17So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.
Paul referred to Philemon as a fellow worker and to Archipus as a fellow soldier. He is now saying that if they consider him to be a partner in the same way that they should receive Onesimus in grace as they would receive Paul.
18If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
Paul is willing to pay for the damages. Whatever Onesimus stole, Paul says he will pay for.
19I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.
Many times people would have scribes write out their letters. The scribes would take liberty with the text to a certain degree to make sure that the point comes across. In this case, Paul wrote the letter with his own hand to make sure Philemon knows how sincere he is.
Paul makes a statement at the end to say that Philemon owes Paul his own self. That is to say that Paul converted Philemon, so Philemon owes Paul everything. How little is this debt in comparison.
20Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
The benefit Paul desires is for Onesimus to return to him.
It is refreshing when you see God working to confirm all that he has promised he will do. Paul knows that he will be refreshed by the work that God will accomplish through Onesimus if he returns to him in Rome.
21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Paul is confident, not only that Onesimus will be sent back as requested, but that Philemon will go above and beyond what he has been called to do. It is like Jesus said, “…if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5.40-41). Paul was not suing Philemon, but he was making a request of him. To respond in love would be to comply, but to bless him more so.
22At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.23Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
This is common for the prison epistles. Paul desires to visit all the churches he has been a part of. Even though he is old and in prison, he does not see this as the end.
- Treat others the same. Don’t treat one of your brothers or sisters in Christ better or worse than others. We are all equally valuable to Christ. Paul was afraid that they would treat Onesimus poorly because he was a slave, so he exhorts them to receive Onesimus as they would receive him.
- Don’t let material things challenge your ability to serve. Paul was concerned that the debt that Onesimus had with Philemon would cause turmoil, so he offered to pay the debt himself.
- Paul was confident that Philemon would serve above and beyond the call. We should do the same. As Christ calls us into service, we should do so with such a willingness that we accomplish the goal, above and beyond its requirements.