Philemon 1:16


King James Version (KJV)

Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

American King James Version (AKJV)

Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

American Standard Version (ASV)

no longer as a servant, but more than a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much rather to thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Basic English Translation (BBE)

No longer as a servant, but more than a servant, a brother, very dear to me specially, but much more to you, in the flesh as well as in the Lord.

Webster's Revision

Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more to thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

World English Bible

no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much rather to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

English Revised Version (ERV)

no longer as a servant, but more than a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much rather to thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Clarke's Philemon 1:16 Bible Commentary

Not now as a servant? - Do not receive him merely as thy slave, nor treat him according to that condition; but as a brother - as a genuine Christian, and particularly dear to me.

Both in the flesh and in the Lord? - There is no reason to believe that Onesimus was of the kindred of Philemon; and we must take the term flesh, here, as referring to the right which Philemon had in him. He was a part of his property and of his family; as a slave, this was his condition; but he now stood in a twofold relation to Philemon:

1. According to the flesh, as above explained, he was one of his family.

2. In the Lord; he was now also a member of the heavenly family, and of the Church at Philemon's house. Philemon's interest in him was now doubled, in consequence of his conversion to Christianity.

Barnes's Philemon 1:16 Bible Commentary

Not now as a servant - The adverb rendered "not now" (οὐκέτι ouketi), means "no more, no further, no longer." It implies that he had been before in this condition, but was not to be now; compare Matthew 19:6, "They are no more twain." They were once so, but they are not to be regarded as such now; Matthew 22:46, "Neither durst any man, from that day forth ask him any more questions." They once did it, but now they did not dare to do it; Luke 15:19, "And am no more worthy to be called thy son," though I once was; John 6:66, "And walked no more with him," though they once did; see also John 11:54; John 14:19; John 17:11; Acts 8:39; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 2:19. This passage then proves that he had been before a servant - δοῦλος doulos - a slave. But still, it is not certain what kind of a servant he was. The word does not necessarily mean slave, nor can it be proved from this passage, or from any other part of the Epistle, that he was at any time a slave; see the Ephesians 6:5 note, and 1 Timothy 6:1 note. The word denotes servant of any kind, and it should never be assumed that those to whom it was applied were slaves. It is true that slavery existed in the heathen nations when the gospel was first preached, and it is doubtless true that many slaves were converted (compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 7:21), but the mere use of the word does not necessarily prove that he to whom it is applied was a slave. If Onesimus was a slave, there is reason to think that he was of a most respectable character (compare the notes at Colossians 4:9), and indeed all that is implied in the use of the term here, and all that is said of him, would be met by the supposition that he was a voluntary servant, and that he had been in fact intrusted with important business by Philemon. It would seem from Plm 1:18 ("or oweth thee ought"), that he was in a condition which made it possible for him to hold property, or at least to be intrusted.

But above a servant, a brother beloved - A Christian brother; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 6:2. He was especially dear to Paul himself as a Christian, and he trusted that he would be so to Philemon.

Specially to me - That is, I feel a special or particular interest in him, and affection for him. This he felt not only on account of the traits of character which he had evinced since his conversion, but because he had been converted under his instrumentality when he was a prisoner. A convert made in such circumstances would be particularly dear to one.

But how much more unto thee - Why, it may be asked, would he then be particularly dear to Philemon? I answer, because:

(1) of the former relation which he sustained to him - a member of his own family, and bound to him by strong ties;

(2) because he would receive him as a penitent, and would have joy in his returning from the error of his ways;

(3) because he might expect him to remain long with him and be of advantage to him as a Christian brother; and,

(4) because he had voluntarily returned, and thus shown that he felt a strong attachment to his former master.

In the flesh - This phrase is properly used in reference to any relation which may exist pertaining to the present world, as contradistinguished from that which is formed primarily by religion, and which would be expressed by the subjoined phrase, "in the Lord." It might, in itself, refer to any natural relation of blood, or to any formed in business, or to any constituted by mere friendship, or to family alliance, or to any relation having its origin in voluntary or involuntary servitude. It is not necessary to suppose, in order to meet the full force of the expression, either that Onesimus had been a slave, or that he would continue to be regarded as such. Whatever relation of the kind, referred to above, may have existed between him and Philemon, would be appropriately denoted by this phrase. The new and more interesting relation which they were now to sustain to each other, which was formed by religion, is expressed by the phrase "in the Lord." In both these, Paul hoped that Onesimus would manifest the appropriate spirit of a Christian, and be worthy of his entire confidence.

In the Lord - As a Christian. He will be greatly endeared to your heart as a consistent and worthy follower of the Lord Jesus. - On this important verse then, in relation to the use which is so often made of this Epistle by the advocates of slavery, to show that Paul sanctioned it, and that it is a duty to send back those who have escaped from their masters that they may again be held in bondage, we may remark that:

(1) there is no certain evidence that Onesimus was ever a slave at all. All the proof that he was, is to be found in the word δοῦλος doulos - doulos - in this verse. But, as we have seen, the mere use of this word by no means proves that. All that is necessarily implied by it is that he was in some way the servant of Philemon - whether hired or bought cannot be shown.

(2) at all events, even supposing that he had been a slave, Paul did not mean that he should return as such, or to be regarded as such. He meant, whatever may have been his former relation, and whatever subsequent relation he may have sustained, that he should be regarded as a beloved Christian brother; that the leading conception in regard to him should be that he was a fellow-heir of salvation, a member of the same redeemed church, a candidate for the same heaven.

(3) Paul did not send him back in order that he might be a slave, or with a view that the shackles of servitude should be riveted on him. There is not the slightest evidence that he forced him to return, or that he advised him to do it, or even that he expressed a wish that he would; and when he did send him, it was not as a slave, but as a beloved brother in the Lord. It cannot be shown that the motive for sending him back was in the slightest degree that he should be a slave. No such thing is intimated, nor is any such thing necessary to be supposed in order to a fair interpretation of the passage.

(4) it is clear that, even if Onesimus had been a slave before, it would have been contrary to the wishes of Paul that Philemon should now hold him as such. Paul wished him to regard him "not as a servant," but as a "beloved brother." If Philemon complied with his wishes, Onesimus was never afterward regarded or treated as a slave. If he did so regard or treat him, it was contrary to the expressed intention of the apostle, and it is certain that he could never have shown this letter in justification of it. It cannot fail to strike any one that if Philemon followed the spirit of this Epistle, he would not consider Onesimus to be a slave, but if he sustained the relation of a servant at all, it would be as a voluntary member of his household, where, in all respects, he would be regarded and treated, not as a "chattel," or a "thing," but as a Christian brother.


Wesley's Philemon 1:16 Bible Commentary

1:16 In the flesh - As a dutiful servant. In the Lord - As a fellow - Christian.

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