Philemon 1:6
Making mention of thee always in my prayers. We may judge of the reality of our affection by the current of our thoughts. Do we find them tending towards some absent friends daily? Then we have evidence that ours is not the superficial love that can live only in the presence of its object. With the Christian thought turns to prayer. There on the throne of the universe is One who can best befriend our dearest friends.

I. THERE WAS BLESSEDNESS IN THE EXPERIENCE. "I thank my God making mention," etc. It was not a prayer touched with sorrow for Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus, or with anxiety about their faith and character. It was the prayer of one who rejoiced that the Christ above could keep them from falling.

II. THERE WAS PURPOSE IN THE PRAYER. Paul remembers its subject-matter. When he heard of their love and faith towards the Lord Jesus, he prayed that their faith might not be merely personal or selfish, but that their religion might be, in the modern speech, "altruistic," which is "otherism" as opposed to "selfism." Paul prayed that the communication of their faith might be effectual, that the light might shine on others so as to guide them, that the fountain might flow into other hearts so as to refresh them. - W.M.S.







The communication of thy faith
There is some doubt respecting the allusion in the word "communication." It is translated "fellowship" in Acts 2:42, 2 Corinthians 13:14, and "communion" in 1 Corinthians 10:16. It may mean that the imparting to others of their faith (when they see the fruits of it) may be effectual, etc.; or "communication" may be taken as meaning distribution. If Philemon loved the saints he would distribute liberally to their needs. Both senses are true: faith "may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing." In the eyes of St. Paul it was needful, not only that there should be secret good in a man, but that it should be acknowledged on all hands as good springing from the grace of God and Christ, somewhat analogous to "Let your light so shine," etc.

(M. E. Sadler, M. A.)

Philemon's "communication of faith" will help him to the knowledge of the fulness of Christ. The reaction of conduct on character and growth in holiness is a familiar idea with Paul, especially in the prison epistles (see Colossians 1:10). The faithful carrying out in life of what we already know is not the least important condition of increasing knowledge. If a man does not live up to his religion, his religion shrinks to the level of his life. Unoccupied territory lapses. We hold our spiritual gifts on the term of using them. The practice of convictions deepens convictions; not that the exercise of Christian graces will make theologians, but it will put in larger possession of the knowledge which is life. While this general principle is abundantly enforced in Scripture and confirmed by experience, the specific form of it here is that the right administration of wealth is a direct means of increasing a Christian's possession of the large store treasured in Christ. Every loving thought towards the sorrowful and needy, every touch of sympathy yielded to, and every kindly Christlike deed flowing from these, thins away some film of the barriers between the believing soul and a full possession of God, makes it more capable of beholding Him and of rising to communion with Him.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

As there is a communion of saints, so there must be a communion of gifts. A good thing, the more common it is, the better it is. The sun communicates his light to the world, and shines the brighter for that; the springs and fountains communicate their water, and are the fuller for that; a nurse or mother communicates her milk to the infant, and her breasts are replenished still: the communication of faith, of knowledge, and other gifts, is not a diminution, but an augmentation of them. Let us joyfully communicate that which we have, one to another.

(W. Jones, D. D.)

I. IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL MEN EARNESTLY TO DESIRE AND PROCURE THE GOOD OF OTHERS, AND TO STIR UP OURSELVES AND OTHERS TO INCREASE IN THE GRACES OF GOD'S SPIRIT. The growing and proceeding of our brethren in the best things should be sought for of us. Reasons:

1. Christian profession is a way in which men must not stand still; they must not stay in one estate, but be always stirring forward.

2. Christians are compared to children. Children are always growing in age, increasing in stature, going forward in knowledge. So must we grow in grace, until we come to a perfect aged man in Christ.

3. We must so walk in our way and hasten to our journey's end, that we may obtain the prize. He that overcometh and holdeth out to the latter end only shall be saved. He that giveth over is a faint soldier, a weak workman, a slow runner, a feeble wrestler.(1) We learn that God hath a just action and suit to commence against all idle and unprofitable drones, that be truants and no proficients in the school of Christ.(2) We are bound to use the means that may further these gifts in us, that is, the ministry of the Word, which being reverently used hath a promise of blessings.(3) Seeing we should desire our own profit and others, it condemneth three sorts of men: first, such as stand at a stay; secondly, such as go backward; thirdly, such as envy the good and growth of others in the best things.(4) Seeing we should all seek to profit ourselves and others in godliness, we must know that it is our duty to stir up the gifts of God in us, that we do not bury them as in a grave; we must exercise the gifts that we have by continual practice. Use maketh men prompt and ready, want of use maketh men untoward.

II. THE GIFTS AND BLESSINGS OF GOD, WHETHER TEMPORAL OR ETERNAL, BESTOWED UPON ANY, MUST NOT LIE HID OR DEAD, BUT BE USED AND EMPLOYED TO THE GOOD OF OTHERS, AND SO YIELD A FELLOWSHIP AND COMMUNION TO OTHERS. Reasons:

1. We are servants unto all, to do them good and to further their salvation.

2. We are members of the same body, and therefore in this respect should profit one another. We see it is so in every part of our body: the eye seeth not for itself, the head inventeth not for itself, the hand worketh not for itself, the foot walketh not for itself, but they do these duties for the whole body. Thus it ought to be among all the faithful; if Christ Jesus be our head, we must be affected as mutual members one to another.

3. We are all of us stewards and disposers of the manifold graces of God. God committed His goods to us, and made us stewards of His family, to minister in season to all in the household, and He will take an account how we use them. Uses:(1) This teaches us to remember the benefit and good of others, and not only to desire, but to effect the same as much as we can, especially their eternal good. It is a good thing to do good unto the bodies of our brethren, but the chiefest good is to do good to their souls.(2) Such are reproved as have gifts and yet use them not but hide them, and so diminish them by idleness and want of conscience.(3) Seeing we must employ that which we have received to the benefit of others, it serveth greatly to comfort such as have been careful to communicate to others those things that they have received, and to make them partakers of the same comfort that they have reaped by them.

III. IT IS THE DUTY OF EVERYONE TO MANIFEST AND SHOW FORTH, YEA, TO SPREAD ABROAD AND TO SPEAK OF THE GIFTS OF GOD BESTOWED UPON THEMSELVES AND OTHERS. When God is good towards us, and distributes His graces among us, we must be ready to acknowledge them, when we feel them in ourselves, or see them in others. Reasons:

1. To the end that God's graces being seen and known He may he glorified and blessed for them, who is the author and giver of them. It ought to be our chiefest desire and study that God may have His praise and glory among us.

2. Because the more they be known and farther they are spread, the larger praise and more abundant thanksgiving may be given unto God and yielded to His name by many.

3. In respect of others, because the more the goodness and graces of God are spoken of, and the more largely they are dispersed, the more by that means may be stirred up to an imitation of their example. Uses:(1) We see there may be sometimes a foolish modesty in concealing those good things which should be uttered and published, if they may further the cause of religion, or provoke others to godliness, or bring glory to God. God is not ashamed of us to be called our God, and to do us good; let us not, therefore, be ashamed to acknowledge Him to be good unto us, and confess His goodness to the sons of men.(2) Seeing it is our duty, when God hath been good unto us or others, to make known His goodness. We learn hereby how the saints of God may be rightly and religiously honoured of us, and remembered to their everlasting praise. It is our duty to give thanks to God who hath blessed them with His graces and governed them by His Holy Spirit, and to pray unto Him so to direct us and dispose of our ways that we may follow their godliness and walk in their steps wherein they have gone before us.(3) We must beware that vainglory be not the end which we seek for. We are to give the glory to the author, not to the instrument; to God, not to man; to the Creator, not to the creature.

(W. Attersoll.)

I. THAT EFFICACY OF FAITH WHICH HERE PAUL DESIRETH FOR PHILEMON WAS TWO. First, in regard to Philemon himself, that it might work effectually in him; secondly, in regard of others, that it might be exemplary to them, and so might be effectual in provoking them to the like. And that the apostle had some reference, even to this latter kind of efficacy, the words following seem to import — that whatsoever good thing is in you may be known: for when the light of our faith shineth to others, it very effectually stirreth them up to the glorifying of God's name. Hence observe —

1. That true faith may sometimes faint, and be, as it were, raked up under the ashes. A kind of sleepiness may sometimes seize upon it, and disable it for spiritual exercises. As we see in the disciples, who being oppressed with carnal grief for the departure of Christ now at hand, were not able to attend the exercise of prayer, no, not one hour, with our Saviour. So likewise in Philippians 4:10. Of whom, when the apostle says, that they were revived, or, as the word signifies, waxen green or fresh again, in their love and liberality towards Him; thereby he declareth that for a time they were like trees, that in the winter are in their widowhood, having lost their leaves, and appearing outwardly as dead, all their sap being in the root within.

2. Observe how faith, being by Satan's craft cast into this deep sleep, may be awakened, and how it may shake off this spiritual laziness, viz., by this spiritual exercise of prayer.

3. Paul here plainly teaches us that true faith in his own nature is effectual, lively, full of vigour and spirits (1 Thessalonians 1:3). I discern the picture of a man, though never so lively, to be no true man, because it stands still and stirs not. Therefore, though it have show of eyes, mouth, feet, etc., yet when I see it neither goes, sees, nor speaks, I know it is no man. So, when I look upon thy faith, and find, for all the colours of outward profession, that it is idle, I conclude forthwith that it is an idol, a shadow, void of truth and substance.

II. WHEREIN THIS EFFICACY OF FAITH HERE PRAYED FOR CONSISTS; FIRST, in communication; secondly, in the knowledge of every good thing.

1. For the first, observe, that faith is no sparing miser, but of a very bountiful and liberal disposition. It hoardeth not, it hideth not those treasures which she receiveth of God, but communicateth them to others.

2. The second thing, wherein this efficacy of faith consisteth, is the knowledge of all that good. That faith then is effectual which hath all other graces at command; so that when it says to one, Go, it goeth; to another, Come, it comes; to all of them I would have you known of others, they forthwith come forth into the open light, and by practice make themselves known to all. If a king command and be not obeyed, it shows his power is not great — that he is not as yet thoroughly confirmed in his authority. So it is an argument that faith as yet is but weak and of small force when it commands not with a kingly and imperial majesty and authority, so that without further delay his commands are obeyed. "That thy faith may be effectual." But how? In the knowledge of every good thing that is in you.

(D. Dyke, B. D.)

By the acknowledging of every good thing
We must acknowledge the good things that are in others. The Queen of Sheba extolled the good things that were in Solomon, and blessed God for them. The elders of the Jews acknowledged the good things that were in the centurion. God set the good things that were in Job, as on a stage, and the devil himself could not but acknowledge them, though maliciously he depraved them. Christ, though He was the giver of them, acknowledged the good things that were in Nathaniel. St. Peter acknowledges the good things that were in St. Paul. Augustin acknowledged the good things that were in , and Jerome also the good things that were in Augustin, as appears by their epistles one to another. We are injurious to God if we do not acknowledge them. No painter but would have his picture acknowledged: every good man is the beautiful picture of God Almighty; they be envious persons that will not acknowledge them.

(W. Jones, D. D.)

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