I. THE APOSTLE’S RECOMMENDATION
In verse 17 Paul says to Philemon regarding Onesimus, “If then you hold me as a partner, receive him as myself.” The use of the word partner here indicates the deep relationship of fellowship in the Lord. Paul appealed to Philemon to receive Onesimus as if he were Paul himself. A local church with its elders is in partnership with the Lord, and the Lord entrusts the newly saved ones to them just as the good Samaritan entrusted the one he had rescued to the innkeeper (Luke 10:33-35).
II. THE APOSTLE’S PROMISE
In verses 18 and 19 Paul continues, “And if he has wronged you in anything or owes anything, charge that to my account; I Paul have written with my own hand, I will repay; not to say to you that you owe me even your own self besides.” The phrase, “if he has wronged you in anything or owes anything,” indicates that Onesimus may have defrauded his master. Concerning this, Paul says, “Charge that to my account.” In caring for Onesimus, Paul did exactly what the Lord does for us. In verse 19 Paul says, “I will repay,” just as the Lord pays everything for His redeemed.
In verse 19 Paul also reminds Philemon, “You owe me even your own self besides.” This indicates that Philemon had been saved through Paul himself.
III. THE APOSTLE’S REQUEST AND CONFIDENCE
In verse 20 Paul goes on to say, “Yes, brother, may I have profit from you in the Lord; refresh my inward parts in Christ.” The Greek word for profit here, onaimen, is an allusion to the name Onesimus. This is a play on words, implying that since Philemon owed Paul even himself, he was an Onesimus to Paul. Hence, Philemon should be profitable to Paul in the Lord.
In this verse Paul also asks Philemon to refresh his inward parts in Christ. The word for refresh means soothe, cheer. Literally, the Greek word rendered inward parts means bowels, as in verse 7. Since Philemon refreshed the inward parts of the saints, his partner asks him now to do the same for him in the Lord.
In verses 21 and 22 Paul says, “Having confidence in your obedience, I wrote to you, knowing that you will do even beyond what I say. And at the same time also prepare me a lodging; for I hope that through your prayers I shall be graciously given to you.” Paul’s expectation that he would be liberated from his imprisonment and visit the churches again is also expressed in Philippians 1:25 and 2:24. Paul considered his visit a gracious gift to the church.
IV. THE CONCLUSION
In verses 23 through 25 we have the conclusion of this Epistle: “Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you; as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow-workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” The apostle always greeted the recipients of his Epistles, both in the opening and in the conclusion, with the grace of the Lord. This shows that he trusted in the Lord’s grace for them, as well as for himself (1 Cor. 15:10), to accomplish what he wrote to them. No human effort avails for the accomplishment of such a high revelation as the completing revelation of the Apostle Paul.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 28, by Witness Lee)