Paul's Letter to Philemon

Chapter 1

Paul rejoices to hear of the faith and love of Philemon, whom he desires to forgive his servant Onesimus and lovingly to receive him again, 1-25.

1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-laborer, 2 To our beloved Apphia, to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in your house:

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

4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 Hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all saints, 6 That the fellowship of your faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love because the hearts of the saints are refreshed by you, brother.

8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to enjoin you to that which is appropriate, 9 Yet for love's sake I rather implore you, being such a one as Paul the aged and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

10 I implore you for my son Onesimus whom I have begotten in my bonds, 11 Who in time past was to you unprofitable, but now profitable to you and to me, 12 Whom I have sent back. Therefore, receive him (that is, my own heart), 13 Whom I wished to have retained with me, so that in your stead he might have ministered to me in the bonds of the gospel. 14 But without your consent I would do nothing so that your benefit should not be as of necessity, but willingly. 15 For perhaps he was therefore parted from you for a season so that you should receive him forever, 16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 If you account me therefore a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 If he has wronged you or owes you anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, have written it with my own hand, I will repay it—although I do not say to you that you owe to me even your own self as well. 20 Indeed, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in the Lord.

21 Having confidence in your obedience I wrote to you, knowing that you will also do more than I say.

22 But at the same time prepare me also a lodging, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given to you.

23 Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus, salutes you, 24 As do Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Lucas, my fellow-laborers.

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


Matthew Henry Commentary - Philemon, Chapter 1


[v.6] - "the fellowship" - Or, "the sharing."

[v.10-11] - These two verses contain the primary subject of this letter: Onesimus. The key to understanding the message behind this letter from Paul is in the meaning of Onesimus' name, which meaning is, profitable. From Paul's letter we can see that Onesimus has become unprofitable to Philemon. However, Paul is asking Philemon to forgive him of his debt and to make him profitable, or useful again, and to count him as above a servant, even as a beloved brother (verse 16). This is a form of similitude to the Gospel of Christ. While we are in sin, we are dead and unprofitable to the kingdom of Heaven. However, Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, has made atonement for the debt of His chosen ones to God and has established them above servants and as beloved brothers and sisters (Ephesians 2:1-10). Furthermore, Paul volunteers to absorb the cost of Onesimus' debt to his account (verse 18). When Christ died on the cross, He absorbed the wrath of God we deserve upon Himself, bearing our iniquities and our shame (Isaiah 53:4-5), so that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness (1st Peter 2:24).

[v.12] - "Whom I have sent back" - That is, sent back to you.

[v.15] - "departed" - Or, "parted from you."