Philemon 1:21 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Philemon 1:21, NIV: Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

Philemon 1:21, ESV: Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Philemon 1:21, KJV: Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

Philemon 1:21, NASB: Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.

Philemon 1:21, NLT: I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!

Philemon 1:21, CSB: Since I am confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

What does Philemon 1:21 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul again affirms his authorship, as well as his confidence that Philemon will accept his request to free Onesimus. Though Paul phrases this a request, he also refers to Philemon's expected response as "obedience." The society of Paul's day is sometimes described as an "honor / shame culture." In this kind of environment, it was important for Philemon to have a way to agree to Paul's request without receiving shame, while also honoring his obedience.

Paul also piles on his expectations for Philemon's obedience, beyond what even he is suggesting. This further supports the interpretation that Paul expects Philemon to free Onesimus from slavery. This was strongly hinted earlier in the letter, but the reference to Philemon doing "even more" than was asked summarizes his expectations. Paul's hope was for Philemon to accept Onesimus with enthusiasm, not a resentful obedience. Though uncertain, this may even indicate Paul's hope that Philemon would allow Onesimus to return to Paul for ministry work. If so, the story would come full circle, from runaway slave to conversion, to the return of the slave, his freedom, and faithful service to the Lord.