Titus 1 1 Commentary

Titus 1 1 Commentary: I’d like us to meditate on the first 18 words of the New Testament letter to Titus. So, let’s turn our focus to Titus, chapter 1.

Titus is a letter written with a great emphasis on healthy Christian living. It turns out that a number of people in Crete were in need of several corrections regarding their behavior and lifestyle. And so, this letter is written to challenge these people to be “sound in the faith.”

And the letter begins as pretty much all New Testament letters do, with an identifying of the one who is sending the letter.

Titus 1 1 Commentary Paul

So, Paul starts this letter in verse 1 by introducing himself. He gives his name first.

KJV Titus 1:1 ¶ Paul,

And then he’s going to describe what he is and does.

And of course, the recipient of this letter – whom we discover to be Titus later on – he would have known the following things about Paul. And yet Paul feels the need to state who he is to this man who already knows that information.

And this could be for the sake of reminding Titus or perhaps Paul was looking forward to the possibility that Titus might end up reading this letter to the church which he was shepherding.

Titus 1 1 Commentary A servant of God

So, here’s one thing that Paul is.

a [servant/bond-servant/slave] of God,

So, Paul serves God. He is – as it were – a slave whose main task in life is to please his master.

This phrase “servant of God” first appears in the book of Acts in relation to Paul. In fact, it’s in Acts 16:17 where the fortune-telling slave girl in Philippi kept following Paul and Silas and proclaiming, “these men are servants of the most high God.”

And even though Paul rebuked her for that at the time, it seems like what she was saying was actually true – and this term becomes a title that Paul would later proudly wear. He’s a servant of God.

Now, it’s more common for Paul to speak of himself as the servant “of Christ.” And so, right here in Titus and back in Acts 16 are the only two places where Paul is given this title “servant of God.”

But other people in Scripture also take on this title. Paul gives Epaphras this title (Col 4:12). And James takes on this title for himself (Jam 1:1).

Peter says that all believers are to view themselves as servants of God (1Pe 2:16).

And then there are several references to servants of God in the book of Revelation. Including those who will be taken out of the earth (Rev 7:3), prophets (10:7), Moses (15:3), those around God’s throne (19:5), those entering the new heaven and new earth (22:3), and those who read and believe the book of Revelation (22:6).

So, Paul is just like so many other people in his relationship with God – he’s a simple servant. He slaves for God. That’s his life. He’s nothing special in his own eyes. He’s just a slave.

And that might come in handy for Titus’ people to know later on in this letter. Because Paul – as a slave himself – if going to be addressing how slaves of human masters ought to treat those masters. Paul is just one of them. He knows what it’s like to live that life – in his case, for a heavenly master.

And this is the posture for all of God’s people to take – that we’re simply slaves of God.

  • Maybe you feel like your life is unfulfilling.
  • Do you feel like your life ought to be more exciting? Or more comfortable?
  • Do you feel restrained and restricted in certain ways in terms of where you’re going and what you’re doing in this life?
  • Do you wish you were able to do just whatever you please and you’re wondering why now – ever since you’ve been a Christian – that just doesn’t seem to work anymore?

It’s because you are like the Apostle Paul. You are a slave of God. Your life is no longer based on your own desires. Your life is now focused solely on pleasing God – on serving God – on knowing and loving and making known God.

So, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all slaves of God. Paul was. We are, too, if we know him through his Son, Jesus Christ.

So, this is the first way in which Paul wants to be identified. As a slave of God.

Titus 1 1 Commentary And an apostle of Jesus Christ

And then, Paul wants to describe himself in terms of his relationship with Jesus Christ.

and an apostle of Jesus Christ,

Now, the term apostle is used to describe one who is sent – a messenger – someone who is sent on behalf of someone important with a special message to deliver.

And Paul is described as an apostle all the way back in Acts 14 where he and Barnabas are given that title. And after that he identifies himself quite freely as Christ’s messenger – his apostle. In 8 of his 13 letters that he wrote, Paul labels himself as an apostle.

So, he’s a messenger sent with a special message. But whose message is it?

That’s where Paul identifies the one who has sent him – Jesus Christ.

And so, as we listen to a book like Titus, we need to keep before ourselves the fact that this is not just Paul’s opinions. What we have written for us in a book like this is exactly the message that the Lord Jesus Christ wants us to hear and obey.

And so, Paul has identified himself with two words so far. He’s a servant. And he’s an apostle – one sent with a special message.

And even though Paul was exceptionally gifted and he’s our human example to imitate – yet we’re not very much unlike him.

We all are servants of God. We’re called to serve God – to live for God – to consider our life-work to be slaving for him in this life. We’re called to lay aside our own interests and focus on God’s interests in this world. We are God’s servants.

And we’re ones who have been sent by Jesus Christ with a message. It’s the same message that Jesus delivered to his followers before he was taken back up into heaven for a time – given in what we call the Great Commission – that as we go, we must make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all the things that Christ commanded.

Titus 1 1 Commentary According to the faith of God’s elect

And as Paul did this – as he slaved for God and was sent out with Christ’s message – the following was his goal as we continue in Titus 1:1…

[according to/for/to further] the faith of [God’s elect/those chosen of God/God’s chosen ones],

So, the aim of Paul’s slaving for God and going out as one sent with a message by Jesus was for this purpose. The faith of God’s elect.

Let’s identify God’s elect first. And then we’ll talk about their faith. And then how Paul’s slaving for God and serving as Christ’s messenger plays into this.

Titus 1 1 Commentary God’s elect

That term elect is used for Christ – that he was chosen or choice. And the Scripture speaks of him a few times in that regard.

But the majority of the time that the Bible speaks of the elect it speaks of believers in Jesus Christ.

So, let’s just quickly consider what the Gospels have to say about these people – God’s elect.

Jesus’s parable of the wedding guests teaches us that there are all sorts of people who are called. Everyone is invited to the wedding – or, really, to salvation in Christ. But few are elect – few respond to that invitation. And actually – according to that parable, there’s even one guy who does respond. But he doesn’t have the right kind of clothing. And so, the father kicks him out. So, few respond to the call and are allowed in by the Father.

But those whom the Father does allow in, he’s very focused on. These are “God’s elect” as Paul says here in Titus. They have a special relationship with God.

In fact, this relationship is so special that God hears our requests now. Jesus used that parable of the unrighteous judge who was being annoyed by a woman and that’s what caused him to help her. But in contrast to that uncaring man – Jesus says that God the Father will not delay in giving justice to his elect who cry out to him day and night. God hears and responds to our prayers as his chosen or elect ones.

And it goes further than that. Jesus says that it’s for the sake of these people – God’s elect – that the Tribulation will be limited. And you think of the Great Tribulation that will occur right before Jesus returns to earth – and how important of an event that will be. And it’s a marvel that God will actually limit that unprecedented event in world history – just for the sake of these people – of God’s elect.

And because of this special relationship that the elect have with God and the extraordinary grace that he pours out on us, Jesus characterizes the elect as ones whom it is very difficult to ultimately deceive. He speaks of false Christs and false prophets deceiving people in the last days. And he says that their signs and wonders will deceive – if it were even possible – the elect! And I think that he’s saying that that won’t be possible – but if it were possible it would happen. But the blessed reality is that for those who are truly elect of God – we’re not ultimately deceived by false religion – even when it’s coming in the form of signs and wonders – miraculous events.

And the blessed end of God’s elect is that we will ultimately be gathered together to the Lord. We’re in a special relationship with God. He will limit the Tribulation for people like us. We can’t ultimately be deceived. And so, in the end he will gather us together to him.

So, that’s a summary of what’s said of God’s elect in the Gospels in your New Testament.

Then the section of the New Testament known as the Epistles – or letters to churches and individuals – speak of this group of individuals as well.

Paul in Romans says that it’s impossible to bring a charge or an accusation against God’s elect. Why’s that? Because God is the one who justifies us. He declares us righteous. And so, how could anyone possibly bring a legitimate charge of guilt against those whom God has already declared to be righteous?! It won’t happen.

Paul says in Colossians that we are elect or chosen of God and therefore we are holy and beloved. We’re set apart special for God – holy in that sense. And God loves us.

Paul says in 2 Timothy that the elect obtain salvation in Christ and eternal glory.

And Peter speaks of God’s elect as a people of God’s very own. We belong to God in a special way. And so, the following is expected of us – that we should proclaim the praises or excellencies or virtues of him who called us out of darkness and into light.

And so, we’ve come full circle – we began this discussion of the elect of God noting that many are called but few are chosen. And now here we end with the fact that the chosen were called by God out of darkness and into light.

And we’ll end there with our consideration of what the New Testament says of this group known as God’s elect.

But as Peter reminds us, we’re to be engaged in something right now in response to these blessed truths. We should be proclaiming God’s praises – speaking to others of his excellencies and virtues – and demonstrating those things with our lives.

Titus 1 1 Commentary The faith of

And so, these folks known as God’s elect have something – according to Paul here in Titus 1:1. They have faith. God’s elect ones believe something. What do we believe?

Well, Paul gives the substance of what God’s elect believe even in this short letter. Look at Titus 2:13-14.

Here’s what Paul affirms that God’s elect believe. We are…

KJV Titus 2:13 [Looking for/waiting for] [that/the] [blessed/happy fulfillment of our] hope, [and/in] the glorious appearing of [the great God and our/our great God and] Saviour Jesus Christ;

14 Who gave himself for us, [that he might/to] [redeem us/set us free] from [all iniquity/every lawless deed/every kind of lawlessness], and [to…] purify [unto/for] himself a [peculiar people/people for his own possession/people who are truly his], [zealous/who are eager] [of/for/to do] [good works/good deeds/good].

So, we get the kernel of the Gospel message in those two short verses.

Paul declares that we’re sinners. We need to be redeemed or set free from all iniquity or every lawless deed. We were formerly enslaved to those deeds. We are sinners in need of being rescued.

But Jesus came to this earth to “give himself for us.” He vicariously atoned for our sins. He died on the cross for our sins. He paid the price for us to be forgiven and released from slavery to sin. Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath for our sin. He didn’t deserve it – we did. But we didn’t take it – he did.

And if there’s going to be a glorious appearing of this one who died for us, then it means that he had to be raised again. Jesus rose from the dead.

And Jesus Christ will return for his elect. He’s coming again and that is our blessed hope.

This is – in a nutshell – the faith of God’s elect. This is what we believe.

Titus 1 1 Commentary According to

But how does a person come to believe this message of Christ’s dying for our sins and coming again?

This is where Paul’s efforts come in. Where his slavery to God and his being sent out as Christ’s messenger with a special message – with this very message – comes in to the picture.

Paul slaves and is sent forth according to this faith of God’s elect. He serves God’s interests and not his own like a slave would do – with the goal of people hearing and believing this Gospel message. Paul is happy to be sent out by Christ all over the place in order that God’s elect would demonstrate that they are indeed God’s elect by believing this blessed truth of the Gospel.

And we’ll stop here for now. But as we go to prayer we have a number of realities that were just revealed to us that should fuel our praying.

We should pray from the position of slaves of God and those sent by Christ with his saving message. We should pray that our efforts and the efforts of our missionaries would meet with a response of faith. And we ought to pray that as God’s elect we would proclaim the virtues and excellencies of God in this community and beyond.

Philemon Pronunciation

When you think of the word Philemon pronunciation is maybe the first thing that comes to mind.

But the pronunciation of Philemon is pretty simple.

Who Was Philemon?

Philemon is the name of a man who received a letter from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

What Language?

Now, Paul wrote in Greek to this man. And in Greek, his name is…

φιλήμονος

And that looks complicated to the typical English reader. But let’s break it down.

The Greek Letters Behind Philemon’s Pronunciation

  • φ is the Greek consonant phi and it sounds like an English f.
  • ι is the Greek vowel iota and it sounds like a short English i.
  • λ is the Greek consonant lambda and sounds like the English l.
  • ή is the Greek vowel eta which sounds like ay in the English word say. Also notice the accent mark above the letter. That most likely means that this vowel was given the stress when the word was pronounced.
  • μ is the Greek consonant mu and sounds like an English m.
  • ο is the vowel omicron and sounds like a short o in English.
  • ν is the consonant nu and sounds like the English n.
  • ο (see above!)
  • ς is the Greek consonant sigma in the form they used to end words (Yes, they had two forms of that one Greek letter!). It sounds like an English s.

Philemon Pronunciation in Greek

So, when you put these letters all together you have a word that sounds like this…

Philemon Pronunciation in English

And yet, we English speakers don’t usually pronounce our words like this. So, here’s the more typical way to pronounce Philemon in English…

How Philemon is Abbreviated

And if you’re curious as to how Philemon might be abbreviated when referenced as a book of the Bible, it can appear as Phm. as in Phm 1:4 or simply (because it consists of only one chapter) Phm 4.

How Paul Prayed for Philemon

After revealing the author and recipients of this letter and then giving his typical greeting, Paul in Philemon 1:4 begins his main message to Philemon. And interestingly enough – he begins by revealing how he prays for this man.

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

Paul Thanks God for Philemon

The first thing that Paul wants Philemon to know is that he thanks God his God. This is that God the Father that he mentioned in Philemon 1:3 who gives grace and peace. He’s the one common Father of all believers – Philemon, Paul, and everyone else. And it’s to this God that Paul gives thanks.

Paul Prayed for Philemon

But what is it that’s encouraging Paul to give thanks to his God in this context? Paul gives thanks to his God when he makes mention of Philemon in his prayers.

As Paul prayed, he would apparently often/all the time/”always” think of this beloved fellow-worker of his. And as he thought of Philemon he couldn’t help but gives thanks to God for him.

Why Give Thanks?

And Paul continues in Philemon 1:5 to explain what it is that makes him thank his God for this brother.

Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;

This hearing that Paul mentions is what prompts him to make mention always of Philemon – which in turn causes the apostle to give thanks to his God for this beloved fellow-worker.

What Had Paul Heard?

Paul has heard of Philemon’s love and faith. And he says that Philemon has these two things toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.

Philemon Loved Jesus and Believers

It’s easy to see how Philemon would have love for both Jesus and his fellow sanctified ones (“saints”). Just the fact that Philemon hosted a local assembly of believers in his home is enough to strongly indicate his love for Christ and his followers.

In addition, Philemon – through his labors with Paul and Timothy – had become one whom they considered to be a beloved fellow-worker. One who has no love for Jesus Christ or his people would not be thought of in this way by someone as spiritually mature as the apostle Paul.

Philemon Trusted Jesus Christ

So, it’s easy to see how Philemon could be said to have love for Christ and other believers. It’s also easy to see how Philemon had faith toward (προς) Jesus. Paul says in Ephesians 2 that we’re saved by grace through faith. This is the starting point for the Christian – faith in Jesus Christ to save him from his sin.

Philemon Had Faith… Toward Saints???

But how can it be said that Philemon has faith toward (εις) all the saints?

First of all, notice the different preposition in Greek as it relates to Jesus (προς) and to the saints (εις). Philemon has love and faith pros Jesus Christ and eis all the saints. He uses different prepositions to apply those two realities to both Jesus and believers.

Then what we have is the possibility that eis means something more like among rather than toward. Philemon has/demonstrates/acts out love and faith as he lives among his fellow-believers.

Back to Why Paul Prays for Philemon

And so, in Philemon 1:6, Paul goes back to an idea he started in verse 4. There he was thanking God as he made mention of Philemon.

Then he took a short detour in verse 5 and seemed to want to express what caused him to make mention of Philemon – that he was hearing of this man’s faith and love.

But now, Paul wants to get back to speaking of why he makes constant mention of Philemon. He does this so…

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

This is why Paul makes constant mention of Philemon to the Lord. So that the communication or of his faith may become effectual.

What does that mean?

Philemon Shared Because of His Faith

Another way that communication is translated is fellowship. And it’s a fellowship of Philemon’s faith. It’s what he shares in common with other believers through or because of his faith.

What does Philemon share in common with other believers as a result of his trusting Jesus Christ? Well, we’ve seen that Philemon shares his physical home in common with other believers – the church that was meeting in his house. He did this solely because of his faith in Christ.

Philemon’s Sharing Needs to Become Effectual?

And that was a good sign – that he was sharing even his own home in common with other believers because of his faith in Christ. But why does Paul need to pray that this sharing would become effectual?

The word effectual is a Greek word from which we get the term energetic. So, Paul is wanting Philemon’s sharing to become more and more energetic or operative or lively. Why does he want that?

Paul Wants Philemon to Share His Former Servant

Well, we’re going to see later on in this book that Paul is wanting Philemon to share a former slave of his named Philemon. And so, Paul starts off his letter to this man that seeks something of his by admitting that he does pray for Philemon to grow in his sharing of his things.

What Helps Us Share?

And Paul says that this sharing will become more operative by the acknowledging every good thing that is in “you [all]” in Christ Jesus.

Isn’t it often easier to share when you know how many good things you really have from Christ? How much more easily we can part with the trinkets of this life by lending them to others when we know how much treasure we truly have in this life and in the life to come.

In Christ, the believer has everything he needs and more. So, Paul is praying that God would help Philemon to see how much good he and his family and church have (you is plural, after all) because of Christ. And he then seems to hope that this will cause Philemon to hold everything in this life – including his servant Onesimus – with a loose hand, willing to share with others.

Grace to You and Peace in Philemon

After revealing the authors of Philemon as well as the recipients, Paul goes on to utter his oft-repeated greeting in Philemon 1:3.

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a familiar greeting from the apostle Paul. In fact, in each of the thirteen New Testament letters he wrote he starts with some form of this statement.

But there are a few nuances to each “Grace to You” greeting he gives.

In all thirteen greetings, Paul mentions grace and peace. From there, there are some differences.

For example, all that he mentions in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 is grace and peace and he wishes/prays it for you all. But he doesn’t mention from where this grace and peace come.

In Colossians 1:2 Paul says that the grace and peace come from God our Father.

And then in the other eleven greetings he gives, he mentions that this grace and peace are from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In 1 and 2 Timothy, Paul adds a wish/prayer for mercy for Timothy in addition to grace and peace. And in Titus, he adds that Jesus Christ is our savior.

But in Philemon – in the context – Paul is writing to a man and his household and even his church that he hosts in his home and he wishes that God would add to them what only God can add – real grace and real peace.

Philemon as I’ve argued is likely wealthy. He also has a believing family. What more could he need?

He needs what we all need – more grace and more peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

There’s a saying that comes up around holidays that goes something like “get x-product for the man/woman that has everything.” Do you know what to give to the fellow Christian in this life that seems to have everything? Pray for them along these lines – that God would give them more and more grace and more and more peace.

Money doesn’t give grace and peace. A good home life doesn’t give grace and peace – at least not as much as we need. God uses things in this life to convey grace and peace to us. And yet – it all comes from God. And we need as much of it as he will give.

So, let’s pray this way for each other like Paul and Timothy prayed for Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the church in Philemon’s house (“you” is plural, after all).

To Whom is Philemon Written?

So, we’ve established that Paul and Timothy are the authors of the New Testament letter of Philemon.

But now, to whom are they writing? Philemon 1:1 continues and tells us the recipient of this letter and what Paul and Timothy consider him to be to them.

Recipient: Philemon

unto Philemon

our dearly beloved,
and fellowlabourer,

So, Paul and Timothy are writing to a man named Philemon.

How to Pronounce “Philemon”

Let’s get something out of the way first. How do you pronounce that name Philemon? It’s not that common of a name where I’m from – maybe you’re like me and you don’t know anyone by that name.

The Greek word is φιλήμονι. Transliterated into English that’s philemoni. The last i at the end of the word is simply telling us that this letter is being written to this man, so we can drop it out for now, leaving philemon. The first i is short, the e sounds like ay and the o is short. So, you would pronounce Philemon like Phih-LAY-mon. Almost like you’re a Jamaican telling someone the fish is ready to eat – “There’s a filet, man!”

Who is Philemon?

So, we know how to say his name. But who is Philemon?

Well, he’s actually not mentioned anywhere in Scripture outside of this epistle. So, we have to gather our facts about this man from this short book that bears his name.

And so, what does the apostle Paul say about this man Philemon in this book written to him?

Dearly Beloved

First, Philemon is our dearly beloved. Both Paul and Timothy loved this man. When they’re writing to this man they’re not writing to a stranger. They’re not writing to an enemy. They’re not even writing to a fair-weather lukewarm friend. They are writing to someone that they both love.

Fellowlabourer

And part of why Paul and Timothy love Philemon surely must involve the second description given to him – that he’s a fellowlabourer of Paul and Timothy. He has worked with them in times past and continues to work with them.

But, what kind of work are we talking about? Is Paul saying that Philemon was a tent-maker like he was for a living?

No, I think it goes beyond that. Paul made tents so that he could do the work he was really called to – preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to both Jew and Gentile. And I think it’s that work that Paul is referring to here.

Philemon was – in some ways at least – in on the action that Paul and Timothy were involved in – evangelizing and doing the work of the ministry. He was a fellow-worker with them in this business of spreading the news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

So, when Paul and Timothy consider Philemon, they think of a man that they just absolutely love. And part of that love they have for him stems from the fact that he is interested in proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Philemon’s Not Alone

And actually, I’ve been speaking so far as if there was only one recipient of this letter. But actually, in Philemon 1:2, Paul and Timothy name two more individuals that they’re writing this letter to – as well as a congregation of people of some size that they intend to have this letter read to.

And to

our beloved Apphia,

and

Archippus our fellowsoldier,

and to

the church in thy house:

Recipient: Apphia

So, Paul and Timothy are writing this letter – anticipating that this lady named Apphia will read it. We know she’s a lady because her name in Greek is feminine.

Beloved/Sister

The King James Version quoted above has her as the beloved. This corresponds to how Paul and Timothy describe Philemon – just in the feminine form (Greek: agapete) rather than the masculine (Greek: agapeto) describing Philemon.

However, the Nestle-Aland and UBS Greek texts have the word sister (Greek: adelfe) instead of beloved (Greek: agapete).

So, if the original writing was beloved then Paul and Timothy consider Apphia as just a precious to them as they consider Philemon.

If the original was sister then that sort of coincides with how Paul described Timothy in Philemon 1:1 (as “brother”) perhaps pointing to the fact that just like Timothy was a helper to Paul, so too was Apphia a helper to Philemon.

Now, Apphia’s relationship to Philemon was likely that of spouse. In other words, she was Philemon’s wife.

And if that’s the case, then quite possibly the next name mentioned was their son.

Recipient: Archippus

Archippus is said to be the fellowsoldier of Paul and Timothy. Paul is speaking metaphorically.

That is, Paul and Timothy and Archippus were not all in the Roman army together. They certainly weren’t in some sort of early Christian militia.

No – Paul says in 2 Corinthians that his weapons – and ours – are not carnal. He and all Christians are in a war – but we’re not fighting against humans. Our enemy is spiritual and unseen. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, he admits in Ephesians. Our struggle is against spiritual invisible enemies.

And Archippus has entered that battle alongside of Paul and Timothy. They knew him and knew of his fighting in prayer and in other spiritual disciplines.

Archippus may likely have been the son of Philemon and Apphia – and he was probably at least in his teens.

And if that’s the case, then what we see here in Philemon 1:2 is a wonderful picture of a family determined to do God’s will. We see each of the members of that family faithfully following Christ and thereby earning the commendation of the apostle Paul and Timothy.

So, Paul and Timothy are writing to a family of believers.

Recipient: The Church Hosted by Philemon

But Paul’s not done yet. Because not only did Philemon’s abode house a family of believers – it housed a church.

Paul writes to the church in Philemon’s house. So, apparently Philemon and his family hosted a gathering of believers regularly in his home.

Of course, Church buildings as we know them today were likely not being constructed in the times of the apostle Paul. When a number of sinners were won to Christ, they had to find a place to meet. And often – from casual references in the New Testament – it seems that these congregations would meet in the home of a more wealthy individual in the church who would have a home large enough to host numerous individuals.

And so, Philemon – as we can imagine – may have been wealthy in addition to being godly.

The picture we get of this man keeps getting more and more encouraging. He’s a beloved fellow-worker of the apostolic company. His wife is a believer and his son is also. They have kindly opened their home to the church in their city. And this man is getting these commendations by no less a spiritually-mature man than the apostle Paul. Philemon is a godly man.

Philemon Author

In Philemon 1 we see the co-authors of this letter and how they’d like to be thought of by the recipient of their epistle.

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother,

Philemon Author: Paul

So, we have Paul who sees himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

Paul was in prison at this time. He was a prisoner – but why? It’s because of Jesus Christ. He is in prison for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not for his own crimes that he’s there. He’s incarcerated for serving Christ and doing his will.

So then, Paul writes from a position of weakness and servitude and self-denial – all attitudes and actions that he will call the recipient of this letter to in the ensuing verses.

And when it comes down to it, Paul eventually asks the recipient of this epistle to send a helper back to him. And we can see why he needs this helper – because he is in prison. Not a modern American prison with room service and all the frills. But we’re talking about an ancient Roman prison where you can use all the help you can get.

So, that’s one author of this book – Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ. The one in prison because of Jesus Christ.

Philemon Author: Timothy

We also have Timothy who is a brother.

The brother of whom? we may ask.

Timothy is the brother of both Paul and of the recipient of this letter – but not in the physical literal sense. They didn’t share a father or a mother. We know that fact from the book of Acts. Timothy was not physically related to Paul.

So, Paul is speaking metaphorically of Timothy being his brother. In Christ, our union with fellow-believers is so close it can be compared to a family setting. We’re all brothers and sisters. And we share one common Father – the Lord who saved us from our sins through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ.

So, these are the authors of this New Testament letter.

How Hebrews 10 Uses Psalm 40

So, let’s go on over to Hebrews 10. We’ll read and comment on verses 1-10.

KJV Hebrews 10:1 ¶ For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

OK, so the author of Hebrews is claiming that there is some deficiency in the Law. This is God in the New Testament admitting that the Law that he authored in the Old Testament had some deficiencies.

And if that weren’t the case – if the Law was all that was needed – verse 2…

2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.

But that’s not the case. The Law wasn’t all that was needed, because of what he says in verse 3.

3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.

Why’s that? Verse 4.

4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

That’s the key. The Law is perfect. But it was never able to take away sin. It only reminded those who followed it that they were sinners.

So, God brought Jesus into the world. And when he did, Jesus embodied the spirit of the psalmist in Psalm 40.

5 ¶ Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith,

Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not,
but a body hast thou prepared me:

And by the way, that’s not exactly what we saw in the Hebrew text. We saw David saying that the Lord had “dug his ears.” But now here we have Jesus saying that God had prepared a body for him.

The explanation behind that is that the Hebrew text has what we saw in Psalm 40. But now here Hebrews is quoting from the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament. And the Septuagint translated the Hebrew as saying that God had prepared a body for the psalmist.

And it’s that translation that the Holy Spirit decided to use in the book of Hebrews when he describes Jesus coming into the world to do something that the Old Testament sacrifices could never do.

In fact, he goes so far as to say that God had no pleasure in those sacrifices in verse 6.

6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

So, Jesus – seeing and understanding these things – now has a declaration to make.

7 Then said I,

Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

And that’s where the quote from Psalm 40 ends.

But now the author of Hebrews is going to explain why he mentioned Psalm 40 – in this context – regarding the Law not being sufficient to purge the conscience of sin. Verse 8.

8 Above when he said,

Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein;

which are offered by the law;

So, he inserts that mention of the fact that indeed the Law did prescribe offering these things. Verse 9.

9 Then said he,

Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.

He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.

In other words, Jesus acknowledges that God’s ultimate delight is not in sacrifice – but in obedience. He – like David before him – came to do God’s will.

And – wonder of wonders – it’s God’s will that we be sanctified, according to verse 10.

10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

So, we praise the Lord for what the offering of Jesus’ body did that the offering of animals could never do – purge consciences of sin and sanctify those who trust in him.

OK – that’s Hebrews 10. Jesus embodies the spirit of the psalmist in Psalm 40 of doing God’s will above offering sacrifice.  And of course, for our Lord Jesus Christ – doing God’s will meant being the sacrifice for the sins of God’s people.

So, with that understood – let’s go back to Psalm 40. And the 9th verse…