VS 1-3 – Prisoner of Christ
– A prisoner of Christ Jesus – as in the other captivity letters (Colossians, Philippians, and Ephesians – A.D. 62-63), Paul sees his imprisonment as to Christ and not to circumstances (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:19-20; Phil. 1:13; Col. 4:3).[Jerome (4th/5th century) – “He is held in prison, he is constrained by chains, in physical misery, separated from dear ones, plunged into prison darkness, yet he does not feel the injury, he is not
crucified with sadness.”]
– Timothy – “Dear to God;” Paul’s right-hand man; recipient of First and Second Timothy (Acts 16:1-3; 2Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1Thes. 1:1; 2Thes. 1:1; 1Tim. 1:2).
– Philemon – “friendly;” leader of a home church, probably in Colossi (church buildings did not appear until the third century).
– Apphia – Philemon’s wife or sister
– Archippus – “master of the horse;” Philemon’s son (?), or a leader in the church (Col. 4:17)
– Grace – a divine influence on one’s heart and its reflection in one’s life
– Peace – a quietness of heart
VS 4-7 – The Character of Cruciformity: Forgiveness
– Love – “agape;” because “of the faith you have toward the Lord,” this ‘love’ is directed toward the people; in Greek, this verse is of “chiastic construction,” meaning that, “love,” as a result of faith in Christ is evidenced toward humanity.
– Fellowship – “koinonia,” literally, “partnership; a participation in;” it speaks of a common life in Christ shared between believers, a living into one another.
– Effective – “energes,” literally, “powerful;” it is from where we get our word “energy.”
– Refreshed – a military term denoting an army at rest from a march.
VS 8-16 – The Actions of Cruciformity: Equality
– For love’s sake – Paul does not make demands from apostolicity, but appeals from love
– Onesimus… was useless to you – Paul’s play on words, the name “Onesimus” means, “profitable; useful;” literally Paul is saying, “useful formerly was useless, but now is useful.” Onesimus is a living example of the work of grace.
– No longer as a slave, but more than a slave – not a slave of circumstance but of Christ (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1; 1Tim. 6:2)
VS 17-22 – The Motives of Cruciformity: Community
[Martin Luther (16th Century) – “Even as Christ did for us with God the Father, thus Paul also does for Onesimus with Philemon.”]
– Accept him as you would me – Christ as the crucified archetype of the Cruciform
– Let me benefit from you in the Lord – another play on the name “Onesimus;” by expressing the Cruciform; though Paul “benefitted” from others, he never begged for release from captivity and never asked the release of Onesimus. Christ never promised to change our
circumstances, but He promised to be with us in them.
– Prepare me lodging… I hope to be given to you – there is evidence that Paul was released from this first Roman imprisonment. It is only after his second that he is executed.
VS 23-25 – Greetings
– Epaphras – a masculine proper noun, “lovely;” he was a good friend of Paul (Col. 1:7-8; 4:12).
– Mark – also known as “John Mark,” one of the gospel writers; he was Barnabas’ nephew (Col. 4:10); he and Paul had a falling out of sorts in Perga (Acts 13:13; 15:36-40); he and Paul reconciled (Col. 4:10) and was later with Timothy in Ephesus during Paul’s second Roman imprisonment (2Tim. 4:11). It is interesting that Paul mentions him, here, to Philemon, perhaps as an example of that which Paul speaks concerning Onesimus.
– Aristarchus – “best ruling;” seized with Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Col. 4:10)
– Demas – once a fellow laborer (Col. 4:14), later left Paul during his second Roman imprisonment (2Tim. 4:10).
– Luke – writer of Luke and Acts and the only Gentile writer of the New Testament; a physician whom Paul loved (Col. 4:11, 14); joined Paul in Troas (Acts 16:8-10) and accompanied him to Philippi on Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, where he rejoins Paul some years later on the
third journey (Acts 20:5); he remained with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28) and was present with him during his second (2Tim. 4:11).