“and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” ~ Philemon 6
Explanation of the Text: This particular text is part of the previous sentence. However, because of the implications of verses 4-5, it was important to focus on those verses separately. Therefore, today we focus solely on verse 6.
In the previous verses, Paul indicates that he prayed for Philemon as he came to mind, specifically stating that he thanks God for Philemon because his faith in Jesus Christ and the evidence of that faith as found in his love towards the people. He now furthers that thought by indicating that he prays intentionally that the sharing of his faith would be effective in the knowledge of every good thing that is in himself and Philemon. The word used for sharing is koinonia, which is the same word that is often translated for fellowship. The importance of this is phenomenal. The sharing here is not simply the sharing of the gospel with unbelievers, it is the sharing of a life in Christ within the body of Christ. It is a community of believers spending intimate time together because of their common bond that is found in Jesus Christ.
This point is further strengthened when we understand the word knowledge in this verse. The word knowledge is not simply a head knowledge of knowing about something it is knowledge that is found through experience. The difference is this: one can read the driver’s training manual in order to learn how to drive and thus gain head knowledge, or one can also learn how to drive by physically sitting in the car and driving, thus gaining knowledge through experience. It is the same way in relationships with people. We can know about a person, or we can know someone by experiencing a relationship with them.
When we put the words sharing and knowledge together, we come upon a profound truth. Sharing one’s faith, or in other words, living in communion with the body, leads to a knowledge through relationship. Paul specifically states that it is knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. First off, we know from the fall of man (Genesis 1) that we are totally depraved (Romans 3:23) and that the only good thing that dwells in believers is not something of one’s own doing, but it is God. Ultimately, fellowship with each other should signify a relationship with God as we related to each other.
Finally, it is noted that this for the sake of Christ. Ultimately everything we do should be motivated by the desire to see Christ lifted up. God’s glory is paramount, and the concern should never be for our own glory.
Examination & Application of the Text: Knute Larson notes that life and faith are integrated together, and thus the Christian faith should be one that is manifested through the way one lives his life and through the relationships that one maintains. The life that one lives should point back to Jesus Christ and direct others to a relationship with Him. For non-believers, we should simply point to life within the body of Christ and cause others to desire that relationship with Him. For a believer, our relationships with one another should not cause division, but rather should cause one to experience the fullness of life as found in Christian living. Each of us should drive others further into their relationship with God. In other words, we should spur one another onto growth.
I often hear it said that we don’t need to go to church and that we simply need to spend time with God. That is what it means to be involved in a Christian lifestyle. While it is true that our relationship with God is what we are called forth in, and it is through Jesus Christ that we are saved, the form that God has chosen for a Christian lifestyle to be manifested is through living in a body of believers. God never instructed for the life to lived alone or separate from others. He called us into a body. Therefore, the way of thinking in which one does not need to be involved with other believers is false, and verse 6 of Philemon reinforces that point. Knowledge of a relationship with God can be furthered through a knowledge (relationship) with other believers. Therefore, the call is to live within a body and do so in a way that points to the glory of God.
If you are not involved in a church, perhaps now is the time to pray for direction on where to attend. If you are involved in a church, then now may be a good time to evaluate your life and evaluate how are you spurring others to a knowledge (again relationship in the context of this verse) of the one true God? Let us live together in one body and function as one body as we have been called to do.
 Knute Larson, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 402.