|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:8-14 It does not lower any one to condescend, and sometimes even to beseech, where, in strictness of right, we might command: the apostle argues from love, rather than authority, in behalf of one converted through his means; and this was Onesimus. In allusion to that name, which signifies profitable, the apostle allows that in time past he had been unprofitable to Philemon, but hastens to mention the change by which he had become profitable. Unholy persons are unprofitable; they answer not the great end of their being. But what happy changes conversion makes! of evil, good; of unprofitable, useful. Religious servants are treasures in a family. Such will make conscience of their time and trusts, and manage all they can for the best. No prospect of usefulness should lead any to neglect their obligations, or to fail in obedience to superiors. One great evidence of true repentance consists in returning to practise the duties which have been neglected. In his unconverted state, Onesimus had withdrawn, to his master's injury; but now he had seen his sin and repented, he was willing and desirous to return to his duty. Little do men know for what purposes the Lord leaves some to change their situations, or engage in undertakings, perhaps from evil motives. Had not the Lord overruled some of our ungodly projects, we may reflect upon cases, in which our destruction must have been sure.
Verse 14. - But without thy mind I would do nothing. The "would" of Ver. 13 is ἐβουλόμην; the "would" here is ἠθέλησα. The former denoted natural but indeterminate impulse; the latter deliberate conclusion of the will (cf. Romans 7:15, 16). Mind; i.e. knowledge and decision. "Why was he unwilling? For many causes.
(1) Because grave penalties were denounced by Roman law upon those who received or retained fugitive slaves.
(2) That he might not seem to keep back something which was due to Philemon, perhaps to his injury; of which, perhaps, Philemon might have complained.
(3) Because Onesimus himself chose to go back, in order that he might show conclusively that he had net embraced the Christian religion that he might withdraw himself from the power of his lawful lord.
(4) That the gospel might not be by this means slandered, as if under the pretext of it slaves might withdraw themselves with impunity from their lords" (Estius and others). Thy benefit - goodness (Revised Version) - as it were of necessity, but willingly. Philemon would not really have had the choice of granting or refusing given to him, had St. Paul kept Onesimus still at Rome, and merely written to inform him of the fact. His consent might then fairly have been said to be extorted, not freely given. This latter word is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον (unique phrase) so far as the New Testament is concerned, though it is found in Numbers 15:3 of the LXX., as in Xenophon and other classical writers. In Hebrews 10:26 and 1 Peter 5:2 the adverb ἑκουσίως is found.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But without thy mind would I do nothing,.... Which shows great modesty and humility in the apostle, that though as such he had an authority, which he could have used, as well as had understanding and judgment how to have used it without consulting Philemon, or having his sense of this affair, yet chose to consult him: and it also shows the strict regard the apostle had to equity and justice, that he would do nothing with another man's servant without his consent; he would not seem to alienate, or engross another man's right and property, whatever power he might have, as an apostle, to have retained Onesimus as a minister to him,
That thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly; that is, that his goodness in forgiving his servant, and renouncing all claim and property in him, and admitting him to continue in the service of the apostle, might not look like a forced thing; but that it might appear to be a voluntary action, when he should of himself return him, after he had been thus sent to him, and received by him.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. without thy mind—that is, consent.
should not be as—"should not appear as a matter of necessity, but of free will." Had Paul kept Onesimus, however willing to gratify Paul Philemon might be, he would have no opportunity given him of showing he was so, his leave not having been asked.
Philemon 1:14 Parallel Commentaries
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