Online Bible Commentary
Every Good in You
Philemon 1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. (NIV)
Paul is writing this short letter to Philemon about 60 A.D., during his house arrest in Rome. Timothy was with Paul at the time he wrote this letter (v.1a). Paul describes Philemon as “our dear friend and fellow worker” (v. 1b). The name “Philemon” means “affectionate.” Philemon hosted a house church (v. 2b) in Colossae, and this letter was sent at the same time Paul sent the letter of Colossians.
This letter was not only addressed to Philemon, but also to Apphia, Archippus, and the whole church (v. 2). Apphia was not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. She was thought to be Philemon’s wife. Archippus, a “fellow worker” (v. 1c), was a teacher, possibly an elder or overseer. He was also mentioned in Colossians 4:17, and was thought to be a member of Philemon’s family.
Paul’s characteristic greeting was to wish “grace”, undeserved and unmerited favor, and “peace”, spiritual serenity, upon all those in the church (v. 3a). Both blessings come from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3b). In elevating Christ as equal to the Father, this is just another reference to Christ as being fully God. Paul’s greeting was to those to whom the letter was addressed, but then, beginning in verse four, he appears to address only Philemon.
Whenever Paul would pray he would always thank God for Philemon (v. 4). It is obvious that Philemon held a special place in Paul’s heart. Paul mentions two qualities in Philemon that gave him reason to thank God for him. Philemon was faithful to the Lord, and he loved all the other Christians, “all the saints” (v. 5).
Paul’s prayer for Philemon was for him to be “active” in sharing his faith (v. 6a), so that he would have a “full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (v. 6b). The literal Greek translation of verse six is “so as the fellowship of the faith of you effective may be in a full knowledge of every good in you for Christ Jesus.” The meaning is for Philemon’s effective fellowship among others to be proof of every good which is in him in Christ Jesus. In other words, he is to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit when among others, which would result in good works, both inside and outside the church. Thus, he would build up the saints and make the church more attractive to the community.
Paul completes this passage with words of praise and encouragement for Philemon. Philemon’s “love” (v. 7a) has given Paul “joy and encouragement” (v. 7b) because it has “refreshed the hearts of the saints” (v. 7d). The Greek word translated “refresh” also means to give “ease” or “rest”. Paul is praising Philemon for his positive influence upon the church at Colossae. His use of the word “brother” (v. 7c) indicates that verses 4-7 are directed to Philemon, alone.
In the same way, we please the Lord when we build up other believers in the faith. Our contributions to building up the church and our positive influence upon its members are pleasing to Him. These are just more ways to please the Lord with our lives. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, we also make the church more attractive to outsiders, who are always watching. The Holy Spirit is “every good in you”.