To Philemon our beloved fellow worker
and Apphia our sister
and Archippus our fellow soldier,
and the church in your house:
Philemon is not the only person this letter is address to, but it is also for Apphia, who is called “our sister.” Common thought is that this is Philemon’s wife, who is a sister in Christ to Paul, just as Philemon is a brother in Christ, all adopted into the family of God. Again, it’s a saluatation of affection and familiarity.
It is also addressed by name to Archippus, sometimes assumed to be Philemon’s son. “Fellow soldier” is probably not meant as a military term as much as acknowledging the strength this young man brings to the spiritual battle, encouraging him to have courage.
And it makes sense that they are all related when you think of the church “in your house.” It’s a house they all share, a ministry they are all involved in, reaching out to their community.
I try to imagine what they looked like…
Philemon is assumed to be wealthy, at least wealthy enough to host a church in his home and to own slaves. Apphia could be a blend of Mary and Martha, making sure the house is clean and everyone has a place to sit, while listening and learning herself. And they are so pleased that Archippus has been baptized and now sharing his faith with his friends. They all know hosting these meetings could be dangerous, but they stand together as they greet people into their home.
Just as Paul was not alone in the prison, this family is not alone. They live in a context God uniquely place them…
Just as I live in a place God has uniquely placed me, with relationships to my family and my community.
God does not just speak to my husband, but he speaks to me, and my children, and those around who also trust him.
It’s important for us all to be listening…