1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Philemon vv. 1-7 NIV)
As we begin our study of Paul’s letter to Philemon, let’s take a look at the introduction (vv. 1-3) first.
In verse 1, Paul clearly identifies himself as the author of the letter. This was the style in ancient letters – the writer would identify himself or herself immediately.
From history, we know that Paul founded the church at Colossae. While Philemon was not mentioned specifically anywhere else in Scriptures, scholars believe that Paul personally led Philemon to the Lord during his time in Colossae.
How do you react when you get a personal letter from someone who has had such a major impact on your life? Imagine being Philemon’s place for a moment, and how you would respond to receiving a letter from the “Paul” (your spiritual mentor) in your life.
Notice how Paul identifies himself – as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. From the outside, it would appear that Paul was a prisoner of Rome. But Paul’s body, soul, and spirit were captivated by Jesus Christ long before he became a prisoner of the Roman government. Paul is not looking for sympathy – he is simply letting Philemon know what’s going on in his life. This was likely no surprise to Philemon.
Also, I think it’s important to observe how Paul does not identify himself. With most of Paul’s other letters, he identifies himself and his God-given authority as “an apostle of Jesus Christ”. In this letter, however, Paul has no need to establish his authority with Philemon – this is a letter to a friend.
Paul also notes that Timothy, his young helper and minister of the Gospel is with him. We know that Paul sent Timothy out to various churches to minister and teach; at this point in time, Timothy is back with Paul.
Paul then addresses the recipient of the letter – Philemon. Notice how Paul addresses him – as a “dear friend and fellow worker”. Coming from Paul, this is a huge compliment and vote of confidence. In reading this greeting alone, Philemon likely had an extra spring in his step and incredible joy in his heart from Paul’s words.
In verse 2, Paul addresses two other people and gives them his greeting. Scholars believe that Apphia was Philemon’s wife, and Archippus was their son who lived in Philemon’s house and was a part of Philemon’s house church. No matter what Apphia’s and Archippus’ familial relationship may have been to Philemon, Paul addressed them from the spiritual context as workers in the house church that Philemon hosted.
Of these three (Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus), only Archipppus was mentioned elsewhere in Scriptures. In Colossians 4:17, Paul encourages Archippus to finish the ministry that the Lord had given him – an encouragement to stay committed to Christ and His calling, no matter the difficulties or pain or hardship.
Paul also sent his greetings to the house church as well. We don’t know if Paul knew any of the house church attendees or not. But regardless, Paul knew that if they were fellow worshippers and followers of Jesus Christ and under the care of Philemon and his family, they were in good hands and Paul wanted to encourage them also.
Paul concludes his introduction and greeting with a blessing of grace and peace. God’s Grace is the means of our salvation, and Peace is the result of receiving God’s grace.
And where do Grace and Peace come from? None other than God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Whom has discipled you along your walk with the Lord? And who have you discipled that you see growing in their spiritual journey?
Take some time to write three notes:
- A letter of thankfulness to your spiritual mentor for investing in you and your walk with the Lord.
- A letter of blessing and encouragement to those you have had the privilege of walking alongside in their faith journey.
- A letter of praise and worship or prayer to the Lord for His grace, peace, and leading in your life.