Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home: Grace and peace to youa from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The opening chapter of this small book explains who the letter is to, and who the letter is from, but even in these first few verses is a great truth Paul hopes we understand. Paul opens by describing himself as a “prisoner for Christ” along with Timothy. Then he refers to Philemon as a “fellow worker” and Archippus as a “fellow soldier.”
I missed this so many times when I read it, but it’s so very meaningful because in every title Paul applies to each of the individuals it a title of submission. It’s a place of service. A prisoner is subject to the will of the guards and the court. A soldier is subject to the will and command of his superior officer. A worker is subject to his manager or his boss. They’re all given positions of service and submission.
I think we often want our story to be one where the titles are big. We want the letters before our name, the title that commands respect, and we want our place to be higher in status. Yet, echoing Jesus’ words, the greatest in God’s kingdom are the servants of all. They are workers, soldiers, and prisoners. They are submissive to their leaders.
When we look at our faith, and how we live, do we strive to serve more or do we strive to accomplish more? Would we be considered workers, soldiers, and prisoners of Jesus Christ?