Paul's Letter to Brother Philemon Volume 4
by Clifford Tate
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Paul makes a Humble Request to Philemon for Onesimus Part 1
Philemon 1:8-10 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 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. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: KJV Note: MKJV = Modern King JAmes Version
After completeing the opening of his letter to Brother Philemon, Paul now gets into the main reason for his writing to him and that being the runaway slave Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave who belonged to Brother Philemon and he had stolen from Philemon and escaped or runaway. Paul must have met Onesimus while they were both in captivity by the Romans and there led him to a saving faith in our Lord, Master, and Savior Jesus Christ, so now he begins his plea for Philemon to receive back Onesimus not only as his slave, but now also as his brother 'in Christ' with these words first, "Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient," (Philemon 1:8) (KJV). The English word 'wherefore' Paul uses to open this verse is translated by the Greek word dio which means through which thing, that is, consequently. In this case, he means to refer to the previous verse declaring, describing, and detailing his love for all the saints, of whom Onesimus is now also one, that is, a saint of God. When Paul writes after this these words, 'though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient', he means that he as an Apostle has the authority (given to him by Christ Jesus) to demand that he receive Onesimus back without question or argument. The little English phrase 'to enjoin' is translated by the Greek word epitassoÌ„ meaning to arrange upon, that is, order: - charge, command, injoin.
Here is what Alexander MacLaren had to say of this verse, "The Apostle’s confidence in his friend's character, and in his being amenable to the appeal of love, made Paul waive his Apostolic authority, and plea instead of commanding. There are people, like the horse and the mule, who understand only rough imperatives, backed by force; but they are fewer than we are apt to think, and perhaps gentleness is never wholly thrown away. No doubt, there must be adaptation of method to different characters, but we should try gentleness before we make up our minds that to try it is to throw pearls before swine." However, Paul declares immediately that he would prefer not to have to resort to using his authority 'in Christ' with these very next words written here, "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." (Philemon 1:9) (KJV). Paul is declaring that instead of ordering him to receive Onesimus back, he would rather see Philemon's love for the saints intreat him, invoke him, and inplore him to receive Onesimus back as a brother now and forgive him his transgressions. Here is what John Wesley had to say of this verse, "In how handsome a manner does the Apostle just hint, and immediately drop, the consideration of his power to command, and tenderly entreat Philemon to hearken to his friend, his aged friend, and now prisoner for Christ! With what endearment, in the next verse, does he call Onesimus his son, before he names his name! And as soon as he had mentioned it, with what fine address does he just touch on his former faults, and instantly pass on to the happy change that was now made upon him! So disposing Philemon to attend to his request, and the motives wherewith he was going to enforce it."
Paul for the very first time in this letter refers to the runaway slave by his name Onesimus and in so doing now calls him his son as we see as it is written here, "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:" (Philemon 1:10) (KJV). Paul as we stated above had led this man to a saving faith in Christ Jesus our Lord while they were both bound in chains by the Romans. These words of the Apostle Paul are reminiscent or bring to mind the words King David spoke to his soldiers regarding his son Absalom (his rebellious son who was trying to kill him and overthrow him), "And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, For my sake be gentle with the young man, with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the commanders charge concerning Absalom." (2 Samuel 18:5) (MKJV). This is what Paul is saying here to Philemon to be gentle to Onesimus but not just for his sake, but primarily for Christ sake. Here is what Albert Barnes had to say of this verse, "The address and tact of Paul here are worthy of particular observation. Any other mode of bringing the case before the mind of Philemon might have repelled him. If he had simply said, 'I beseech thee for Onesimus;' or, 'I beseech thee for thy servant Onesimus,' he would at once have reverted to his former conduct, and remembered all his ingratitude and disobedience. But the phrase 'my son,' makes the way easy for the mention of his name, for he had already found the way to his heart before his eye lighted on his name, by the mention of the relation which he sustained to himself. Who could refuse to such a man as Paul - a laborious servant of Christ - an aged man, exhausted with his many sufferings and toils - and a prisoner - a request which he made for one whom he regarded as his son? It may be added, that the delicate address of the Apostle in introducing the subject, is better seen in the original than in our translation. In the original, the name Onesimus is reserved to come in last in the sentence. The order of the Greek is this: 'I entreat thee concerning a son of mine, whom I have begotten in my bonds - Onesimus.' Here the name is not suggested, until he had mentioned that he sustained to him the relation of a son, and also until he had added that his conversion was the fruit of his labors while he was a prisoner. Then, when the name of Onesimus is mentioned, it would occur to Philemon not primarily as the name of an ungrateful and disobedient servant, but as the interesting case of one converted by the labors of his own friend in prison. Was there ever more delicacy evinced in preparing the way for disarming one of prejudice, and carrying an appeal to his heart?"
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…
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