Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer,
I. THIS EPISTLE CAME OUT OF THE PRISON. The Spirit, therefore, was Paul's companion in the prison, and so is He to all God's children that are prisoners of Jesus Christ, and in more special sort communicating Himself unto them, whereby it cometh to pass that at such times, and in such estates, they are more fit for holy duties than in any other. Then pray they more feelingly and fervently (Romans 8), then also as here we see writ, they exhort more powerfully and passionately, as me thinketh, in those Epistles which Paul wrote in the prison, there seemeth a greater measure of holy zeal and fervent affections than in any other.
II. But now Paul, writing this Epistle in the prison, as many others also, HEREIN FURTHER APPEARETH THE GOOD PROVIDENCE OF GOD.
1. In that even in the time of this his restraint, he had yet liberty of pen, will, and paper, yea, and of a scribe too, sometimes, and those which did minister unto him.
2. God's providence also herein did show itself that would not suffer Paul, so skilful a workman, to be idle and do nothing in the business of the Lord, but would have a supply of his apostolical preaching made by his writing.
III. Again, it is to be observed that St. Paul doth not simply call himself prisoner, BUT WITH THIS CONDITION, OF JESUS CHRIST. The title of a prisoner in itself is ignominious; but when he addeth "of Jesus Christ" all stain of ignominy is clean wiped away.
IV. But here is not all that we must look to in our sufferings, that our cause be good, BUT ALSO THAT WE SUFFER FOR A GOOD CAUSE, IN A GOOD MANNER. The which point is further commended unto us in Paul's example, who was not only a prisoner of Jesus Christ, but also a cheerful and courageous prisoner of Jesus Christ; for so far was he from being ashamed of his chain, wherewithal for the hope of Israel's sake he was bound, that he even glorieth in it, accounting it far more honour able than a chain of gold about his neck.
V. Lastly, we are to observe in Paul's example the duty of all the ministers, namely, TO MAKE GOOD THEIR PREACHING BY THE PRISON, IF NEED BE, THEIR SAYINGS BY THEIR SUFFERINGS. Oh, base is that liberty, yea, baser than the basest bondage, which is got by flinching from that truth, which we have preached and professed.
(D. Dyke, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,