How do you interpret Philemon 1:6?

Fragmento_filemonThis evening I my attention was drawn to Philemon 1:6 where Paul writes, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” 

I thought, how interesting! It seems to be implying we can’t fully appreciate our blessings in Christ till we share them.

So I looked it up on biblegateway.com, but low and behold, this time the NIV yielded, “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” Huh? That’s unexpected. How can the online NIV be different from my NIV? I belatedly realized there’s a difference between the US and UK translation, and I must have the UK translation.

This triggered an investigation into other translations. I found the NLT says, “And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ,” and the KJV says, “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” In summary, some translations seem to be stressing a strong connection to evangelism, others are not so specific or explicit.

So, I thought I’d just throw the question out there, particularly to those with a working knowledge of Greek. Is my initial interpretation valid?

9 Comments

  1. Hi Matt! What you’re seeing on Biblegateway is the 2011 NIV (the update to and replacement of the TNIV).
    For the translation difficulties here, check out the NET notes here and click footnote #17.
    My Greek’s not great but it looks like Paul’s talking about solidarity in faith with other Christians rather than communicating faith to outsiders. I guess this is one spot where scholarship has led to a clarification of the meaning…

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  2. Arthur, what you have written seems good to me. The literal translation is:’..that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.’ which is how the NASB translates it.

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  3. Thanks, the NET notes was a helpful suggestion, particularly where it noted: “It is difficult to arrive at an interpretation that deals adequately with all these questions, but given the fact that Paul stresses what Philemon has done for the brothers (cf. the γάρ [gar] in v. 7), it seems that his concern in v. 6 is on Philemon’s fellowship with other believers and how he has worked hard to refresh them.”

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  4. I think it refers to the faith that he shares with Onesimus, or has in common with Philemon. Kinonia can be translated as communion, sharing, fellowship, or something held in common, or communicate — as people who receive the Holy Communion are said to “communicate”.
    In the context I would say that he is urging Philemon to treat Onesimus on the basis of the fellowship they have in Christ.

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  5. Perhaps it was my lack of understanding that caused the Holy Spirit to lead me to this scripture. I was frustrated regarding the difficulties and afflictions I’m enduring and continue to endure. To me, this scripture suggests when I make sharing the good news of Gods salvation with others… My 1st and greatest priority…My faith will begin to work and the power I need to overcome my challenges will not only become effective in eliminating my struggles, but will overflow out of me to meet the needs of those I find myself ministering to. After all, everything we have need of for life and Godliness is already in our regenerated spirit…The Resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is there, but doesn’t become effective until the proper demand is placed on it – that being “being a witness”.

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  6. Perhaps it was my lack of understanding that caused the Holy Spirit to lead me to this scripture. I was frustrated regarding the difficulties and afflictions I’m enduring and continue to endure. To me, this scripture suggests when I make sharing the good news of Gods salvation with others… My 1st and greatest priority…My faith will begin to work and the power I need to overcome my challenges will not only become effective in eliminating my struggles, but will overflow out of me to meet the needs of those I find myself ministering to. After all, everything we have need of for life and Godliness is already in our regenerated spirit…The Resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is there, but doesn’t become effective until the proper demand is placed on it – that being “being a witness”.

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  7. Thanks for this you all as I was confused about the exact same issue. This was helpful to think through as I am reading through the Bible.

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  8. My breakdown of Philemon 6 is just what is being said, that our faith becomes effective or activated by recognizing all the good in you that was given to you freely by Christ Jesus as you continue growing in Christ. When you trusted and believed in Jesus as your Savior and Lord of your life, at that point in time you begin to grow in Christ and the more you grow in Christ your faith is growing and getting stronger and stronger and more effective. As your faith grows you realize that, “you can do all things through Christ Who strengthens you”. Sometimes we can dig so deep for meanings in the Bible when it is as close to you as the nose on your face. God wants us to understand His word therefore He makes it so simple that a child can understand yet we make it so deep that we have to dig into every translation and other languages. Take God at His word scholars. He loves you and I more than we will ever comprehend. God bless you all. III John 2
    Yes we should study God’s word but sometimes when you dig so deep you start to change what God is trying to convey to us into your own definition. We are His children.
    Read His word, meditate on His word, then pray and ask Him, the Author of those words, to reveal to you His meaning of what He is saying.
    I’m just saying….

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  9. In phlimon1:6, Paul defines faith here as acknowledging that which is in you in Christ Jesus.Communication here from the Greek word koinonia which talks of a sharing or a participation.So Paul is telling philemon that his faith is his participation in the faith of Christ.Effectual is the greek word energès which speaks of an operation of God’s power.Your sharing in the faith of Christ will bring you into energetic unity and experience of every good thing in you. There will be a manifestation of God’s
    power when we participate in the faith of Christ by acknowledging every good that is us in Christ Jesus.Participating in the faith
    of Christ means to recognise and to secure in your understanding that the faith of
    Jesus Christ has already received all things
    from the Father on your behalf.You are deficient of
    absolutely nothing(2nd Pet1:4,Rev5:12). Acknowledging is the greek word epipnosis which means to continually recognise the rights and the authority of a newly given statues.To dîsclose the knowledge of my
    aggreement with someone.To express
    gratitude for.Acknowledgement means to
    recognise that you have already received
    what Jesus has already obtained from the
    father on your behalf.

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