Philemon 1-7 Witness Bearing In Word, Character, And Deed.
Paul writes from prison at approximately 60 AD. Philemon was a Christian slaveholder in Colosse, and his runaway slave Onesimus had become a Christian through Paul’s ministry while in Rome. Timothy appears to be in Rome with Paul, if not in prison with him. Paul considered Philemon to be a “beloved friend and fellow labourer,” and appeals to him as such (v. 1). It would be a mistake to liken slavery in new testament times to slavery that has occurred at other times in history. Nevertheless, Paul does appeal to Philemon to let Onesimus, now a brother, be free. It is also clear from this initial greeting, that there were churches which then met in houses. Paul also sends greetings to another beloved, Apphia, and Archippus a “fellow soldier,” a fellow minister in the church (v. 2 Cf. Col. 4:17). To all of these Paul sends his usual greeting of grace and peace “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” peace made possible through grace (v. 3).
Paul gives us a good example of what we ought to be thankful for, and for faithfulness in prayer (v. 4). He lets Philemon know that he remembers him always in his prayers, and is thankful to God for him and in hearing of his “love and faith” which he had “toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints” (v. 5). Paul is also thankful that Philemon was willing to share his faith, and prayed that his witness and testimony would be made “effective by the acknowledgement of every good thing” which is in every true believer like Philemon (v. 6). For Paul, the sharing of one’s faith is made effective through the evidence of good things in one’s life, things which those who hear must acknowledge. By one’s fruit, one is known (Mt. 7:15-20). Words alone, without a consistent character and deeds, does not have the same effect. Paul was also thankful for the love Philemon had for the saints, and “great joy and consolation” in how this refreshed the hearts of the saints (v. 7).