“I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother” (Philemon 1:4–7 NKJV).
Paul wrote to his “beloved friend and fellow laborer” in the faith, Philemon, concerning a sensitive and difficult matter involving damaged relationships and directions for gospel-centered reconciliation. In verses 4–7, Paul shared the content of his prayers for Philemon. He highlights the frequency of remembrance as “at all times,” the occasion of remembrance as “hearing of your love and faith . . . toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints,” and the request of his remembrance as “that the sharing of your faith may become effective.” At first glance, we may mistakenly think that “sharing of your faith” refers to evangelism; however, the term here is koinonia—which is typically translated “fellowship.” Paul’s request for Philemon in the unfolding situation with Onesimus is not that his evangelism may become effective but rather that his fellowship may become effective.
How could Philemon’s effective fellowship have made a difference in the unfolding situation in the local church that met in his house? Paul provided us with the means by which his fellowship could become effective—“by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” To expand a bit, Paul prayed that Philemon’s knowledge of the good things in himself for Christ’s sake may become effective for the church in this developing situation. As students of Paul’s writings and theology, we know that the Holy Spirit is illuminating our minds and transforming our hearts by means of all that Christ’s salvation can accomplish in us, through us, and for us for the sake of the glory of Christ. Paul’s powerful and timely prayer request asked God to make Philemon’s knowledge of these good things in him to result in effective fellowship in the church and in reconciliation.
Throughout the letter, Paul demonstrated his confidence that Philemon’s fellowship would become effective. His confidence must have come from past dealings with Philemon “because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” Philemon had a reputation for being a “Refresher of the Saints.”
How effective is your fellowship? Is it consistent with what you know about the good things in you for Christ’s sake? With all of the confusion, pain, hurt, and anger swirling out of control in our day, I will continue to remember you and pray that you will be “Refreshers of the Saints.” We, at TSBC, look forward to thanking God for all of you as we hear more and more about your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints.