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Word of Faith > Thoughts on Philemon

By Martin Cisneros

The book of Philemon is an ordination letter, because St. Paul wasn't expecting for Onesimus to ever be enslaved ever again. St. Paul was testifying to the grace of God that was at work in Onesimus and saying to that Church to receive Onesimus as they'd receive him. And there was a passing implication of St. Paul wanting Onesimus sent back to him after that Church had been thoroughly blessed and enriched by the ministry of Onesimus. St. Paul anticipated being released from jail pretty soon, and expected Onesimus to accompany him to all of the Churches along the way from where he was in jail to the Church that the book of Philemon was written to. It wasn't just written to one person. St. Paul took his appeal to the whole Church, as a careful reading of that epistle will reveal. To me, the best translation of this epistle is the NASB, Updated Edition. A verification of my interpretation is that this same Onesimus was much later to be known as the Bishop of Ephesus.

The best translation for me so far in working with the book of Philemon has been the New American Standard Version, Updated Edition. Although I have consulted other translations that have proven to be helpful, particularly online versions of translations. Starting with verses 4-6 of Philemon in the Concordant translation:

4 I am thanking my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,
5 hearing of your love and the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints,
6 so that the fellowship of your faith may become operative in the realization of every good thing which is in us for Christ Jesus.

If this is a good translation, then verses 4 and 5 seem to indicate that Paul's thanksgiving was keeping the operation of the Discerning of spirits and the Word of knowledge operative in his life to keep him informed regarding how the Church at Colosse was doing:

4 I am thanking my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,
5 hearing of your love and the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints,

And verses 4 and 6 would seem to indicate that his thanksgiving was making the Church at Colosse enjoy their inheritance in Christ and his thanksgiving was watering the seed of the Word that he'd sown in them so that they'd grow in understanding through his thanksgiving over them.

I'd grown up in the Word of Faith under the impression that these verses were teaching that it was our acknowledgement of every good thing that we had in Christ that was developing us spiritually, and while that may be a true principle provable by other passages of Scripture, this one seems to be saying something else entirely different -- if this is a good translation of it in the Concordant Literal New Testament.

This one seems to be saying that those that are in the position of ministry gifts to our lives, that if they're fulfilling their priestly roles in giving God thanks over us and all that redemption means to our lives and all that the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives, that then is when "the communication of our faith becomes effective through the acknowledgement of every good thing that is in us in Jesus Christ" as one of the other translations would put it.

4 I am thanking my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,
6 so that the fellowship of your faith may become operative in the realization of every good thing which is in us for Christ Jesus.

Is this saying that a great deal of how operative the Word is in our lives depends largely on whether or not those who initially sowed the Word into our lives are fulfilling their priestly role over our lives by their continual thanksgiving over the ground of our lives before the Father? If this is saying this, then John chapter 17 may add some richness to this with Jesus not having lost any of them except for the son of perdition, i.e. the old Adamic image.

Some may cringe at the implication of what they'd consider to be Nicolaitanism in what I'm saying, but how dependent are we upon the ministry gifts fulfilling their priestly roles in our lives for our growth, according to these couple of passages of Scripture?? Nicolaitanism seems to me to be the outward counterfeit of this spiritual reality, regarding the whole spiritual father/son relationship that's a bit too "eastern" for most Western Christians to be able to grasp, appreciate, etc.

If the Concordant Translation is a good one on this passage from Philemon, then the implication to me is that I'm a bit more indebted to my spiritual father and his faithfulness before the Lord in his daily intercessions over his ministry's partners than I had any idea of. And this is very sobering regarding my own ministry work and whether or not I'm being faithful enough in my intercessions over others.

 

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For the idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd. Zechariah 10:2

 

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