The Epistle to Philemon: Joy and Comfort.

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philemon 7 (ESV)

I realize that it is the beginning of June but today’s text reminds me of a familiar Christmas Carol: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The reason being is because of the carol’s chorus which contains the refrain, Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. Oh tidings of comfort and joy. The comfort and joy spoken of in this holiday hymn parallels the joy and comfort Paul derived from Philemon.

The word derived (ἔχω; echo) simply means to have or to possess. What the apostle possessed and had was great joy and comfort. Joy (χαρά; chara) is great happiness and gladness. Comfort (παράκλησις; paraklesis) is encouragement and consolation.

Paul had great joy and comfort from Philemon’s love. Love (ἀγάπη; agape) is a self-sacrificial love of the will. It is not a love based upon one’s emotions in the moment. I Corinthians 13:1-8 describes this love as patient, kind, lacking envy and boasting. It is not rude, it does not insist on its own way, and it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth.

It was because of Philemon’s love that not only was Paul filled with joy and encouragement, but other believers in Christ had also been spiritual refreshed. To be refreshed (ἀναπαύω; anapauo) means to receive rest while in the aftermath of exhausting labor.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “After reading Philemon in its entirety, it is clear that Paul regarded Philemon as a true brother in Christ and as one who exercised a profound ministry in the church at Colossae. We saw in verse 5 that Philemon had a great love for “all the saints.” In today’s passage, the apostle expands upon this thought, referring to Philemon as one who “refreshed” the hearts of all the saints in the Colossian church. This expression indicates that Philemon’s love was not merely superficial but deep and long lasting, refreshing to other believers at the most significant levels, perhaps through encouragement, discipleship, financial support, and prayer.”

Who has been a source of spiritual and biblical joy and comfort in your life? How have you brought spiritual refreshment into an individual’s life today? How may you?

Soli deo Gloria!

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