Philemon 1Observe here, 1. The writer of this epistle described by his name, Paul; by his condition, a prisoner of Jesus Christ; by his office, a labourer, a soldier, a fellow-labourer, and a fellow-soldier with Philemon and Archippus.
Where note, That to be a labourer, a soldier, and a prisoner for Jesus Christ, are the titles that St. Paul glories in, and not in worldly dignities. Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ; yet was Paul a prisoner in libera custodia, not so closely confined but he had pen, ink, and paper; God gave Paul then, as Joseph before, favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison; Let persecutors send the saints to prison, God can provide a keeper for their turn. Happy was it for thee, Onesimus, that Paul was sent to gaol; his imprisonment was the happy occasion of thy spiritual liberty.
Observe, 2. The persons to whom the epistle is directed; first, and eminently, to Philemon the master, and to Apphia, the mistress of the family, in which and with whom Onesimus had dwelt, but was now run from. St. Paul writes to both, judging the mistress's consent necessary for taking this fugitive back into her family, as well as the master's; intimating thereby, that although the husband by the ordinance and appointment of God has the highest place, the first and chief power in the government of the family, yet the wife being given him of God, as an assistant and fellow-helper in government, her subordinate authority given her by God is to be owned and acknowledged.
Next, This epistle is directed to Archippus, who dwelt with or near Philemon: him he calls his fellow-soldier, and Philemon his fellow- labourer.
Where note, That the ministers of the gospel are compared to soldiers; they have enemies to encounter and conflict with, Satan's temptations, the world's persecutions, sinners' corrrupt lusts and affections. Let the ministers of God then reckon beforehand upon a toilsome and troublesome life; if they resolve to be faithful, the devil will plant all his artillery against them.
Last of all, the epistle is directed to the church in Philemon's house, by which some understand the company of Christians that met together at his house to worship God; for Christians then had not liberty publicly to perform that duty: others understand it of Philemon's own family, which speaks at once Philemon's privilege and duty, that he had such a well-ordered family, that it was a little church; that is, it was a lively image and representation of the church, both in its doctrine and worship.
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