1:1-7 Faith in Christ, and love to him, should unite saints more closely than any outward relation can unite the people of the world. Paul in his private prayers was particular in remembering his friends. We must remember Christian friends much and often, as their cases may need, bearing them in our thoughts, and upon our hearts, before our God. Different sentiments and ways in what is not essential, must not make difference of affection, as to the truth. He inquired concerning his friends, as to the truth, growth, and fruitfulness of their graces, their faith in Christ, and love to him, and to all the saints. The good which Philemon did, was matter of joy and comfort to him and others, who therefore desired that he would continue and abound in good fruits, more and more, to God's honour.
5. Hearing—the ground of his thanksgiving. It is a delicate mark of authenticity, that he says "hearing" as to churches and persons whom he had not seen or then visited. Now Colosse, Philemon's place of residence, he had never yet seen. Yet Phm 19 here implies that Philemon was his convert. Philemon, doubtless, was converted at Ephesus, or in some other place where he met Paul.
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.