As Paul concludes his greeting in Philemon v4-7, he begins with his first remarks, and these first remarks are exactly what you’d think they’d be if you were listening to a conversation between close friends as a fly on the wall.
In these first remarks Paul genuinely, warmly, and honestly expresses his affection for this man. Let’s ask a question at this point. Why does he express such emotion? Is Paul just buttering him up in preparation for what he’s about to ask him? Surely not. Then what does Paul see in Philemon that is so worthy of praise?
Paul gives reasons in v5 and v7, and Paul prays for Philemon in v4 and v6. Look at reason 1 in v5 = Paul has heard of Philemon’s love and faith toward the Lord Jesus, and Paul has heard of Philemon’s love and faith toward all of the saints. Because of these things Paul says in v4 that every time he remembers Philemon he always thanks God. v7 contains reason 2 = Paul’s heart has received much joy, comfort, and refreshment through Philemon’s love for him and for Christ’s Church. Apparently to Paul, to the Church in Colossae, and to many others Philemon is like water to a thirsty soul, refreshing. Because of this refreshment Paul says in v6 that he prays Philemon’s knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ becomes full through the sharing of His faith. This means that Paul is asking God to refresh the one who has been such a refresher to others. And specifically that God refresh Philemon by making his knowledge of all the good things he has in Christ, full.
Paul is asking God to give Philemon more of God. What a prayer! Can I say that this is what I want you guys to be praying this very thing for me? That God would use me to refresh your hearts, and by so doing God would refresh mine? I pray for it, and I would ask you join me in this too.
Now, we cannot read to quickly through v4-7, as if there just mere niceties because if we do so we’ll miss what God means to teach us about Philemon, and we’ll miss what God means to teach us about what happens in our hearts if we truly love Him…stay tuned.