“That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” (Philemon 1:6)
This one-chapter epistle of Paul to his friend Philemon is essentially a personal request by Paul that Philemon forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and receive him back into “the church in thy house” as a new Christian, recently won to Christ (vv. 2, 10, 15-16). Our text is Paul’s prayer for Philemon and is similar to prayers by him for other believers (e.g., Colossians 1:9-10). It is an appropriate prayer on behalf of any fellow Christian. Its emphasis is on the blessings and responsibilities of true fellowship.
The “communication” of which Paul speaks is the Greek word koinonia, meaning “fellowship.” That is, genuine Christian faith involves a sharing of one’s life with others of “like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1). That fellowship becomes “effectual” (literally, “full of power,” from the Greek energes, “energizing”) only through recognizing and appreciating all the blessings we have received through Christ.
Paul pointed out that he himself should be counted as a “partner” with Philemon (v. 17). Here the Greek is koinonos, practically the same as koinonia. Both Philemon, the wealthy Colossian master, and Onesimus, his runaway bondservant, were Paul’s spiritual children (v. 19), so they all theoretically shared “every good thing” in fellowship through Christ. Thus, Paul offered to repay anything Onesimus had stolen or any other losses, should Philemon so insist (vv. 18-19).
The demands of Christian fellowship thus might cost Onesimus his freedom, Paul his helper, and Philemon his property. True fellowship is not mere Christian socializing. It is the sharing of love and concern, time and talents, possessions and even life itself, as need and circumstance demand, with others in the household of faith. HMM