Philemon 1:9
Yet for love's sake I rather beseech you, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
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Acts 7:58
. - Philemon 1:9.

A far greater difference than that which was measured by years separated the young Saul from the aged Paul. By years, indeed, the difference was, perhaps, not so great as the words might suggest, for Jewish usage extended the term of youth farther than we do, and began age sooner. No doubt, too, Paul’s life had aged him fast, and probably there were not thirty years between the two periods. But the difference between him and himself at the beginning and the end of his career was a gulf; and his life was not evolution, but revolution.

At the beginning you see a brilliant young Pharisee, Gamaliel’s promising pupil, advanced above many who were his equals in his own religion, as he says himself; living after its straitest sect, and eager to have the smallest part in what seemed to him the righteous slaying of one of the followers of the blaspheming Nazarene. At the end he was himself one of these followers. He had cast off, as folly, the wisdom which took him so much pains to acquire. He had turned his back upon all the brilliant prospects of distinction which were opening to him. He had broken with countrymen and kindred. And what had he made of it? He had been persecuted, hunted, assailed by every weapon that his old companions could fashion or wield; he is a solitary man, laden with many cares, and accustomed to look perils and death in the face; he is a prisoner, and in a year or two more he will be a martyr. If he were an apostate and a renegade, it was not for what he could get by it.

What made the change? The vision of Jesus Christ. If we think of the transformation on Saul, its causes and its outcome, we shall get lessons which I would fain press upon your hearts now. Do you wonder that I would urge on you just such a life as that of this man as your highest good?

I. I would note, then, first, that faith in Jesus Christ will transform and ennoble any life.

It has been customary of late years, amongst people who do not like miracles, and do not believe in sudden changes of character, to allege that Paul’s conversion was but the appearance, on the surface, of an underground process that had been going on ever since he kept the witnesses’ clothes. Modern critics know a great deal more about the history of Paul’s conversion than Paul did. For to him there was no consciousness of undermining, but the change was instantaneous. He left Jerusalem a bitter persecutor, exceeding mad against the followers of the Nazarene, thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer and an impostor, and His disciples pestilent vermin, to be harried off the face of the earth. He entered Damascus a lowly disciple of that Christ. His conversion was not an underground process that had been silently sapping the foundations of his life; it was an explosion. And what caused it? What was it that came on that day on the Damascus road, amid the blinding sunshine of an Eastern noontide? The vision of Jesus Christ. An overwhelming conviction flooded his soul that He whom he had taken to be an impostor, richly deserving the Cross that He endured, was living in glory, and was revealing Himself to Saul then and there. That truth crumbled his whole past into nothing; and he stood there trembling and astonished, like a man the ruins of whose house have fallen about his ears. He bowed himself to the vision. He surrendered at discretion without a struggle. ‘Immediately,’ says he, ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,’ and when he said ‘Lord, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ he flung open the gates of the fortress for the Conqueror to come in. The vision of Christ reversed his judgments, transformed his character, revolutionised his life.

That initial impulse operated through all the rest of his career. Hearken to him: ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. To me to live is Christ. Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Living or dying, we are the Lord’s.’ ‘We labour that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.’ The transforming agency was the vision of Christ, and the bowing of the man’s whole nature before the seen Saviour.

Need I recall to you how noble a life issued from that fountain? I am sure that I need do no more than mention in a word or two the wondrous activity, flashing like a flame of fire from East to West, and everywhere kindling answering flames, the noble self-oblivion, the continual communion with God and the Unseen, and all the other great virtues and nobleness which came from such sources as these. I need only, I am sure, remind you of them, and draw this lesson, that the secret of a transforming and noble life is to be found in faith in Jesus Christ. The vision that changed Paul is as available for you and me. For it is all a mistake to suppose that the essence of it is the miraculous appearance that flashed upon the Apostle’s eyes. He speaks of it himself, in one of his letters, in other language, when he says, ‘It pleased God to reveal His Son in me.’ And that revelation in all its fulness, in all its sweetness, in all its transforming and ennobling power, is offered to every one of us. For the eye of faith is no less gifted with the power of direct and certain vision-yea! is even more gifted with this-than is the eye of sense. ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’ Christ is revealed to each one of us as really, as veritably, and the revelation may become as strong an impulse and motive in our lives as ever it was to the Apostle on the Damascus road. What is wanted is not revelation, but the bowed will-not the heavenly vision, but obedience to the vision. I suppose that most of you think that you believe all that about Jesus Christ, which transformed Gamaliel’s pupil into Christ’s disciple. And what has it done for you? In many cases, nothing. Be sure of this, dear young friends, that the shortest way to a life adorned with all grace, with all nobility, fragrant with all goodness, and permanent as that life which does the will of God must clearly be, is this, to bow before the seen Christ, seen in His word, and speaking to your hearts, and to take His yoke and carry His burden. Then you will build upon what will stand, and make your days noble and your lives stable. If you build on anything else, the structure will come down with a crash some day, and bury you in its ruins. Surely it is better to learn the worthlessness of a non-Christian life, in the light of His merciful face, when there is yet time to change our course, than to see it by the fierce light of the great White Throne set for judgment. We must each of us learn it here or there.

II. Faith in Christ will make a joyful life, whatever its circumstances.

I have said that, judged by the standard of the Exchange, or by any of the standards which men usually apply to success in life, this life of the Apostle was a failure. We know, without my dwelling more largely upon it, what he gave up. We know what, to outward appearance, he gained by his Christianity. You remember, perhaps, how he himself speaks about the external aspects of his life in one place, where he says ‘Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place, and labour, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat. We are made as the filth of the world, and as the offscouring of all things unto this day.’

That was one side of it. Was that all? This man had that within him which enabled him to triumph over all trials. There is nothing more remarkable about him than the undaunted courage, the unimpaired elasticity of spirit, the buoyancy of gladness, which bore him high upon the waves of the troubled sea in which he had to swim. If ever there was a man that had a bright light burning within him, in the deepest darkness, it was that little weather-beaten Jew, whose ‘bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.’ And what was it that made him master of circumstances, and enabled him to keep sunshine in his heart when winter bound all the world around him? What made this bird sing in a darkened cage? One thing-the continual presence, consciously with Him by faith, of that Christ who had revolutionised his life, and who continued to bless and to gladden it. I have quoted his description of his external condition. Let me quote two or three words that indicate how he took all that sea of troubles and of sorrows that poured its waves and its billows over him. ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’ ‘As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation aboundeth also by Christ.’ ‘For which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.’ ‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.’ ‘As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.’

There is the secret of blessedness, my friends; there is the fountain of perpetual joy. Cling to Christ, set His will on the throne of your hearts, give the reins of your life and of your character into His keeping, and nothing ‘that is at enmity with joy’ can either ‘abolish or destroy’ the calm blessedness of your spirits.

You will have much to suffer; you will have something to give up. Your life may look, to men whose tastes have been vulgarised by the glaring brightnesses of this vulgar world, but grey and sombre, but it will have in it the calm abiding blessedness which is more than joy, and is diviner and more precious than the tumultuous transports of gratified sense or successful ambition. Christ is peace, and He gives His peace to us; and then He gives a joy which does not break but enhances peace. We are all tempted to look for our gladness in creatures, each of which satisfies but a part of our desire. But no man can be truly blessed who has to find many contributories to make up his blessedness. That which makes us rich must be, not a multitude of precious stones, howsoever precious they may be, but one Pearl of great price; the one Christ who is our only joy. And He says to us that He gives us Himself, if we behold Him and bow to Him, that His joy might remain in us, and that our joy might be full, while all other gladnesses are partial and transitory. Faith in Christ makes life blessed. The writer of Ecclesiastes asked the question which the world has been asking ever since: ‘Who knoweth what is good for a man in this life, all the days of this vain life which he passeth as a shadow?’ You young people are asking, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Here is the answer-Faith in Christ and obedience to Him; that is the good part which no man taketh from us. Dear young friend, have you made it yours?

III. Faith in Christ produces a life which bears being looked back upon.

In a later Epistle than that from which my second text is taken, we get one of the most lovely pictures that was ever drawn, albeit it is unconsciously drawn, of a calm old age, very near the gate of death; and looking back with a quiet heart over all the path of life. I am not going to preach to you, dear friends, in the flush of your early youth, a gospel which is only to be recommended because it is good to die by, but it will do even you, at the beginning, no harm to realise for a moment that the end will come, and that retrospect will take the place in your lives which hope and anticipation fill now. And I ask you what you expect to feel and say then?

What did Paul say? ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.’ He was not self-righteous; but it is possible to have lived a life which, as the world begins to fade, vindicates itself as having been absolutely right in its main trend, and to feel that the dawning light of Eternity confirms the choice that we made. And I pray you to ask yourselves, ‘Is my life of that sort?’ How much of it would bear the scrutiny which will have to come, and which in Paul’s case was so quiet and calm? He had had a stormy day, many a thundercloud had darkened the sky, many a tempest had swept across the plain; but now, as the evening draws on, the whole West is filled with a calm amber light, and all across the plain, right away to the grey East, he sees that he has been led by, and has been willing to walk in, the right way to the ‘City of habitation.’ Would that be your experience if the last moment came now?

There will be, for the best of us, much sense of failure and shortcoming when we look back on our lives. But whilst some of us will have to say, ‘I have played the fool and erred exceedingly,’ it is possible for each of us to lay himself down in peace and sleep, awaiting a glorious rising again and a crown of righteousness.

Dear young friends, it is for you to choose whether your past, when you summon it up before you, will look like a wasted wilderness, or like a garden of the Lord. And though, as I have said, there will always be much sense of failure and shortcoming, yet that need not disturb the calm retrospect; for whilst memory sees the sins, faith can grasp the Saviour, and quietly take leave of life, saying, ‘I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.’

So I press upon you all this one truth, that faith in Jesus Christ will transform, will ennoble, will make joyous your lives whilst you live, and will give you a quiet heart in the retrospect when you come to die. Begin right, dear young friends. You will never find it so easy to take any decisive step, and most of all this chiefest step, as you do to-day. You will get lean and less flexible as you get older. You will get set in your ways. Habits will twine their tendrils round you, and hinder your free movement. The truth of the Gospel will become commonplace by familiarity. Associations and companions will have more and more power over you; and you will be stiffened as an old tree-trunk is stiffened. You cannot count on to-morrow; be wise to-day. Begin this year aright. Why should you not now see the Christ and welcome Him? I pray that every one of us may behold Him and fall before Him with the cry, ‘Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do?’

1  To the young.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.Yet for love's sake - For the love which you bear me, and for the common cause.

I rather beseech thee - Rather than command thee.

Being such an one as Paul the aged - πρεσβυτης presbutēs - an old man. We have no means of ascertaining the exact age of Paul at this time, and I do not recollect that he ever alludes to his age, though he often does to his infirmities, in any place except here. Doddridge supposes that at the time when Stephen was stoned, when he is called "a young man" (νεανίας neanias, Acts 7:58), he was 24 years of age, in which case he would now have been about 53. Chrysostom supposes that he may have been 35 years old at the time of his conversion, which would have made him about 63 at this time. The difficulty of determining with any degree of accuracy the age of the apostle at this time, arises from the indefinite nature of the word used by Luke, Acts 7:58, and rendered "a young man." That word, like the corresponding word νεανίσκος neaniskos, was applied to men in the vigor of manhood up to the age of 40 years.

Robinson, Lex. Phavorinus says a man is called νεανίσκος neaniskos, a young man, until he is 28; and πρεσβύτης presbutēs, presbutēs, from 49 until he is 56. Varro says that a man is young ("juvenis"), until he is 45, and aged at 60. Whitby. These periods of time, however, are very indefinite, but it will accord well with the usual meaning of the words to suppose that Paul was in the neighborhood of 30 when he was converted, and that he was now not far from 60. We are to remember also, that the constitution of Paul may have been much broken by his labors, his perils, and his trials. Not advanced probably to the usual limit of human life, he may have had all the characteristics of a very aged man; compare the note of Benson. The argument here is, that we feel that it is proper, as far as we can, to grant the request of an old man. Paul thus felt that it was reasonable to suppose that Philemon would not refuse to gratify the wishes of an aged servant of Christ, who had spent the vigor of his life in the service of their common Master. It should be a very strong case when we refuse to gratify the wishes of an aged Christian in anything, especially if he has rendered important services to the church and the world.

And now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ - In the cause of Jesus Christ; or a prisoner for endeavoring to make him known to the world; compare the Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 6:20 notes; Colossians 4:10 note. The argument here is, that it might be presumed that Philemon would not refuse the request of one who was suffering in prison on account of their common religion. For such a prisoner we should be ready to do all that we can to mitigate the sorrows of his confinement, and to make his condition comfortable.

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.

Yet for love’s sake; writing to thee in a cause of love, where so good and charitable a man may have an opportunity to express his charity. Or rather, out of my love and kindness to thee, persuading me that I need not use my apostolical authority to such a brother and friend,

I beseech thee.

Being such an one as Paul the aged; being such a one as Paul now much in years, and not like to trouble thee long with any request. Or, Paul the elder by office, one who is thy brother in the ministry.

And now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ; and now a prisoner for Christ’s sake, and so cannot personally speak to thee; and I know such is thy piety, that my being a sufferer for the sake of Christ will not render my petition to thee lest acceptable, or to be regarded less. 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.

{1} Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

(1) An example of a Christian exercise and commendation for another man.


Philemon 1:9 f. Before τοιοῦτος we have to place a full stop; the participial predication τοιοῦτος ὤν sums up the quality which was expressed in Philemon 1:8 by πολλὴνμᾶλλον παρακαλῶ; and lastly, ὡς ΠαῦλοςΧριστοῦ supports the παρακαλῶ σε κ.τ.λ. of Philemon 1:10, from a consideration of the personal position of the apostle in such a way, that the granting of the request could not but appear to Philemon as a matter of dutiful affection. Consequently: Seeing that I am so constituted,[70] since such is my manner of thinking and dealing, that, namely, in place of commanding thee, I rather for love’s sake betake myself to the παρακαλεῖν, I exhort thee as Paul, etc. A very mistaken objection to this view of τοιοῦτος ὤν is that Paul would not have said at all that he was so constituted, but only that he did so in the given case (Hofmann, following Wiesinger). He, in fact, says even now with τοιοῦτος ὤν itself that such is his nature. Observe, moreover, that the supporting elements, ὡς Παῦλος κ.τ.λ., are prefixed with all the emphasis of urgency to the παρακαλῶ, since in them lies the progress of the representation, namely, that which comes in as additional to the παρακαλῶ, already said before. Usually τοιοῦτος is taken as preparative, so that ὡς Παῦλος κ.τ.λ. is the more precise explanation of it; in which case some (as Luther, Calvin, and others, including Flatt, de Wette, Wiesinger, Ewald) find only two elements, taking ὡς Π. πρεσβύτης together; others (most expositors since the time of Chrysostom, including Bleek and Hofmann), three elements

Παῦλος, πρεσβύτης, δέσμιος. Expositors have differed in defining the significance of the particulars in their bearing on the matter in hand,[71] while recognising on the whole the “pondus ad movendum Philemonis animum” (Estius). According to de Wette (comp. Wetstein), τοιοῦτος ὤν κ.τ.λ. is to be held parallel to the participial clause of Philemon 1:8, in accordance with which the participle would thus have to be resolved by although. But the whole mode of interpretation, which takes τοιοῦτος as preparative, is untenable. It must of necessity point back, summing up under the notion of personal quality what was said by πολλὴνπαρακαλῶ in Philemon 1:8; for if ΤΟΙΟῦΤΟς is not already defined (as is here the case by reference to Philemon 1:8), it may, doubtless, become defined either by an adjective immediately following, or by a following οἷος (Plato, Conv. p. 199 D; Dem. 41, 3), or ὅς (Xen. Anab. i. 4. 2; Plat. Phaed. p. 92 B; Hebrews 8:1), or ὅσος (Isocr. Paneg. 21), or by ὥστε with the infinitive (Plato, Conv. p. 175 D, al.), but never by ὡς, which neither actually occurs (the usually cited passage from Andocides in Wetstein, de Wette has rightly described as not here relevant[72]) nor can take place logically, since ὡς, that is, as (not like, which it means after τοιόνδε in Aesch. Pers. 180), already presupposes the definiteness of τοιοῦτος. This more precise definiteness is not, however, to be relegated to the mere conception or mode of view of the writer (Wiesinger: “I, in my circumstances”), according to which ὡς is then held to introduce an appositional definition, to which also Bleek and Hofmann ultimately come; but it is to be taken from what Paul has previously said, because it results from that quite simply and suitably. Comp. on τοιοῦτος ὤν, which always in classical writers also—where it is not followed by a corresponding ΟἿΟς, Ὅς, ὍΣΟς, or ὭΣΤΕ—summarily denotes the quality, disposition, demeanour, or the like, more precisely indicated before; Plato, Rep. p. 493 C; Xen. Anab. i. 1. 30; Hellen. iv. 1. 38; Cyrap. i. 5, 8; Soph. Aj. 1277 (1298); Lucian, Cont. 20, and many other places. It is further to be noted, (1) that the true explanation of τοιοῦτος ὢν κ.τ.λ. of itself imperatively requires that we connect these words with the following παρακαλῶ (Flatt, Lachmann, who, however, parenthesises Ὡς ΠΑῦΛΟς, de Wette, Wiesinger, Ewald, Bleek, Hofmann), not with that which precedes (as formerly was usual), in which case the second παρακαλῶ is understood as resumptive, an ΟὖΝ (Theophylact), inquam, or the like, being supplied in thought (so Castalio, Beza, Hagenbach, and many). (2) The elements expressed by ὡς ΠαῦλοςΧριστοῦ stand—seeing that ΠΡΕΣΒΎΤΗς is a substantive and has not the article—in such relation to each other, that πρεσβύτης and ΝΥΝῚ ΔῈ ΚΑῚ ΔΈΣΜΙΟς Κ.Τ.Λ. are two attributive statements attaching themselves to Παῦλος; consequently: as Paul, who is an old man, and now also a prisoner, etc. (3) The (flexible) notion of πρεσβύτης must by no means have its meaning altered, as is done e.g. by Calvin, who makes it denote “non aetatem, sed officium;” but, at the same time, may not be rigidly pressed in so confidential a private writing, in which “lepos mixtus gravitate” (Bengel), prevails, especially if Philemon was much younger than Paul. Observe, withal, that the apostle does not use some such expression as γέρων, but the more relative term ΠΡΕΣΒ.; comp. Titus 2:2 with the contrast ΤΟῪς ΝΕΩΤΈΡΟΥς in Philemon 1:6. He sets himself down as a veteran in contradistinction to the younger friend, who was once his disciple. At the stoning of Stephen, and so some twenty-six or twenty-seven years earlier, Paul was still νεανίας (Acts 7:58); he might thus be now somewhere about fifty years of age.

ΔΈΣΜΙΟς Ἰ. Χ.] as in Philemon 1:1.

ΤΈΚΝΟΥ] tenderly affectionate designation of his convert (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:14 f.; Galatians 4:19; 1 Peter 5:13), in connection with which the conception of his own child is brought more vividly into prominence by the prefixed ἐμοῦ and by ἘΓΏ (see the critical remarks), and ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΔΕΣΜΟῖς[73] makes the recommendation yet more affecting and urgent.

Ὀνήσιμον] Accusative, in accordance with a well-known attraction; see Winer, p. 155 [E. T. 205]; Buttmann, p. 68 [E. T. 78],

[70] The Vulgate erroneously referred ὤν to Philemon: “cum sis talis,” which Cornelius a Lapide unsuccessfully defends.

[71] So e.g. Erasmus, Paraphr.: “Quid enim neges roganti? primum Paulo: cum Paulum dico non paulum rerum tibi significo; deinde seni: nonnihil tribui solet et aetati … nunc etiam vincto: in precibus nonnihil ponderis habet et calamitas obtestantis; postremo vincto Jesu Christi: sic vincto favere debent, qui profitentur Christi doctrinam.” Similarly Grotius and others; while, according to Heinrichs, by Παῦλος there was to be awakened gratitude; by πρεσβ. the readiness to oblige, natural towards the aged; and by δέσμιος Ἰ. Χρ. compassion. Hofmann holds that “the name Paul puts Philemon in mind of all that makes it a historical one,” and that the impression of this becomes thereupon confirmed by the other two elements.

[72] The passage runs: ὃ δὲ πάντων δεινότατόν ἐστι, τοιοῦτος ὢν ὡς εὔνους τῷ δήμῳ τοὺς λόγους ποιεῖται. Here, precisely as in our passage, ὡς εὔνους belongs not to τοιοῦτος ὤν, but to what follows, and τοιοῦτος ὤν sums up what had been said before.—The comparison of τοιόσδε, Hom. od. xvi. 205 (Hofmann), where besides no ὡς follows, is unsuitable, partly on the general ground of the well-known diversity of meaning of the two words (comp. Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 7. 5), which is not to be abandoned without special reason, partly because in that passage ἐγὼ τοιόσδε stands absolutely and δεικτικῶς (hicce ego talis), so that the following παθὼν κ.τ.λ. belongs to ἤλυθον.

[73] That the expression: in the bonds, was suitable only to Rome and not to Caesarea, is incorrectly inferred by Wieseler, p. 420, from Acts 24:23. See on that passage. It was likewise incorrect to assign the Epistle, on account of πρεσβύτης, to the alleged second imprisonment at Rome (Calovius).Philemon 1:9. τοιοῦτος ὢν ὡς: “τοιοῦτος can be defined only by a following adjective, or by οἷος, ὅς, ὅσος, or ὤστε with the infinitive; never by ὡς” (Vincent). It seems, therefore, best to take τοιοῦτος ὤν as referring to … μᾶλλον παρακλῶ, which is taken up again in the next verse; ὡς ΠαῦλοςἸησοῦ must be regarded as though in brackets; τοιοῦτος ὢν would then mean “one who beseeches”.—πρεσβύτης: this can scarcely be in reference to age, for which γέρων would be more likely to have been used; besides, in Acts 7:58, at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the term νεανίας is applied to St. Paul. Lightfoot in his interesting note on this verse, says: “There is reason for thinking that in the common dialect πρεσβύτης may have been written indifferently for πρεσβευτής in St. Paul’s time; and if so, the form here may be due, not to some comparatively late scribe, but to the original autograph itself or to an immediate transcript”; and he gives a number of instances of the form πρεσβύτης being used for πρεσβευτής. If, as seems very likely, we should translate the word “ambassador” here, then we have the striking parallel in the contemporary epistle to the Ephesians 6:20, ὑπὲρ οὗ πρεσβεύω ἐν ἁλύσει. Deissmann (Licht vom Osten, p. 273) points out that both the verb πρεσβεύω, and the substantive πρεσβευτής, were used in the Greek Orient for expressing the title of the Legatus of the emperor. Accepting the meaning “ambassador” here, the significance of the passage is much increased; for Christ’s ambassador had the right to command, but in merely exhorting he throws so much more responsibility on Philemon. The word “ambassador” would be at least as strong an assertion of authority as “apostle”; to a Greek, indeed, more so.—δέσμιος: perhaps mentioned for the purpose of hinting that in respect of bondage his position was not unlike that of him for whom he is about to plead; cf. the way in which St. Paul identifies himself with Onesimus in Philemon 1:12αὐτόν, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν τὰ ἐμὰ σπλάγχνα, and Philemon 1:17ὡς ἐμέ.—Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ: belongs both to πρεσβύτης and to δέσμιος, cf. Philemon 1:1, Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1, 2 Timothy 1:8.9. for love’s sake] Lit., “because of the love; i.e., perhaps, “because of our love.” Ellicott, Alford, and Lightfoot take the reference to be to (Christian) love in general. But the Greek commentators (cent. 11) Theophylact and Œcumenius (quoted by Ellicott) explain the phrase as referring to the love of the two friends; and this is surely in point in this message of personal affection.

beseech] The verb is one which often means “exhort,” in a sense less tender than “beseech.” But see e.g. Php 4:2 for a case where, as here, it evidently conveys a loving appeal.

being such a one as] Does this mean, “because I am such,” or “although I am such”? The answer depends mainly on the explanation of the next following words.

Paul the aged] Paulus senex, Latin Versions; “and so apparently all versions” (Ellicott). So R.V. text. Its margin has “Paul an ambassador; and this rendering is advocated by Lightfoot in a long and instructive note. He points out that not only are presbûtês (“an elder,” which all mss. have here) and presbeutês (“an envoy”) nearly identical in form, but that the latter word was often spelt by the Greeks like the former. And he points to Ephesians 6:20 (see our note there), where “the ambassador in chains” expressly describes himself—a passage written perhaps on the same day as this. So explaining, the phrase would be a quiet reminder, in the act of entreaty, that the suppliant was no ordinary one; he was the Lord’s envoy, dignified by suffering for the Lord.

But, with reverence to the great Commentator, is not the other explanation after all more in character in this Epistle, which carries a tender pathos in it everywhere? A fresh reminder of his dignity, after the passing and as it were rejected allusion to it in Philemon 1:8, seems to us to be out of harmony; while nothing could be more fitting here than a word about age and affliction. The question whether St Paul was “an old man,” as we commonly reckon age, is not important; so Lightfoot himself points out. At all periods, men have called themselves old when they felt so; Lightfoot instances Sir Walter Scott at fifty-five. (St Paul was probably quite sixty at this time.) And it is immaterial whether or no Philemon was his junior. If he were Paul’s coeval, it would matter little. The appeal lies in the fact of the writer’s “failing powers,” worn in the Lord’s service; and this would touch an equal as readily as a junior. To our mind too the phrase, “being such a one as,” conveys, though it is hard to analyse the impression, the thought of a pathetic self-depreciation.

On the whole we recommend the rendering of the A.V. and (text) R.V. But by all means see Lightfoot’s note.

also a prisoner of Jesus Christ] See on Philemon 1:1.—“Also:—the weakness of age was aggravated by the helplessness of bonds.Philemon 1:9. Ἀγάπην, love) Mine to thee, thine to Onesimus. Philemon’s love to Paul was previously mentioned. Paul asks lovingly one who loves him.—μᾶλλον, rather) He does not say, if you refuse you will incur my indignation and that of Peter, according to the style of the Roman court, a style which is by no means apostolical.—παρακαλῶ, I beseech).

There are three divisions of the epistle:

I.  THE INSCRIPTION, Philemon 1:1-3.

II. Having mentioned the flourishing condition of Philemon in spiritual things, Philemon 1:4, etc., HE BEGS him to receive Onesimus, a runaway slave, Philemon 1:12-17. And desires him to provide a lodging for himself, Philemon 1:22.

  III.  CONCLUSION, Philemon 1:23-25.

τοιοῦτος, such) He lays down three arguments why he would rather affectionately exhort and ask him, than issue a command: his own (Paul’s) natural disposition, long ago well known to Philemon, his old age, and his imprisonment. Old age renders men mild: comp. Luke 5:39 : but even before old age, Paul was still Paul; he formerly depended on the kindness of others, and now, in no respect happier abroad, he still depends upon it. The graceful courtesy in this epistle is mixed with gravity.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). Being such an one as Paul the aged (τοιοῦτος ὦν ὡς Παῦλος πρεσβύτης)

Being such an one, connect with the previous I rather beseech, and with Paul the aged. Not, being such an one (armed with such authority), as Paul the aged I beseech (the second beseech in Plm 1:10); but, as Rev., for love's sake I rather beseech, being such an one as Paul the aged. The beseech in Plm 1:10 is resumptive. Aged; or ambassador (so Rev., in margin). The latter rendering is supported by πρεσβεύω I am an ambassador, Ephesians 6:10. There is no objection to aged on the ground of fact. Paul was about sixty years old, besides being prematurely aged from labor and hardship. For aged see Luke 1:18; Titus 2:2.

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