In Philemon verse 7 the Apostle Paul is continuing his letter to his Christian brother, and the Bible says in Philemon verse 7, “For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.” The word consolation comes from the word that means “comfort.” It is the same word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit. There is comfort to having someone next to you who loves you and does things for you. That is what marriage is supposed to be about, and that is what Christian fellowship is supposed to be about. There is nothing worse than being around people who do not love you. That is why some occupations can be so unpleasant whether in or out of the corporate world.
Paul said that the “bowels” of the saints were “refreshed” by Philemon. Philemon’s life had a positive effect on people. Those believers who knew Philemon were blessed by having known him. The word “bowels” refers to the innermost being of a person: the place that is the seat of the emotions and the will and the heart. If the inside is right, everything else will be right. If there are problems in the inner man, then no amount of fixing up the outside will help. The world has it all wrong. They constantly fix the outer man, and they emphasize and exalt the appearance of the outer man. But it’s the inner man that counts. The inner emotions and the innermost spirit will determine who and what you are, and will determine who and what you become.
If you are a believer in Christ, in the inner man you need to be comforted. And you can be comforted through the presence of the Holy Spirit, through the power of Christ, and through fellowship with other Christians. You need comfort in your inner man, and you also need to be “refreshed.” The word “refreshed” comes from a word that means “rest.” Jesus used the same word in speaking to the apostles in Mark 6:31 when Jesus said, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.” A believer finds himself in a world that is hostile. There are turmoils, oppositions, and difficult circumstances on every hand for those who follow Christ. These are difficult days to be a Christian. The Bible says that it would be that way. It says in II Timothy 3:1-5, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” When you rub elbows with people like this, you need to have times when your inner spirit is refreshed. If you can find a Christian who knows how to love other Christians for the sake of Christ, then you will find a source for having your inner spirit lifted up and refreshed.
Finally the Apostle Paul gets to the point of exactly why he was writing to Philemon. Paul is getting ready to make a request to Philemon, asking Philemon to do something. Paul writes in verses 8-9, “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” The word that is translated “enjoin” means to command. Paul could have given a command to Philemon because Paul had the authority to do so, but notice the reason that Paul gave that he did not give a command: “for love’s sake.” Paul did not want his relationship with Philemon to be that of master and servant even though Paul had every right to give commands of the nature involved in this situation.
The very thing that Paul is writing about is Christian unity. Paul is going to ask Philemon to show love, and compassion, and mercy to another believer. Whenever Christians fail to show such love of each other, trouble will be brewing and divisions are sure to come. Even if they did not come, we still should have this kind of compassion for one another because of what Jesus has done for each of us.
When Paul spoke of his authority, he said in verse 8 that he might be “bold in Christ.” The source of Paul’s authority was Jesus Christ. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus ascended to heaven and gave gifts unto men. Christianity is supposed to different from human organizations. In human organizations people gain power by politics, influence, and intrigue. But in Christianity authority should be based upon the calling of Christ and the gifts that Christ has given to His followers. Some have the gift of administration and some have the gift of pastors and teachers. Don’t do it the world’s way. Do it God’s way and only use the authority that comes from Christ. Do not resort to human manipulation and power plays. That is what the selfish people of the world do, and you know what their end will be.
In verse 9 Paul identified himself in two ways, “Paul the aged” and as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” When Paul called himself “the aged” he was referring to his age. The word “aged” comes from a word that has the same root as a word that is translated an “elder.” The transliteration of the Greek word is presbyter. It was a false interpretation to take this word and develop the idea of a presbytery. The word simply refers to the age of someone. No young man can be an elder because a young man is not old enough. Age has its benefits. One of the benefits is increased knowledge. Christians should always respect those who have increased knowledge. Paul reminded Philemon that Paul was an elder. He was Paul the aged, and he was also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Someone who has been a prisoner for the cause of Christ and who has remained in fellowship with Christ throughout that ordeal should be listened to. There are many who turn away from Christ when they suffer from the evil forces and from the forces of the world. Therefore, we should carefully listen to someone who has been chosen to suffer for Christ’s sake. They have a special calling, and they know something that the rest of the believers need to learn.
In Philemon verse 10 Paul writes, “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” Paul is writing to Philemon on behalf of and for the sake of Onesimus. Evidently through Paul’s witness and influence Onesimus came to know Christ as Savior while Paul was a prisoner. Paul calls him “my son,” and Paul says that he had begotten Onesimus in his bonds. In other words during the time that Paul was a prisoner is when Onesimus was saved by faith in Christ. This is always the initial point to start with. Is someone that you know a Christian? If so, then give to them the best of treatment, and the kindest of dealings. Be merciful to them, and gracious, and loving. Forgive them if they have failed you. That is God’s will because those are the same things that Christ has done for you.
Concerning Onesimus, Paul says the following in Philemon verse 11: “Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me.” Evidently before his salvation Onesimus had done some very bad things that in some way had harmed Philemon or caused some trouble or loss for Philemon. Just as evidently Onesimus had had a change in character and a change in heart once he turned to Christ. Any one who has truly turned to Christ will have an immediate change to their behavior for the better. To repent means to change one’s mind, and it means to change one’s mind about many things. It means to change one’s mind about Jesus Christ. Instead of resisting Jesus Christ, someone who repents goes toward Jesus Christ. To repent means to change one’s mind about guilt. Instead of hiding from guilt, a person who repents admits their personal guilt and finds forgiveness from Jesus. To repent means to change one’s mind about one’s behavior: it means to turn from doing wrong to doing right. A person who has repented wants to do the right thing. That is why the Bible says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation: old things are passed away. Behold, all things are new.”
In Philemon verse 11 the words “unprofitable” and “profitable” literally mean “of no use” and “of good use.” This is an indication that Onesimus was not a Christian when he was last with Philemon, and then as a result of his salvation Onesimus became useful. Once you are saved, you become “useful” for spiritual things and for the work of God. Christ has something for every believer to do in His kingdom. Every believer has one or more gifts and every believer is “useful” to other believers and to Christ.
In Philemon verse 12 Paul said concerning Onesimus, “Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels.” The word that is translated “bowels” was already used once in verse 7. By using this word here Paul is stating how great was his love for Onesimus. It is no wonder that Paul had such an effective ministry. Paul truly loved those who came to know Christ. Paul knew that his own love for Onesimus would have an impact on Philemon. That is the way leadership works. The leader sets the spirit and the emphasis and the philosophy. Those under the leader will pick up on it and copy it. Are there great problems in modern-day Christianity? That is because there are great problems in the leadership. If only there were more who set examples of true Christian love. If that happened, more Christians would become what they ought to be, and the gospel of Christ would go forward in spirit and in truth.
Paul wrote in verse 13, “Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel.” The word that is translated “bonds” comes from the same word as “prisoner” that is found in Philemon verse 1. Paul was a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Paul was in bonds as a result of the gospel. In a spiritual sense every believer should feel himself “bound” by the gospel. We have an obligation to the gospel of Christ in this world. “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.” What do you owe? You owe your gifts and your talents to Christ to be used in this world as He sees fit for your part in the spread of the gospel.
Paul knew that he could not do it alone. Paul needed the assistance of other believers. That is God’s plan because every believer has a gift to put into practice and has a service to be rendered. Notice the difference between the Apostle Paul and many Christian leaders today. Today Christian leaders want to do it all themselves and unwisely they think that they can. All that they want is your money so they can grow their religious organizations in the same way that corporations grow: by buying more land and constructing more buildings. Paul did not buy any land, and Paul did not construct any buildings. The buildings that Paul had were the buildings of people’s lives. That is why Paul valued Onesimus. Once a person has been truly converted to Christ and is walking in fellowship with Christ, that person has valuable service to render because of the Spirit of Christ that is within them.
Evidently Onesimus was a relatively new believer, but Paul said that Onesimus “ministered unto me.” To minister is to serve. It is a strange thing that we call pastors “ministers.” A minister is someone who serves others. Every Christian should be a minister. Paul was a minister, but so was Onesimus. The word “minister” does not refer to a position of power and authority in a religious organization. The word “minister” refers to someone who is a servant. Jesus came into this world to minister. He said that He came to give His life a ransom for many, and He also reminded us that “the servant is not greater than his Lord.”
Copyright; 2005 by Charles
F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved