Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture is filled with “tidbit” thoughts that are often overlooked in our haste to move through the Word in an annual program and complete our reading in one year. Sometimes we read so hurriedly that we miss those tidbits.
A friend decided, some years ago, to learn how to read fast and thus enable himself to cover more ground. After a short time he commented how he could read much faster than he had ever read, but he discovered that he was now missing many details and needed to return to his “scrutinizing” method.
In Philemon, the opening verses, Paul addresses Philemon as a “beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Appia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:” Those last few words say so much about the early church and its development. “The church in your house” could have been said about the places that they worshipped, and the excitement that could not contain itself to the “synagogues” where many of the great debates and sermons developed, because of the opportunity that afforded the converts to Christianity to relate their new found faith, and show the continuity of thought contained in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
The size of the home or its location was not the primary reason for this development. It was the message that found fulfillment and acceptance by these folk who heard and saw the transforming effect. These small groups of believers did not need our modern-day sanctuaries or mechanisms, they had Christ, the promised Savior of mankind, and it is obvious that they wanted to hear and to learn. They, personally, wanted their friends and relatives to know about their new found faith. Again, they invited them to their homes and following their trust in Jesus, a small congregation was formed.
While our modern day sanctuaries have their benefits, the open door of a home, the invitation to join with others and study the Scriptures, the love which permeates believers, the concern for another’s salvation, cannot be replaced.
These were the things that permeated Philemon’s home and resulted in the writing of this letter concerning Onesimus, his runaway slave. This is the “church in his home” that could shepherd him in his step of obedience to Jesus Christ.