What does Philemon 1:21 mean?
ESV: Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
NIV: Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
NASB: Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.
CSB: Since I am confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
NLT: I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!
KJV: Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
NKJV: Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Philemon 1:17–22 continues Paul’s request that Philemon free his runaway slave, Onesimus. Paul goes so far as to ask Philemon to treat Onesimus exactly as he would Paul himself. And, Paul pledges to repay any debts which Onesimus now owes to Philemon. Paul seems confident that Philemon will grant his request, and asks him make a room ready in anticipation of his release from imprisonment.
Chapter Summary:
Philemon is a letter from Paul, regarding a runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul respectfully requests that Philemon forgive his runaway slave, free him, and allow him to serve Christ without restrictions. Philemon was a prominent figure in the church of Colossae. Paul goes so far as to ask Philemon to charge any debts owed by Onesimus to Paul himself.
Chapter Context:
Philemon is short enough that it only contains a single chapter. Because Paul knows Philemon personally, and has only positive things to say about him, there is no need for a lengthy discussion. Paul appeals to Philemon to forgive and release his runaway slave, Onesimus. Onesimus, a convert to Christianity, seems be the one sent to deliver this letter to his former master.
Book Summary:
Philemon is one of the shorter books in the Bible, but it contains some important information. The Christian concept of slavery cannot be understood without a proper review of this letter. Paul recognizes the facts of slavery in his era, and does not command Philemon to release Onesimus. However, he does appeal to the unity we share in Christ as a reason for Philemon to set this man free.
Accessed 4/24/2024 7:20:42 PM
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