The Book of Philemon is about redemption and reconciliation. We begin with a salutation in verses 1-3, where Paul writes a personal letter to a slave owner, Philemon, a wealthy believer in the city of Colosse. Onesimus, the slave had run away and had since become a mature believer and was going to return of his own volition.
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ” was his normal beginning, but this time it was Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus because he was not using his apostolic authority. So Paul, as a mature believer, was not going to use the authority of his spiritual gift of apostleship on his friend and fellow worker, Philemon. Paul wanted Philemon to use his own free will to make an important decision regarding Onesimus. One of the great lessons we can learn from this epistle is that a believer must take control of his own spiritual life. And a believer must allow the doctrine in his soul to be the guide to making good decisions from a position of strength. A pastor’s job is to teach accurate Bible doctrine; a believer’s job is to properly apply the doctrine. Eventually a believer will become spiritually self-sustaining by the consistent aapplication of doctrine.
Most Bible scholars believe Apphia was Philemon’s wife. The church in your house was the Colossian church that was facing the false doctrine of Gnosticism (handled in Colossians) and the problem of slavery (handled in Philemon). Paul calls Archippus (some believe he was Philemon’s and Apphia’s son) a “fellow soldier” because he was pastor of the Colossian church.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ uses Paul’s one-word description of the plan of God – grace. As a result of being oriented to grace, there can be peace from God. The Greek word for peace is “eirene,” which not only means peace but it means spiritual prosperity from God. The only prosperity that counts in this life is prosperity from God. The only way to get maximum prosperity from God is to reach spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is the maximum expression of the grace of God utilized in the Protocol Plan of God. In eternity past, God provided everything necessary for a believer’s advance to spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is characterized by maximum spiritual independence, which results from a maximum amount of Bible doctrine in the soul applied to every circumstance of life. This means spiritual maturity can face every problem in life with a maximum amount of inner happiness. There is no tragedy, disaster, difficulty, or heartache that can overcome the spiritual self-confidence of a mature believer. Spiritual independence comes from maximum perception, maximum metabolization, and maximum accurate application of accurate Bible doctrine to every area of your life.
“I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.”
Paul mentions two things that he is grateful for when he thinks and prays for Philemon – love and faith. Love is the love for all mankind on the basis of the integrity of God you have developed in your soul that we call impersonal love. Impersonal love is unconditional love and God commands us to love everyone, but especially those who are in the Royal Family of God.
Faith is not only a reference to saving faith at salvation. It is also a reference to applying faith in your daily walk with the Lord, which we call the Faith-Rest Technique. The principle of faith-rest is from God, Who is perfect. Therefore, the Faith-Rest Technique is perfect. No human deed can be added to a perfect provision from God. A believer must cease from human good and enter into a rest where he does no work. The Holy Spirit does the work. The requirement, therefore, for a believer is faith, not human works. Faith is the absence of any human merit, which means that in and of itself faith has no value or worth. The value or worth is in the object of our faith. The object of faith for the believer should always be God and His Word.
Faith-rest means knowing, believing and applying the promises, the principles and the doctrines of the Word of God. (Isaiah 33:6) There are over 7,000 promises in the Bible for the believer. These promises do us no good unless we mix them with faith and apply them to our situation. (Hebrews 4:2) Claiming these promises eliminates mental attitude sins such as fear, worry and anxiety, which cut off Divine Viewpoint Thinking. Faith-Rest will restore Divine Viewpoint Thinking and stabilize a believer in time of pressure and adversity. Faith-Rest results in a relaxed mental attitude. (Matthew 11:28-30)
These verses are about the fellowship believers have in Christ as they advance toward spiritual maturity.
Knowledge and application of Bible doctrine within the body of Christ is the fellowship of your faith in these verses. Faith is a reference to Bible doctrine and fellowship is not as many Christians think - socializing in the “fellowship hall” at church. Fellowship here and throughout the Word of God is always
centered in doctrine. The local church is a classroom for learning Bible doctrine and a believer should come for that purpose and not to make friends and develop personal relationships (though it naturally happens in many instances, like ours).
This “fellowship in Bible doctrine” can become effective only if believers have doctrine circulating in their souls. Knowledge of all the doctrines related to Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf, which Paul calls the mystery doctrine of the church, becomes effective only when applied. An effective faith is a faith that is being developed and used consistently, not just when a believer is in trouble. Faith is developed by the study and application of God’s Word under the control of God the Holy Spirit. Faith is developed by means of growth when a believer begins to consistently use the Problem-Solving Devices, such as Rebound, Filling of the Holy Spirit and the Faith-Rest Technique. Faith is effective in the believer’s life only if faith has the right object. Faith is thinking. The content of what you’re thinking is what determines faith’s effectiveness in your life. There is no limit to the amount of faith that a believer can have, but doctrinal content in the soul is what determines the strength of your faith. (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:1-3, 12:2; Galatians 5:22-23; I Peter 1:7-9; I John 5:1-5)
“For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
Joy is synonymous with sharing the happiness of God, which is having permanent contentment as your constant companion. This happiness is permanent because it does not depend on the circumstances in your life. It is actually God’s own perfect happiness that He shares with the advancing believer as a grace gift. Sharing God’s happiness is obtained only by consistently learning, believing and applying the Word of God over a period of time. The more time you log under the power and the control of God the Holy Spirit and thinking divine viewpoint, the happier you are going to be. Therefore, sharing the happiness of God is not for the novice believer. It is impossible to share in something that you know nothing about. Being happy is one of the many spiritual blessings that comes with increased capacity. Increased capacity to receive God’s blessing of happiness comes only one way - study and application of Bible doctrine. (Jeremiah 15:16; John 13:17)
It is impossible to be happy as a believer in Christ without obeying the principles and commands we find in the Word of God. Disobedience brings only self-induced misery and discipline from our Heavenly Father. As Christians, we must learn to make good decisions from a position of strength. Our position of strength is in direct proportion to the amount of truth we have stored in our souls and the maximum utilization of that truth to our circumstances. This is what is meant by creating an environment in your soul for happiness. Bible doctrine is stored in the soul and is accessed from the soul by wisdom (application). (Proverbs 3:13)
A state of genuine, true and complete happiness depends on absolute truth found only in God’s Word. There are, however, degrees of happiness. The more time you spend in the study and application of Bible doctrine, the higher your degree of happiness. As a believer continues to seek truth, his capacity to receive blessing increases. One of the many blessings that God gives, as a fruit of the Spirit, is happiness. But as with everything in the Christian Way of Life, happiness is only a potential. The believer must make the decision to spend time in study and application of God’s Word. The more you know about God, His policies and His mandates, the more application you are able to make. The more application of God’s Word that you make, the happier you will be. (Matthew 6:33; Romans 14:16-19; Galatians 5:22-23; II John 12)
Comfort is the Greek word “paraklesis,” which is the same word used by Jesus for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-17. It means calling to one’s side for the purpose of encouragement. It is the ministry of God the Holy Spirit to bring comfort to the believer in time of distress. Originally a legal term for an advocate or defense attorney, the word for comforter came to mean much more. Its meaning was expanded to include consolation, encouragement, alleviation of grief, a soothing solace or giving comfort; things perhaps an advocate would do for a client. It is this word that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture to use to describe His ministry. Since God does not speak directly to human beings during this age, there must be a way in which He communicates this comfort. It is very clear from Scripture that God the Holy Spirit uses the Bible doctrine that we have stored in our souls to bring comfort, encouragement, alleviation of grief and solace. The Holy Spirit guides us to the truth that we need at a particular moment in order to accomplish His ministry of comfort. The key, of course, is to have this information stored so that we have a frame of reference for the purpose of using the Faith-Rest Drill, which involves reaching a doctrinal conclusion and application. (John 14:26, 16:12-13; Galatians 4:6; Hebrews 1:1-2; (John 14:16, 26, 15:26; 16:7; Philippians 2:1-2; II Thessalonians 2:15-16; I John 2:1)
Philemon had capacity for love which he exhibited to the church in Colossae. His love of others was a great encouragement to believers in the local church, as well as to the apostle Paul. The question was whether Philemon would exhibit that same love toward Onesimus, his slave who had stolen from him and fled. Onesimus would return to Philemon as a fellow believer and brother in Christ.
The key word in this verse is refreshed. The Greek word for refreshed is “anapauo,” which means to faith-rest, to have a relaxed mental attitude or to encourage. Philemon had a ministry of encouragement that overflowed to others from the happiness of God that he had in his soul. He was a great leader in the Colossian church, and joy and comfort overflowed from him. It even overflowed to Paul in Rome when he heard about it. However, Philemon’s ministry was going to be tested. It was about to get a challenge in the person of Onesimus. So what was going to happen? What would happen to Philemon’s ministry of encouragement? By Roman law, Philemon would have been within his rights to be very severe to Onesimus. So would Philemon’s ministry extend to Onesimus, who was now a believer? Was the doctrine in Philemon’s soul greater than his disappointment in Onesimus? Paul was very hopeful that it would be.