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"Having confidence in thine obedience I write unto thee, knowing that thou wilt do
even beyond what I say" (21 R.V.).
"Beyond what I say"--the details are left for Philemon to fill in. Would manumission
be included? Possibly, but the master is under no compulsion, either here or in any other
part of the epistle, to set his slave free. Rather does the next verse suggest hospitality, "as
a brother beloved", than freedom.
"But withal prepare me also a lodging" (22).
"Also", as well as Onesimus. Had Philemon during the absence of his slave obtained
another to meet his need? If so then the `also' takes on a stronger meaning--"prepare
him a lodging--me also".
The Apostle's confidence of release is based upon "your prayers"; not perhaps simply
Philemon's, but of the whole of the Colossian assembly. This confidence in prayer has
been already touched upon in a previous article, and may be seen more clearly by
emphasizing the preposition in verse 22:
"I trust that by means of your prayers I shall be given unto you."
Paul apparently planned upon his release to lodge at Colosse, having visited Philippi
in Macedonia (Phil. 1: 24-26) and probably a number of other churches, who would `bring
him on his way'. His earlier plans to travel west to Spain (Rom. 15: 23, 24) had been, for
the time being, put on one side. That he did however during this period of freedom visit
Spain at least, is attested strongly by tradition (see Lightfoot's Biblical Essays). This
change of plan no doubt accorded with the revelation received after his letter to the
Romans (Eph. 3:), when his first concern would be to establish the existing churches in
the new stewardship, rather than break the virgin ground of the extreme west. This
change of plan may also largely have been influenced by the Colossian heresy (Col. 2:)
which was at this time giving the Apostle some concern. He would wish, at the first
opportunity, to visit Colosse and establish the church there. Hence his journey eastwards.
The letter closes with salutations:
"There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus,
Demas, Lucas, my fellow labourers" (23, 24).
All five persons are also mentioned at the close of the Colossian letter and "Jesus,
which is called Justus" is added (Col. 4: 11). Of this latter nothing is known, except that
together with Aristarchus and Marcus (4: 10) he was "of the circumcision". The
distinction would seem to imply that Epaphras, Demas and Luke were not of the
"Epaphras", his full name would be Epaphroditus, is probably not to be confused with
one of the same name, a messenger to the church at Philippi (Phil. 2: 25), for the name
was a common one. He has two mentions in the Colossian epistle (1: 7; 4: 12) which
suggest he was a teacher and a great man of prayer. When Philemon was written he
shared Paul's imprisonment (Philem. 23).