Lesson 30: "The Bowels of the Saints Are Refreshed by Thee, Brother" (Philemon v.7)
This is lesson #30. We're ready to read the letter of Paul written to a slave master, named Philemon, and written concerning his slave, named Onesimus. Both this slave and the slave-master were now Christians. Probably a very unique set of circumstances. Both the salve master and his son, named Archippus, were "laborers" in the congregation at Colossae. In our previous lessons, we tried to reconstruct mentally what we know about the Colossian church. Archippus had received a ministry (Col. 4:17), and he was exhorted to fulfil it. Thus, I infer from this that Archippus was, usually at least, the one who brought the public lesson during their assemblies. He possibly had received the spiritual gift of prophesy as we discussed back in our lessons surrounding I-Cor. ch. 12-13-14. There was no written N.T. at that time as we know it today. And, Paul considered Philemon a "fellow laborer" (that term is used here in v.1). Whether Philemon was an elder in the Colossian congregation, or whether this congregation even had elders or deacons, we do not know. I would assume they did, for the simple reason that almost every congregation that had been established for very long, did have elders. However, I know of no evidence that will establish that fact at Colossae. In the book of Philippians, you might remember, Paul made reference to the "bishops" (or elders) and "deacons." We know that the Ephesian congregation had elders (from Acts 20:17). However, in the Colossian letter, Paul simply addressed the letter to "the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae." (Col. 1:2). This might be an indicator, I suppose, that the Colossian congregation was relatively smaller in numbers. However, you need to remember that such indicators are really not proofs. I hope you have done your homework and tried to develop a mental picture of the congregation at Colossae. You may think I'm running this into the ground; but, you need this mental picture to help you understand the early church. And don't ever forget, these things were written for our edification and learning. What is said about the early church is a pattern or blueprint of what the present day church should be. Almost every church question that you might need an answer for today is covered in some way in the New Testament, if you study that authoritative pattern long enough with enough detail and get it into proper textual perspective. As I said, this Colossian congregation probably had a rather unique set of circumstances. Every congregation does. Even the church in your community today. They fit into different time periods of history. The Colossian church had problems that the congregation in your community doesn't have today. Slavery was one of the social problems in the Colossian community. We have a different set of social problems today; but, we still have problems. The slavery problem, we don't have today in America. But, we must worship, work and obey in the midst of another set of social problems, television, all the denominational inventions of the 20th century, the New Age cult, Darwin's evolutionary theory and all of that. Yet, just as the church of Jesus Christ was a camp of the saints at Colossae, the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15), to which the saved are added (Acts 2:47), "the church of the first born... written in heaven" (Heb. 12:23); the church of our Lord Jesus Christ in your community, if it is just that, is still that same thing today. I hope there's a congregation in your community today. If not, you can be the first member. Call me, we'll work on getting it established there in the midst of all the problems in your community. You need it, the community needs it. They may not know it; but, they need it. Philip went down to Samaria and preached and helped establish a congregation of the Lord's church there (Acts ch. 8). Study the Samaritan church. Study those churches that Paul and Barnabas established on the first missionary journey, how they appointed elders and all that. Study the churches that Paul and Silas established on the second missionary journey, Philippi, Thessalonica, Beorea, and Corinth. Study the details surrounding the Ephesian congregation established during Paul's third missionary journey along with Paul's letters to these congregations. Study that Sunday worship service at Troas in Acts ch. 20, where many lights were burning in the upper chamber. Try to visualize them taking the Lord's Supper at Troas and at Colossae. They were following that same set of rules that Paul gave the Corinthians about the Lord's supper (I-Cor. ch. 11), the same set of rules that apply to you and me. Try to visualize Paul preaching long and Eutychus falling down out of the third story window at Troas. Why did the Holy Spirit have Luke to include that story for us? It doesn't just take up space. Try to mentally adapt these things to Colossae. This was given by inspiration, it is profitable for doctrine and for correcting our problems in righteousness.
Let's read the first seven verses of Philemon. You might call it the salutation. Are ye ready? Let's read! "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother. Unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother."
O.K., I believe we have already covered everything in v.1-2 in our introductory comments. You recognize v.3, I think, as Paul's typical salutation. It is almost a replay of what is found, usually somewhere in the first three verses of all of Paul's epistles (in Romans it's down about v.7). We've talked about this before. Paul was an ambassador, as reflected in this verse. Then, just like Paul begins here in v.4, how many times did Paul begin (or preface his letters) by telling those he wrote to that he remembered them and mentioned them in his prayers often? Then v.5 is a reference to what Paul said in the Colossian letter (1:4), as a matter of fact this is a repeat of that which Paul said there to the same people and it is obvious from the things he said following Col. 1:4 that Paul was reiterating what he had learned through Epaphras. Those reading this letter clearly made that connection. V.6 then, is some of the things Paul had prayed for on their behalf: "that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus." The word "communication" here in the KJV is translated in the ASV as "fellowship" and another translates it "participation." The point being, Paul was not just praying for talk; but, that real action and real energetic spiritual edification and evangelization that would come from their efforts and as well as that increase that correspondingly comes from the Lord. Then, I would call v.7 a statement of appreciation. It is always uplifting for people to know that they are appreciated. We need to take a lesson from this. Those people you appreciate, you should tell them, your elders, your deacons, that little old lady that attends every service and does so much work around the church building or is always out setting up a Bible study for you. .tell’em you appreciate them. Don't do it just as some buttering up thing, Paul was sincere. He said, he and Timothy had great joy and consolation in the love of the Colossians. He was showing appreciation, especially to those church leaders to whom this letter is addressed. Here again, between the lines, you can almost hear Paul saying, Epaphras told me this too. Paul said he and Timothy had what: great joy and consolation. He was not just apple polishing. Not only were Paul and Timothy consoled; Paul gave the reason: "BECAUSE the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother." We have talked about this "bowels of the saints" term before. Tender feelings sometimes cause little butterflies in the tummy...along with teardrops in the eyes...this was a another way of Paul saying he was touched by their dedication and by their efforts and Paul was saying this touching went far beyond just him and Timothy. Philemon and his family were undoubtedly great positive examples in the Colossian church. You might think of them as role-models that Paul was hoping others at Colossae might imitate. Please don't forget that there were problems in the Colossian congregation. We have already talked about "voluntary humility and the worshipping of angels" and all that nonsense (back in Col. 2:18). So, in the things Paul said here, he was trying (I believe), to boost and elevate Philemon and his family in the eyes of others of the congregation as well. In this sense, this letter served to accomplish Paul's ulterior motive, we might say. Paul had said to the congregation back in Col. 3:12, after restating the gospel, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long- suffering; forebearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." AND, if you examine those words closely, you find concealed there, very likely, little subtle references to many of their little dirty laundry problems of the Colossian variety. Paul exhorted them to rise above all such petty things. Then, he followed those statements with: "And above all these put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness," which Paul discussed in great detail back in I-Cor. ch. 13, you will remember. In this positive exhortation, Paul went on to say: "let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." One body? ...one church? ...the very thought is offensive as being narrow-minded and bigoted in the thinking of our denominational world today. Let the peace of God, God's peace rule in your hearts... rule? that's not ecumenical thinking... that's not a denominational creed. That's not doctrines and commandments of men. In contrast to all such ruling in your heart, Paul said: "Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." And, then before beginning his appeal to the different social classes in that church (wives, husbands, children, slaves and slave masters) he said: "And WHAT-SO- EVER ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of [or by the authority of] the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." As I said earlier, if you will study these early congregations, their worship, work and mission, you can find the answer to almost every church question. I.e. stick to scriptural authoritative rules for your work and worship. And implied in this is to get away from that admixture and blending of experimental religions, astrology, philosophy, worshipping of angels and all of that, that was prevalent at and around Colossae. To the Ephesian congregation, only a hundred miles to the west, you will remember somewhere in the middle of Eph. ch. 5, Paul commented to the Ephesians about their singing in worship. He said they were to use "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Thus, Paul told the Colossians and the Ephesians to use exactly the same thing: "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (the Col. ref. is in 3:16). Paul said to the Ephesians they should speak to one another and to the Lord in this act of worship called singing. To the Colossians, Paul said in doing this they should be: "teaching and admonishing one another." To the Corinthians (I Cor. 14:15), Paul instructed THEM to sing AND PRAY with the spirit (i.e. the human spirit), and with understanding (i.e. human understanding). Let me ask you! Can you do that with a musical instrument? Any musical instrument? take your choice, a piano, a guitar, drums, bugles, or what have you. Can you SPEAK to one another with a musical instrument? Take your choice! Can you teach and admonish each other with a musical instrument? Any musical instrument? Can you do that? First of all, every body would have to have one. For not only are we commanded to teach and admonish, we are commanded to do it to one another. Could it be done? In spirit and with understanding (I Cor. 14:15)? Now, if it could, that would really be a talent show, wouldn't it. However, even if you should grant it's possible; you still wouldn't be singing with grace in you hearts TO THE LORD, the thing Paul said to do (Col. 3:16). Now, as you try to focus in on the Colossian congregation and this letter to Philemon; don't lose sight of this, the things Paul said here comes right in the middle of a section where Paul was pleading with this congregation, that met in the house of Philemon, to do every thing [Listen now!], "whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus..." i.e. do it as the Lord has instructed. Yes, but Bro, Horsley, we like the instrument! Well, I can't question that? I like biscuits! Does that give me authority to eat them in the worship service? as part of the worship service? I can come about as near teaching (or admonishing) with a biscuit as you can with a piano or a guitar, probably about as decently and as orderly, I Cor. 14:40). Think about it. One of'em tastes good, the other sounds good. But, what does that have to do with teaching and admonishing? Nothing! Paul is admonishing them to follow the rules. Do what the Lord wants...not what they liked, necessarily. Can you see that? Some have said to sing a psalm REQUIRES a musical instrument (inherent in the Greek word "psallo" is their argument). They try to prove that a musical instrument is an aid to singing, as a songbook might be, they say. But, singing and playing are two different kinds of music. Examine the verses here close, playing is an addition to singing, i.e. adding a different kind of music. Beyond that, it destroys what the apostle said to do: speak to each other, teach and admonish each other in so doing.
In the seven verses of Philemon that we read in this lesson, Paul assures Philemon, Apphia, Archippus and the whole church that met in the Philemon home, Paul was concerned about things being done right. Paul was praying in their behalf that "the fellowship of their faith may become effectual" (v.6), i.e. productive. How Paul? "by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus." Paul was getting some good reports. But, there were still some problem. And, just as Paul was concerned with the problems at Colossae, we should be concerned with the problems where we are. Doing a few things right is not sufficient. We need to work on getting everything right. It's the same thing he said to the Philippians, "work out your own salvation with FEAR AND TREMBLING." (Phil. 2:12). It's a very serious thing and must not be taken lightly. Paul was trying to get this established up front, before he began to plead with Philemon about Onesimus. We'll get to that in our next lesson. Until then, have a good day.