Refreshing – Philemon 1.20

Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord.

Refresh my heart in Christ.

At first glance, there is nothing different or unusual about what Paul says here, is there? He has been writing to Philemon about being motivated by grace (vv.1-7) and grace in action (vv.8-22), and begins his closure with this confident request, refresh my heart in Christ.

Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

(Philemon 1.20)

The funny thing is though, where we read in our English Bibles ‘heart‘, Paul actually used the word σπλάγχνον, which, most commonly, is translated as bowels or intestines¹. So, is Paul writing to Philemon to schedule a colonoscopy?

Literally, σπλάγχνον does mean bowels or intestines, but figuratively it carries the meaning of the place of deepest emotion in your body, where your affections come from. For us in 2021, we would say something like

He has a broken heart’, or,

My heart is just so full of love for her’,

or something to that effect.

When we describe the deepest emotion we could feel we would connect it to the heart, right?. Back in Paul’s day the deepest emotions were thought to come from the deepest place inside you, in the same way you may hear something like

I feel it in the pit of my stomach’.

All this to say, Paul is talking about serious, deep rooted, from-the- inside-out refreshment, and this certainly doesn’t come from temporal or temporary sources.

Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

(Philemon 1.20)

In context, Paul is talking about receiving a runaway slave back as a brother (vv.15-16). He knows that just as Philemon came to a saving faith in Christ through Paul (v.19b  it appears that Onesimus, the runaway slave, did too (v.8-16). Paul knows that we all share in one Lord, we all have one Saviour, and in Him there is no distinction.

The deep refreshment in Christ that Paul is looking for comes from seeing others live out the business of the Gospel.

Someone Paul has pointed to Christ is now doing the work of Christ; forgiving, restoring, fellowshipping, and encouraging.

What deep refreshment this would bring to Paul.

Think on this today – Who can I refresh in the Lord by doing the work of the Gospel?

¹ – Mounce Greek Dictionary 

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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