A Testimony of Faith & Love (Philemon 4-5) ~ A Daily Devotion for May 12, 2014

“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints” ~ Philemon 4-5

Explanation of the Text: As we look at the today’s text, we see the character of Paul and the character of Philemon. First we see a Paul who prays. Not only does he note that he prays, but specifically he is praying for his fellow believers. He does not say that He prays for Philemon every time he prays, but as he remembers him. Paul can also be seen as an example in this verse. Note that when he says he thanks God, he refers to God with the personal pronoun ‘my.’ The use of this word indicates that Paul had a very real and a very personal relationship with God.[1] Paul does not simply have a superficial relationship with God, but rather he has an intimate relationship with Him in which God has an active role in the life of Paul.

The second aspect of this is the reason in which Paul thanks God for Philemon, which denotes the Philemon’s character. First off, it should be noted that the letter is written to not only Philemon, but also Apphia, Archipus and the church, as has already been noted. However, the word ‘you’ in verse four is in the second person singular. That means that Paul is not referring to multiple people, but only one. That person would be Philemon who is the primary recipient of the letter, and listed first. With that, said Paul thanks God for who Philemon is and in verse 5, we learn who he is. Verse 5 is arranged in what is known as a chiastic structure. A chiastic structure is a literary device in which parts that relate to each other are not necessarily written in the exact order. So rather than writing a sentence so that conclusion ‘A’ follows premise ‘A’ and conclusion ‘B’ follows premise ‘B’ it is written in the order of ABBA. This is integral in understanding the verse. That means that the love Paul hears about refers to the love Philemon has for the saints, while the faith of Philemon is toward Jesus Christ. Therefore, we learn the following about Philemon:

1)       Philemon has faith. However, the faith that Philemon has is not arbitrary, but it is rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2)       Philemon has love. Philemon demonstrates a love towards his fellow believers.

3)       Philemon maintains a positive testimony. Paul notes that he has heard about the love and faith of Philemon, which indicates that someone had to tell him about it. With the connection to Colossians, some suggest that Paul probably heard about this from Epaphras (Colossians 1:7-8). This seems likely and plausible, but should not be considered definitive. Therefore, Philemon gives evidence of his faith in Jesus Christ by maintaining a positive testimony.

Examination & Application of the Text: In examining this text and learning about the characteristics of faithful believers, it gives application into the life of every believer.

A)     First off, nothing else can come about unless first there is faith in Jesus Christ. There must first be a relationship with Jesus Christ.

B)      The character of our relationship with God should be that of a personal nature. Our relationship with God should one of an intimacy in which we seek him out both in times of struggle and times of joy. Likewise, it should be one in which we know him very personally, as though we would know our best friend, our parents, or siblings.

C)      Each of us should be faithful men and women of prayer. We should seek to pray for one another, and give thanks to God for the fellow believers that are placed in one’s life.

D)      Our lives should be characterized by a love for our fellow believers. Love should pour out of us into the lives of everyone else. We should seek to support one another in whatever way is possible. Therefore, love should be demonstrated through action upon one another.

E)       Finally, our lives should be lived in a manner that glorifies God. Just as Philemon had a positive testimony, whether it be within the believers or in the secular community, so should every person maintain one. It should be one that is above reproach, meaning that even if someone were to suggest something untrue, it would never be believed, because it is so uncharacteristic of the testimony that one has.

It is interesting to note the connection of faith and love in verse 5. In looking at this verse, we note that Philemon first has a faith in Christ. This is expressed through the love that he shows to his fellow brethren. Faith and love our both words of action, and more than just the feeling that so many try to describe it as. A faith in Jesus Christ is shown through love, and love is demonstrated through our interaction with one another. Therefore, as a true believer in Jesus Christ, one should live a lifestyle in a manner that reflects that faith in Him.

 

[1] Homer A Kent Jr., Treasures of Wisdom: Studies in Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978). 161.

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