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The Letter of Paul to Philemon: Chapter 1

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1 FROM Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and our colleague Timothy, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow-worker, 2together with Apphia our sister, and Archippus our comrade-in-arms, and the church that meets at your house.

3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4I thank my God always when I mention you in my prayers, 5for I hear of your love and faith towards the Lord Jesus and for all God's people. 6My prayer is that the faith you hold in common with us may deepen your understanding of all the blessings which belong to us as we are brought closer to Christ. 7Your love has brought me much joy and encouragement; through you God's people have been much refreshed.

8 ACCORDINGLY, although in Christ I might feel free to dictate where your duty lies, 9yet, because of that same love, I would rather appeal to you. Ambassador as I am of Christ Jesus, and now his prisoner, 10I, Paul, appeal to you about my child, whose father I have become in this prison. I mean Onesimus, 11once so useless to you, but now useful indeed, both to you and to me. 12In sending him back to you I am sending my heart. 13I should have liked to keep him with me, to look after me on your behalf, here in prison for the gospel, 14but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that your kindness might be a matter not of compulsion, but of your own free will. 15Perhaps this is why you lost him for a time to receive him back for good—16no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave: as a dear brother, very dear to me, and still dearer to you, both as a man and as a Christian.

17If, then, you think of me as your partner in the faith, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he did you any wrong and owes you anything, put it down to my account. 19Here is my signature: Paul. I will repay you—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20Yes, brother, I am asking this favour of you as a fellow-Christian; set my mind at rest.

21I write to you confident that you will meet my wishes; I know that you will in fact do more than I ask. 22And one last thing: have a room ready for me, for I hope through the prayers of you all to be restored to you.

23Epaphras, a captive of Christ Jesus like myself, sends you greetings. 24So do my fellow-workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.

25The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit!

Text Commentary view alone

1–3 : Salutation.

The form is usual in ancient letters.

2 :

Church … at your house: as yet no church edifices existed.

4–7 : Prayer of thanksgiving.

Such prayers are usual in Paul's letters; see Rom. 1.8–15 , where he begins with “thanking my God.”

8–21 : The plea for Onesimus.

10 :

Child … father: see 1 Cor. 4.15 .

11 :

Useless … useful indeed: the name Onesimus means “the useful one”; the verse puns on the name.

13–14 :

Perhaps Paul is here hinting that Philemon should send the slave back to continue his service to the apostle.

15–16 :

Paul acknowledges Philemon's right to have Onesimus back for good, although the apostle's own hope is expressed in v. 14 . In any case, Philemon will henceforth know Onesimus as a brother, rather than merely as a slave.

19 :

The signature is this verse and perhaps the following ones: see 1 Cor. 16.21–24 n. Owe me: an allusion to Paul's conversion of Philemon.

23–24 :

These companions of Paul are mentioned also in Col. 4.10, 11, 14 .

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