Philemon 1:6
(6) That the communication of thy faith . . .--The general idea of St. Paul's prayer for Philemon is clear--that his "faith may become effectual," i.e., energetic and perfected, "in full knowledge." This is exactly the prayer which, in different forms and degrees of emphasis, opens all the Epistles of the Captivity. (See Ephesians 1:17; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9.) It describes the true order of Christian life, so fully and beautifully drawn out in Ephesians 3:17-19, beginning in faith, deepened by love, and so growing to knowledge.

But it may be asked, "Why the communication of thy faith?" (1) The phrase is unique, but the word rendered "communication" is the well-known word generally rendered "communion," or "fellowship," except where (as in Romans 15:26; 2Corinthians 8:4; 2Corinthians 9:13; Hebrews 13:16) it is used technically and derivatively of "the communication" of almsgiving. The phrase, therefore, should probably be rendered the "communion of thy faith," i.e., "thy fellowship in faith." (2) But, again, the question arises, "With whom is this fellowship? With God or man?" The answer probably is, "With both." Perhaps for growth in divine knowledge the communion need only be with God. But we observe that the knowledge is not merely "of every good thing," i.e., of all that is of God, but of "every good thing which is in you (or, better, in us) towards Christ Jesus." It is, therefore, the knowledge of good--that is, of God's gift--as dwelling in man by the unity which binds all to Christ Jesus. (3) Now for knowledge of this, fellowship with man is needed, as well as fellowship with God. The soul which dwells alone with God, even in the holiest seclusion, knows what is good in the abstract, but not what is good in man in the concrete reality. But Philemon's house was a centre of Christian life. St. Paul might, therefore, well speak of this his two-fold "fellowship in faith," and pray that it might grow into full knowledge at once of God and of man as in Him. (4) That all such growth must be "towards Christ Jesus," dependent on unity with Him and serving to deepen such unity, is the characteristic doctrine of all this group of Epistles, especially of the Colossian Epistle, of which Onesimus was one of the bearers.

Verse 6. - Render thus: So that the community of thy faith [with other Christians, whom you may be able to serve] may show itself in act, causing full acknowledgment [from the world without] of every good work for Jesus Christ that is in you (Revised Version is not clear here); literally, may become working. Not a theoretical or merely quiescent faith. He was to confess Christ before men (and see James 2:22). "For whatever good thing is in us makes manifest our faith" (Calvin). In you. Bishop Wordsworth reads ἡμῖν, "us" - the body of Christians, following A, C, D, E, K, L, with many Fathers and versions.

1:1-7 Faith in Christ, and love to him, should unite saints more closely than any outward relation can unite the people of the world. Paul in his private prayers was particular in remembering his friends. We must remember Christian friends much and often, as their cases may need, bearing them in our thoughts, and upon our hearts, before our God. Different sentiments and ways in what is not essential, must not make difference of affection, as to the truth. He inquired concerning his friends, as to the truth, growth, and fruitfulness of their graces, their faith in Christ, and love to him, and to all the saints. The good which Philemon did, was matter of joy and comfort to him and others, who therefore desired that he would continue and abound in good fruits, more and more, to God's honour.That the communication of thy faith,.... The grace of faith itself cannot be communicated from one to another; a believing parent cannot communicate it to his children, nor a master to his servants, nor a minister to his hearers; but an account of it, of its actings and exercises, of the joy of it, and of the peace a soul is filled with through believing, may be given to the mutual comfort and edification of saints; and it may be shown forth to others by the fruits of it, works of righteousness: but here it seems to design acts of beneficence, communicating to the necessities of others, as flowing from faith; and these words are to be connected with Plm 1:4 as a part of the apostle's prayers, as what is contained in the preceding verse is the matter of his thanksgiving. And his prayer is, that such a communication of good things, which springs from faith,

may be effectual; to answer some very good purposes, the good of others, and the service of the interest of Christ, and the glory of God; or, as the Vulgate Latin version reads, only by the change of one letter, that it "may be evident"; to which the Syriac version seems to incline, rendering it, that it "may be fruitful in works"; or show itself in fruits of righteousness, in works of mercy and kindness; and the apostle's sense is, that it might be more and more so:

by the acknowledging of every good thing that is in you in Christ Jesus; the meaning is, that every good thing that is in the saints, or among them, should be acknowledged to come to them in and through Christ Jesus, in whom all fulness of grace dwells, and from whom all is imparted; and that every good thing that is communicated, or done in faith, which is effectual to any good purpose, should be owned as done by the grace and strength of Christ, and be done to his saints, as if done to himself, and be directed to his glory: the phrase, "in you", respects not Philemon only, but Apphia, Archippus, and the church in Philemon's house; the Arabic version reads, in us.

Philemon 1:5
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