Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemonby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The subject of the book of Philemon is an illustration of the believers’ equal status in the new man. In the new man all the believers, whether masters such as Philemon or slaves such as Onesimus, have the same status.
The book of Philemon opens with the words, “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy the brother, to Philemon the beloved and our fellow-worker.” In verse 2 Paul refers to Apphia the sister and to Archippus and to the church in Philemon’s house. According to the family nature of this Epistle, Apphia must be Philemon’s wife, and Archippus, his son. Philemon lived in Colosse (v. 2, see Col. 4:17; v. 10, see Col. 1:2; 4:9). According to history, he was an elder of the church in Colosse. It should be that the church in Colosse met in his house. Hence, it was the church in his house.
The introduction to this Epistle concludes with Paul’s word in verse 3: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In verses 4 and 5 Paul goes on to say, “I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, hearing of your love and the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and to all the saints.” Notice that in verse 5 Paul speaks first of love and then of faith. In the initial stage faith came first, and then love was produced by faith (Gal. 5:6; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4). But here love is referred to first and then faith, because what is dealt with in this Epistle concerning the equal status of believers is a matter of love, which comes out of faith. In the new man the members love one another in faith (Titus 3:15). The relationship is of love through faith. The apostle appreciates the fellowship of Philemon’s faith (v. 6) and is encouraged by his love (v. 7); thus he entreats him to receive Onesimus because of this love (v. 9). These two virtues are referred to in a combined way. Philemon has both of them, not only toward the Lord, but also toward all the saints.
In verse 6 Paul continues, “That the fellowship of your faith may become operative in the full knowledge of every good thing which is in us for Christ.” This verse is actually the continuation of verse 4. Full knowledge here means full acknowledgment, entire appreciation, and experiential recognition. By “every good thing” Paul does not mean natural things (see Rom. 7:18), but spiritual and divinely good things, such as eternal life, the divine nature, and spiritual gifts, which are in us, the regenerated believers, not in natural men.
The Greek word rendered “for” in the phrase “for Christ” literally means unto, toward. All the spiritual and divinely good things in us are unto Christ, toward Christ, for Christ. The apostle prays that the fellowship, the communication, the sharing, of Philemon’s faith toward all the saints may operate in them in the element and sphere of the full knowledge, the full realization, of all the good things in us for Christ, causing them to acknowledge, appreciate, and recognize all the spiritual and divinely good things which are in the believers for Christ.
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