The Epistle to Philemon: The Recipient.  

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker.” (Philemon 1 (ESV)

As was the case with every one of Paul’s epistles, he immediately identified himself as the author. This marks the difference from the first century letter format with what we are familiar with today. In today’s writing style, the identity of the author is usually revealed at the letters, or emails, conclusion.

However, immediately following his personal introduction Paul addressed the recipient of the letter; Philemon. He was a prominent member of the church at Colossae (vv. 1–2; cf. Col. 4:9). This local church met in his house (Philem. 2). Paul’s letter was not only for him, but also for his family, and the church. It is also for believers in Christ today (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

Paul identified Philemon as our beloved fellow worker. The word “our” referred to Paul and Timothy. What does the phrase beloved fellow worker mean?

The word beloved (ἀγαπητός; agapetos) means dear friend. It refers to one who is the object of godly and sincere affection.

The phrase fellow worker (συνεργός; synergos) means a co-laborer. Paul often used this phrase in referring to fellow co-laborers for the gospel ((Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 1:24; 8:23; Php. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; 1Thess. 3:2; Phm. 1; 3 John 8).

One commentator explains, “He (Philemon) was loved by Paul (“dear friend” is the rendering of agapētō, lit., “loved” or “beloved”; cf. v. 16); and Paul considered Philemon on his level as a “fellow worker” (cf. the pl. “fellow workers,” v. 24). Philemon was a well-to-do Christian of the Apostolic Age, in whose home at Colosse the church met. “Fellow worker” does not necessarily suggest that Paul and Philemon labored together; more likely, Philemon worked to build up the church in Colosse while Paul served in nearby Ephesus. Paul also addressed Philemon as “brother” in verses 7 and 20.”

I encourage you to continue reading Philemon in one setting. Focus upon the words “beloved” and “fellow worker.” Are those words people might use to describe you? Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

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