Philemon 21–22 (ESV) — 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
Paul has made his request to Philemon known concerning Onesimus. Paul desires reconciliation between the two. More than that, Paul wants Philemon to see beyond the cultural norms of the day and see Onesimus as a brother in Christ. Paul also desires that Philemon will send Onesimus back to Paul to continue assisting him in his ministry, presumably granting Onesimus his freedom.
In the beginning of the letter, Paul commented on Philemon’s love for the saints. Now he concludes that he is “confident” in Philemon’s obedience. The word translated as “confident” carries the idea of being completely persuaded. Philemon’s character and past actions have convinced Paul that he will do the right thing. Paul calls it obedience, but it is not obedience to Paul. He has given no commends. Paul is speaking of obedience to Christ. Philemon will love his fellow believers, just as Christ has commanded, and it will show forth in his relationship with both Paul and Onesimus.
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