an die Epheser, Kolosser und Philemon. Leipzig: Deichert, 1910. [German]
  • Gnilka, Joachim. Der Philemonbrief. Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament. Freiburg: Herder, 1982. [German]
  • Gorday, Peter; ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
  • Gundry, Robert H. Commentary on the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010.
  • Harvey, H. A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles . . . and Philemon. An American Commentary on the New Testament. Edited by Alvah Hovey. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1890. [Google Books]
  • Jamieson, Robert; A. R. Faucet; and David Brown. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. 2 vols. [Vol. 1: New Testament]. Hartford: S. S. Scranton, 1878. [Google Books]
  • Jenks, William; ed. The Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy Bible . . . Containing Scott's Marginal References; Matthew Henry's Commentary. 5 vols. Brattleboro, VT: Fessenden, 1835, 1836, 1839 [Vol. 3--Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1849]. [Vol. 5: Acts to Revelation] [Google Books]
  • Jones, William. A Commentary Upon the Epistles of Saint Paul to Philemon, and to the Hebrewes Together With a Compendious Explication of the Second and Third Epistles of Saint John. London: Printed by R. B. for Robert Allot, 1635. [Public Domain]
  • Lucas, Richard Charles. The Message of Colossians and Philemon: Fullness and Freedom. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980.
  • Luther, Martin. Luther's Works; Vols. 28-29: Selected Pauline Epistles. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1955- .
  • Mayer, John. A Commentarie Upon All the Epistles of the Apostle Saint Paul, Being Fourteene. London: Printed by John Havilande, for John Grismond, 1631. [Public Domain]
  • McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible. 5 vols. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1981. [Vol. 5: First Corinthians to Revelation]
  • Meyer, Henrich August Wilhelm. Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament . . . The Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to Philemon. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1880. [Google Books]
  • Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm; et al. Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book to the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, and to Philemon. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1885. [Google Books]
  • Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.
  • Patzia, Arthur G. Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990.
  • Poole, Matthew. Annotations Upon the Holy Bible. 3 vols. New York: Robert Carter, 1853. [Vol. 3: Matthew to Revelation.] [Google Books]
  • Roberton, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament - Philemon. [CCEL]
  • Saarinen, Risto. The Pastoral Epistles With Philemon and Jude. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2008.
  • Trapp, John. A Commentary or Exposition Upon All the Epistles, and the Revelation of John the Divine. London: Printed by A. M. for John Bellamy, 1647. [Public Domain]
  • Wolf, Edmund J; and Edward T. Horn. Annotations on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews . . . and on Philemon. The Lutheran Commentary. Edited by Henry Eyster Jacobs. New York: The Christian Literature Co., 1897. [Google Books]

Chapter Credits

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