The Epistle to Philemon: The Full Knowledge of Every Good Thing.

“…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 (ESV)  

Philemon 6 continues Paul’s prayer which began in vs. 4-5. The apostle continued to pray for his brother in Christ. Paul’s prayer in today’s text takes the form of a cause and effect statement.

I pray that the sharing of your faith. The word sharing (κοινωνία; koinonia) means fellowship, close association and participation. Philemon had a reputation as a disciple who shared his faith. His faith was closely associated with who he was in life and living. Philemon’s trust in, dependence upon, commitment to and worship of the Lord Jesus Christ was evidenced in how he lived his life.

Paul prayed that Philemon’s sincere faith would become effective (ἐνεργής γίνομαι; energes ginomai). This meant that Philemon’s personal faith was to continue to be active in the future in order to cause something to happen.

The Holy Spirit does not leave us wondering as to what Paul meant. Philemon’s faith was to effectively bring about the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. What is meant by this statement?

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Verse 6 is difficult to interpret, and there are many options as to what the apostle meant when he wrote it. Most of these options, however, are nuanced ways of saying the same thing. Basically, “sharing of your faith” refers to the fellowship in Jesus that all believers have with one another. Paul’s hope for Philemon was that this shared fellowship would help him understand what was an oblique request for the freeing of his slave Onesimus and enable him to respond rightly to the apostle’s appeal.”

“To put it another way, verse 6 is Paul’s reminder to Philemon that he and the other Christians in Colossae shared a bond that had to be considered when making the decision itself and in relation to the effects that freeing Onesimus might have on the church. The covenant community has something to say about “private” matters, and every private moral decision we make impacts the body of Christ, particularly when these decisions cannot help but be made public (Ruth 41 Cor. 5). It is false to say ethical decisions, whether about marriage or money, for example — are none of the church’s business. No Christian, of course, may bind us where Scripture leaves us free, but we fool ourselves if we believe our choices are uninfluenced by other believers or have no ramifications for God’s people.”

Too often, believers in Christ rarely consult other believers and elders in the church before making a decision. This emphasizes the non-biblical individualism that influences even the thinking of Christians. The church is not to legalistically bind the conscience of believers, though some churches and church leaders try to do so. However, the advice of other godly people is invaluable when we encounter choices that appear to be equally acceptable before God.

One of the ways we can discover the will of God is through the mature counsel of godly leaders and fellow believers in Christ. When appropriate and needed, may we seek such godly counsel.

Soli deo Gloria!

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