Philemon 1:6
That the communication of your faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
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(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.

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 - That is, this was a subject of prayer on the part of the apostle, that the "communication of his faith" might receive from all the proper acknowledgment of the good which he did in the Christian cause. The phrase translated "communication of thy faith," means the making of thy faith common to others; that is, enabling others to partake of the fruits of it, to wit, by good deeds. On the meaning of the word here rendered "communication" (κοινωνία koinōnia), see the notes at Ephesians 3:9; compare Philippians 2:1; Philippians 3:10. Calvin has well expressed the sense of this passage. "It is to be observed that the apostle here does not proceed in the commendation of Philemon, but rather expresses what he desires for him from the Lord. These words are connected with those in which he says that he remembered him in his prayers. What, therefore, did he desire for Philemon? That his faith, expressing itself by good fruits, might be shown to be true and not vain. For he calls that the communication of his faith when it does not remain inoperative within, but bears itself forth to benefit men by its proper effects. For although faith has its proper seat in the heart, yet it communicates itself to men by good works." The meaning is, that he desired that Philemon would so make common the proper fruits of faith by his good deeds toward others, that all might acknowledge it to be genuine and efficacious.

May become effectual - Greek, "May be energetic" (ἐνεργὴς energēs); may become operative, active, effective.

By the acknowledging - That is, so as to secure from others the proper recognition of the existence of faith in your heart. In other words, so that others may see that you are truly pious, and understand to what extent you have faith.

Of every good thing which is in you - Of every good principle, and of every benevolent trait, which is in your character. That is, the proper outward expression of his faith in Christ, by doing good to others, would be a development of the benevolence which existed in his heart.

In Christ Jesus - Or "toward (εἰς eis) Christ Jesus." The goodness in his heart had respect to the Lord Jesus as its proper object, but would be made manifest by his kindness to men. The truth which is taught in this passage, therefore, is, that when faith exists in the heart, it is very desirable that it should impart its proper fruits toward others in such a way that all may see that it is operative, and may recognize its power; or in other words, it is desirable that when true religion exists it should be fairly developed, that its possessor may be acknowledged to be under its influence. We should wish that he may have all the credit and honor which the goodness of his heart is entitled to. Paul supposed that a case had now occurred in which an opportunity was furnished to Philemon to show the world how much he was governed by the faith of the gospel.

6. That—The aim of my thanksgiving and prayers for thee is, in order that the, &c.

the communication of thy faith—the imparting of it and its fruits (namely, acts of love and beneficence: as Heb 13:16, "to communicate," that is, to impart a share) to others; or, the liberality to others flowing from thy faith (so the Greek is translated, "liberal distribution," 2Co 9:13).

effectual by—Greek, "in"; the element in which his liberality had place, that is, may be proved by acts in, &c.

acknowledging—Greek, "the thorough knowledge," that is, the experimental or practical recognition.

of every good thing which is in you—The oldest manuscripts read, "which is in US," that is, the practical recognition of every grace which is in us Christians, in so far as we realize the Christian character. In short, that thy faith may by acts be proved to be "a faith which worketh by love."

in Christ Jesus—rather as Greek, "unto Christ Jesus," that is, to the glory of Christ Jesus. Two of the oldest manuscripts omit "Jesus." This verse answers to Phm 5, "thy love and faith toward all saints"; Paul never ceases to mention him in his prayers, in order that his faith may still further show its power in his relation to others, by exhibiting every grace which is in Christians to the glory of Christ. Thus he paves the way for the request in behalf of Onesimus.

That the communication of thy faith: the word sometime signifieth communion, in all which there is a mutual communication between those with whom the commmunion is. That thou mayst declare that thou hast the same common faith with us, thou communicatest the fruits of it.

May become effectual; and showest that it is not a dead, inoperative faith, but the true faith of God’s elect, Titus 1:1, working by love, Galatians 5:6, and showing itself by good works, Jam 2:18.

By the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ

Jesus; that every good thing, every good habit of grace which Jesus Christ hath wrought in thy soul, might be acknowledged by others, (the servants of Christ), to whom thou declarest thy love and goodness. 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.

That the {a} communication of thy faith may become effectual by the {b} acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

(a) By fellowship of faith, he means those duties of charity which are given to the saints, and flow from a productive faith.

(b) That by this means all men may perceive how rich you are in Christ, that is, in faith, charity, and all bountifulness.

Philemon 1:6. Ὅπως κ.τ.λ.] cannot, as is usually held (also by Winer, de Wette, Demme, Koch, Ellicott, Bleek, and Hofmann), introduce the aim of the intercession, Philemon 1:4, since μνείαν σου ποιούμ. κ.τ.λ. was only an accompanying definition, and ἀκούων κ.τ.λ. already pointed back to εὐχαριστῶ κ.τ.λ. (see on Philemon 1:5). It attaches itself (so rightly, Grotius, Bengel, Wiesinger, Ewald) in its telic sense (not in the sense of so that, as Flatt and older expositors would have it taken) to Philemon 1:5, specifying the tendency of ἣν ἔχεις. For the sake of making this attachment Paul has put the ἣν ἔχεις, which would be otherwise superfluous.

ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου] is by no means to be explained as if ἡ κοινωνία σου τῆς πίστεως (or σου εἰς τὴν πίστιν) stood in the text, which would have to be the case, if we take the rendering of Hofmann (“the fellowship of faith, in which Philemon stands with his fellow-believers”). In order to the right interpretation observe further, on the one hand, that κοινωνία is with Paul, as mostly also with classical writers, when it is not accompanied by the genitive of the personal pronoun (Php 1:5), always so employed, that the genitive therewith connected denotes that with which the fellowship, or in which the participation, takes place (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Corinthians 8:13; Php 2:1; Php 3:10; Ephesians 3:9, Elz.), consequently is the genitive not subjecti, but objecti; and, on the other hand, that κοινωνία signifies not communicatio, but communio, consortium. Accordingly there is at once set aside—(1) the traditional interpretation since the time of Chrysostom and Theophylact: “fides tua, quam communem nobiscum habes,” Bengel, comp. Luther, Wetstein, and many; in which case the genitive has been taken subjectively, as by Wiesinger: thy faith-fellowship with all saints; and by Ewald: “that thou believest in Christ not merely for thyself.” And there fall also (2) all interpretations, which transform the notion of κοινωνία into communicatio, such as that of Beza (comp. Castalio, Cornelius a Lapide, Estius, Hammond, Heinrichs): “officia benignitatis in sanctos promanantia ex fide efficaci.” Similarly also Calvin: “fidei communicationem appellat, quum intus non latet otiosa, sed per veros effectus se profert ad homines;” he is followed substantially by de Wette (and Koch): “the communion of thy faith (genitivus subjecti), as well in the display of love towards individuals as in the advancement of the gospel,” which latter element cannot be brought hither from συνεργ., Philemon 1:1, and is out of place (comp. Philemon 1:7). As the correct interpretation there remains only this, keeping the notion of πίστις in consistency with Philemon 1:5 : the fellowship entered into with thy Christian fidelity. So faithful a Christian as Philemon draws all other saints (Philemon 1:5), who come into relations of experience with him, sympathetically to himself, so that they form with him the bond of association unto like effort, and therewith become κοινωνοί of his πίστις.

ἐνεργὴς γένηται κ.τ.λ.] This fellowship with his fidelity is not to be an idle sympathy, but to become effective,[66] to express itself in vigorous action—this is what Philemon wishes and aims at—and that by virtue of the knowledge of every Christian saving-blessing,[67]—a knowledge which, in such pious fellowship, unfolds itself ever more fully and vividly, and which must be the means of powerfully prompting all Christian activity (Ephesians 1:17 f.; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:10). And the final aim of this activity? Toward Christ Jesus it is to take place, i.e. εἰς Χρ. ., which is neither, with Calvin, Estius, and others, to be annexed to τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν, nor, with Hofmann, to ἀγαθοῦ, nor even, with Grotius, to πίστεως, but to ἐνεργ. γένηται, in which case alone it has the significance: Christ Jesus’ will, work, kingdom, honour, and so forth, are to be their holy destination and relative aim. Consequently the whole passage might be paraphrased something in this way: And with this thy Christian fidelity thou hast the sacred goal of fellowship in view, that whoever enters into the participation of the same, may make this partaking through knowledge of every Christian blessing effective for Christ Jesus. An appeal to the profound Christian consciousness of Philemon, by way of preparation for the designed intercession on behalf of Onesimus, whom Paul in fact was now on the point of introducing to that κοινωνία τῆς πίστεως of his friend! Respecting the manifold other explanations of ἐνεργὴς γένηται κ.τ.λ., it is to be observed, on the one hand, that we have not, with many (including Wiesinger and Hofmann), arbitrarily to restrict the notion of ἐνεργής to the exercise of love, but to extend it to the collective activity of the Christian life; and, on the other hand, that as the subject of the κοινωνία is not Philemon, but others (comp. also Bleek), the latter, namely the κοινωνοὶ τῆς πίστεώς σου, must also be the subject of ἐπίγνωσις; by which all expositions, according to which Philemon is held to be this knowing subject, are set aside, whether παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ be taken in the moral sense, of every virtue (Chrysostom), of good works and the like, or (although in itself correctly) of the Christian blessings of salvation, which are to be known. Hence we have to reject the interpretation of Oecumenius: διὰ τοῦ ἐπιγνῶναί σε καὶ πράττειν πᾶν ἀγαθόν, in which case the doing is arbitrarily imported, as is also done by Theophylact, according to whom ἐπιγινώσκειν is held to be equivalent to ἀγαπᾶν καὶ μεταχειρίζεσθαι. So likewise in substance de Wette, who mixes up moral action as keeping equal pace with moral knowledge, and takes τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν as: the good which is as to principle and spirit in us Christians; he is followed by Demme and Koch. We have further to reject the explanation of Flatt (so in substance also Osiander, Calovius, Bengel): “thy faith shows itself active through love, by means of a grateful recognition of all the benefits,” etc., or (as Wiesinger puts it): “inasmuch as it (namely, thy fellowship of faith) recognises—which is possible only for love—in the other the good which is in him.” We have to set aside, lastly, the explanation of Hofmann, who, after the example of Michaelis,[68] retaining the reading ἐν ὑμῖν, and taking παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ as masculine, finds in ἐν ἐπιγνώσει κ.τ.λ. the meaning, that every one in the Christian sense good, every true Christian among the Colossians,[69] Philemon should know as being that which he is; only by virtue of such knowing would his fellowship of faith show itself effectively operative through the exercise of Christian love—which would not be the case with those “whose Christian virtuousness he failed to know.” Erasmus, Castalio, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Pricaeus, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, and others, have done rightly in not referring the ἐπίγνωσις to Philemon as the knowing subject, but wrongly in understanding ἘΠΊΓΝ. of becoming known, as e.g. Erasmus, Paraphr.: “adeo ut nullum sit officium Christianae caritatis, in quo non sis et nolus et probatus.” Beza: “ut hac ratione omnes agnoscant et experiantur, quam divites sitis in Christo,” etc.

ἀγαθοῦ] Comp. Romans 14:16; Galatians 6:6; Luke 1:53; Luke 12:18-19; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:1; Sir 12:1; Sir 14:25, al.; πᾶν ἀγαθὸν τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν really expresses quite the same thing as is expressed at Ephesians 1:3 by ΠᾶΣΑ ΕὐΛΟΓΊΑ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΉ.

] applies to the Christians generally, these being regarded as a whole. The blessings are in the Christian community.

[66] The translation of the Vulgate, evidens, is based upon the reading ἐναργής; so codd. Lat. in Jerome, Pelagius (Clar. Germ.: manifesta).

[67] Such blessings, by which Christ has enriched us (comp. on 2 Corinthians 8:9), are faith, hope, love, patience, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit, etc. In devout fellowship these become ever more fully, vividly, and experimentally known as regards their nature and value.

[68] “Who interprets: “as often as thou contest to know a good man among the Colossians!

[69] If the reading ἐν ὑμῖν were genuine, it could only, in accordance with the context, be referred to Philemon himself and to those adduced along with him in ver. 2. The Colossian church is brought in after a purely arbitrary way by Michaelis and Hofmann.Philemon 1:6. ὅπως: belongs to μνείαν σον ποιούμενοςPhilemon 1:5 is, as it were, in brackets. It would be more usual to have ἴνα here.—κοινωνία: the reference is to identity of faith; the fellowship among the saints, cf. Php 1:5. The word is used of a collection of money in Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; cf. Hebrews 13:16.—ἐν: see 2 Corinthians 1:6, Colossians 1:29.—ἐπιγνώσει: the force of this word is seen in Php 1:9.—παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ: cf. Romans 12:2; Romans 16:19, Colossians 1:9.—ἐν ἡμ. εἰς Χρ.: it is not only a question of men who benefit by “every good thing,” but also of the relationship to Christ; cf. Colossians 3:23.6. that] This word refers back to the “prayers” of Philemon 1:4; Philemon 1:5 being a parenthesis of thought. As in his other thanksgivings, so in this, he passes at once into prayer that the good he rejoices in may grow.

the communication] R.V., “fellowship.” The Greek word occurs Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Hebrews 13:16 (and the verb, Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:6; Php 4:15); in the sense of charitable distribution, bounty. So it seems to be here. Philemon, comparatively wealthy, was the generous giver to his poorer fellow-believers.

of thy faith] I.e., which thy faith prompts, and in that sense makes. Philemon’s faith was as it were the inward “distributor to the necessities of the saints,” while his hand was the outward. The phrase, so explained, is unusual, but other explanations are much further fetched.

may become effectual] Operative (Ellicott), or effective (Lightfoot). He prays that Philemon’s life of practical love may “tell” around him.—Wyclif, “may be made opene.” This is from the Latin, which (see Lightfoot) depends on a slight variant (one letter only) in the Greek.

by the acknowledging] Lit. and better, in the (true) knowledge. As the recipients and witnesses of his goodness saw more and more clearly the motive and spirit of it, they would have a truer insight (epignôsis) into the power of the Gospel; and “in” that insight would consist the deepest “effect” of Philemon’s goodness.—On the word here rendered (R. V.) “knowledge,” see on Colossians 1:9.

every good thing] Every grace; the gift of love in all its practical manifestations.

in you] Probably read, in us; us Christians as such. So Ellicott, Alford, Lightfoot, and margin R. V.

in Christ Jesus] Read, unto Christ (perhaps omitting Jesus).—“Unto” Him:—i.e., to His glory, the true aim of the true life of grace. The servant is so to live that not only shall he be seen to be beneficent, but his beneficence shall be seen to be due to Another, whose he is.—Perhaps these words go with “the knowledge” just above; as if to say, “your good shall be recognized to His glory.” But this collocation is not necessary.Philemon 1:6. Ὃπως, that) This depends on thou hast, Philemon 1:5.—ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου, the communion [the communication] of thy faith) i.e. thy faith, which thou hast in common with us and exercisest.—ἐνεργὴς γένηται, may become effectual) Paul speaks at first indefinitely.—ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ, in [by] the acknowledging of every good thing) Every good thing is all the riches which JESUS procured for us by His poverty, when he lived as a poor man upon the earth. He briefly intimates to his friend what he lays down more expressly in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where there is also, ye know. JESUS ought in turn to enjoy (in His own people) those benefits which He has conferred upon us. An elegant circle, ἀγαθὸν, good or benefit, occurs presently afterwards, Philemon 1:14.—εἰς, into) Construed with may become. The good shown to us ought to redound unto Christ.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. That (ὅπως)

Connect with making mention.

The communication of thy faith (ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου).

Κοινωνία fellowship is often used in the active sense of impartation, as communication, contribution, almsgiving. So Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Hebrews 13:16. This is the sense here: the active sympathy and charity growing out of your faith.

May become effectual (ἐνεργὴς)

See on James 5:16. This adjective, and the kindred ἐνεργέω to work, be effectual, ἐνέργημα working, operation, and ἐνέργεια energy, power in exercise, are used in the New Testament only of superhuman power, good or evil. Compare Ephesians 1:19; Matthew 14:2; Philippians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 4:12.

In the knowledge (ἐν ἐπιγνώσει)

In denotes the sphere or element in which Philemon's charity will become effective. His liberality and love will result in perfect knowledge of God's good gifts. In the sphere of christian charity he will be helped to a full experience and appropriation of these. He that gives for Christ's sake becomes enriched in the knowledge of Christ. Knowledge is full, perfect knowledge; an element of Paul's prayer for his readers in all the four epistles of the captivity.

In you

Read in us.

In Christ Jesus (εἰς Χριστὸν Ἱησοῦν)

Connect with may become effectual, and render, as Rev., unto Christ; that is, unto Christ's glory.

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