Phm 1:1-3 “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Many scholars believe that this letter was written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome around 61 A. D. If that is the case, then Paul was a prisoner in a very literal sense. However, Paul makes it abundantly clear here that he did not see himself as a prisoner of men. He is demonstrating a complete trust in the power of Jesus Christ to lead and direct his life.
A great peace is ours when we have complete confidence that God never leaves us or forsakes us. That peace deepens with the understanding that He is not only with us but is also leading us in paths of righteousness (Psa 23:3). When our faith has matured to this level, then we are able to face life without fear. Often, God shows us additional mercy in giving us brothers and sisters to walk with us.
Obviously, God had granted Paul this comfort even while he was in prison. It is unclear if Timothy was actually a prisoner himself or if he was simply allowed to visit with Paul while Paul was imprisoned. Either way, God had provided someone to encourage and comfort Paul in their mutual faith. As we look back over our lives, we, too, rejoice in all the times the Lord has favored us with the companionship of good and faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
Unlike many of his other letters, this one is very personal and singular. It clearly demonstrates that the faith of our Lord is not only meant for congregations but for individuals, and the principles of the doctrine of Christ are applicable to our daily lives. Paul was obviously thankful for his fellowship with Philemon and his household, and he was not afraid to tell him so. As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be diligent to express our sincere love to those who labor with us in His kingdom here.
Some scholars have suggested that Apphia was Philemon’s wife and Archippus was their son. Regardless of their physical relation to each other, it is obvious that they shared Paul’s love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for His church. Paul’s salutation to the church that was in their house is especially touching to me.
We know from the scripture that it was common in the early days of the church for worship services to be held in individual dwellings. Philemon had obviously opened his home for such a purpose. Having been blessed over the years to participate in worship services in individual homes, I can personally attest to the close-knit fellowship of such services. While this is not the “norm” for most of our worship services today, the church in our hose is still very important.
We, as individual servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, are the dwelling place of God (Joh 14:16, 23). While we, as individuals, are obviously not a congregation we are always part of that great congregation that makes up the temple of God here. There is a very real sense in which the church is always in my house (this body I live in). When we consider each other in greeting or in prayer, it should always be with the understanding that we are the church. Therefore, the way we treat each other is the way we treat the church.
Our salutation to the church and the individuals who comprise the church should always be grace and peace. Strong’s defines the word rendered “grace” as “graciousness of manner or act.” Grace toward the church for God should always show in how behave ourselves and how we act toward others. The word rendered as “peace” is rooted in a primary verb which means “to join.” The salutation of peace reflects the unity we have in Jesus.
Finally, we see the fount of all this love, fellowship, graciousness, and unity. Notice that these first three verses are all part of a single sentence. The desire for grace and peace to be extended to our beloved brethren as individuals and to the church as a whole does not originate in us. The source is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
May our lives reflect the grace and peace of God to one another and to His church as a whole!