|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 In his unconverted state, Onesimus had withdrawn, to his master's injury; but now he had seen his sin and repented, he was willing and desirous to return to his duty.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 9. - Being such a one as Paul the aged; a veteran. Theodoret comments thus: "For he who hears Paul, hears the preacher of the whole world, the traverser of land and sea, the chosen vessel, and other things besides he is.... He adds also 'the aged,' showing the gray hairs which have grown during his labors." "Non aetatem, sed offieium" (Calvin). Presbutes may mean "an ambassador" - "the ambassador of Christ Jesus, and now also his prisoner," as in Ephesians 6:20 (and see Ephesians 3:1 and Ephesians 4:1 of the same Epistle. A prisoner of Jesus Christ; i.e. for his cause. The apostle was in custody at Rome, owing to a long suspension of his trial, for causes not known to us. "Have regard for Paul; have regard for my bonds, which I wear as a preacher of the truth" (Theodoret). "Great reverence is due to these who endure sufferings for the most honorable causes" (Grotius).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee,.... Either for the sake of the great love which the apostle bore to Philemon, being, as he calls him, his dearly beloved, he took this method; or because of Philemon's great love to all the saints before mentioned, he was encouraged to proceed in this manner, hoping on that account to have success; or it may be, it was for the sake of that love with which God had loved him, and which he puts him in mind of, to engage him to grant his request; that seeing God the Father had loved him, and chosen him in Christ; and Christ had loved him, and redeemed him by his blood; and the Holy Spirit had loved him, and sanctified him by his grace, that therefore he would receive his servant again for the sake of this love; who also was the object of it; see Romans 15:30. The Alexandrian copy reads, "for", or "through necessity", as if necessity obliged him to this request,
Being such an one as Paul the aged; or "the elder"; meaning either in office, which he might mention with this view, that his request might have the greater weight and influence; or else in years, and which he might observe partly to move compassion in Philemon, and that he might not grieve him in his old age, as he would, should he deny his request; and partly to suggest to him, that the advice he was about to give him, to receive his servant, did not come from a raw young man, but from one well stricken in years, with whom were wisdom and understanding; and therefore not to be treated with neglect or contempt: how old the apostle was at this time, is not certain; he could not be less than sixty years of age, or he would not have called himself an old man; for no man was so called by the Jews, but he that was at the age of sixty (b). Some editions of the Vulgate Latin version, as that of the London Polyglot Bible, read, "seeing thou art such an one as Paul the aged"; as if Philemon was an old man, as the apostle was, and therefore he would not lay his commands upon him, as an ancient man might upon a young man, but rather entreat him as equal to him in years: but then it follows, which does not appear to be true of Philemon, or that he was in the like case,
and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ; which is observed with the same view as in Plm 1:1. See Gill on Plm 1:1.
(b) Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9. for love's sake—mine to thee, and (what ought to be) thine to Onesimus. Or, that Christian love of which thou showest so bright an example (Phm 7).
being such an one—Explain, Being such a one as thou knowest me to be, namely,
Paul—the founder of so many churches, and an apostle of Christ, and thy father in the faith.
the aged—a circumstance calculated to secure thy respect for anything I request.
and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ—the strongest claim I have on thy regard: if for no other reason, at least in consideration of this, through commiseration gratify me.
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