1 I, Paul, am writing this letter. I am a prisoner because of Christ Jesus. Our brother Timothy joins me in writing. Philemon, we are sending you this letter. You are our dear friend. You work together with us. 2 We are also sending it to our sister Apphia and to Archippus. He is a soldier of Christ together with us. And we are sending it to the church that meets in your home. 3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 4 I always thank my God when I remember you in my prayers. 5 That’s because I hear about your love for all God’s people. I also hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that what we share by believing will help you understand even more. Then you will completely understand every good thing we share by believing in Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy. It has encouraged me. My brother, you have renewed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
The key sentence in this passage, in the middle of all the fine things Paul says about Philemon, is verse 6. This is what he’s praying for: he’s praying that the partnership which he and Philemon share in the gospel will be productive, will have the effect it’s meant to.
The word Paul uses for ‘partnership’ is often translated ‘fellowship’. But Paul means more than warm Christian affection, he means something like a business partnership that links Paul, Philemon and others. They are in this together. They share a joint project, and if it’s to go forward they must be prepared to stand loyally side by side. The partnership is the partnership Paul and Philemon have in the gospel.
As I read this passage I am drawn to the truth that to partner in the Gospel is not just to have a sense of affection for the saints who surround me, but that we are on mission together. We have a job to do in reaching out to the lost, broken and lonely of our world, the up and out and the down and out, and that I must play my part.
Father help me to do your will, to play my part in the partnership in the Gospel you have given me to play, with grace and truth that comes from knowing Jesus my Lord.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta