Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer,
During his three years' stay at Ephesus he had come across trader from Colosse, who carried on in that city the business of a cloth weaver and a dyer, for which the three cities of the valley of the Lycus — Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse itself — were all alike famous, and who had come to the city of Artemis probably during the month of May, which was sacred to the goddess, to seek a market for his goods. The work of making up the bales of cloth into curtains, hangings, and the like, was one which fell in with St. Paul's calling as a tent maker, and as Aquila and Priscilla had left Ephesus to return to Rome (Romans 16:3), he was glad to be able to carry out his rule of maintaining himself by the labour of his own hands, by entering into partnership with one in whose character there was so much to esteem and love (ver. 17). When they first became acquainted with each other, Philemon was as one of those not far from the kingdom of God, a Gentile who, like the centurion at Capernaum and Cornelius at Caesarea, had come to be a worshipper of the God of Israel, and to share the hope of the children of Abraham in the manifestation of His kingdom. To him the apostle had pointed out the more excellent way of faith in Christ crucified, risen, ascended, as the Head of that kingdom; and he was accordingly baptised with his wife Apphia, and his son Archippus. The master of a warehouse, well to do and benevolent, with many slaves and hired labourers working under him, was naturally an important personage. His employes themselves were a congregation. His house became the meeting place of an "ecclesia," which included friends and neighbours as well. St. Paul was a frequent guest there, spoke as a teacher, and took part in the Eucharistic meal on the first day of the week. As elsewhere (Galatians 4:14, 15), he gained the affection and goodwill even of those who were as yet outside the faith. The very slaves learnt to love one who never lost his temper, never gave a harsh command, who found in all men, as such, that which was a ground of brotherhood. They would run errands for him, wait upon his wants, nurse him when he was ill. The partnership was, however, interrupted by St. Paul's plans for his work as an apostle. He left Ephesus, and if he contemplated any return to it at all, it was not likely, to be till after the lapse of some years. Then came the journeys to Macedonia, and Achaia, and Jerusalem, the two years' imprisonment at Caesarea, the voyage to Italy, the shipwreck at Melita, the two years' residence at Rome. And now the apostle had at last heard some tidings of his former friends.
Parallel VersesKJV: Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,