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1. Paul's Pleas for Onesimus

Chapter 1

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, 2And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, 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, 9Yet 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 fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; 24Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

25The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

6. That the communication of thy faith may be effectual. This clause is somewhat obscure; but I shall endeavor to elucidate it in such a manner that my readers may somewhat understand Paul’s meaning. First, it ought to be known that the Apostle is not continuing to give the praise of Philemon, but that, on the contrary, he expresses those blessings for which he prays to God. These words are connected with what he had formerly said, that he “makes mention of him in his prayers.” (Philemon 1:4.) What blessing then did he ask for Philemon? That his faith, exercising itself by good works, might be proved to be true, and not unprofitable. He calls it “the communication of faith,” because it does not remain inactive and concealed within, but is manifested to men by actual effects. Although faith has a hidden residence in the heart, yet it communicates itself to men by good works. It is, therefore, as if he had said, “That thy faith, by communicating itself, may demonstrate its efficacy in every good thing.”

The knowledge of every good thing denotes experience. He wishes that, by its effects, faith may be proved to be effectual. This takes place, when the men with whom we converse know our godly and holy life; and therefore, he says, of every good thing which is in you; for everything in us that is good makes known our faith.

Towards Christ Jesus. The phrase εἰς Χριστόν may be explained to mean “through Christ.” But, for my own part, if I were at liberty, I would rather translate it as equivalent to ἐν Χριστῶ, “in Christ;” for the gifts of God dwell in us in such a manner, that nevertheless, we are partakers of them only so far as we are members of Christ. Yet because the words in you go before, I am afraid that the harshness of the expression would give offense. Accordingly, I have not ventured to make any alteration in the words, but only wished to mention it to my readers, that, after full consideration, they may choose either of those meanings which they prefer.


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