Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer,
The salutation comprises the first three verses.
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus,
Thirteen books in the New Testament begin with the name “Paul”. None of his books begin with “a prisoner of Christ Jesus” except this one. Philemon is the only epistle where Paul portrays himself as a “prisoner.” He currently sits in prison in the city of Rome. Paul refers to his imprisonment six times (Philemon 1,9,10,13,22,23). Philemon is the fourth prison epistle.
Paul adds to “prisoner” the phrase “of Christ Jesus”. The intrepid Paul is primarily a prisoner of Christ and not the Roman government or Caesar. Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon from this imprisonment. The Romans incarcerated him but Jesus Christ had captured his soul. Jesus Christ, under His sovereign plan, put Paul in prison (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:19,20; Php. 1:13; Co. 4:3).
Eph 4:1, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…”
Paul sees no need to call attention to his apostleship due to the very personal nature of this epistle. Neither does Paul use the term “servant” or “slave” lest Philemon misunderstand his purpose in writing (the freeing of the slave Onesimus); he assumes the place of a petitioner.
Paul always says the very minimum about himself. He does not try to impress people with himself. We invariably try to impress others with our spirituality, our maturity, our training, or our effort. Jesus Christ is the One with whom we should be impressed.
All situations in our lives come by divine design.
There is no circumstance that comes into our lives that is not of the Lord’s doing. We either have a human viewpoint or a divine viewpoint on life. Divine viewpoint allows us to look at our circumstances from God’s viewpoint. Any illness, handicap, affliction or tragedy cannot come upon us without God’s will. All of it is for our ultimate good and His glory.
Anyone who is “of Jesus Christ” waves their rights and relinquishes their freedom to Jesus Christ as Lord. He dictates where we go and when we get there. Disciples require discipline.