Philemon 1 (King James Version)
Opening and Greeting
vv. 1-3 1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
Rav Sha’ul wrote this letter to Philemon during his two year house arrest in Rome.
Acts 28:30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him.
Rav Sha’ul agrees with his own teachings.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
He credits his imprisonment to the purpose and advancement of the Written and Living Torah and not to satan or the Roman Emperor; for the purpose of thwarting the same purpose.
Eph. 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
Eph. 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
II Tim. 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
True, Rav Sha’ul could have founded more K’hillot (Congregations) but if it were not for imprisonment he wouldn’t have been free to strengthen the ones he had already visited or founded.
This reminds me of a personal incident when I was unemployed and as a result was able to use that time, (Which sometimes felt like incarceration) to type, edit and publish many books for the education and edification of the Body.
Paul indicates in this verse Timothy’s presence and aid during his imprisonment under house arrest (Acts. 28:30).
The Rav also lets us know that Philemon, the man he is addressing this letter to, was a very important, valuable and influential lay leader in the Colossae congregation and in Rav Sha’ul’s ministry.
2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:
This letter was probably delivered with and at the same time as the letter to the Colossian congregation, which met in Philemon’s home.
The Full Life Study Bible says, “There were many “house churches” in the N.T. times (cf. Rom. 16:5, I Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15). It is not till the 3rd century that records appear of separate church buildings.” Yochannon seems address his letters to a house church (II John 1:1, 13; III John 1:1).
The Rav greets in v. 2 of Philemon, the elder Archippus in that congregation (Col. 4:17). Apphia is thought possibly to be Philemon’s wife.
Rav Sha’ul seen the battle against paganism and assimilation as a type of warfare (Eph 6, II Cor. 10:4-6) and therefore called fellow leaders and believers as soldiers. Rav Sha’ul wasn’t a pacifistic Yeshiva boy, but more like a Maccabean Jew.
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
With all the appropriate people addressed, he gave a familiar greeting (Gal. 1:3, Eph. 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Col. 1:2, Rom. 1:7, I Cor. 1:3, II Cor. 1:2, I Thess. 1:1, II Thess. 1:2, I Tim. 1:2, II Tim. 1:2, Titus 1:4). Rav Sha’ul greets Philemon with Grace or love and favor coupled with peace, because Philemon is known to walk in righteous Torah obedience of G-d in Messiah Yeshua.
Expressions of Thanksgiving vv.4-7
Here Rav Sha’ul expresses his appreciation for Philemon.
4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
Philemon must have been a profitable and invaluable helper in Rav Sha’ul’s early work in Colossae; an unforgettable Gentile believer for him to be daily remembered in the prayers of Rav Sha’ul.
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
Rav Sha’ul seems to have heard only continual good things in regards to Philemon and his lay ministry in Colossae; a real pillar in the community of believers; an indispensable laborer in the Rav’s ministry (v.1). When a need arose in the community Philemon was most likely one of the “go to” men. For Rav Sha’ul to get wind of his good works, Philemon must have shown his love not just in word, but indeed also; sounds to me that for Philemon, “love” was a verb, for his actions spoke louder than his words.
6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
Simply put, Rav Sha’ul prays Philemon sees fruit; full fruition of his ministerial efforts for the glory of Messiah. HE prays that he sees and realizes how valuable he really is in the work of the LORD. A similar sentiment Rav Sha’ul gives to the Philippian congregation:
Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Rav Sha’ul prays Philemon’s love and work in the Messianic community increases and is blessed and becomes even more profitable.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
Rav Sha’ul expresses that countless people have profited and blessed by Philemon’s works and compassion.
Philemon was definitely a doer of the Word (Torah) and not just a hearer only.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Philemon knew obeying Torah was all about the performance of works on behalf of others was about the motive of love and compassion and not to try to score some divine brownie points with God.
Cutting to the chase: Onesimus
8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
Rav Sha’ul points out that as a Rav and the authority he has been given by God within the believing community, he could order Philemon to do the right thing, but out of love and respect and how he holds Philemon in such high regard, he placates to Philemon heart to heart as a spiritual father, friend and fellow laborer in Messiah to do what is right because it is right because it is right and out of respect for Rav Sha’ul as a beloved elder and in honor of his suffering for Messiah.
By this time I’m sure Philemon is wondering why such urgent and yet intimate words wherewith Paul writes.
And now, the bombshell, despite how hard the effects of the Rav were to cushion the blow.
10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
I’m sure regardless of the Rav’s words of love that that name stung of betrayal and probably no matter how righteous a believer he was, trudged up a little bit of anger and feelings that demanded justice.
Rav Sha’ul does not throw around terms of endearment lightly and is extremely careful who he trusts and allow in his inner circle. Those around him must prove themselves as John Mark eventually did.
Acts 15:35-40 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
II Tim. 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
Rav Sha’ul called Onesimus a son. Now for him to call Onesimus a son means not only did Onesimus convert, but had sat under Rav Sha’ul as a talmid (student/disciple) for quite some time. For it was common in that day for Rabbi’s to be referred to by their students as father, and Rabbi’s refer to their students as sons. This means Onesimus must have shown great eagerness to learn and sincere refinement of character.
Matthew 23:8-12 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been quoted these verses by finger wagging Christians and Messianics who seem to forget about a thing called idioms, hyperboles, and the like.
We would be in BIG trouble if we took everything the Scriptures say literally. Many of us would be blind and digit-less!
Matthew 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Matthew 18:8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
Yeshua was NOT saying don’t ever call anyone Father, Rabbi, or Rav (Master). The point He was trying to make (and still make) is one of humility, having the attitude of a servant-leader. He was saying not to desire to be called these things so as to get a big head because of the prestige, power, authority and respect they carry. Read the following verses, the context is absolutely clear. How else do I know this to be so? Yeshua’s brother Ya’akov (James) said:
James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
Rabbi and Father were not just terms of respect, but terms of endearment as well. We see even Elisha called Eliyahu “Father” (II Kings 2). For a Rav or a Rabbi and their relationship with their Talmidim become almost a Father Son type of relationship and Yeshua said we should not just uses these terms lightly or with just anyone.
I and many of my brethren have gone through rigorous training for years and so have earned that title, just as a Medical Doctor, or a University Professor has gone through a program that have earned the right to be called Doctor.
Just as a Police Officer or a Detective have successfully completed training to be called such.
Sadly I know of a few who have given themselves the title of Rabbi or Rav and are not Jewish, nor are they a convert, nor have they received training or ordination to have the right to be called Rabbi or Rav. They may be Protestant or Messianic laymen or pastors and have simply assumed the title with no legitimate training or ordination. Some of them are pastors and assume that Pastor means the same as a Rabbi, it doesn’t as we will see later. These men have made themselves liars and charlatans and have given legitimate Messianic and or Nazarene Rabbi’s a bad name in the eyes of the Non-Believing Jewish community.
It is well known that many things are lost in translation and lost from one generation to the next and sometimes things get mutteled with translation and retelling, even moreso when transferring from one religion to another and back again.
This is especially true when one is taking Eastern Hebraic Jewish doctrine and principles, converting them to Western Christian doctrine and back again into a Natsarim Jewish 1st century context within the 21st century.
Eph. 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Hmmm, notice anything “not Jewish” here? Is something missing? Where is the word Rabbi!? Have you ever wondered about this? Well we know Rav Sha’ul (Apostle Paul) was a Rabbi and he is the one who penned these words. So what is Rav Sha’ul saying here?
In Charismatic Christian doctrine this is referred to as the five-fold ministry and that these are “offices” within the “church”. It is said that a person can have one or more or all the gifts within these offices. But if on is an Apostle, he has all five.
For obvious reasons I will have to disagree. There has been much mysticism attached to the word “apostle” and all it means is “sent one”. Another misunderstood word is “pastor” which simply means “shepherd”. Many Protestant Christians feel the “gifts and offices” here are no longer needed except for pastor, teacher and evangelist and therefore a Pastor is as high as you can go in the Protestant hierarchy. The other names are pretty self-explanatory.
In Judaism, Rabbi means “Master”, someone who has mastered a certain course of study, almost like a master’s degree if you will. A Rav is sort of like a doctorate. So actually Rav Sha’ul is describing the job description of a Rav and a Rabbi. The only major difference between a Rav and a Rabbi is that a Rav produces Rabbi’s and sends them out and a Rav usually sits on some sort of council of Rav’s and makes legislation within Judaism based on Torah for specific situations that arises within a community. For when a Rav trains a Rabbi he becomes and apostle, a “sent one” to a congregation; he has learned what it takes to become a prophet, or at least operate to some degree in prophecy in order to be a shepherd (pastor) to and teach, instruct his people in the ways of Torah and Judaism and he also become an evangelist of his knowledge where ever he may roam.
I see Christian ministers who falsely claim this title of apostle and walk around like a big shot as if everyone is below him and should cower in his presence because he is God’s right hand man and answers directly to God Himself! This is clearly not an apostle, humility is a prerequisite of “apostleship” if you will, and an example such as this is clearly not a true apostle but a charlatan.
Though a Rabbi is just as human as the next guy and is prone to fail or lack from time to time, a Rabbi when needed should display the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, Eph. 5:9) and the Gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 12-14) when needed.
Yeshua was a Rabbi and what did He call his 12 Talmidim (Disciples)? They graduated from Talmidim to Sheliachim, from Disciples to Apostles, in other words, fully equipped Rabbi’s (James 1:4, II Tim. 3:17).
Understand that a layman can have one or more of these gifts that can assist the Rabbi, as the Rav Sha’ul says, “He has given some…”, but the Rabbi should display and encapsulate them all.
So in essence, “Rabbi” is not a dirty four letter word.