Recognition of the Christian Character and Services of Philemon
Philemon 1:4-7
I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers,

This is after the apostle's usual manner.

I. THE THANKSGIVING. "I thank my God always, making mention of thee in my prayers."

1. Though it is not unlawful to praise men for their graces or virtues, God is first to be thanked as the Author of these dispositions. "We rejoice [or, 'boast'] in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:11). It is the privilege of the believer to speak of God as "my God," according to the tenure of the covenant: "I will be thy God." Therefore the apostle says, "Whose I am, and whom I serve" (Acts 27:23).

2. The occasion of his thanksgiving. "Making mention of thee in my prayers." It mingled with his daily prayers.

(1) Though a prisoner, the apostle had constant opportunities for secret devotion.

(2) He was always mindful of others in his supplications. Many have no secret prayer; others pray only for themselves; the apostle prays for others. The saints had an individual place in the apostle's heart.

(3) It is right to pray even for those who are the subjects of thanksgiving. The saints are not perfect, and therefore need to be prayed for, that they may enjoy a more abundant life in Christ Jesus (John 10:10).

II. THE CAUSE OR REASON OF THE THANKSGIVING. "Hearing of thy love and of the faith which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints."

1. A good report extols God's Name and recommends religion. "By it the ancients obtained a good report" (Hebrews 11:3).

2. Good men love to hear, as well as report, the praises of good men.

3. We ought to pray fervently for those who enjoy the greatest graces.

4. The graces of Philemon were faith in Christ and love to the saints.

(1) These graces, though distinguished from one another, never exist separately. "Faith worketh by love," and never without it. Love proceeds from faith, even love to the saints (1 Thessalonians 2:3).

(2) The Object of faith is the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore it is called the faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26). Faith, as an act of the understanding, sees Christ, and, as an act of will, trusts in him for eternal life.

(3) The objects of love are the saints. Christ is to be loved in the saints, who are to be loved next to Christ. All the saints are to be loved, no matter what their character, disposition, or talents.

III. THE OBJECT OR PURPORT OF THE APOSTLE'S PRAYER. "That the fellowship of thy faith may become effectual in the knowledge of every good thing which is in you unto Christ."

1. The fellowship referred to the kindly offices of sympathy and charity which were the offspring of Philemon's faith. The apostle's prayers had in view the furtherance of Philemon's faith on its practical side. Faith is a bountiful grace, and is communicative in its very nature.

2. The energetic operation of faith

(1) glorifies God;

(2) refreshes the saints;

(3) stops the mouths of malicious men;

(4) and attests the true character of the saints even in the society of hypocrites.

3. The drift of a practical faith is towards a fuller knowledge and appreciation of good in Christian men. "The knowledge of the result and the reward of faith manifesting itself in deeds of love." Insight springs from obedience.

4. The growth of faith in its upward tendency is "unto Christ," as its Goal and final Resting-place, depending as it does upon union with him, and tending to intensify the experience of that union.

IV. THE MOTIVE FOR THE APOSTLE'S THANKSGIVING. "For I had great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints have been refreshed by thee, brother."

1. Whatever causes joy and consolation is just ground for thanksgiving. "For what thanksgiving can we render again unto God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God?" (1 Thessalonians 3:9). Thanks ever be to that God who fills our hearts "with food and gladness." The Apostle John found his joy in learning that his children walked in truth (2 John 1:4).

2. The proofs of Philemon's love to the saints.

(1) The apostle rejoices in a love which carries blessings to others rather than himself.

(2) The saints ought to be refreshed in several ways.

(a) By words of consolation, which we can easily extract from the promises of our Lord in the Word.

(b) By our deeds of charity. So the apostle himself was "oft refreshed" by Onesiphorus during his long imprisonment.

(c) By our prayers for the afflicted saints.

(3) The motives that prompt to this compassionate dealing with the saints are

(a) that we herein imitate God, "who comforteth those who are cast down" (2 Corinthians 1:4);

(b) we refresh the bowels of Christ himself;

(c) God will not forget our labor of love (1 Thessalonians 1:3). - T.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

WEB: I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,

Prayerful Thanksgiving
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