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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 43: Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Philemon Verses 20-25

20. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

20. Certe frater, ego to fruar in Domino: refocilla mea viscera in Domino.

21. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

21. Persuasus de tua obedientia scripsi tibi, sciens etiam, quod supra id, quod scribo, facturus sis.

22. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

22. Simul vero praepara mihi hospitium; spero enim quod etiam per vestras precationes donabor vobis.

23. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;

23. Salutant to Epaphras concaptivus meus in Christo Iesu:

24. Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

24. Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, cooperarii mei.

25. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

25. Gratia Domini nostri Iesu Christi cum spiritu vestro. Amen.

Written from Rome to Philemon by Onesimus a servant.

Ad Philemonem missa fuit e Roma per Onesimum servum.

20 Yea, brother. This affirmation is used in order to increase the ardor of the exhortation; as if he had said — “Now shall it be clearly proved that there hath been no variance between thee and me, but that, on the contrary, thou art sincerely attached to me, and that all that thou hadst is at my disposal, if thou pardon offenses and receive into favor him who is so closely related to me.”

Refresh my bowels in the Lord. He again repeats the same form of expressions which he had previously employed. Hence we infer that the faith of the gospel does not overturn civil government, or set aside the power and authority which masters have over slaves. For Philemon was not a man of the ordinary rank, but a fellow-laborer of Paul in cultivating Christ’s vineyard; and yet that power over a slave which was permitted by the law is not taken away, but he is only commanded to receive him kindly by granting forgiveness, and is even humbly besought by Paul to restore him to his former condition.

When Paul pleads so humbly in behalf of another, we are reminded how far distant they are from true repentance who obstinately excuse their vices, or who, without shame and without tokens of humility, acknowledge indeed that they have sinned, but in such a manner as if they had never sinned. When Onesimus saw so distinguished an apostle of Christ plead so eagerly in his behalf, he, must undoubtedly have been much more humbled, that he might bend the heart of his master to be merciful to him. To the same purpose is the excuse which he offers (Phm 1:21) for writing so boldly, because he knew that Philemon would do more than he had been requested.

22 But at the same time prepare for me a lodging. This confidence must have powerfully excited and moved Philemon; and next, he holds out to him the hope of being gratified by his own arrival. Although we do not know whether or not Paul was afterwards released from prison, yet there is no absurdity in this statement, even though he was disappointed of the hope which he cherished about God’s temporal kindness. He had no confident hope of his release, further than if it pleased God. Accordingly, he always kept his mind in suspense, till the will of God was made known by the result.

That through your prayers I shall be given to you. Here it deserves notice, that he says that everything that believers obtain “through their prayers,” is “given” to them; for hence we infer that our prayers, though they are not unsuccessful, yet have no power through their own merit; for what is yielded to them is of free grace.

24 Demas. This is the same person who afterwards forsook him, as he complains in the Second Epistle to Timothy (2Ti 4:10.) And if one of Paul’s assistants, having become weary and discouraged, was afterwards drawn aside by the vanity of the world, let no man reckon too confidently on the zeal of a single year; but, considering how large a portion of the journey still remains to be accomplished, let him pray to God for steadfastness.


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