Philemon 1:21-25, Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Twenty five verses in all as those that enumerated the text in later times added them for ease of reading. Such a short letter or Epistle and yet so full of important and practical life-giving theology and doctrine!
We have now come to the conclusion of the Apostle’s letter to his dear friend Philemon. One thing stands out very clearly and that is the fact that Paul didn’t just preach and teach the example and words of Christ Jesus, he LIVED them. What an awesome example to the disciples of his day and to each and every disciple of Jesus Christ’s since then!
This was from the same Apostle that wrote the following to the Corinthian church:
Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. – 1 Corinthians 10:32-33.
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1. (Emphasis added).
When you study the Word of God, it’s clear that this statement is not the beginning of a new paragraph or even a new chapter as some versions have delineated it, but rather finishing off a paragraph and thought. In essence, the Scripture should be read in this regard:
Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
The Apostle Paul, as I stated above, LIVED his words as an example to all and thus is the perfect example to all of us who wish to follow after Christ Jesus in word AND deed! But I digress.
Paul sums up the previous body of his letter with the words of confidence that he penned in verse 21. His confidence most likely originated not so much in his own perceived authority but rather in his intimate knowledge of Philemon’s character that the Apostle already mentioned and the knowledge Paul had of Philemon’s commitment to the actual gospel or Good News of Christ Jesus’ saving power. So, though the Apostle’s letter was filled with appeal, it was also filled with great hope.
Paul does end with a bit more firmness and strength at the ending than he displayed during the main body of the letter when he stated that he had “confidence in your obedience.” The confidence we addressed but though Paul had been actually pleading on behalf of Onesimus, he now ends with a statement to Philemon’s obedience in the Apostle’s plea. Again, presumably it was because Paul was intimate in the knowledge of Philemon’s devotion to the cause of Christ and to the ways of the then blossoming Christianity.
Paul ends that statement with the continued confidence that he is certain (to the point of knowing) that Philemon will do even more than what Paul has asked of him. There’s a lot of speculation of what the “more” could mean, but it is never fully addressed and the key to the statement is Paul’s knowledge of his friend and brother-in-Christ’s true heart motivation. Paul may have been making some subtle hints as to Onesimus’ continued welfare, release or even being sent back to the Apostle, but the fact remains is that he knows, he discerns the heart of his friend Philemon and has EVERY confidence in him doing whatever is right in the Lord.
Without speaking it, the whole letter leads to the fact AND truth that Philemon had been freely forgiven by Christ (as he was now learning Onesimus was also), and so as a brother-in-Christ, Philemon could do no less for his servant. In fact overall, we have a perfect example given of what Paul had written to the Ephesians:
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32.
The Apostle in this next verse seems then to have concluded his appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus and yet if you were to stick to that conclusion you would probably be mistaken. Again, I have to say, that you can see the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual wisdom that had been anointing Paul. The Apostle then appeared to request something of a personal nature. Something for himself. “Meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me.” Seems simple and fair enough of a request. Paul and Philemon were not just partners in spreading the gospel but were close friends.
But, consider this; the prospect of a visit from his friend, the friend who was making such a passioned plea on behalf of Onesimus, was hoping to make an appearance if everyone’s prayers were answered and he was allowed to go free. It would be an opportunity for the Apostle to see how Onesimus was welcomed back, and it could also be one of the first tasks assigned to Onesimus upon his return; preparing the guest room for his friend, brother and mentor. We don’t really know if the Apostle did make it there or not, but it would not be a far-fetched assumption to believe that the guest room was ready and waiting.
One other thing needs to be recognized as well. The Apostle knew that others were praying for his release and most likely he was very well aware of Philemon’s and his household’s prayers for him for he didn’t ask for prayers but rather stated he believed their prayers that they were already putting before the Lord would be answered soon and he would be released from civil authority. Paul’s faith and confidence in not just the Lord’s ability to have him released, but in the effectiveness of corporate prayer was a solid foundation of his faith.
As Paul has done with just about every one of his Epistles, he always acknowledges and lists those who are with him and the help they give. He does the same thing here even though this is a personal letter and I believe he does it because he is acknowledging to Philemon that other of his brothers-in-Christ are helping in a practical way to the ministry as well as to Paul personally. This would accomplish as least one thing in easing Philemon’s mind in the sense that he would know Paul is not totally alone in his trials. Also, Paul did begin the letter addressed not just to Philemon, though as head of the house he was the main recipient, but also to Philemon’s wife and son AND lest we forget, to the church meeting in his house. I see Paul more or less leaving it in Philemon’s hands as to how much he wants to share the letter and so acknowledging their fellow workers is something Paul continues to do.
The Apostle Paul was very consistent in the conclusion of ALL of the 13 epistles that he wrote or sent out. He pretty much ended each with the short benediction that is common to him:
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
What is interesting to note also in this (and I would have passed right over it), is the fact that the word “your” in reference to spirit is a plural of the word and not singular. In other words, when you consider its significance, again we see even though it is a personal letter to Philemon as head of his home, it was addressed to others within the home and those who meet in the home. So Paul, in his closing benediction is NOT just giving a blessing to Philemon, but by including the plural “your,” he is giving the blessing to all who are influenced by this letter.
When you consider it, when you give it thought and study, Paul isn’t blessing them with the grace they already walk in concerning their salvation, for he already is writing to them as those already walking in Christ Jesus. Rather he is giving them a blessing for their continued, day to day walk with the Lord. May the Lord’s grace be with each and every one of you in your spirit! What a gracious way, again an example of the Lord’s dealings with His children, for the Apostle to also end his letter!
In one of the commentary’s I used to study I found this statement and there is no way I can say it any better:
Life can hold no greater blessing than the unmerited favor of the Savior as one’s moment-by-moment experience. To walk in the constant realization and enjoyment of His Person and work is all that heart can desire.
I can just imagine Paul, holding his pen, looking over his letter, maybe with a sigh and a heartfelt prayer, then laying his pen aside, rolling up the parchment and handing it to his friends to deliver it to Philemon. I truly don’t believe that the Apostle could have realized the extent to which the message of this letter would influence other Christians throughout the ages to follow. What a perfect and beautiful example of a faith put to words, but also in deed as one who follows after the Lord Jesus.
Through the years of being in ministry I have seen so many who claim to be Christians, discount the writings and teachings of Paul and saying all he was doing was trying to gather disciples to himself. I am always amazed and I STILL see some pop up on social media platforms stating they ONLY follow the words of Jesus and no one else.
You CANNOT study the Bible as a whole and NOT see the Spirit of Christ, the Living Word and His Holy Spirit’s anointing in the words of the authors but also in the lives AND the examples they put down for all of posterity. Those that can’t see it have NOT taken the Word into their hearts. They may have read the Bible and its individual books like some great historical work, but then they have lost the truly life-changing aspect of it.
I just recently read and posted a quote from a great Preacher from the past, Rodney “Gipsy” Smith, and the quote is truly fitting for closing this lesson on the importance of truly DIGGING into the Word of God:
What makes the difference is not how many times you have been through the Bible, but how many times and how thoroughly the Bible has been through you.
Something very serious to consider. In closing, I am going to quote the Apostle Paul and though I am no Paul to be sure, this is every bit as much of my prayer for those who read these lessons or at least does a study of their own on Philemon!