The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)2 Timothy 4:22.
The subscription to the Epistle is of no authority, but in this case is undoubtedly correct. Compare the remarks at the close of 1 Corinthians, and Titus.
Remarks On Philemon
Having now passed through with the exposition of this Epistle, it may be proper to copy, for comparison with it, one of the most beautiful specimens of epistolary composition to be found in profane literature, an epistle of Pliny, written on a similar occasion, and having a strong resemblance to this. As a matter of taste, it is of importance to show that the sacred writers do not fall behind the most favorable specimens of literary composition to be found in uninspired writings. The epistle of Pliny was directed to his friend Sabinianus, in behalf of his manumitted slave who had offended him, and who was consequently cast out of his favor. It is in the following words:
C. Plinius Sabiniano, S. (in Latin)
Libertus tuus, cui succensere te dixeras, venit a.d. me, advolutusque pedibus meis, tanquam tuis, haesit: flevit muitum, multum rogavit, maltum etiam tacuit: in summa, fecit mihi fidem poenitentiae Vere credo emendatum, quia deliquisse sentit. Irasceris scio; et irasceris merito, id quoque scio: sed tune praecipua mansuetudinis laus, cure irae causa justissima est. Amasti hominem; et spero amabis: interim sufficit ut exorari te sinas. Licebit rursus irasci, si meruerit; quod exoratus excusatius facies.
Remitte aliquid adolescentiae ipsius; remitte lachrymis; remitte indulgentiae tuae; ne torseris illum, ne torseris etiam te. Torqueris enim cum tam lenis irasceris. Vereor, ne videar non rogare, sed cogere, si precibus ejus meas junxero. Jungam tamen tanto plenius et effusius quanto ipsum acrius severiusque corripui, destricte minatus, nunquam me postea rogaturum. Hoc illi, quem terreri oportebat; tibi non idem. Nam fortasse iterum rogabo, impetrabo irerum: sit mode tale, ut rogare me, ut praestare te, deceat. Vale. Epistolar. Lib. ix. Ephesians 21.
Caius Pliny to Sabinianus, health (English translation)
'Thy freed man, with whom thou didst say thou wert incensed, came to me, and having thrown himself at my feet, grasped them as if they had been thine. He wept much; pleaded much; and yet pleaded more by his silence. In short, he fully convinced me that he was a penitent. I do sincerely believe that he is reformed, because he perceives that he has done wrong. I know that thou art incensed against him; and I know also that thou art justly so; but then clemency has its chief praise when there is the greatest cause for anger. Thou hast loved the man; and I hope that thou wilt love him again. In the meantime, it may suffice that thou dost suffer thyself to be entreated for him. It will be right for thee again to be offended if he deserves it: because, having allowed thyself to be entreated, you will do it with greater propriety.
'Forgive something for his youth; forgive on account of his tears; forgive on account of thine own kindness: do not torment him; do not torment thyself - for thou wilt be tormented when thou, who art of so gentle a disposition, dost suffer thyself to be angry. I fear, if I should unite my prayers to his, that I should seem not to ask, but to compel. Yet I will write them, and the more largely and earnestly, too, as I have sharply and severely reproved him; solemnly threatening him, should he offend again, never more to intercede for him. This I said to him, because it was necessary to alarm him; but I will not say the same to thee. For perhaps I may again entreat thee, and again obtain, if now that shall be done which it is fit that I should ask and you concede. Farewell."
Those who compare these two epistles, much as they may admire that of Pliny as a literary composition and as adapted to secure the end which he had in view, will coincide with the remark of Doddridge, that it is much inferior to the letter of Paul. There is less courtesy - though there is much; there is less that is touching and tender - though there is much force in the pleading; and there is much less that is affecting in the manner of the appeal than in the Epistle of the apostle.
The Epistle to Philemon, though the shortest that Paul wrote, and though pertaining to a private matter in which the church at large could not be expected to have any direct interest, is nevertheless a most interesting portion of the New Testament, and furnishes some invaluable lessons for the church.
1. It is a model of courtesy. It shows that the apostle was a man of refined sensibility, and had a delicate perception of what was due in friendship, and what was required by true politeness. There are turns of thought in this Epistle which no one would employ who was not thoroughly under the influence of true courtesy of feeling, and who had not an exquisite sense of what was proper in intercourse with a Christian gentleman.
2. The Epistle shows that he had great tact in argument, and great skill in selecting just such things as would be adapted to secure the end in view. It would be hardly possible to accumulate, even in a letter of fiction, more circumstances which would be fitted to accomplish the object which he contemplated, that he has introduced into this short letter, or to arrange them in a way better fitted to secure the desired result. If we remember the state of mind in which it is reasonable to suppose Philemon was in regard to this runaway servant, and the little probability that a man in his circumstances would receive him with kindness again, it is impossible not to admire the address with which Paul approaches him. It is not difficult to imagine in what state of mind Philemon may have been, or the obstacles which it was necessary to surmount in order to induce him to receive Onesimus again - and especially to receive him as a Christian brother.See Poole on "Galatians 6:18". See Poole on "Romans 16:24". See Poole on "1 Corinthians 16:23". See Poole on "Philippians 4:23". See Poole on "2 Thessalonians 3:18".
With your spirit is the same as with you. By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, he means the Spirit of Christ in all its gracious emanations: we have his meaning fully, 2 Corinthians 13:14:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen is a particle of praying and affirming, by which he declareth his earnest desire it might be so, and also his faith that it should be so. Nor doth he pray for Philemon alone, (though the Epistle chiefly concerned him), but for all those who at Colosse had with him obtained like precious faith.
Written from Rome to Philemon, by Onesimus a servant. Galatians 6:18 the subscription of the epistle is,
written from Rome, to Philemon, by Onesimus, a servant; that is, it was written by the Apostle Paul when at Rome, and sent to Philemon by the hands of Onesimus, who was his servant, and upon whose account the letter was written.The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Philemon 1:25. See on Galatians 6:18.Philemon 1:25. Ἡ χάρις: cf. Galatians 6:18, 2 Timothy 4:22.—ὑμῶν: the reference is both to those addressed by name in the opening of the Epistle, as well as to the members of the local Church, see Philemon 1:2. This final verse is a reiteration of the grace pronounced in Philemon 1:3.25. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ] So Romans 16:20; Romans 16:24; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 6:18 (where the whole formula is verbatim as here); Php 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18; Revelation 22:21. Cp. 2 Timothy 2:1.
“The grace” is in short the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in His saving presence and power; Himself at once Gift and Giver. So the Epistle closes, as it began, “in Him.”
with your spirit] Not “spirits”; as if Philemon and his house had, in Christ, “one spirit,” one inner life.—See further, Appendix N.—The same phrase occurs Galatians 6:18 and (in the true reading) Php 4:23; where see our note.
Amen] The word is probably to be retained here. So R.V. text. It is properly a Hebrew adverb, meaning “surely;” repeatedly used as here in the O. T. See e.g. Deuteronomy 27:15, &c.; Jeremiah 11:5 (marg. A.V.).
Written from Rome, &c.] Lit., To Philemon it was written from Rome by means of (i.e., of course, “it was sent by hand of”) (the) domestic Onesimus. Obviously, the statement is true to fact. On the antiquity of this and similar Subscriptions see note on that appended to Colossians.
A few mss. (of cent. 8 at earliest) have, (The) Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to Philemon and Apphia, owners of Onesimus, and to Archippus the (sic) deacon of the Church in Colossæ, was written from Rome by means of (the) domestic Onesimus.
N. Dr MACLAREN ON THE LAST WORDS OF THE EPISTLE TO PHILEMON. (Philemon 1:25.)
In his excellent Expository Commentary on our two Epistles (3rd Edition, 1889) Dr Alexander Maclaren writes as follows:
“The parting benediction ends the letter. At the beginning of the Epistle, Paul invoked grace upon the household ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Now he conceives of it as Christ’s gift. In Him all the stooping, bestowing love of God is gathered, that from Him it may be poured upon the world. That grace is not diffused, like stellar light, through some nebulous heaven, but concentrated in the Sun of Righteousness, who is the light of men. That fire is piled on a hearth, that from it warmth may ray out to all that are in the house.…
“The grace of Christ is the best bond of family life. Here it is prayed for on behalf of all the group, the husband, wife, child, and the friends in their home-Church. Like grains of sweet incense sprinkled on an altar-flame, and making fragrant that which was already holy, that grace sprinkled on the household fire will give it an odour of a sweet smell, grateful to men and acceptable to God.
“That wish is the purest expression of Christian friendship, of which the whole Letter is so exquisite an example. Written as it is about a common everyday matter, which could have been settled without a single religious reference, it is saturated with Christian thought and feeling. So it becomes an example how to blend Christian sentiment with ordinary affairs, and to carry a Christian atmosphere everywhere. Friendship and social intercourse will be all the nobler and happier, if pervaded by such a tone. Such words as these closing ones would be a sad contrast to much of the intercourse of professedly Christian men. But every Christian ought by his life to be, as it were, floating the grace of God to others sinking for want of it, to lay hold of; and all his speech should be of a piece with this benediction.
“A Christian’s life should be ‘an Epistle of Christ,’ written with His own hand, wherein dim eyes might read the transcript of His own gracious love; and through all his words and deeds should shine the image of his Master, even as it does through the delicate tendernesses and gracious pleadings of this pure pearl of a letter, which the slave, become a brother, bore to the responsive hearts in quiet Colossæ.”Verse 25. - The grace. A omits ἀμήν Theodoret has appended the following to his commentary: "It is fitting that those who have obtained the privilege of handing on the holy doctrine should so teach servants to submit themselves to their lords, that through all things Jesus Christ may be praised, to whom with the Father and the most Holy Spirit belong glory and greatness now and always and forever. Amen."
As in Galatians 6:18, with the omission here of brother. See on 2 Corinthians 13:14. Out of many private letters which must have been written by Paul, this alone has been preserved. Its place in the New Testament canon is vindicated, so far as its internal character is concerned, by its picture of Paul as a christian gentleman, and by its exhibition of Paul's method of dealing with a great social evil.
Paul's dealing with the institution of slavery displayed the profoundest christian sagacity. To have attacked the institution as such would have been worse than useless. To one who reads between the lines, Paul's silence means more than any amount of denunciation; for with his silence goes his faith in the power of christian sentiment to settle finally the whole question. He knows that to bring slavery into contact with living Christianity is to kill slavery. He accepts the social condition as a fact, and even as a law. He sends Onesimus back to his legal owner. He does not bid Philemon emancipate him, but he puts the christian slave on his true footing of a christian brother beside his master. As to the institution, he knows that the recognition of the slave as free in Christ will carry with it, ultimately, the recognition of his civil freedom.
History vindicated him in the Roman empire itself. Under Constantine the effects of christian sentiment began to appear in the Church and in legislation concerning slaves. Official freeing of slaves became common as an act of pious gratitude, and burial tablets often represent masters standing before the Good Shepherd, with a band of slaves liberated at death, and pleading for them at judgment. In a.d. 312 a law was passed declaring as homicide the poisoning or branding of slaves, and giving them to be torn by beasts. The advance of a healthier sentiment may be seen by comparing the law of Augustus, which forbade a master to emancipate more than one-fifth of his slaves, and which fixed one hundred males as a maximum for one time - and the unlimited permission to emancipate conceded by Constantine. Each new ruler enacted some measure which facilitated emancipation. Every obstacle was thrown by the law in the way of separating families. Under Justinian all presumptions were in favor of liberty. If a slave had several owners, one could emancipate him, and the others must accept compensation at a reduced valuation. The mutilated, and those who had served in the army with their masters' knowledge and consent, were liberated. All the old laws which limited the age at which a slave could be freed, and the number which could be emancipated, were abolished. A master's marriage with a slave freed all the children. Sick and useless slaves must be sent by their masters to the hospital.
Great and deserved praise has been bestowed on this letter. Bengel says: "A familiar and exceedingly courteous epistle concerning a private affair is inserted among the New Testament books, intended to afford a specimen of the highest wisdom as to how Christians should arrange civil affairs on loftier principles." Franke, quoted by Bengel, says: "The single epistle to Philemon very far surpasses all the wisdom of the world." Renan: "A true little chef-d'oeuvre of the art of letter-writing." Sabatier: "This short epistle gleams like a pearl of the most exquisite purity in the rich treasure of the New Testament."
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