Paul’s favorable impressions of Philemon are described in Philemon 1:4-7. Paul says that he always gives thanks to God for Philemon. Philemon is praised by Paul for his selfless love and generosity, particularly toward fellow Christians.
This is intended to prepare Paul for his forthcoming request: that Onesimus, Philemon’s escaped slave, be forgiven and released.
Philemon, the recipient, is mentioned in this verse as being thankful to God for his faith. This is in line with verses like Romans 1:8 and Philippians 1:3, which both make a similar point. However, the additional information that Paul mentioned Philemon in his prayers is added in verse four.
Paul’s claim that he personally thanked God for the Christian leader was perhaps the highest form of praise he could have given. Paul also engages in this activity on a regular basis.
According to Hebrews 10:24-25, this is an excellent example of building up other people. This demonstrates that Paul was not only an author and apostle but also an encourager.
Despite the fact that this letter to Philemon is short, prayer is mentioned twice more, demonstrating the topic’s significance.
Paul’s prayers for Philemon are mentioned once more in verse six. Philemon prayed for Paul’s release from the Roman house arrest in verse 22 so that he could return to the Colossian Christians.
1. Thank the Lord in Prayer
Paul viewed two characteristics in Philemon as particularly significant in verse five. From Rome, Paul had been informed of Philemon’s faith and love. Agape is the Greek word for “love” that is selfless and focused on others.
Philemon’s love and faith were focused on two main areas, as shown in the second half of the verse, “the Lord Jesus” and “toward all saints.” One of six times, Jesus is mentioned in these 25 verses, and this is the third mention of Jesus in only five verses.
Jesus is referred to as “Christ or Lord,” or both in all six instances. Jesus’ divinity was emphasized on multiple occasions by Paul.
In the New Testament, the expression “saints” is used. It is not alluding to an extraordinary gathering of excellent individuals, however to each individual that has genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
“Holy people” is a common translation of this word. Paul referred to the Christians of Colossae as saints four times in Colossians 1:2-4, 1:12, and 1:26. And in Philemon 1:7, Paul deemed all Christians as saints.
The saints in verse five are the Colossian church members who met in Philemon’s house (Philemon 1:2). Philemon was also known for his generosity toward believers and Paul.
2. Deepen Your Understanding of Every Good Thing
In Philemon 1:4, Paul makes a second reference to prayer and asks Philemon to carry out effective evangelism. This was a significant initial point of emphasis in this letter.
The fact that Onesimus had converted to Christianity and could carry out his God-given mission even more effectively as a free man was Paul’s justification for requesting Philemon to release his fugitive slave Onesimus.
Paul’s reference to “the acknowledging” is a reference to spiritual maturity. “Every good thing” refers to this maturity, which emphasizes a mature knowledge of all aspects of life. This, in particular, necessitates the development and growth of a Christian’s walk.
Paul is about to ask Philemon to make a huge act of forgiveness and free his runaway slave, which is an important point. In fact, the slave Onesimus had returned with the letter in hand.
“For the sake of Christ,” “for Christ's service,” or even “for the glory of Christ” are all possible translations of the reference to Christ. This demonstrates how Paul and Philemon worked together to serve Christ in evangelism and personal development.
Every believer is obligated to share the Lord and grow in Him. Despite having distinct spiritual gifts, Paul and Philemon belonged to the same “body” that was dedicated to serving the Lord (1 Corinthians 12) and carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
3. Show Your Love to Others
Paul refers to the same love here in verse seven that he mentioned in verse five. This comes from the Greek agape, which means a love that cares about other people.
Philemon had previously supported Paul and other believers and shared this love with Paul. Paul experienced joy, comfort, and encouragement from this sincere concern.
It is likely that Paul’s description of refreshing the saints’ hearts included both spiritual guidance and financial generosity. Philemon had previously assisted Paul and hosted the Colossian church in his home (Philemon 1:2).
Philemon had additionally affected his own family, as his wife and child were viewed as dependable supporters of Christ (Philemon 1:2). Despite the fact that Philemon was unlikely to serve as an elder or deacon in the church, he gave exemplary service to God and others.
Paul’s initial praise of Philemon comes to an end in verse seven. He will make his plea for Onesimus’s forgiveness and release from slavery in the following verses. Paul anticipated that Philemon would similarly bless Onesimus, just as Philemon had blessed Paul and the church.
So, what is meant by “the bowels of the saints are refreshed of thee?” How is one’s heart refreshed? If we look back at verse seven, Paul had thought about how Philemon had been kind, loving, and comforting.
He had made his heart and his home accessible to the church. We ought to do the same by welcoming others into our homes, opening ourselves up to others, and providing Christian fellowship to uplift others’ spirits.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).
Here in Proverbs 11:25, Solomon is praising the virtue of generosity. This is in line with what Jesus (Luke 6:38) and Paul (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) were saying.
Matthew 5:16, John 13:34-35, and 1 John 3:17-18 mention that God is pleased when we love to serve others, even with material resources and compassion.
Doing good deeds for others will undoubtedly have a positive spiritual impact (Matthew 10:42). In life, generous individuals typically receive assistance and support from others during difficult times, whereas greedy individuals are frequently ignored. Reciprocal love and care are the expected outcomes of generous, loving-kindness.
This verse teaches people with a business mindset how to be kind to their employees and how to give generously to the Lord’s work.
Despite the fact that there are no guarantees (Psalm 73:1-3), such a company positions itself for success. The generosity of the owner will be appreciated by employees, and as a result, productivity will rise.
They will likely stay for a longer period of time and bring the knowledge and experience they have acquired over time to the company. Clients frequently respond decidedly to organizations they consider generous and kind.
Why Does This Matter?
Giving generously to those in need is a blessing for a congregation as well. In 2 Corinthians 9:10-11, Paul writes that the one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply their seed and will increase their crop, which is righteousness.
They will be made rich in every way so that they can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us.
A lack of results cannot be attributed to God by the stingy individual or congregation. Even though God does not need much to do great things, He expects us to give everything we have (John 6:1-14).
The world tells us to keep as much as we can, but God blesses those who give freely of their time, resources, and possessions. God gives us more when we give so that we can give more. Giving also helps us look at our possessions in the right light.
We are aware that they were given to us by God for the purpose of assisting others and were never really ours in the first place. What do we gain as a result of giving? We gain God’s approval, the joy of assisting others, and freedom from enslavement to our possessions.
So let us look to Jesus, the Author, and Finisher of our faith. Pray that He brings our hearts to be open to the needs of others. Pray that we do this with a thankful heart and not begrudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
For further reading:
Why Does Love Not Keep Any Records of Wrong?
Why Are We Called to Love Others When it’s Hard?
What Is Love According to the Bible?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/carles miro
Chris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. He is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. You can check out his work here.