The Apostle's Plea for Onesimus Salutations. A. D. 62.
8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 9 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. 10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: 11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: 12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: 13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 14 But without thy mind would I do nothing that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. 15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever 16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? 17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. 18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account 19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. 20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. 22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. 23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus 24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers. 25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
We have here,
I. The main business of the epistle, which was to plead with Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, that he would receive him and be reconciled to him. Many arguments Paul urges for this purpose, Philemon 1:8-21. The
1st Argument is taken from what was before noted, and is carried in the illative wherefore: "Seeing so much good is reported of thee and found in thee, especially thy love to all saints, now let me see it on a fresh and further occasion refresh the bowels of Onesimus and mine also, in forgiving and receiving him, who is now a convert, and so a saint indeed, and meet for thy favour and love." Observe, A disposition to do good, together with past instances and expressions of it, is a good handle to take hold of for pressing to more. "Be not weary of well-doing, go on as thou art able, and as new objects and occasions occur, to do the same still." The
2nd Argument is from the authority of him that was now making this request to him: I might be very bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Philemon 1:8. The apostles had under Christ great power in the church over the ordinary ministers, as well as the members of it, for edification they might require of them what was fit, and were therein to be obeyed, which Philemon should consider. This was a matter within the compass of the apostle's power to require, though he would not in this instance act up to it. Observe, Ministers, whatever their power be in the church, are to use prudence in the exercise of it they may not unseasonably, nor further than is requisite, put it forth in all they must use godly wisdom and discretion. Wherefore this may be a
3rd Argument, Waiving the authority which yet he had to require, he chooses to entreat it of him (Philemon 1:9): Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee. Observe, It is no disparagement for those who have power to be condescending, and sometimes even to beseech, where, in strictness of right, they might command so does Paul here, though an apostle: he entreats where he might enjoin, he argues from love rather than authority, which doubtless must carry engaging influence with it. And especially, which may be a
4th Argument, When any circumstance of the person pleading gives additional force to his petition, as here: Being such a one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Years bespeak respect and the motions of such, in things lawful and fit, should be received with regard. The request of an aged apostle, and now suffering for Christ and his gospel, should be tenderly considered. "If thou wilt do any thing for a poor aged prisoner, to comfort me in my bonds, and make my chain lighter, grant me this which I desire: hereby in a manner you will do honour to Christ in the person of an aged suffering servant of his, which doubtless he will take as done to himself." He makes also a
5th Argument, From the spiritual relation now between Onesimus and himself: I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds, Philemon 1:10. "Though of right and in a civil respect he by thy servant, yet in a spiritual sense he is now a son to me, God having made me the instrument of his conversion, even here, where I am a prisoner for Christ's sake." Thus does God sometimes honour and comfort his suffering servants, not only working good in themselves by their sufferings, exercising and improving thereby their own graces, but making them a means of much spiritual good to others, either of their conversion, as of Onesimus here, or of their confirmation and strengthening, as Philippians 1:14, Many brethren, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word of the Lord without fear. When God's servants are bound, yet his word and Spirit are not bound spiritual children may then be born to them. The apostle lays an emphasis here: My son, whom I have begotten in my bonds he was dear to him, and he hoped would be so to Philemon, under this consideration. Prison-mercies are sweet and much set by. Paul makes an argument to Philemon from this dear relation that now was between Onesimus and him, his son begotten in his bonds. And a
6th Argument is from Philemon's own interest: Who in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me, Philemon 1:11. Observe, (1.) Unsanctified persons are unprofitable persons they answer not the great end of their being and relations. Grace makes good for somewhat: "In time past unprofitable, but now profitable, inclined and fitted to be so, and will be so to thee, his master, if thou receive him, as he has since his conversion been here to me, ministering to me in my confinement." There seems an allusion to the name Onesimus, which signifies profitable. Now he will answer to his name. It may be noted also how the apostle speaks in this matter, not as Onesimus's former case and conduct might warrant he had wronged his master, and ran away from him, and lived as if he were his own and not his yet as God covers the sins of penitents, forgives and does not upbraid, so should men. How tenderly does Paul here speak! Not that Onesimus's sin was small, nor that he would have any, much less himself, to take it so but having been humbled for it, and doubtless taken shame to himself on account thereof, the apostle now would not sink his spirit by continuing to load and burden him therewith, but speaks thus tenderly when he is pleading with Philemon not to make severe reflections on his servant's misconduct, but to forgive. (2.) What happy changes conversion makes--of evil good! of unprofitable useful! Religious servants are a treasure in a family. Such will make conscience of their time and trusts, promoting the interests of those whom they serve, and managing all they can for the best. This then is the argument here urged: "It will now be for thy advantage to receive him: thus changed, as he is, thou mayest expect him to be a dutiful and faithful servant, though in time past he was not so." Whereupon,
7th Argument, He urges Philemon from the strong affection that he had to Onesimus. He had mentioned the spiritual relation before, My son begotten in my bonds and now he signifies how dear he was to him: Thou therefore receive him, that is my own bowels, Philemon 1:12. "I love him as I do myself, and have sent him back to thee for this end, that thou shouldst receive him do it therefore for my sake, receive him as one thus dear to me." Observe, Even good men may sometimes need great earnestness and entreaty to lay their passions, let go their resentments, and forgive those who have injured and offended them. Some have thought it to look this way, when Paul is so pathetic and earnest, mustering up so many pleas and arguments to gain what he requests. Philemon, a Phrygian, might perhaps be naturally of a rough and difficult temper, and thence need no little pains in touching all the springs that might move him to forgiveness and reconciliation but rather should we strive to be like God, who is slow to anger, ready to forgive, and abundant in pardons. And again, an
8th Argument is from the apostle's denying himself in sending back Onesimus: though he might have presumed upon Philemon's leave to detain him longer, yet he would not, Philemon 1:13,14. Paul was now in prison, and wanted a friend or servant to act for him, and assist him, for which he found Onesimus fit and ready, and therefore would have detained him to minister to him, instead of Philemon himself, whom if he had requested to have come to him in person for such purpose, he might have presumed he would not have refused much less might he have reckoned that he would be unwilling his servant should do this in his stead yet he would not take this liberty, though his circumstances needed it: I have sent him back to thee, that any good office of thine to me might not be of necessity, but willingly. Observe, Good deeds are most acceptable to God and man when done with most freedom. And Paul herein, notwithstanding his apostolical power, would show what regard he had to civil rights, which Christianity does by no means supersede or weaken, but rather confirm and strengthen. Onesimus, he knew, was Philemon's servant, and therefore without his consent not to be detained from him. In his unconverted state he had violated that right, and withdrawn himself, to his master's injury but, now that he had seen his sin and repented, he was willing and desirous to return to his duty, and Paul would not hinder this, but rather further it. He might indeed have presumed on Philemon's willingness but, but notwithstanding his need, he would deny himself rather than take that way. And he further urges,
9th Argument, That such a change was now wrought in Onesimus that Philemon needed not fear his ever running from him, or injuring him any more: For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever, Philemon 1:15. There are those of whom Solomon says, If thou deliver them, thou must do it again (Proverbs 19:19) but the change wrought in Onesimus was such that he would never again need one thus to intercede for him. Charity would so hope and judge, yea, so it would be yet the apostle speaks cautiously, that none might be bold to make another such experiment in expectation of a like gracious issue. Observe, (1.) In matters that may be wrested to ill, ministers must speak warily, that kind providences of God towards sinners be not abused to encouragements to sin, or abatements of just abhorrence of it: Perhaps he therefore departed from thee for a season, &c. (2.) How tenderly still the sins of penitents are spoken of he calls it a departure for a season, instead of giving it the term that it deserved. As overruled and ordered by God, it was a departure but in itself, and in respect of the disposition and manner of the act, it was a criminal going away. When we speak of the nature of any sin or offence against God, the evil of it is not to be lessened but in the person of a penitent sinner, as God covers it, so must we: "He departed for a season, that thou shouldst receive him for ever, that upon conversion he may return, and be a faithful and useful servant to thee as long as he lives." Bray a fool in a mortar, yet will not his folly depart from him. But it is not so with true penitents: they will not return to folly. (3.) Observe the wisdom, and goodness, and power of God, in causing that to end so happily which was begun and carried on for some time so wickedly, thus regarding a poor vassal, one of such low rank and condition and so little regarded by men, working so good and great a change in him who was so far gone in evil ways, who had wronged a master so good, had run from a family so pious, from the means of grace, the church in his house, that he should be led into the way of salvation who had fled from it, and find means made effectual at Rome who had been hardened under them at Colosse. What riches are here of divine grace! None so low, nor mean, nor vile, as utterly to be despaired of. God can meet with them when running from him can make means effectual at one time and place, which have not been so at another. So was it in this instance of Onesimus having returned to God, he now returns to his master, who will have more service and better hold of him than ever--by conscience of his duty and faithfulness in it to his life's end his interest therefore it will be now to receive him. So God often brings gain to his people out of their losses. And, besides interest, a
10th Argument is taken from the capacity under which Onesimus now would return, and must be received by Philemon (Philemon 1:16): "Not now as a servant (that is, not merely or so much), but above a servant (in a spiritual respect), a brother beloved, one to be owned as a brother in Christ, and to be beloved as such, upon account of this holy change that is wrought in him, and one therefore who will be useful unto thee upon better principles and in a better manner than before, who will love and promote the best things in thy family, be a blessing in it, and help to keep up the church that is in thy house." Observe, (1.) There is a spiritual brotherhood between all true believers, however distinguished in civil and outward respects they are all children of the same heavenly Father, have a right to the same spiritual privileges and benefits, must love and do all good offices to and for one another as brethren, though still in the same rank, and degree, and station, wherein they were called. Christianity does not annul nor confound the respective civil duties, but strengthens the obligation to them, and directs to a right discharge of them. (2.) Religious servants are more than mere ordinary servants they have grace in their hearts, and have found grace in God's sight, and so will in the sight of religious masters. Psalms 101:6, Mine eyes are upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me. He that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. "Onesimus having now become such, receive and regard him as one that is partaker of the same common faith, and so a brother beloved, specially to me who have been the instrument of his conversion." Good ministers love not so much according to the outward good which they receive as the spiritual good which they do. Paul called Onesimus his own bowels, and other converts his joy and crown. "A brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more to thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord by a double tie therefore (both civil and religious) thy servant: thy property, one of thy house and family, and now, in a spiritual respect, thy brother in Christ, which heightens the engagement. He is God's servant and thine too here are more ties than he is under to me. How readily therefore should he be received and loved by thee, as one of thy family and one of the true faith, one of thy house and one of the church in thy house!" This argument is strengthened by another, the
11th Argument, From the communion of saints: If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself, Philemon 1:17. There is a fellowship among saints they have interest one in another, and must love and act accordingly. "Now show thy love to me, and the interest I have in thee, by loving and receiving one so near and dear to me, even as myself own and treat him as thou wouldst me, with a like ready and true, though perhaps not equal, affection." But why such concern and earnestness for a servant, a slave, and such a one as had misbehaved? Answer, Onesimus being now penitent, it was doubtless to encourage him, and to support him against the fears he might have in returning to a master whom he had so much abused and wronged, to keep him from sinking into despondency and dejection, and encourage him to his duty. Wise and good ministers will have great and tender care of young converts, to encourage and hearten them what they can to and in their duty. Objection, But Onesimus had wronged as well as offended his master. The answer to this makes a
12th Argument, A promise of satisfaction to Philemon: If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, &c., Philemon 1:18,19. Here are three things:
(1.) A confession of Onesimus's debt to Philemon: If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught. It is not an if of doubting, but of illation and concession seeing he hath wronged thee, and thereby has become indebted to thee such an if as and 2Pet. ii. 4, &c. Observe, True penitents will be ingenuous in owning their faults, as doubtless Onesimus had been to Paul, upon his being awakened and being brought to repentance and especially is this to be done in cases of injury to others. Onesimus by Paul owns the wrong. And,
(2.) Paul here engages for satisfaction: Put that on my account I Paul have written it with my own hand, I will repay it. Observe, [1.] The communion of saints does not destroy distinction of property: Onesimus, now converted, and become a brother beloved, is yet Philemon's servant still, and indebted to him for wrongs that he had done, and not to be discharged but by free and voluntary remission, or on reparation made by himself, or some other in his behalf, which part, rather than fail, the apostle undertakes for him. [2.] Suretiship is not in all cases unlawful, but in some is a good and merciful undertaking. Only know the person and case, be not surety for a stranger (Proverbs 11:15), and go not beyond ability help thy friend thou mayest, as far as will comport with justice and prudence. And how happy for us that Christ would be made the surety of a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22), that he would be made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him! And, [3.] Formal securities by writing, as well as by word and promise, may be required and given. Persons die, and words may be forgotten or mistaken writing better preserves right and peace, and has been in use with good persons, as well as others, in all ages, Jeremiah 32:9; Luke 16:5-7. It was much that Paul, who lived on contributions himself, would undertake to make good all loss by an evil servant to his master but hereby he expresses his real and great affection for Onesimus, and his full belief of the sincerity of his conversion: and he might have hope that, notwithstanding this generous offer, Philemon would not insist on it, but freely remit all, considering,
(3.) The reason of things between him and Philemon: "Albeit, I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thy own self besides thou wilt remember, without my reminding thee, that thou are on other accounts more in debt to me than this comes to." Modesty in self-praises is true praise. The apostle glances at the benefits he had conferred on Philemon: "That thou art any thing in grace and acceptation with God, or enjoyest any thing in a right and comfortable manner, it is, under God, owing to my ministry. I have been the instrument in his hand of all that spiritual good to thee and what thy obligation to me on this account is I leave to thee to consider. Thy forgiving a pecuniary debt to a poor penitent for my sake and at my request, and which, however, I now take upon myself to answer, thy remitting it to him, or to me, now his surety, thou wilt confess, is not so great a thing here is more per contra: Thou owest to me even thy ownself besides." Observe, How great the endearments are between ministers and those towards whom their endeavours have been blessed to their conversion or spiritual edification! If it had been possible (said Paul to the Galatians), you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me, Galatians 4:15. On the other hand he calls them his children, of whom he travailed again, till Christ was formed in them, that is, the likeness of Christ more fully. So 1 Thessalonians 2:8, We were willing to have imparted to you not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you were dear unto us. By way of allusion, this may illustrate Christ's undertaking for us. We had revolted from God, and by sin had wronged him, but Christ undertakes to make satisfaction, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God. "If the sinner owes thee aught, put it upon my account, I will pay the debt let his iniquity be laid on me, I will bear the penalty." Further, a
13th Argument is from the joy and comfort the apostle hereby would have on Philemon's own account, as well as on Onesimus's in such a seasonable and acceptable fruit of Philemon's faith and obedience: Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord, Philemon 1:20. Philemon was Paul's son in the faith, yet he entreats him as a brother Onesimus a poor slave, yet he solicits for him as if he were seeking some great thing for himself. How pathetic is he! "Yea, brother, or O my brother (it is an adverb of wishing or desiring), let me have joy of thee in the Lord. Thou knowest that I am now a prisoner or the Lord, for his sake and cause, and need all the comfort and support that my friends in Christ can give me: now this will be a joy to me, I shall have joy of thee in the Lord, as seeing such an evidence and fruit of thy own Christian faith and love, and on Onesimus's account, who hereby will be relieved and encouraged." Observe, (1.) Christians should do the things that may rejoice the hearts of one another, both people and minister reciprocally, and ministers of their brethren. From the world they expect trouble and where may they look for comfort and joy but in one another? (2.) Fruits of faith and obedience in people are the minister's greatest joy, especially the more of love appears in them to Christ and his members, forgiving injuries, showing compassion, being merciful as their heavenly Father is merciful. "Refresh my bowels in the Lord. It is not any carnal selfish respect I am actuated by, but what is pleasing to Christ, and that he may have honour therein." Observe, [1.] The Lord's honour and service are a Christian's chief aim in all things. And, [2.] It is meat and drink to a good minister to see people ready and zealous in what is good, especially in acts of charity and beneficence, as occasions occur, forgiving injuries, remitting somewhat of their right, and the like. And, once more, his last, which is the
14th Argument, Lies in the good hope and opinion which he expresses of Philemon: Having confidence in thy obedience, I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say, Philemon 1:21. Good thoughts and expectations of us more strongly move and engage us to do the things expected from us. The apostle knew Philemon to be a good man, and was thence persuaded of his readiness to do good, and that not in a scanty and niggardly manner, but with a free and liberal hand. Observe, Good persons will be ready for good works, and not narrow and pinching, but abundant in them. Isaiah 32:8, The liberal deviseth liberal things. The Macedonians first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to his apostles by the will of God, to do what good they could with what they had, according as occasions offered.
Thus far is the substance and body of the epistle. We have,
II. The conclusion, where,
1. He signifies his good hope of deliverance, through their prayers, and that shortly he might see them, desiring Philemon to make provision for him: But withal prepare me also a lodging for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you, Philemon 1:22. But withal, or moreover. He comes to another thing, yet, as may seem, not without some eye to the matter which he had been upon, that might be furthered by this intimation that he hoped he should himself soon follow, and know the effect of his epistle, which Philemon would therefore be the more stirred up to see might be to his satisfaction. Now here is,
(1.) The thing requested: Prepare me also a lodging under this all necessaries for a stranger are included. He wills Philemon to do it, intending to be his guest, as most to his purpose. Observe, Hospitality is a great Christian duty, especially in ministers, and towards ministers, such as the apostle was, coming out of such dangers and sufferings for Christ and his gospel. Who would not show the utmost of affectionate regards to such a one? It is an honourable title that he gives Gaius (Romans 16:23), My host, and of the whole church. Onesiphorus is also affectionately remembered by the apostle on this account (2 Timothy 1:16,18), The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain and in how many things he ministered to me at Ephesus, thou knowest.
(2.) Here is the ground of the apostle's request: For I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. He did not know how God might deal with him, but the benefit of prayer he had often found, and hoped he should again, for deliverance, and liberty to come to them. Observe, [1.] Our dependence is on God for life and liberty and opportunity of service all is by divine pleasure. [2.] When abridged of these or any other mercies, our trust and hope must be in God, without fainting or succumbing, while our case is depending. But yet, [3.] Trust must be with the use of means, prayer especially, though no other should be at hand this hath unlocked heaven and opened prison-doors. The fervent effectual prayer of the righteous availeth much. [4.] Prayer of people for ministers, especially when they are in distress and danger, is their great duty ministers need and request it. Paul, though an apostle, did so with much earnestness, 2Cor. i. 11 Eph. vi. 18,19 1Thess. v. 25. The least may in this way be helpful to the greatest. Yet, [5.] Though prayer obtains, yet it does not merit the things obtained: they are God's gift, and Christ's purchase. I trust that through your prayers, charisthesomai hymin--I shall be freely bestowed on you. What God gives, he will yet be sought to for, that mercies may be valued the more, and known whence they come, and God may have the praise. Minister's lives and labours are for the people's good the office was set up for them he gave gifts for men, apostles, &c. Ephesians 4:8,11,12. Their gifts, and labours, and lives, all are for their benefit. 1 Corinthians 3:21,22, All things are yours, Apollos, Cephas, &c. [6.] In praying for faithful ministers, people in effect pray for themselves: "I trust I shall be given unto you, for your service, and comfort, and edification in Christ." See 2 Corinthians 4:15. [7.] Observe the humility of the apostle his liberty, should he have it, he would own to be through their prayers, as well as, or more than, his own he mentions them only through the high thoughts he had of the prayers of many, and the regard God would show to his praying people. Thus of the first thing in the apostle's conclusion.
2. he sends salutations from one who was his fellow-prisoner, and four more who were his fellow-labourers, Philemon 1:23,24. Saluting is wishing health and peace. Christianity is no enemy to courtesy, but enjoins it, 1 Peter 3:8. It is a mere expression of love and respect, and a means of preserving and nourishing them. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus. he was of Colosse, and so countryman and fellow-citizen with Philemon by office he seems to have been an evangelist, who laboured among the Colossians (if he was not the first converter of them), for whom he had special affection. Our dear fellow-servant (said St. Paul), and for you a faithful minister of Christ (Colossians 1:7), and ( Colossians 4:12,13), A servant of Christ, always labouring for you in prayers. I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you, &c. A very eminent person therefore this was, who, being at Rome, perhaps accompanying Paul, and labouring in the same work of preaching and propagating the gospel, was confined in the same prison, and for the same cause both termed prisoners in Christ Jesus, intimating the ground of their imprisonment, not any crime or wickedness, but for the faith of Christ and their service to him. An honour it is to suffer shame for Christ's name. My fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus is mentioned as his glory and the apostle's comfort not that he was a prisoner and so hindered from his work (this was matter of affliction), but that, seeing God thus permitted and called him to suffer, his providence so ordered it that they suffered together, and so had the benefit and comfort of one another's prayers, and help, it may be, in some things this was a mercy. So God sometimes lightens the sufferings of his servants by the communion of saints, the sweet fellowship they have one with another in their bonds. Never more enjoyment of God have they found than when suffering together for God. So Paul and Silas, when their feet were fast in the stocks, had their tongues set at liberty, and their hearts tuned for the praises of God.--Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow-labourers. The mention of these seems in a manner to interest them in the business of the latter. How ill would it look by denial of the request of it to slight so many worthy names as most of these, at least, were! Marcus, cousin of Barnabas, and son of Mary, who was so hospitable to the saints at Jerusalem (Colossians 4:10; Acts 12:12), and whose house was the place of meeting for prayer and the worship of God. Though some failing seems to have been in him when Paul and he parted, yet in conjunction with Barnabas he went on with his work, and here Paul and he, we perceive, were reconciled, and differences forgotten, 2 Timothy 4:11. He bids Mark to be brought to him, for he is profitable to me for the ministry, that is, of an evangelist. Aristarchus is mentioned with Marcus (Colossians 4:10), and called there by Paul his fellow-prisoner and speaking there of Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, he adds, Touching whom you received commandments if he come unto you, receive him: an evidence that he himself had received him, and was reconciled to him. Next is Demas, who hitherto, it seems, appeared not faulty, though he is censured (2 Timothy 4:10) as having forsaken Paul, from love of this present world. But how far his forsaking was, whether total from his work and profession, or partial only, and whether he repented and returned to his duty, scripture is silent, and so much we be: no mark of disgrace lay on him here, but he is joined with others who were faithful, as he is also in Colossians 4:14. Lucas is the last, that beloved physician and evangelist, who came to Rome, companion with Paul, Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11. He was Paul's associate in his greatest dangers, and his fellow-labourer. The ministry is not a matter of carnal ease nor pleasure, but of pains if any are idle in it, they answer not their calling. Christ bids his disciples pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers, not loiterers, into his harvest, Matthew 9:38. And the people are extorted to know those that labour among them, and are over them in the Lord, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake, 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13. My fellow-labourers, says the apostle: ministers must be helpers together of the truth they serve the same Lord, in the same holy work and function, and are expectants of the same glorious reward therefore they must be assistants to each other in furthering the interest of their great and common Master. Thus of the salutations, and then,
3. Here is the apostle's closing prayer and benediction, Philemon 1:25. Observe, (1.) What is wished and prayed for: Grace, the free favour and love of God, together with the fruits and effects of it in all good things, for soul and body, for time and eternity. Observe, Grace is the best wish for ourselves and others with this the apostle begins and ends. (2.) From whom: Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, second Person in the Trinity, Lord by natural right, by whom, and for whom, all things were created (Colossians 1:16; John 1:1-3), and who is heir of all things, and, as God-man and Mediator, who purchased us, and to whom we are given by the Father. Jesus, the Saviour, Matthew 1:21. We were lost and undone he recovers us, and repairs the ruin. He saves by merit, procuring pardon and life for us and by power, rescuing us from sin, and Satan, and hell, and renewing us to the likeness, and bringing us to the enjoyment, of God: thus is he Jesus and Christ, the Messiah or anointed, consecrated and fitted to be king, priest, and prophet, to his church. To all those offices were there anointings under the law with oil, and to them was the Saviour spiritually anointed with the Holy Ghost, Acts 10:38. In none but him were all these together and in such eminence. He was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, Psalms 45:7. This Lord Jesus Christ is ours by original title to us, by gospel offers and gift, his purchase of us, and our own acceptance of him, resignation to him, and mystical union with him: Our Lord Jesus Christ. Observe, All grace to us is from Christ he purchased, and he bestows it. Of his fulness we all receive, and grace for grace, John 1:16. He filleth all in all, Ephesians 1:23. (3.) To whom: Your spirit, meta tou pneumatos hymon, not of Philemon only, but of all who were named in the inscription. With your spirit, that is, with you, the soul or spirit being the immediate seat of grace, whence it influences the whole man, and flows out in gracious and holy actings. All the house saluted are here joined in the closing benediction, the more to remind and quicken all to further the end of the epistle.
Amen is added, not only for strong and affectionate summing up the prayer and wish, so let it be but as an expression of faith that it will be heard, so shall it be. And what need we more to make us happy than to have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with our spirit? This is the usual benediction, but it may be taken here to have some special respect also to the occasion the grace of Christ with their spirits, Philemon's especially, would sweeten and mollify them, take off too deep and keen resentments of injuries, and dispose to forgive others as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us.