Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer,…
The names of the receivers of the letter bring before us a picture seen, as by one glimmering light across the centuries, of a Christian household in that Phrygian valley. The head of it, Philemon, appears to have been a native of, or at all events a resident in, Colosse, for Onesimus his slave, is spoken of in the Epistle to the Church there as "one of you." He was a person of some standing and wealth, for he had a house large enough to admit of a "church" assembling in it, and to accommodate the apostle and his travelling companions if he should visit Colosse. He had apparently the means for large pecuniary help to poor brethren, and willingness to use them, for we read of the refreshment which his kindly deeds had imparted. He had been one of Paul's converts, and owed his own self to him. He is called "our fellow labourer." The designation may imply some actual cooperation at a former time. But more probably the phrase is but Paul's gracefully affectionate way of lifting his humbler work out of its narrowness, by associating it with his own. All who toil for furtherance of Christ's kingdom, however widely they may be parted by time or distance, are fellow workers. The first man who dug a shovelful of earth for the foundation of Cologne Cathedral, and he who fixed the last stone on the topmost spire a thousand years after, are fellow workers. However small may be our capacity or sphere, or however solitary we may feel, we may summon up before the eyes of our faith a mighty multitude of apostles, martyrs, toilers in every land and age as our — even our — work fellows. The field stretches far beyond our vision, and many are toiling in it for Him whose work never comes near ours. There are differences of service, but the same Lord, and all who have the same master are companions in labour.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,