“I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back-not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Philemon 1:20-25 NIV
This closes the brief letter of Paul to his dear friend Philemon. As was his usual custom, Paul closed his letter by sending greetings to and from various believers. These closings are always of significant interest as they give us a meaningful glimpse into the lives of some of the believers of the early church- brothers and sisters whom we shall soon meet face to face in heaven and fellowship with! Over this week and next, we will discuss six men.
1. Paul is the first believer seen. The point being stressed is his eternal optimism. He was in prison, yet he believed unreservedly that he could be freed by the prayers of his dear friends. What an impact prayer has. God answers prayer; this is His promise. The problem is that we do not take God at His word: we do not pray. The friends of Paul prayed, and Paul was apparently released from prison.
2.Epaphras: he was a servant of the Lord who in the past had been imprisoned with Paul. He prayed for one thing: that they might be perfect and complete in all the will of God; that is, that they might know the complete will of God and do His will perfectly.
3.John Mark: he was the young man who had redeemed himself. Mark had earlier deserted Paul and the ministry. But note what Paul says to the Colossian church. He tells the church that they are to receive John Mark if he was able to visit them. Apparently, some earlier instructions had been sent to the churches founded by Paul telling them about Mark’s desertion. But now the young man had repented and recommitted his life to Christ. He had redeemed himself; therefore, he was to be welcomed.
When a believer fails and sins, even if it is desertion of Christ, he is to be welcomed back with open arms once he has repented. We must not hold a person’s failure and sin against him. Christ has forgiven us for so much-all of us-therefore we must forgive and welcome our brothers and sisters back into our hearts and lives.
Next, we will look at three more people that are mentioned at the end of this letter.