Paul begins v.22 with a “but” to contrast v.21, where he said he was “confident” Philemon would obey him and be gracious to his runaway slave, and even do “more” than Paul asked. That illustrates how God is confident we’ll do more under grace than He asked the Jews to do under the law. When he says he wouldn’t have written him if he didn’t think he would, that illustrates how God wouldn’t have written us 13 epistles through Paul if He didn’t think we would.
“But”—by contrast—after mentioning that he wrote Philemon, he also mentions coming to see him. This would make Philemon more inclined to do what he asked. This illustrates how we should be more inclined to do what the Lord asks us to do, knowing that He’s coming for us!
Along “withal” Paul was asking Philemon to do in this letter (v. 22) he asks him to get a room ready for him, for he trusted to come see him. He was in prison (1:1) so we have to ask what he meant. If the Lord told him he’d get out, he could have trusted His word as the psalmist did (Ps. 119:42)But we can only go by what the Bible says, so he probably meant he hoped to come, as Paul trusted/hoped in Philippians 2:19,23
But he trusted he’d get out of jail through Philemon’s prayers (v. 22) and the prayers of the Philippians (2:23). When he says his salvation from prison would come through prayer and through “this,” the “this” there meant the preach-ing of Christ (2:19-23). As more people got saved, Rome would be pressured to release him. So Paul expected God to answer prayer through His people using His Word.
That’s how God answers prayer today. Christ is our Head, we’re His body. In your body, if your head wants something done, it doesn’t get done until your body does it. Our service is what the Spirit supplies to answer the prayers of others (Phil. 1:19).Some in the body are eyes and ears, etc. (I Cor. 12:12-19), some are joints (Eph. 4:15,16). The Lord joins the Body together when He saves us, but we need compacting because we’re all so different and there are spaces between us. As the joints of the Body God joined minister to one another, the spaces between us compact!
Paul hoped to get out of prison to pressure Philemon to be gracious to Onesimus, but he didn’t pray to get out for he was “content” in prison (Phil. 4:11), knowing God could use him wherever he was. We should strive for that contentment!
It’s no accident that after talking about prayer, Paul mentions Epaphras (v. 23). He labored in prayer that the saints would stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Col. 4:12). He probably prayed for the physical needs of the saints after the earthquake that history says hit Colosse, but Philemon met those needs easily (Phile. 1:7). Getting people to stand perfect and complete is harder, so he labored for it.
“Marcus” (v. 24) was John Mark. If Paul calls him a “fellowlabourer,” that must mean he gave him a second chance after he left Paul in the lurch (Acts 13:13; 15:37,38). That illustrates how God is a God of second chances, as He proved with Jonah, David and Peter—and will prove with you if you’ve disappointed Him in the past.
Aristarchus (v. 24) stuck with Paul through thick and thin, in the riot (Acts 19:29) and the shipwreck (Acts 27:2). That illustrates how you should stick with Paul through all the adversity that Satan hurls at Pauline truth today. Don’t be like Demas, who Paul mentions is a fellowlaborer here, but who later loved the world more than the truth (II Tim. 4:10).
Lucas (v. 24) was a kingdom saint who traveled with Paul to minister to him as a doctor (Col. 4:14) after the gift of healing faded away. His message for the Jews was different than Paul’s message for the Gentiles, but Paul calls him a fellow-laborer. Similarly, the message of non-grace ministries may be different than ours, but don’t despise them (cf. Luke 9:49,50), they are our fellowlaborers. And if Paul counted Lucas a fellowlaborer for his service as a doctor, he’ll count you one for whatever service you render in the Body.
Paul closes this epistle by reminding Philemon to let the grace that God showed him be with his spirit (v. 25), and cause him to be gracious to Onesimus and all others. Amen.