Philemon 1:2

Fellow-laborer ... fellow-soldier. These are terms expressive of the spirit of St. Paul. He was not only an ecclesiastic, speaking ex-cathedra, so as to have dominion over men's faith. He was a brother amongst brethren; he ruled by force of character and by depth of love; he addresses them in words which had not then degenerated into a formula: "Dearly beloved."

I. COMMON WORK. "Fellow-laborer." For Paul believed in work - in hard work. He had "journeys oft;" he returned to confirm the faith of the disciples. He worked in sorrow of brain and sweat of heart, and sometimes in sweat of brow.

II. COMMON CONFLICT. "Fellow-soldier." For all through the ages the Christian has a battle to fight - within himself, and with the world and the flesh and the devil. Men are sustained by the sight of men nobler than themselves risking life and health. In the Crimean War, when a young officer headed his troops, running by their side in the heat of the conflict, a private remarked, "There runs ten thousand a year!" Paul did not direct a campaign from afar; he did not do the dainty work, and leave others to hard fare and dungeons. He "fought a good fight," and in that fight he fell, to be crowned with honor hereafter. How inspiring, therefore, would such a man be to other apostles - "a fellow-soldier!" - W.M.S.

Our beloved Apphia
It seems in the highest degree probable that Apphia was Philemon's wife; probable, but in a lower degree, that Archippus was their son. The mention of a woman between two such men, one the apostle's "fellow labourer," the other his "fellow soldier," is a noble example of the spirit of the gospel (Galatians 3:28). It is an unobtrusive yet real hint of the elevation of woman, as the whole letter is of the release of the other victim of classical civilisation, the slave. "Thus, supported on both sides, she seems to have the place not of her own sex, but of her worth."

(Bp. Wm. Alexander.)

The reading "the sister" seems preferable to "the beloved." It is superior in uncial authority. It is of course conceivable that "beloved" might have been exchanged for "sister" from motives of false delicacy.

(Bp. Lightfoot.)

On the other hand, the adjective applied to Philemon might readily have suggested the same prefix to Apphia. The reading "beloved" seems scarcely grave enough for the dignified reserve which St. Paul never forgets in his tenderest moments. Above all, the word "sister" distinctly adds to the meaning. For it shows that Apphia had embraced the gospel, and was a baptised member of the Church, and thus preserves the line of thought in the sentiments balancing the epithets "fellow worker," "fellow soldier," applied to Philemon and Archippus.

(Bp. Lightfoot.)

Her friendly reception of the runaway would be quite as important as Philemon's, and it is therefore most natural that the letter bespeaking it should be addressed to both.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Archippus our fellow soldier
He was perhaps Philemon's son; or a family friend; or the minister of the family; the former hypothesis being perhaps the most probable, as the letter concerns a family matter.

(Dean Alford.)

was a Christian pastor at Colosse (Colossians 4:7), and a fellow soldier of St. Paul, in fighting the good fight of faith against the enemies of the gospel.

(Bp. Chris. Wordsworth.)

The notion of the spiritual life — more especially as connected with definite ministerial functions — being a warfare, a campaign, a soldier's life, passed into New Testament from Old Testament (cf. Numbers 4:23; Numbers 8:24; 1 Samuel 2:22; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:4). The "gospel campaigns" in which Archippus was St. Paul's comrade in arms may have been those during the apostle's sojourn at Ephesus ( A.D. 54-57). Those who hold that St. Paul had a personal connection with Colosse will also point to Acts 18:23.

(Bp. Wm. Alexander.)

The variation of "soldier" for "worker" probably is due to the fact of Archippus being the bishop of the Laodicean church. In any case, it is very beautiful that the grizzled veteran officer should thus, as it were, clasp the hand of this young recruit, and call him his comrade. How it would go to the heart of Archippus!

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

A somewhat stern message is sent to Archippus in the Colossian letter. Why did not Paul send it quietly in this, instead of letting a whole church know of it? It seems at first sight as if he had chosen the harshest way; but perhaps further consideration may suggest that the reason was an instinctive unwillingness to introduce a jarring note into the joyous friendship and confidence which sounds through this Epistle, nor would he bring public matters into this private letter. The warning would come with more effect from the church, and this cordial message of goodwill and confidence would prepare Archippus to receive the other, as rain showers make the ground soft for the good seed. The private affection would mitigate the public exhortation, with whatever rebuke may have been in it.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

He calleth him a fellow soldier because they of the ministry (if they be faithful) are in continual warfare, not only against the continual engines and assaults of Satan, who withstandeth their ministry, but against false teachers, and against many other unreasonable men, as also against the sins and corruptions that reign or arise in their several charges. We see how men destitute of faith make continual war against them one way or other.

(W. Attersoll.)


1. Conflict.

(1)With Satan's temptations.

(2)With persecutions (Timothy 2:3).

(3)With the perverse understanding, will, and affections of sinful man (2 Corinthians 10:4).

2. In victory.(1) Over the elect, who are taken captive and made willingly to submit themselves to Jesus Christ, against whom formerly they fought under Satan's banner.(2) Over the reprobate, who are quite killed with the spiritual sword, and because they will not bend, are broken to pieces.

II. IN THE GARRISON. Though returned home glorious in victory, yet he must not sit down and rest, as though all were now despatched, but on with his defensive weapons, that he may be able to maintain his own. And herein first of all consisteth the second part of the minister's soldiership at home, namely, in having a wakeful eye to discern even the clouds of danger even arising afar off, and thereupon to give warning. Secondly, having so done, which is the half-arming of his people, according to the proverb, "Forewarned, forearmed," he must fortify and make them strong against the power of the adversaries. First, by instructing them how to carry themselves, how both to wear and how to use that complete harness of the Christian soldier. Thus like a good captain doth he train his soldiers, teaching their hands to fight and fitting their fingers for the battle. Secondly, by praying for them; wherein he playeth the valiant soldier indeed, combating and conflicting with the Lord God Himself. This is called standing in the gap, and making up of the hedge (Ezekiel 22:30). Look as the wife and provident martiallist will see where the city is weakest when the walls are anything decayed, and will bend his forces most of all to fortify that place, knowing the enemy will be sure to take advantage of that place for his more easy entering upon them, so likewise doth the faithful minister consider with himself where the sins of the people have most weakened them, and made any breaches in their walls, any gaps in their fence for God's judgments to run in upon them, and there doth he make up the breach and stand up in the gap by earnest praying and calling upon the name of the Lord, as Aaron (Numbers 16:47).

(D. Dyke, B. D.)

Paul, indeed, loves to think of himself as a soldier; for in all earnest work there is verily something of war. Real labour itself is but a war against sloth and self-indulgent idleness. Agricultural labour is war on the weeds and the stubbornness of the soil. And so shall all work that kindles into the white heat of earnestness burst often into a war flame.

(A. H. Drysdale, M. A.)

We look past the lounging mercenary at his wrist. Not he, but Paul, is fulfilling the true soldiership of the world. We see the apostle's work, by its intensity, rising into warfare; and as we hear him in his prayers, the warfare rises into worship before the Lord.

(A. H. Drysdale, M. A.)

Those who speak of the Christian warfare, as I have observed, almost always limit it to the narrow path in which one treads alone. That was the idea so grandly wrought out by Bunyan in his "Pilgrim's Progress." But that sort of warfare belonged to the days of knight errantry. The modern soldiers of the Cross, like other soldiers, are massed in armies. No doubt each Christian has many a fight single-handed with the adversary. But those thrilling appeals in the Epistle to the Ephesians, concerning taking the whole armour of God, were addressed to the Church collectively. Individualism has its perils. Christians are fellow soldiers. We need to build a common barrier against the common foe. Side by side we need to charge on the enemy's works. And then, in the final day of triumph, we shall join with "thousands of thousands, and ten times ten thousand," in shouting the glad chorus of victory.

(J. Hovey.)

The church in thy house
As vast buildings, publicly consecrated and set apart, were impossible from the nature of the case in the earliest years of Christianity, houses of considerable size were employed for worship — like those of Aquila at Rome, of Nymphas or Philemon at Colosse — and the name of "church" seems to have been transferred at an early period from the collection of living souls to the building in which they met.

(Bp. Wm. Alexander.)

This was one way in which Philemon might be said to have "refreshed the bowels of the saints" (ver. 7), and to have shown his Christian faith and love to his poorer brethren. Here probably it was that St. Paul preached when at Colosse. This concession of some apartment in their own houses for the purposes of the public worship of the Christian Church, "a sect everywhere spoken against" in those days, was an act of zeal and courage on the part of the wealthier members of the Christian community, and seems to have elicited special expressions of notice, approval, and affection from St. Paul and the other apostles (Romans 16:5, 23; Colossians 4:15; cf. 2 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:19; 3 John 1:6, 7).

(Bp. Chris. Wordsworth.)

He did not omit the slaves here; for he knew that the words of slaves can often change a master's purpose, and especially when they plead for a fellow servant. Some of them perhaps had stirred up Philemon against Onesimus. He does not permit them there to have any feeling of grudge, as he addresses them with the family. Nor does he give the master just reason for anger. If he had addressed the slaves by name, Philemon probably would have been displeased. See, then, how prudently he deals. For the word "Church" does not permit masters to be angry, if they are numbered with slaves. For the Church knows not the distinction of master and slave (Galatians 3:28).

( Chrysostom.)

Meyer remarks the tact of the apostle in associating with Philemon those connected with his house, but not going beyond the limits of the house.

(Dean Alford.)

1. A Christian's household a church of Christ.

2. Means and influences suited to make it such.

3. Pleasures and secular habits which tend to prevent it;

(1)by quenching the religious spirit;

(2)by interfering with domestic worship and training;

(3)by placing godliness in a secondary position.

4. Motives which should urge the Christian to utmost effort to secure it.

(1)Salvation of children and servants greatly dependent on him;

(2)God holds him responsible;

(3)world needs well-trained workers.

(A. D. Johnson.)

1. In this pious household there had been one graceless member. Onesimus must often have witnessed the holy engagements of this "Church!" listened to reproofs and appeals of God's Word; seen the joyfulness of Christian faith and life. This aggravated the wrong he had done, and his sin against God and conscience.

2. Yet the holy influence was not lost. It prepared his heart for the apostle's doctrine.

3. Apphia's share in this influence may be safely reckoned upon. There is no power in a home like that of a mother or mistress. Women's work may seem the slowest, but it is the surest.

(A. D. Johnson.)

Christians families should be little churches. How may a family come to deserve this title? For this purpose many things are required, whereof some are common to all in the family, others proper to some. Common to all are these two points —

1. If we would have our families churches then we that are members in families must labour to become true members of the Church. For a company of profane men is not the house of God, but a den and dungeon of thieves, adulterers, atheists, conspiring together against God. The which yet is not so to be understood, as if the name of a church could not be attributed to a family in which there are some not members of the Church, for even in the Church itself there are some in it that are not of it. Let therefore everyone of a family be desirous the house he dwells in should be Bethel — God's house — bring one stone to the making of this spiritual house that so he may be able to say, This house is a holy edifice and I am one of the living stones that help to the making of it so.

2. That a family may obtain the commendation of being a Church, this is another thing that we require generally of all in the family, namely, that look what kind of men they are, or at least would seem to be, in the Church and public congregation, the same they would show themselves to be in the family and private conversement one with another. These be things common to all; now follow those peculiar to some — first to the chief, secondly the inferior. Those things which respect the chief are specially these — first, as much as in them lies, let them entertain none into their family whom God hath not first entertained into His. The Church doth not indifferently receive all and admit into her society by the sacrament of baptism the children of Turks and cannibals, strangers from the covenant, but only such ordinarily as are of a holy seed, the offspring of religious parents. So likewise must our families, if we would have them like churches, be something dainty who they receive. David's example is to be imitated (Psalm cf.), whose "eyes were unto the faithful of the land," that he might pick even the choicest of them for his service, and that so much the rather because far more easily may we keep out than cast such guests out of our houses. Secondly, the chief in the family must resemble the chief in the Church, namely, the pastors, etc., thereof; and that not only in those things which concern God's service, but outward discipline also. For the first. There are two special duties of the pastor respecting God's service, preaching and praying. In both these, in some measure, should the governors of the family be like to the pastors of the Church. First, therefore, they must instruct the whole family in that doctrine which is according to godliness. This they must do, first, in words; which Paul commandeth (Ephesians 6), and which God Himself commendeth in Abraham (Genesis 18). Here, then, is censured that government of the family which is only civil, not religious. Assuredly, if the Word of God found not in thy house as in the Church it is unworthy the name of a church? Secondly, they must teach likewise by example. With David, walking in the uprightness of their hearts in the midst of their house; for the eye of the whole family is upon the governors thereof, as is the eye of the Church upon their pastors. Secondly, as in preaching, so likewise in praying, must they imitate the pastors; for the house of God is called the house of prayer. If, therefore, this principal part of God's service be wanting in any house, how can it be called God's house? Thus must they be like the pastors in things concerning God's service. Secondly, they must resemble them in their discipline, causing their house. hold discipline to be answerable to the Church discipline. First, that which is the ground of all good discipline, they must have a very watchful and attentive eye over every soul in the family, so that they may know the several natures, conditions, and dispositions of all, and so proportion their government accordingly. This is rightly to play the bishop, who hath that name from his careful overseeing of the flock (Acts 20:20). Secondly, after that the eye hath laid these foundations the hand must build thereon. First, as soon as it hath received warning from the eye of some evil that is in brewing, in stretching forth itself and arming itself to hinder it, and keep the authors thereof within their bounds. For this purpose both admonitions and threatenings must be used, but especially wholesome laws must be enacted for the prohibiting and preventing of things unlawful. Secondly, the same hand which made the sword of good laws for the prevention of evil to come must draw it out for the punishment of evil past, and not suffer it to lie rusting in the sheath. If, then, any shall break those good laws which the governors of the families have made, let the punishments threatened be inflicted, that so those who would not obey the precepts of the law may perforce be constrained to obey the threatenings thereof. Now herein must there be an imitation of Church discipline. Look, then, as in the Church the offender is first admonished divers times, and at length, not profiting by those admonitions, is excommunicated and dis-synagogued, so likewise in thy family, finding wicked and ungodly ones, first must thou deal with them by admonition, reprehension, castigation; and if, for all these means, they still remain incorrigible, then cast them out of thy house, and think their room better than their company. If the king were to come to thy house, and there were some in it he could not abide, wouldest thou not discharge them thine house, if so be thou wert desirous of the king's presence? And entertaining traitors in thy house, traitors against God, thinkest thou that He will come and pitch His tent and take up His lodging with thee? These be the things proper to the chief. Now follow those which belong to the inferiors, in the which, as in the former, their governors resembled the pastors of the Church, they must resembled the rest of the body of the Church. First, in matter of doctrine. As the Church acknowledgeth those that are over her, in the Lord, and obeyeth them (1 Thessalonians 5; Hebrews 13:1), so must those that are under government carry themselves reverently and respectively towards their governors, cheerfully and conscionably obeying, as all other of their lawful commands, so especially those which concern God's worship. And as by the example of the pastors, the rest of the Church are stirred up to godliness (Philippians 4:9), so must the inferiors in the family be encouraged and inflamed to virtue, when they shall see their superiors going before them. Secondly, they must resemble the Church in matters of discipline. First, enduring those chastisements, either verbal or real, which for their deserts are inflicted, and freely acknowledging the equity of them. Secondly, if at any time they see any of their fellows misbehaving himself, first let them try what they can do themselves by admonition; but if that way they prevail not, then according to the example of the ecclesiastical discipline (Matthew 18), let them acquaint their governors therewithal.

(D. Dyke, B. D.)

We have here shown to us, by one stray beam of twinkling light, for a moment, a very sweet picture of the domestic life of that Christian household in their remote valley. It shines still to us across the centuries which have swallowed up so much that seemed more permanent, and silenced so much that made far more noise in its day. The picture may well set us asking ourselves the question whether we, with all our boasted advancement, have been able to realise the true ideal of Christian family life as these three did. The husband and wife dwelling as heirs together of the grace of life, their child beside them, sharing their faith and service, their household ordered in the ways of the Lord, their friends Christ's friends, and their social joys hallowed and serene — what nobler form of family life can be conceived than that? What a rebuke and satire on many a so-called Christian household!

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Robert Hall's words on this subject are as beautiful as they are true. "Family worship," he says, "serves as edge or border to prevent the web of life from unravelling."

Said General Havelock, in reply to a remark of a friend as to his influence over the men of his regiment, "I keep close to them — have personal contact with each man and know each man's name."

(Preacher's Lantern.)

The bee cannot gather honey on the wing. No more can Christ's disciples gain refreshment and sustenance in the midst of the world's bustle, save by habitually alighting and drawing on the resources of Christ's presence and grace afforded in the assemblies of the saints. Not as though the "Church" were only a convalescent home for recruiting spiritual energies — it is no less a field for their exercise and development. It is the seat and centre of witnessing for Christ and of working for Him. His disciples need not think to carry dark lanterns. Loyalty to Him will not be ashamed to confess His name before men.

(A. H. Drysdale, M. A.)

For as the lowly bush receives the dew of heaven, not to absorb it on itself, but to distil a portion on the yet lowlier plant that may grow at its root, so must "the Church in the house" learn "to do good and distribute," as a steward for Christ of that gospel which is committed to it in trust for others. Even the lordly mountain catches the first outpourings of the skies, not to treasure them up in its own bosom, but to send them down in limpid and refreshing streams along the valleys and meadows below. And so it is the mission of the Church of Christ at large to fulfil such offices of gospel mercy as shall make "the wilderness and solitary place be glad for them, and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose," and to be the instrument of Christian enterprise and effort to the ends of the earth.

(A. H. Drysdale, M. A.)

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