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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Colossians 4:10-18 (L 29)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
WWW. 2Tim215.Net

Established November 2008                                         Published: July 03, 2020

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS’s verse-by-verse study of Colossians.

The last two sessions were committed to Paul’s letter to Philemon based on its relevance  to Colossians 4:7-9: “All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.  They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.”

Let’s review.

Paul personalized his  letter to Philemon by writing it in his own hand (v. 1, 19).  It concerns the interactions of three people primarily: Philemon, Onesimus, and Paul.  Onesimus was a runaway slave and a thief, having stolen something of value from Philemon (v. 18).  But no one can be certain as to what that something was.  Onesimus made his way to Rome, but the Bible doesn’t tell us why.  Some people suggest he intended to get lost in the crowds there.  Others say he journeyed to Rome for the sole purpose of meeting up with Paul.  We know Paul was allowed to have visitors so it’s quite likely this is where they met:  And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31).

Paul converted Onesimus sometime after they met (v. 10) and then Onesimus proved helpful to Paul (v12-13).  In other words he became a “useful” asset so  Paul wanted him to remain in Rome with him (v. 13).  But here’s the thing he also recognized Onesimus’ duty to Philemon.  So, he sent him back to Colosse with this letter and the companionship of  Tychicus who performed a double-duty, as it were, because he also carried Paul’s letter to the Colossians (4:7-9).  In Philemon Paul implored his friend to accept Onesimus back, not as a runway slave and an outlaw, but as though it were Paul himself, i.e., a “brother beloved” (v 16).  Paul graciously told Philemon he would assume Onesimus’ debt and pay it in full (v 18).

This letter is a valuable contribution to the N.T.  Below I offer three reasons as to how it impacts the lives of every true Believer.  By the way, this is not an exhaustive list:

Christian Ethics – Both Paul and Onesimus were in agreement.  The right thing to do was for him to return to his master in Colosse and own up to his mistakes no matter the outcome.  This says much about Onesimus’ character and courage in the face of adversity.  According to Roman law Philemon would have been within his rights to have Onesimus scourged, brand his forehead with the letter “F” for fugitivus (a fugitive), or have him put to death.  Make no mistake Philemon was the man in charge of the situation.  Onesimus’ fate therefore was uncertain, but he forged ahead anyway;  that’s bravery folks, and in a practical sense demonstrates what it means to have “the mind of Christ.
(Philippians 2:2-5; Colossians 3:17, 23).

Christ Jesus changes relationships - Though people have different stations in life, the Lord Jesus Christ alters those relationships forever for Christ is all and in all:
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:10-11).

Plainly said, we are not to look down on people because of their social standing or with their past failures in mind.  In God’s eyes we are all equal and in Christ we are one.

Evangelism – Onesimus was from Phrygia (Colossians 4:9).  The slaves from that region had a bad reputation.  In fact, people believed if you beat a Phrygia slave routinely they were more likely to behave.  When Paul looked at Onesimus, he didn’t see a worthless sinner he saw a potential servant of the Lord, and he was not disappointed, proving the gospel can work its power in any heart, regardless of their ungodly background (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Paul stands as both an example and a testimony of this biblical truth (Acts 9, 22:1-21; Galatians 1:11-14).

The opening verse of Romans announced Paul’s vocation, that is, the work God called him to do.  He proclaimed the gospel of God to all nations:  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:16-17).

For Paul the gospel is more than words, it’s “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”  So, this salvation is not meant for a select group of people; it’s intended for all those who recognize the hope that is in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:24-30).

Please open your Bible at Colossians 4:10.

Paul’s Companions in Travel

Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)

“Aristarchus (Ar-is-tar'-kus) my fellowprisoner” – In Acts 27:2 we learn Aristarchus is a Believer from Thessalonica.  In Acts 19:29 Luke identified him as “Paul’s companion in travel.”  He was with Paul on his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4); and he was with Paul on his voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2).  At some point in time he was imprisoned with Paul (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 23).  We aren’t told why, but in Philemon 24 Paul referred to him as a “fellowlabourer. This might indicate Aristarchus was involved in the ministry and for this reason he was incarcerated with Paul, but again we’re not sure.  He was martyred during the persecution of Nero as was Paul. 

Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas” – Marcus is Barnabas’s nephew.  Perhaps he’s better known as John Mark the author of the gospel of Mark.  The Gospel of John is the only Gospel that mentions “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23), which essentially means he and Jesus were best friends.  More and more people are of the belief you can change future history by destroying or disconnecting from the past.  I’m inclined to disagree.  History, including church history is there for “our learning” (Romans 15:4).  With this thought in mind, church History reveals Mark lived into the AD 90’s and was the last surviving apostle (See John 21:22).  But that’s the end of the story.  We need to look at Marcus’ history with Paul and his ministry.   

John Mark was a helper on Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey in 45-47 AD (Acts 13:5).  However, he did not stay the course.  He deserted Paul and Barnabas in Pamphylia before their work was completed (Acts 15:38).  Luke doesn’t give us the reason for his sudden departure, so anything you read or hear is likely to be nothing more than conjecture.  Sometime after Paul and Barnabas had returned from their first journey, Paul expressed a desire to return to the cities where grace churches had been planted to see how they were doing (Acts 15:36).  Barnabas agreed, apparently, upon the provision that they take Marcus with them.  Paul refused citing his previous negative attitude.  He didn’t want a quitter with them.  A “sharp disagreement” about Marcus ensued between Paul and Barnabas (v. 39), resulting in them separating and going their different ways.  Barnabas took Marcus with him to Cyprus, i.e., Barnabas’ old stomping grounds.  Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia, the latter being Paul’s birthplace, confirming the churches (Acts 15:39-41).  Luke, the writer of Acts, does not present either Paul or Barnabas as being in the right.  He simply recorded the facts.  It’s worth noting, in the end, two groups of missionaries were now preaching the revelation of the mystery instead of one.

So, John Mark sailed off to Cyprus but his story doesn’t end there.  Years later, he is again with Paul who recognized him as a “fellow worker” (Philemon 24).  Near the end of Paul’s life, he sent a request to Timothy from a Roman prison saying,  Only Luke is with me.  Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).  Clearly, Marcus had matured over the years and had become a faithful servant of the Lord.  Paul acknowledged his progress and considered him a valuable resource.

Now let’s look at Paul’s companion Barnabas.  He first appears in Acts 4:36 as a Levite named” Joses from Cyprus.  He apparently had some wealth; he sold a field and gave the money to the twelve for their “all things common” program (v. 32).  Apparently, he got to know the apostles fairly well for the next time we see him in the Bible he’s boldly introducing a former persecutor of Jewish Christians, named Saul of Tarsus, to the twelve as a brother in the Lord (Acts 9:27).  This is a short time after Paul encountered the risen Lord on the Damascus RD and his subsequent conversion (Acts 9).

Later, Barnabas was sent to Antioch to lead and encourage its young church (Acts 11:22-24).  At this time he recruited Paul for the work in Antioch (Acts 11:25).  From the church (ekklesia – a called-out assembly) in Antioch, Barnabas and Paul visited the church in Jerusalem with a financial gift for those suffering from a famine throughout Judea (Acts 11:30), and returned to Antioch with John Mark (Acts 12:25).

It was during this time in Antioch that Barnabas and Paul were selected by the Holy Spirit for missionary work (Acts 13:2).  I mentioned above their first stop was Cyprus and its city of Paphos (Acts 13:6).  After ministering in this city, they sailed to Pamphylia (Acts 13:13). We then we see the hand of the Lord working in their lives for  Paul had risen to prominence in their missionary effort.  We note subsequent Bible references refer to this missionary team as, “Paul and Barnabas” where once it had been “Barnabas and Paul” (Acts 13:42).

In time Paul and Barnabas finished their missionary labors and returned to Antioch (Acts 14:26).  During this time, the circumcision controversy and the Jerusalem conference took place (Acts 15).  Interestingly, during this discussion Barnabas assumed the prominent role again, probably due to his long relationship with the twelve (Acts 15:2, 12, 25).  After this matter was resolved, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch and carried on the ministry there for some time (Acts 15:35 - See also 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1, 9, 13; Colossians 4:10).

Verse 4:11.

And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision.  These (three) only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.”

Now we arrive at the next name on Paul’s list, namely, “Jesus, which is called Justus.”  The phrase, “who are of the circumcison,” ought to tell you something right off.  Paul’s saying, “Aristarchus my fellowprisoner,Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas” and “Justus” were his fellow kinsmen, that is, they were Israelites, here referred to as “the circumcison.”  (See Ephesians 2:11-16)

Justus’ name appeared along with Matthias on a short list of replacements for Judas: “And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Justus had been with this group since the beginning.  We know this because it was one of the requirements for being an apostle (Acts 1:23-26).  He was not selected as the twelfth apostle but the Lord apparently had other ministerial work in mind for him.  In 62 AD he is recognized as one of Paul’s “fellowworkers,” which means he was involved in the same ministry as Paul.  Luke does not record what happened to Justus but some believe he too was imprisoned for preaching the gospel of grace to people who didn’t want it.  It’s believed he was martyred for his faith.   

Verses 12-13.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.  For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”

Epaphras (E-paf-ras) was a gentile.  He founded the church at Colosse.  In Colossians 1:7 Paul said he was a, “fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;” and in Philemon 23 Paul said he is “my fellowprisoner in Christ.”  Tychicus and Onesimus were Colossians and so was Epaphras.  Tychicus and Onesimus were headed back to Colosse each carrying a letter from Paul.  Epaphras thought it best to remain with Paul because he needed his help.  So, in the Bible passage above Paul assured the saints in Colosse saying, “I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal (love) for you…” as well as all the Believers “that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis” or that general vicinity. 

Paul then cites his reason for writing this:  “…always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”  Note Paul said, “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”  Paul isn’t just talking about understanding how God wants them to live their lives.  God’s will for them includes having knowledge of His purpose and plan for the Body of Christ in the dispensation in which they live.  Sometime back I said, “Not only should the Believer know what they profess to believe they should be able to explain why they believe it.”  For instance, if someone asked you how can I be sure I’m saved, what would you say to them?  This is what Paul’s talking.  The Colossians were to mature “in all the will of God,” in order to defend the faith when necessary and when the opportunity presents itself be ready and able to explain Christ’s purpose and plan for His Church, dispensationaly speaking.    

Verses 14-18.

Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.  Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.  And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.  And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.  The salutation by the hand of me Paul.  Remember my bonds.  Grace be with you. Amen.”

“Luke, the beloved physician” – Luke wrote the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, but he was not one of the twelve.  In Luke 1:1-4, he makes it clear he was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Furthermore, he never includes himself in the gospel that bears his name.  He became a Believer after the Lord’s death.  Some people think Paul led him to faith in the Lord, but I’ve yet to come across a Bible verse substantiating that belief.  More than a few folks also believe Luke was a gentile.  They base this notion on Paul’s statement in Colossians 4:11-14.  This is where Paul said Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus “are of the circumcision…,” or Jews.  Luke was not included in that grouping so that means he’s a gentile.  Since all the other writers of Scripture were Jews, I find it more than a little strange that God would make this one exception and use a gentile to write scripture.  Furthermore, when Paul was at Jerusalem the Jews charged him with bringing a gentile into the temple and polluting the holy place.  They had seen Trophimus (a gentile) with him and supposed he had brought him into the temple.  We know Luke was with Paul in Jerusalem at that time and in his company more than any others, yet the Jews did not get upset about Luke, evidently knowing, or believing, that he was a Jew.  In my opinion, it’s wrong to build a belief on a puff of smoke.  Obviously, some do but we’re not counted among them here at HBS.  There isn’t one verse in the Bible that says Luke was a gentile.   

From the Book of Acts and Paul’s writings we know Luke became a companion of Paul.  In Acts 16 he inserted himself into the narrative: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.  And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:9-10). 

In Philemon 24, Paul referred to Luke as one of his “fellowlabourers…” More than 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead we find Paul presenting Luke to the Colossian assembly saying, “Luke, the beloved physician…”  According to the KJV Dictionary “beloved” means: loved; greatly loved; dear to the heart.  Before he is beheaded by Nero in 68 AD Paul said, “only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11).  Paul most likely said this because others had forsaken him.  Luke’s companionship and prowess as a physician, therefore, must have been a great comfort to Paul.  He treated his physical infirmities which no doubt included pain relief due to all the beatings he endured.      

On the other hand there was “Demas.”  Of all the individuals mentioned in verses 7-14 only Demas is given no commendation by Paul.  It’s as though Paul only mentioned him in passing.  Perhaps Demas had already started showing signs of wavering faith.  I base that comment on my understanding of 2 Timothy 4:10:   For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:10). 

Verses 4:15-16.

Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas (Noom-fas), and the church which is in his house.  And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”

In verse 15 Paul mentioned a home Bible study in nearby “Laodicea” saying, “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.  Nymphas was a Believer and a person of means, evidently, because a small house could not have accommodated all the men and women who gathered there.  Small groups have been meeting in homes since people first heard of the Lord Jesus Christ for the purpose of learning all they could about Him and His once-and-done sacrifice for them on Calvary’s cross.  In mentioning Nymphas here, Paul is crediting this man from Laodicea for his willingness to hold this Bible study in his home, or “the church which is in his house.”  And in connection with this Laodicean assembly he said, “And when this epistle is read among you (at Colosse), cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. 

Verse 17.

And say to Archippus (Ahr-khip-uhs), Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.”

According to Philemon 2, Archippus was a “fellow soldier” of Paul.  Some people believe he was a citizen of Colosse and Philemon’s son while others believe him to be Nymphas’ son.  Truth is, we don’t know, but we do know he was a teacher in the house church at Laodicea.  Here Paul strongly urged him saying, “…Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.  The question is why did Paul feel the need to prod Archippus in this letter?  Perhaps he was getting lazy and negligent in respect to his responsibilities as a teacher.  I mention this possibility based on Paul’s encouraging words to Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” (2 Timothy 1:6).  This message is applicable to every saved saint and not just those with a teaching responsibility.  I know more than a few people that began their daily walk with the Lord with a fire in their heart for the things of God, but soon thereafter, that flame became a burning ember, and then a spark that eventually died out.  Perhaps this was the case with Archippus.  Paul wanted him to use the gifts God gave him and improve on them every day to the glory of God the Father.    

Verse 18.

The salutation by the hand of me Paul.  Remember my bonds.  Grace be with you. Amen.”

The salutation by the hand of me Paul” - It was customary for Paul’s to authenticate his epistles by writing the closing salutation in his own hand.  To the church in Thessalonica he wrote:  The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (2 Thessalonians 3:17)

Remember my bonds.  Grace be with you.  Amen.” – Grace be with you or to you are Paul’s opening and closing words in almost every one of his letters.  Grace to save, Grace to enable the Believer to live a life pleasing to God, Grace to carry us through the trials and tribulations of life, and Grace to keep (2 Corinthians 9:8, 12:9; Titus 2:11-14).

(To be Continued)

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Friday, June 26, 2020

Colossians 4:7-9/Philemon 10-25 (L 28)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
WWW. 2Tim215.Net

Established November 2008                                         Published: June 26, 2020

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS everyone.  Grace and Peace to y’all.

I pray y’all are well and growing in knowledge of God and knowledge of His will.  Wisdom” is the use of knowledge to reach the desired goal, so having knowledge and using knowledge are two different things.  It’s possible to know many things and yet be unwise.  Take earthly wisdom for example it appeals to the emotions and the five senses.  In contrast, the wisdom that is from God reflects Him, so, according to our apostle Paul the goal of wisdom is to lead people to Christ Jesus:

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:5-6).

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Colossians 1:9-10).

Verse 1:10 expresses the reason why Paul prayed the Colossians are to obtain knowledge of God’s will.  It is so that they may “walk” (live) worthy so as to please God.  Verses1:10b thru 1:12 precisely define what a “worthy walk” looks like.  The Believer is: 1) “fruitful in every good work;” 2) “increasing in the knowledge of God;” 3) “strengthened with all might;” and 4) “giving thanks unto the Father.”

Last week we briefly set aside our study of Colossians 4 for a verse-by-verse study of Paul’s letter to a Colossian saint named Philemon based on its applicability to Colossians 4:8-9:
“…(Tychius) Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; With Onesimus (O-neh--sih-muhs), a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.  They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.”

Philemon was a man of wealth and he owned slaves.  One of these slaves was Onesimus.  For some unknown reason he ran away from his master.  He added insult to injury by stealing something from him before he left.  Thus, this letter concerns three people:  Philemon, Onesimus, and Paul, and their interactions with one another.  But it is also addressed to the members of the house church in Colosse (v.2).  You see, in Paul’s day Believers often depended on wealthy members to provide a place for them to meet.  Last week I offered Priscilla and Aquilla as one example of this truth (see Romans 16:5; and 1 Corinthians 16:19).  The business-woman “Lydia” in Acts 16 is another.  After “the Lord opened her heart” to receive Paul’s gospel, she hosted the first house church on Greek soil.

Please open your Bible at Philemon 10-13.

In these verses Paul put Philemon's spiritual maturity to the test.  Would he allow the natural influences of the “old man,” to rule his heart and mind or would his “love” prove strong enough to overcome the earthly desire to punish Onesimus for his wrongdoing.  The phrase “What would Jesus Do” comes to mind here because having “the mind of Christ” is directly related to one’s spiritual maturity.

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies (and there is), Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let
nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:1-5).

Let’s start with Philemon 10-11:

beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten (led to Christ) in my bonds (as a prisoner of Christ): which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

In verse 10 we learn Onesimus is not the man he used to be.  When he met Paul he was a rebellious sinner; a slave on the run and a thief.  But now he’s so much more than that.  You see, God’s grace changes hearts and minds (lives).  It’s not out of the ordinary for the new Believer to examine their past life and experience regret and/or shame.  I imagine the same was true for Onesimus.  He might have told Paul about his sinful past which no doubt included the “wrongs” he committed against Philemon.  I base this on my knowledge of verses 11 and 18.    

Paul makes a compelling argument to Philemon in verse 10 in saying, “beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten (led to Christ) in my bonds:  The Law commanded, “This do and thou shalt live” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33); but God’s grace “beseeches,” that is, it requests and that’s the attitude Paul expresses here in saying, “I implore you to forgive “my son” Onesimus for the wrong he has done, “Even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). 

Verse 11.  

What’s in a Name?

which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

In Paul’s day names had a great significance attached to them.  Onesimus’ name meant “profitable or helpful.”  But he was anything but helpful.  He was a rebellious sinner who had hardened his heart against God, betrayed his master’s trust, and he’s now a thief having fled with something that belonged to Philemon.  Paul used a bit of word-play in saying, (Onesimus was) unprofitable” (unhelpful) to you in the past, but in the future he will prove to be profitable (helpful) or live up to his name.”  The implication is as Onesimus had proved “profitable” to Paul and to the ministry, upon his return he would prove himself to be “helpful” to Philemon. 

Verse 12.

“…whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:”

Onesimus had endeared himself to Paul to such an extent that his departure would cause him emotional discomfort.  But Paul isn’t sending him back to Philemon alone and empty handed.  He sent along with him Tychicus and this letter which was meant “to smooth the way,” so to speak, for his return. 

Verses 13-14.

“…whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: but without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.”

Paul might have reasoned Onesimus’ slate had been wiped clean (he had been forgiven), which is why he said, “whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:  or “he would prove helpful to me here in Rome in ministering to me and the furtherance of the gospel.” Evidently, Paul thought Philemon would understand where he’s coming from with this, but we note he  didn’t pull the “I’m an apostle of the Lord card,” i.e., exert his apostolic authority, which he certainly could have done.  But here’s the thing, he valued Philemon’s friendship far too much to take advantage of him.  As it stands, Paul is keenly aware Onesimus is the property of his friend, thus, the decision was Philemon’s to make.    

Here we learn grace always does what is right (Colossians 3:17, 23).  It literally takes years and years to earn the respect of others, but it can be lost in a moment of time.  This is why it is so essential to maintain a consistent godly testimony, or as I like to put it, “Follow Paul who followed Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Verses 15-19.

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; 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?  If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.  If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; 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.”

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;” (v. 15). 

Verse 15 continues Paul’s plea to Philemon to forgive Onesimus.  It also adds a possible explanation behind his departure.  Paul said, “perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;” This statement was probably meant to soften the fact that he was a disobedient, runaway slave.  These words reflect Paul’s teaching that God has a positive purpose for everything that happens in the life of the Believer (Romans 8:28).  Paul’s saying the negative event of Onesimus departure has led to a positive event for now he is a Believer in Christ Jesus.  In essence Paul’s saying, “Onesimus may have departed from you wearing the garments of a runaway slave, but I am sending him back to you clothed in the righteousness of Christ.”  Therefore, “receive him as myself:” (v. 17b). 

Verse 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?

Here we learn Paul’s gospel transforms people’s lives .  Onesimus would return to Philemon as a trusted “servant” of the Lord.  So, it could be said Philemon now has a brother for a slave; but it’s also true “in the Lord,” he has a slave for a brother. 

Please note what’s missing here.  Paul does not reveal the sordid details of Onesimus’ sinful past.  It serves no good purpose in bringing his wrongdoing into the spotlight again and again.  The past is best forgotten; this a good life-lesson for us all to remember and practice (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). 

Verse 17.

If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

Here Paul amplifies his request for Onesimus to be set free by appealing to his own friendship with Philemon, referring to him as “a partner.”  The word “If” introduces a conditional statement (If then you regard me…”  Paul assumed Philemon would accept this condition as true.  Pau’s request is that Philemon would receive Onesimus as though it were Paul himself.  Once again, this phrase supports the view that Paul is asking for Onesimus’ freedom, not just his forgiveness (v. 16).  Think this through.  How else could Philemon accept Onesimus as he would our apostle Paul? 

Verses 18-19.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

This is a continuation of Paul’s request of Philemon to treat Onesimus as he would himself.

If he hath wronged thee - Onesimus didn’t just run away from his master he was also a thief.  From what I understand a slave running away and taking with them things that belonged to their master was not an uncommon event in Paul’s day.  In other words it wasn’t exactly front-page news.  A slave on the run would need money for obvious reasons and their masters were usually quite wealthy.  It’s possible Onesimus stole from Philemon because he “felt” he owed him.  But it’s also possible he stole because he needed to finance his escape. 

The word “If,” implies Onesimus had committed a wrong by fleeing from his master, or by failing to perform a task that had been assigned to him, or by stealing his personal property as he fled, any and all of these concerns would meet all that is said here.  But here’s the thing it’s impossible to determine from the text which of these wrongs Onesimus had committed.  We also note Paul does not say he had “wronged” him; he merely implied he might have.  Of course there are at least two sides to every story, so from Philemon’s perspective there may be no doubt at all that a wrong had been committed.  So whatever Paul’s views might have been, in layman’s terms, he was saying, “even if that is so, he would prefer that Philemon put the loss to his account.”  In addition to that, Paul would like Philemon to forgive Onesimus’ transgressions and not hold them against him.  Simply said forgiving others who have “wronged” us is a sign of spiritual maturity (Colossians 3:12-13).

or oweth thee ought” – here Paul might be implying Onesimus, whatever his former state, was capable of holding property and contracting debts.  He might have borrowed money from Philemon, he might have been a tenant of his and failed to pay him money owed, such as, rent on farmland, or perhaps he owed Philemon money for services which he had not performed, i.e., work left undone.  Whatever the case might be, the bottom line is we do not know, so, conjecture only serves as an exercise for one’s mind.  We are not told how the debt came about or what it is, so I prefer to move on.  If you’re that interested in knowing the truth, you can ask him when you meet him in glory. 

put that on mine account” – once again, Onesimus’s misbehavior is not mentioned.  People assume Paul’s referring to his thievery, but I prefer not to read between the lines, i.e., assume that’s what he meant.  Whatever the loss might be Paul clearly said, credit (impute) it “to mine account.”  The term impute means “to credit or ascribe (something) to a person or a cause.  In scripture, the righteousness of Christ Jesus is credited (imputed) to the saved individual’s account:  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (Romans 4:22, 5:17, 19, Galatians 3:6).  To be clear, Paul just said he would pick up “the tab” for Philemon’s wrongdoing. 

Verse 19a.

I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it:

“I Paul have written it with mine own hand” – from this verse we learn Paul wrote this entire epistle with his own hand which made this communication very personal.   Normally Paul dictated his thoughts to a scribe, such as, Tertius (Tur-shi-us) in his letter to church at Rome (Romans 16:22; see also 1 Corinthians 16:21).  Paul’s imprisonment might have led him to pen this letter in his own hand simply because there was no one else.  That’s my opinion, so don’t count it as factual. 

I will repay it” – that is, I will be security for it.  It could be said this letter and pledge of the apostle Paul to Philemon stands as his “promissory note” (a signed document containing a written promise to pay a stated sum to a specified person or the bearer at a specified date or on demand).  Therefore this letter could serve as a legal document, evidence in a civil suit, in which Philemon could lawfully sue Paul or his estate for damages.  This couldn’t be done legally without Paul’s permission and he has clearly given it. 
Verse 19b.

albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.”

Here Paul implies Philemon’s conversion could be traced to Paul’s labor in the ministry:

 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  and how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!  But they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:13-17). 
Paul’s saying Philemon is indebted to him, therefore the kindness asked of him now pales in comparison with Paul’s labor of love.    

Verse 20.

Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.”

 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: -  in other words, “show me this favor in receiving my brother beloved, as I request, and refresh my heart. The phrase, “in the Lord” appears to mean, if this request is met favorably, Philemon would recognize the hand of the Lord in it, and should therefore receive it as though the Lord Himself asked this favor of him. 

refresh my bowels in the Lord.” – when most people read a phrase such as this it throws them off-kilter.  But there’s no reason for that.  If I can find the definitions for biblical terms such as this, so can you.  When Paul writes about “my bowels,” he’s not referring to his GI tract.  It’s a term that refers to “the seat of affection;” most commonly, the human heart.  The reasoning behind this is any deeply felt emotion impacts this vital organ.  Who among us has not experienced a broken heart, for example?  This is the idea Paul means to convey to Philemon.  Paul previously referred to Onesimus as “my son,” and a “brother beloved;” both of these statements come from Paul’s heart.  So it’s not a stretch to say he has a tender affection for Onesimus, and the thought of any harm coming to him by way of Philemon caused him great concern.

The term “refresh” is a military term meaning, “to give rest to, to give repose” before engaging in the next battle.  It also means “free from sorrow or care.” This is how Paul used it here.  He’s saying, “Should you receive Onesimus back as a “brother beloved,” my great concern would becomejoy” (v. 7). 

Verse 21.

Having (what) confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more that I say.”

Said differently, Paul was certain Philemon would go that extra mile or he would “do more” than Paul asked of him.  Paul expressed “confidence” in the fact that Philemon would obediently take this letter to heart and receive Onesimus not as a disobedient slave but as his fellow brother in the Lord. 

Verse 22.

But without (whatever you decide) prepare me also a lodging; for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.”

But without” – whichever way you choose to go, “prepare me also a lodging (in your home).  In Paul’s day there were no Holiday Inn Express hotels; he relied on the hospitality of others (Romans 12:13; Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:23-24).   

for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you” -  Paul’s believed God would respond to the prayers of the Colossian saints favorably and they would help him gain his freedom.  We know Paul was released from his first imprisonment in Rome and supposedly made a missionary trip to Spain.  But there’s no record of this undertaking in the N.T.  There’s also no record of Paul ever visiting Colosse.  However, the prospect of Paul visiting Philemon’s home surely motivated him to put his house in order and respond to Paul’s requests in this letter graciously.  Paul included many prayers for the saints in his writings.  Only a few times do we find him asking the saints to pray for him.  But in those prayers we come to realize he stands as the Believers’ example of a consistent prayer life.  We also come to know the heart of the man (Romans 15:30-33; 2 Corinthians 1:10-11; Ephesians 6:19-20; Philippians 1:19-20; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Philemon 22.)

Verses 23-25.

There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen.”

There salute thee Epaphras my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus” or in “the cause of Christ” - verse 23 begins the conclusion of Philemon, running through verse 25.  Here Paul includes a greeting from Epaphras, described as Paul’s “fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus.”  This tells us, like Paul, he was jailed for “walking worthy.”  Paul also mentioned him twice in Colossians.  In verse 1:7 Paul described him as a faithful missionary who brought the gospel to Philemon and others that now make up the house church in Colosse.  He also brought news of this church to Paul in Rome.   Colossians 4:12 suggests not only was he a citizen of Colosse, in fact, he was a member of that house church or as Paul put it, he’s one of you:  Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).   

Verse 24.

Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Lucas my fellowlabourers” – Marcus is none other than John Mark, the author of the gospel Mark, a Jewish Christian, but he was not an apostle of the Lord.  He’s Barnabas’ nephew (Colossians 4:10).  The Jewish Believers met in John Mark’s mother’s home in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).  He later joined Paul and Barnabas on the apostle’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:5), but he deserted them in Pamphylia  before the work was done (Acts 15:38).  Sometime later after Paul and Barnabas retuned from their first missionary journey, Paul expressed the desire to return to the churches they had planted in the cities they had previously visited to see how they were doing (Acts 15:36).  Barnabas agreed, apparently upon the provision they take John Mark with them.  Paul refused to have him on the trip, however, citing his previous desertion.  Paul thought it best not to have a quitter with them; they needed someone more dependable.  Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” about John Mark (Acts 15:39) and wound up separating from each other and going on separate journeys.  Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas with him through Syria and Cilicia to encourage the Believers in the churches in those areas (Acts 15:36–41).

Mark is also mentioned in Colossians 4:11 and is also seen with Peter (1 Peter 5:13) and again in 2 Timothy 4:11 as Paul’s helper for they had reconciled their differences.

Aristarchus had traveled with Paul in the past (Acts 19-29, 20:4) and was mentioned as a fellow prisoner with Paul in Rome (Colossians 4:10).     

Demas was also mentioned alongside Luke in Colossians 4:14.  Unfortunately, according to 2 Timothy 4:10, Demas abandoned Paul. 

Luke is the author of Acts and the gospel of Luke but he too was not an apostle.  He became a follower of Jesus after His death.  He worked as a missionary with Paul, and was with him in Rome during his imprisonment.  It is significant that both Mark and Luke were together during this time.  Both of their gospels were likely written close to this time, as they were both in Rome. 

Verse 25.

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

This closing phrase was also used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:14, Philippians 4:23, and 2 Timothy 4:22.  This expression reveals Paul held these folks in high regard.  But this is the only personal letter by Paul in the N.T. where this same phrase is used, which indicates a fondness for his friend Philemon. 

The final phrase “be with your spirit” refers to Philemon’s spirit, not the Holy Spirit; note the small “s” in spirit, and again speaks of Paul’s love for his brother in the Lord.

To me this riveting story ended like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  It leaves you hanging because no clear ending is shown.  The Bible does not tell us what happened when Onesimus showed up on Philemon’s doorstep, however, we trust that “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

(To be continued)

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