Philemon 22-25 Commentary: Prepare a Guest Room

22 One thing more: prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers.25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Historical-Cultural Context: Ephesus and Colossae

Ephesus was roughly a four-day walk from Colossae and was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia at the time Paul wrote the letter. Some scholars argue that the prison from which Paul wrote Philemon was in Ephesus. In contrast, the other main options considered by scholars—Caesarea and Rome—were much farther away and likely would have required travel by boat.

Philemon 22 Commentary

The fact Philemon has a guest room in his house (v. 22) reminds us he is a wealthy property owner. Only such property owners would have a house large enough to include guest rooms.

The fact Paul thinks he’ll “be restored to” the Colossian church soon (v. 22; why else would he ask them to prepare a guest room?) implies both that Paul expected his term in prison to end soon and that his place of imprisonment was likely close to Colossae. This evidence suggests he was not imprisoned in Caesarea or Rome but rather in Ephesus at the time he wrote Philemon.

Philemon 23-25 Commentary

From Colossians 1:7-8 and 4:12-13, it seems Epaphras was from Colossae and founded the churches in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis.

The fact that Colossians 4:10-14 mentions the same names mentioned in Philemon 23-24, along with the fact that Onesimus seems to have delivered the letter to the Colossians (cf. Colossians 4:9), suggests to some scholars that the two letters were written and sent at or around the same time.

Paul calls Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke his “coworkers,” again emphasizing the egalitarian relations between followers of Jesus that Paul has emphasized throughout the letter.

Paul’s use of “spirit” in v. 25 is a reference to the human spirit, i.e., to the people of the Colossian church understood as spiritual people open to the grace and Spirit of God.

Looking for more? Try this excellent free Bible study on the book of Philemon. Or, read commentary on Philemon 4-9, Philemon 10-17, or Philemon 18-21.


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