Love for all the saints.
This was a man who walked the walk. He was known for his relationships with his brothers and sisters. Paul was impressed by the love Philemon had shown. And you know Paul's view of love.It's not hearts and flowers and having good feeling. We know that to Paul, love means action. Philemon musthave been doing something extraordinary to receive such praise. As we will see, Paul is about to make a requestthat will put that love to a test.Paul prays that Philemon will be active in sharing his faith. According to several commentators, this doesn'tnecessarily refer to evangelism as it may seem. the word for sharing here is koinonia, speaking of community.In this case, Paul has in mind
"the mutuality of Christian life which springs from a common participation in thebody of Christ" (IVP Commentary)
So the focus here is relationships. Paul is paving the way to bring upPhilemon's relationship with Onesimus. Notice that the end result of being active in relationships within the body of Christ is
"a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."
How does that happen?
Again, in verse 7, Philemon's love crops up again. It must be some love! It's enough to give Paul joy andencouragement, because he "
refreshed the hearts of the saints."
The word for 'heart', here isn't the usual wordthat means "inner being" but it's the Greek word 'splanchna' It literally means bowels or as we might say 'guts'In Greek thought, it's not the heart that embodies the emotional self, but the bowels. It's what we mean when wehave a 'gut feeling' That's where the visceral feelings of love and compassion are felt. That's the image that Paulwants to play on: Philemon's capacity for compassion toward the brethren.
Paul's Plea for Onesimus (8-21)
Paul is ready to approach the heart of the matter. It's time to finally bring up the touchy subject of Onesimus.Can you imagine Philemon's reaction to seeing that 'no good, thieving, conniving, runaway slave' darken hisdoor? I'm guessing that whatever his thoughts were, they weren't good. So now Onesimus walks in announcingthat he brings a letter from the Apostle Paul, whom he spent time with in Rome and where Onesimus was brought to the Lord. Wow! Now what's Philemon thinking?
An Appeal, Not an Order (8-9)
Paul makes the statement that he
command Philemon what to do, based on his own apostolic authority.He's not shy about 'throwing his weight around.' On other occasions, he has boldly written such as "I commandyou in the Lord..." But, in this instance, he was not only prodding Philemon to do the right thing, but to feel andthink the right way. He's not just concerned about Philemon's actions, but also his heart.So, he says he's not ordering Philemon to do anything, instead he appeals to Philemon "
on the basis of love
."What does he mean by that?
1. Paul's love for Onesimus.
He's come to know and love Onesimus and certainly couldn't bear to see him putto death.
2. Paul's love for Philemon.
Paul wants to see Philemon grow and mature and sees his treatment of Onesimusas crucial to his growth. I think that he's also trying to save Philemon from great pain down the road. If he wereto have Onesimus punished, he would possibly be filled with guilt and remorse, eventually, having realized thathe had harmed a brother.
3. Philemon's love for God's family.
Paul has already mentioned Philemon's love and compassion for thesaints. As Philemon is about to discover, that includes his new brother, Onesimus.