Appeal by Entreaty Rather than Command
Philemon 1:8-11
Why, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin you that which is convenient,…

The apostle here enters on the main subject of his letter, and introduces it with a singular mixture of courtesy, affection, and authority.

I. IT IS SOMETIMES WISE TO FOREGO THE EXERCISE OF AUTHORITY. "Wherefore, though I have all boldness in Christ to enjoin thee that which is befitting, yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee."

1. Ministers possess authority. They are required to speak with authority. "Charge them that are rich that they be not high-minded."

2. Their authority is not in their own name, but in that of Christ. "I have all boldness in Christ." They are but servants in the Church, as Moses was (Hebrews 3:5); "not Laving dominion over our faith, but helpers of our joy" (2 Corinthians 1:24); for it is the authority of ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

3. There are limits to this authority. "To enjoin thee that which is befitting." This follows from the fact that Christ gives the command. He can only command that which is befitting. Thus it is right for a believer to do even more than strict law would demand, for he must do what reason and propriety dictate.


1. Ministers often wisely forego their right in prosecuting their Master's work. Christians likewise find it needful to forego the use of things lawful, because their use would be inexpedient. They must not "abuse their liberty" or "hinder the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:12, 18).

2. Love is the principal motive to prompt to this action. "Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee." Not the love of the apostle to Philemon, nor the love of Philemon to him, but love absolutely as a principle held in highest regard by all Christians. It is love that "seeketh not her own."

3. An entreaty derives added weight from the age and sufferings of him who offers it. "Being such a one as Paul the aged, and now a prisoner also of Jesus Christ."

(1) Reverence is due to age. It is "a crown of glory when it is found in the way of righteousness." The apostle was not now old, as the years of a life are reckoned, but he bore the signs of age in exhaustion and weariness and cares.

(2) Ministers are to be regarded with peculiar respect and sympathy on account of their afflictions. The apostle was now a prisoner at Rome for the sake of Christ - "an ambassador in bonds."

III. THE OBJECT OF THE APOSTLE'S ENTREATY. "I beseech thee for my child whom I have begotten in my bonds, Onesimus."

1. Onesimus was the runaway slave of Philemon of Colossae, who had made his way to Rome, and come into contact with the apostle during his imprisonment.

2. He was a convert of the apostle.

(1) The apostle was the instrument of his conversion at Rome.

(2) Ministers ought to use private and casual opportunities of doing good to others.

(3) Though the apostle was a prisoner, the Word of God was not bound.

(4) God often sweetens the afflictions of his ministers by special favors.

3. His conversion became manifest by his better life. "Who was aforetime unprofitable to thee, but now is profitable to thee and to me."

(1) Good men may have bad servants. This Onesimus had been unprofitable, not only as a pilferer, but as an idler. The example of his godly master and mistress had no influence upon his conduct.

(2) Conversion always results in a change of social character. It makes people conscientious in the discharge of all duties incident to their calling. Onesimus was henceforth "profitable" both to Philemon and the apostle.

(a) He was profitable to the apostle. Religious servants are the most profitable. Onesimus gave new joy to the apostle by his conversion, while he waited on him, no doubt, in the ministry of private service and kindness. It is not enough that a sinner cease to do evil; he must learn to do well. We see in Onesimus the practical side of the apostle's counsel, "Let him that stole steal no more, but let him rather work with his hands that which is good" (Ephesians 4:28).

(b) He was profitable to Philemon, in so far as he, in Philemon's stead, did that service to the apostle which his master would have readily done if it had been in his power. He would be yet more profitable to his master in the spirit and conditions of his new service, on his return back to Colossae. - T.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,

WEB: Therefore, though I have all boldness in Christ to command you that which is appropriate,

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