In a message titled, PAUL, A PRISONER OF CHRIST JESUS (Philemon vv. 1-3), we began Paul’s smallest letter in the Bible- the book of Philemon. Paul wrote this work during his first Roman imprisonment, along with his letters to the Colossian, Ephesian, and Philippian churches (Col. 4:10; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:13; 2:23-24; Phile 22; Rev. 1:9, etc.).
However, in this heartfelt request, Paul corresponded not to a church but with an individual (i.e. the “you” is singular in verses 4, 6-8, 10-12, 16, 18-21, and 23). The Word tells us this person, Philemon, was a “beloved” brother and “fellow laborer” who let the church meet “in [his] house” (Phile 2b, 7, 20; Col. 4:15; Rom. 16:5; 2 John v. 10, etc.).
Paul included Apphia, Philemon’s wife, in the introduction as well. Culturally and biblically, as the “homemaker” of Philemon’s estate, she would have overseen many of the slaves including possibly Onesimus whom Paul was pleading for (Phile 2a, 10; Titus 2:1-5). And Paul also addressed his “fellow soldier” Archippus who served as a leader in the Colossian church (Phile 2a; Phil. 2:25-30). Unlike Philemon, who probably served the church in a layman capacity, the Word admonishes Archippus in a leadership role (Col. 4:17; James 3:1, etc.).
Paul then pronounces God’s “grace… [and] peace” over them, and more specifically over Philemon to whom he is writing (Phile 3). “Grace” (Gk. charis) was the common Greek greeting while “peace” (Heb. shalom) was the ordinary Hebrew salutation. But the Holy Spirit here combines both these terms to point to a peace that can change the world today (Eph. 2:8-9, etc.). Unlike the “Pax Romana” of that day and the peace of our culture now, the peace Jesus gives “surpasses all understanding” and can transform every relationship (Gal. 5:22; John 14:27, Phil. 4:6-7, etc.).