Hearing of your love and faith, which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints.—This description of a faith directed not only to the Lord Jesus, but to all the saints, has perplexed commentators, and called out various explanations. (1) One is that “faith” here (as in Romans 3:3; Galatians 5:22) is simply fidelity; but this can hardly be accepted as an explanation of so well-known and almost technical a phrase as “faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2) Another, noting the distinction in the original between the two prepositions here—the former (pros) signifying direction towards, and the latter (eis) actual contact with, its object—explains the phrase as signifying “the faith which has as its object the Lord Jesus Christ, but which shows itself practically towards all saints.” But this, even if the word “hast” will bear this gloss, seems too artificial for such a Letter as this. (3) The comparison with the contemporaneous Letter to the Colossians—where we read, “your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love toward all the saints” (Colossians 1:4)—seems to clear up the matter. We have here an equivalent phrase, in which, however (by what the grammarians called chiasmus), the extremes and means correspond to each other. The idea which runs through the Letter is Philemon’s “love to the saints.” In writing of that love St. Paul cannot refrain from (4) referring it to its true origin—the faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence the broken phrase. The sense seems therefore to be that which in some MSS. has been brought out by a natural correction, “thy faith towards the Lord Jesus, and thy love to all the saints.”Matthew 12:22, "The blind and dumb both spake and saw;" that is, the blind saw, and the dumb spake. The meaning is, that he had strong faith in the Lord Jesus, and ardent love toward all who were Christians. See a similar declaration in Colossians 1:4.
love and faith—The theological order is first faith then love, the fruit of faith. But he purposely puts Philemon's love in the first place, as it is to an act of love that he is exhorting him.
toward … toward—different Greek words: "towards" … "unto." Towards implies simply direction; unto, to the advantage of.Hearing of thy love; thy love to God and to the saints, Philemon 1:7. The apostle putteth love here before faith, contrary to the true order of those spiritual habits, for love must be the fruit of faith,
which worketh by love, and to his own order in other places, 1 Timothy 2:7 2 Timothy 1:13 possibly to show us that he spake of that love which is conjoined with faith, and of that faith which showeth its truth by love.
And faith; faith in Christ.
Which thou hast towards the Lord Jesus; that faith which thou hast in Christ, reposing thy confidence in him for salvation, and that love which worketh in thee towards Christ.
And toward all saints; and is seen in thy readiness to do good to all Christians, such especially as are saints indeed; because thy goodness extendeth not to God, thou showest it to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, like David, Psalm 16:2,3.
which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; which are either to be considered as equally objects of the same grace, or as distinct ones; that is, either that Christ is the object both of faith and love, and the saints are the object both of faith and love; or else these graces are to be distinguished by their respective objects; as that faith is toward Christ, and love toward all the saints: that Christ is both the object of faith and love is certain; nor is there any difficulty to consider him as such; faith is equally to be exercised on him, as on God the Father; and he is indeed the immediate object of faith, and by whom men believe in God; and he is to be loved, and is loved by his people above all things, and at all times, and in sincerity: and that the saints are the objects of the love of all truly gracious souls, is a plain case; but the greater difficulty is, how they should be the objects of their faith; and yet there are instances of this, Exodus 14:31 and indeed, true love believes all things, and hopes all things, 1 Corinthians 13:7. But it seems better to divide these objects according to the different graces, and to consider faith as being towards our Lord Jesus; which is a looking towards Christ, a moving towards him, a laying hold upon him, and embracing him, a staying and leaning on him, a living upon him, and walking in him; and which in Philemon might be a strong one, as well as unfeigned, and operative: and love may be considered as being toward all saints; for though all men are, in a sense, to be loved, and kindness to be shown to them, and that even to enemies, yet more especially the saints; who are set apart by God the Father, whose sins are expiated by the blood of Christ, and who are internally sanctified by the Spirit, and are enabled to live soberly and righteously: and all of these are the objects of love, whether rich or poor, greater or lesser believers, of meaner or larger abilities; for they are all equally loved by God, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by his Spirit; are justified by his righteousness, are all the children and heirs of God, and are called in one hope of their calling; and love to them should be unfeigned, fervent, active, and laborious, and as Christ has loved us; and such was Philemon's love, as well as it was universal and this distribution of these graces to their respective objects may be confirmed from a parallel place in Colossians 1:4 which epistle was written and sent at the same time with this.Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Philemon 1:5. ἀκούων: probably from Epaphras, see Colossians 1:7-8; Colossians 4:12 (Lightfoot).—τὴν ἀγάπην …: i.e., the faith which thou hast towards the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love which thou showest to all the saints. “The logical order,” says Lightfoot, “is violated, and the clauses are inverted in the second part of the sentence, thus producing an example of the figure called chiasm; see Galatians 4:4-5. This results here from the apostle’s setting down the thoughts in the sequence in which they occur to him, without paying regard to symmetrical arrangement. The first and prominent thought is Philemon’s love. This suggests the mention of his faith, as the source from which it springs. This again requires a reference to the object of faith. And then, at length, comes the deferred sequel to the first thought—the range and comprehensiveness of his love.”—πίστιν: not “faithfulness,” but “faith” (belief), cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13, Galatians 5:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:3.—πρὸς … εἰς: the difference in these propositions is noteworthy, πρὸς refers to the “faith” to Christ-ward (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8), εἰς to the love to the saints: both are developed in Philemon 1:6-7.—τοὺς ἁγίους: St. Paul intends Onesimus to be thought of here. The original significance of the title ἅγιος, as applied to men, may be seen in such a phrase as, “Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). To the Jew, like St. Paul, the corresponding root in Hebrew connoted the idea of something set apart, i.e., consecrated to the service of God (cf. e.g., Exodus 22:31 ). The ἁγίοι constituted originally the ἐκκλησία; and just as, according to the meaning underlying the Hebrew equivalent of the word ἅγιος, separation for God’s service was the main conception, so, according to the root-meaning of ἐκκλησία, it connoted the idea of the body of those “called out,” and thus separated from the world.5. hearing] doubtless from Epaphras, perhaps with Onesimus’ confirmation from his point of view. The Greek implies a process of hearing; the subject was continually present in conversation.
love] See below Philemon 1:7; Philemon 1:9. The whole letter is from love to love.
faith] Some commentators (see Ellicott’s note, where the view is discussed and rejected) explain this as “fidelity” (as probably Galatians 5:22 and certainly Titus 2:10). But that meaning is rare in St Paul, and needs strong evidence for adoption in any given case. The ruling meaning, “trust, reliance,” is quite in place here.
toward … toward] The “received” Greek text, retained here by Lightfoot, has two different prepositions, which we may render toward and unto respectively; “toward” the Object of faith, “unto” the objects of love.
toward the Lord … saints] R.V. (and so Alford) reads the whole passage; “thy love, and the faith which thou hast toward &c.,” making “the faith” only, not “thy love,” refer to both the Lord and the saints; (the man’s reliance on Christ coming out in a “work of faith,” called briefly “faith”—see Philemon 1:6—towards the saints). But Lightfoot, we think rightly, distributes the references of love and faith, cross-wise, to the saints and the Lord respectively. Cp. for support Colossians 1:3-4, a passage written so nearly at the same time. No doubt the arrangement of the Greek, on this view, is peculiar. But in this domestic letter several natural liberties of language occur.
“All saints”:—read, all the saints, with whom Philemon had to do.—On the word “saints” see note on Colossians 1:2.Philemon 1:5. Ἀκούων, hearing) Paul had gained over Philemon, Philemon 1:19, and here he praises his consistent character. From Onesimus himself he might hear of his love and faith.—ἀγάπην—πίστιν—πρὸς—Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς—ἁγίους, love—faith—to—Jesus and unto—saints) So Ephesians 1:15 : but in this passage there is a Chiasmus in regard to Philemon. The first is connected with the fourth, the second with the third; but love is put in the first place, because it is to a specimen of love that he is exhorting Philemon, to whom the order of faith and love had been long known. Paul gives thanks to God for this blessed state of Philemon.Verse 5. - Hearing of thy love, and of the faith ... saints. He would hear of these instances of Philemon's faith and love naturally through Epaphras (see on Ver. 2). Refer "faith" to "the Lord Jesus" and "love" to "all the saints" (a chiasmus, or cross-reference). Note that the phrase is πρὸς (i.e. erga, towards) τὸν Κύριον, but εἰς (i.e. upon) τοὺς ἁγίους; perhaps because Christ cannot now be reached by bodily efforts, but only aspired towards by the soul; while the poor can actually be reached and ministered unto. "Ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always" (Matthew 26:11). All Christians are called "saints" in the Scriptures, as Ephesians 1:1, and invariably. What a reminder to them of their "holy calling" (2 Timothy 1:9)! Meyer notes, however, that it is not uncommon with St. Paul to vary the preposition (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16).
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