Philemon was so committed to Christ that he was counted “beloved” by Paul himself. And even more than this, Paul calls him “dearly beloved”—a brother in the Lord who was held ever so close to the heart of Paul. But even this is not all that Paul said.
Notice the striking title that Paul used for himself: “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” This is a most unusual opening for Paul’s letters. He usually opened his letters by establishing his apostleship, saying that he was “Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ.” Philemon must have been a dear friend of Paul’s, a friend who recognized God’s call to Paul, a friend who loved and supported Paul so much that Paul did not have to establish his call to the ministry for Philemon.
Philemon was a beloved friend and supporter of Paul, one who was so committed to Christ that he was counted as beloved by one of God’s choice servants, Paul himself. Philemon was so committed to Christ that he was a laborer for Christ. He served Christ diligently, he labored so diligently that Paul calls him a fellow- laborer. He was working so faithfully for Christ that Paul could acknowledge his labor and count him as a fellow-laborer, as working as diligently as Paul himself in the cause of Christ. What a dynamic testimony: to be working so hard for Christ that one could be counted as a fellow-laborer with Paul! What a challenge for us!
May God grant that we be stirred to serve Christ ever so diligently. Philemon was so committed to Christ that he rooted his family in Christ. Apphia was apparently the wife of Philemon and Archippus the son of Philemon. Note that Archippus is addressed as a fellow soldier of Paul. This must mean that at some point in his life he had actually served with Paul on some mission campaign. He was apparently the pastor of the Colossian church.
The point to see is the dedication of this family to Christ. Philemon, as the husband and father, had rooted his family in Christ and led them to serve Christ. He had even supported his son’s call and decision to serve Christ in the ministry. He was so committed to Christ that he took his responsibility to be the spiritual head of the family seriously. And from all evidence, his wife supported him in his call to be the spiritual head of the family.
What a dynamic example for Christian families, fathers, others, and children each living for Christ and fulfilling his and her function and duty within the family. Philemon was so committed to Christ that he opened his home to the church. Remember that the early church did not have church sanctuaries to meet in; they met in homes of faithful and committed believers. Philemon loved Christ so much that he was willing to open his home night after night and week after week for believers to worship and study God’s Word together. How many today would open their home this much for the church? How many love Christ enough to open their home on a regular basis—enough to forget their tiredness and the housecleaning required?