on Philemon 1 :18
If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught - Had the apostle been assured that Onesimus had robbed his master, he certainly would not have spoken in this hypothetical way; he only puts a possible case: If he have wronged thee, or owe thee aught, place all to my account; I will discharge all he owes thee.
on Philemon 1 :18
If he hath wronged thee - Either by escaping from you, or by failing to perform what he had agreed to, or by unfaithfulness when he was with you as a servant, or by taking your property when he went away. Any of these methods would meet all that is said here, and it is impossible to determine in which of them he had done Philemon wrong. It may be observed, however, that the apostle evinces much delicacy in this matter. He does not say that he had wronged him, but he makes a supposition that he might have done it. Doubtless, Philemon would suppose that he had done it, even if he had done no more than to escape from him, and, whatever Paul's views of that might be, he says that even if it were so, he would wish him to set that over to his account. He took the blame on himself, and asked Philemon not to remember it against Onesimus.
Or oweth thee ought - It appears from this, that Onesimus, whatever may have been his former condition, was capable of holding property, and of contracting debts. It is possible that he might have borrowed money of Philemon, or he may have been regarded as a tenant, and may not have paid the rent of his farm, or the apostle may mean that he had owed him service which he had not performed. Conjecture is useless as to the way in which the debt had been contracted.
Put that on mine account - Reckon, or impute that to me - εμοὶ ἐλλόγα emoi elloga. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in Romans 5:13, where it is rendered imputed. See the notes at that passage. It means to "reckon;" to put to one's account, to wit, what properly belongs to him, or what he assumes. It never implies that that is to be charged on one which does not properly belong to him, either as his own act, or as that which he has assumed. In this case, it would have been manifestly unjust for Philemon to charge the wrong which Onesimus had done, or what he owed him, to the apostle Paul without his consent; and it cannot be inferred from what Paul says here that it would have been right to do so. The steps in the case were these:
(1) Onesimus, not Paul, had done the wrong.
(2) Paul was not guilty of it, or blameworthy for it, and never in any way, or by any process, could be made to be, or conceived to be. It would be true forever that Onesimus and not he had done the wrong.
(3) Paul assumed the debt and the wrong to himself. He was willing, by putting himself in the place of Onesimus, to bear the consequences, and to have Onesimus treated as if he had not done it. When he had voluntarily assumed it, it was right to treat him as if he had done so; that is, to hold him responsible. A man may assume a debt if he pleases, and then he may be held answerable for it.
(4) if he had not assumed this himself, it never could have been right for Philemon to charge it on him. No possible supposition could make it right. No agency which he had in the conversion of Onesimus; no friendship which he had for him; no favor which he had shown him, could make it right. The consent, the concurrence on the part of Paul was absolutely necessary in order that he should be in any way responsible for what Onesimus had done.
(5) the same principle prevails in imputation everywhere.
(a) What we have done is chargeable upon us.
(b) If we have not done a thing, or have not assumed it by a voluntary act, it is not right to charge it upon us.
(c) God reckons things as they are.
The Saviour voluntarily assumed the place of man, and God reckoned, or considered it so. He did not hold him guilty or blameworthy in the case; but as he had voluntarily taken the place of the sinner, he was treated as if he had been a sinner. God, in like manner, does not charge on man crimes of which he is not guilty. He does not hold him to be blameworthy, or ill-deserving for the sin of Adam, or any other sin but his own. He reckons things as they are. Adam sinned, and he alone was held to be blameworthy or ill-deserving for the act. By a divine constitution (compare the notes at Romans 5:12, following), he had appointed that if he sinned, the consequences or results should pass over and terminate on his posterity - as the consequences of the sin of the drunkard pass over and terminate on his sons, and God reckons this to be so - and treats the race accordingly. He never reckons those to be guilty who are not guilty; or those to be ill-deserving who are not ill-deserving; nor does he punish one for what another has done. When Paul, therefore, voluntarily assumed a debt or an obligation, what he did should not be urged as an argument to prove that it would be right for God to charge on all the posterity of Adam the sin of their first father, or to hold them guilty for an offence committed ages before they had an existence. The case should be adduced to demonstrate one point only - that when a man assumes a debt, or voluntarily takes a wrong done upon himself, it is right to hold him responsible for it.
(See the subject of imputation discussed in the supplementary notes, Romans 5:12, Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21 notes; Galatians 3:13 note.)
on Philemon 1 :18