Philemon 1-4 (Pt. 1)

There are a few books in the New Testament and the Bible for that matter, that are quick reads. That doesn’t mean they are quick stud-ies, as study involves slowing down and dis-secting the text and seeing what other places in scriptures have to say on the same ideas, and more. But books like Philemon are short books, with this book being only 1 chapter that contains only 25 verses. In this article we are going to be doing a study of the first 4 verses of Letter to Philemon and I’d encourage you to have your Bible open to this letter as we go through it together in this article and articles about this letter going forward. 

First and foremost, the physical writer of this text is Paul, and Timothy is also involved. Paul notes himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, as he was when he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Ephesians 3:1 and 4:1, Philippians 1:13 and Colossians 4:3 and 18, all give biblical evidence that Paul was in prison as he wrote these letters. Verses 9-10 of Philemon also gives more evidence of this. With Timothy, we know the kind of man he was from other texts. Two of those are Acts 16:1-2 and Philippians 2:19-23. We learn in Acts 16:1-2, that he was the son of Jewish woman who was a believer and Timothy’s father was Greek. Timothy was well spoken of by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium. Philippians 2:19-23 describes Timothy as one of a kindred spirit who would be genuinely concerned for the welfare of the Philippians and Paul didn’t have anyone else like him in that regard. Timothy is de-scribed as not seeking his own interests but the interests of Christ Jesus. He was one of proven character as he had served with Paul in the fur-therance of the gospel. Paul and Timothy also had a father and son type of a relationship. Clearly, Timothy was man of great character and one that Paul valued greatly. 

With Timothy being described as our brother this shows just from the first sentence of this letter, that Philemon is a brother in Christ. The sec-ond sentence confirms this as well as we see that Philemon is called a beloved brother and fellow worker. This letter may be titled Philemon, but he isn’t the only person who is apart of the original audience of this letter. A sister in Christ named Apphia is mentioned, along with a broth-er in Christ named Archippus, who is described as a fellow solider. Last-ly, this letter is also to a church and this church meets in Philemon’s house. We don’t know anything else about Apphia in the Bible beyond the fact that she was a sister in Christ and clearly had enough influence and importance to be mentioned. The mention of her name isn’t saying that she is a preacher, elder or deacon, but rather than she is a sister in Christ, living as Christ would have her to. Some historical records con-clude her to potentially be the wife of Philemon, but the Bible doesn’t say this, and it isn’t important to the letter or to anyone’s salvation. As it pertains to Archippus, we don’t know much about him as well. If, and I say again if, this Archippus is the same person as mentioned in Colos-sians 4:17, then we know he was told to “See to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, so that you may fulfill it.” We don’t know for certain that this is same Archippus because just as today, people can have the same name. Both in Colossians and Philemon, there is no evi-dence to support for certain that this is the same person. Some believe that Archippus is the son of Philemon and Apphia, based on the fact that the church meets in the house of Philemon. At any rate, both Ap-phia and Archippus are servants of Christ and our fellow brethren. 

As we reach verse 3, Paul wishes grace to them along with peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says a similar state-ment in all of his writings. In fact, this kind of greeting, with the mention-ing of grace and peace is also used by Peter in his two letters. There are times when we get to the beginning of the book that we read through the intro rather quickly because there are similar statements in the beginning of these books. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth consideration and study, especially because the majority of the New Testament books use this type of introduction. Notice that both grace and peace are from Who in Philemon 3? They are from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As we know, our God is a God of peace and not confusion (1st Cor 14:33), and grace has come about because of Jesus Christ (John 1:16-17). By wishing grace and peace to them, Paul is wanting them to have a right relationship with God and God’s favor to be on them. God’s favor is al-ways on His people as He promised us in Romans 8:28, that He works all things together for good to those who love Him. This certainly is a greeting used by Paul and is similar to us saying “God be with You.” Per-haps this is something we should be saying to each other as well! 

Verse 4 offers a few big points, especially with the context of this letter, which we will get into in the next Philemon article. To look at a couple points before we close this article, we see that Paul thanks God how often? Always. Do we thank God often? Or do we just constantly ask and give Him our requests, which is good and something we should do, and not think about and thank Him for all He has done? Let us express our thanks to God. Also, in Paul’s thanks to God, he is making mention of Phi-lemon and I think it’s a reasonable assumption to assume he mentions Apphia and Archippus in his prayers as well. For us, do we bring each oth-er’s names before God in prayer? It is good to say things like “Please be with the sick.” That is a good and godly request to make to the Great Phy-sician. But isn’t it something special to go before the Almighty God “whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name…”? To be able to bring someone’s name specifically before Him in prayer? It truly is something special and something we should do. Let’s keep each other in our prayers CONSTANTLY and be looking to thank God for all He does for us!