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 In his unconverted state, Onesimus had withdrawn, to his master's injury; but now he had seen his sin and repented, he was willing and desirous to return to his duty.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.
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.