Introduction: Paul’s Greeting (vv 1-4)
There are basically 3 characters featured in the Book of Philemon:
There are 2 other mentioned in these verses, Apphia and Archippus (mentioned in Col. 4:17), probably wife and son of Philemon.
Verse 1 — The Apostle Paul is a prisoner in Rome; the writing is about 60 A.D. This is during his first imprisonment, recorded in Acts 28. This is one of the 4 “Prison Epistles.” Timothy is with Paul in Rome and sends his greetings.
Paul identifies himself differently in this letter to Philemon than all the other letters he wrote. In the other letters, Paul calls himself either an apostle or a servant. In this letter he calls himself a prisoner.
Paul wanted this letter read for at least 2 reasons:
- it would hold Philemon accountable
- and instruct the church on the matter of forgiveness.
H. A. Ironside observed that Philemon is “the finest specimen of early, personal, Christian correspondence.” Philemon affords us the opportunity to read the mail of a first-century Christian.
Wendell Winkler noted that there are eleven references to Christ in the twenty-five verses of this epistle (1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 16, 20, 23). Clearly, Paul wanted us to see Jesus in this story
Verse 2 — This verse mentions the wife and son of Philemon. ESV says “Our sister Apphia.” Col. 4:17 “And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
Col. 4:17 note about Archippus. Paul’s message to him to fulfill his ministry is similar to the exhortation to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:5. “…do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Every Christian is to proclaim the gospel. Timothy and Archippus are called to do the work of an evangelist.
Chuck Smith wrote on this passage, “Fulfill Your Ministry. ‘Paul’s exhortation to Archippus is a good one for all of us. …God has given you a ministry. He has a place of service for each of us in the body, and it is important that we fulfill those ministries. We fulfill our ministries when we accept what it is God has called us to and then go for it with everything we’ve got, just full-on serving Him.’”
The Church there in Colossae apparently met in Philemon’s home. These verse tell us a Christian family that is dedicated to serving the Lord Jesus.
V. 3 – “Grace to you.” The standard greeting that appears in all of Paul’s 13 NT letters. It highlighted salvation’s means (grace) c.f. Titus 2:11ff. and its results (peace) and linked the Father & the Son, thus affirming the Deity of Christ.