on Philemon 1 :6
That the communication of thy faith - The words ἡ κοινωνια της πιστεως σου, the fellowship or communication of thy faith, may be understood as referring to the work of love towards the saints - the poor Christians, which his faith in Christ enabled him to perform, faith being taken here for its effects; and indeed the word κοινωνια itself is not unfrequently used to denote liberality, almsgiving; and this is very properly remarked by Theophylact here: Κοινωνιαν πιστεως ελεημοσυνην καλει, ὡς απο πιστεως πολλης γενομενην· He terms almsgiving the communication of faith, because it is the fruit of much faith."
May become effectual - Dr. Macknight understands these words thus: "That the many good offices which thou dost to the saints may become effectual in bringing others to the acknowledgment of every good disposition which is in you towards Christ Jesus, or towards his members."
Instead of ενεργης, energetic or effectual, the Vulgate and some of the fathers, as well as several Latin MSS., have read εναργης, evident. This makes a very good sense, and seems to agree best with the scope of the place.
Instead of εν ὑμιν, in You, εν ἡμιν in Us, is the reading of all the best MSS., as well as of several versions and fathers.
on Philemon 1 :6
That the communication of thy faith - That is, this was a subject of prayer on the part of the apostle, that the "communication of his faith" might receive from all the proper acknowledgment of the good which he did in the Christian cause. The phrase translated "communication of thy faith," means the making of thy faith common to others; that is, enabling others to partake of the fruits of it, to wit, by good deeds. On the meaning of the word here rendered "communication" (κοινωνία koinōnia), see the notes at Ephesians 3:9; compare Philippians 2:1; Philippians 3:10. Calvin has well expressed the sense of this passage. "It is to be observed that the apostle here does not proceed in the commendation of Philemon, but rather expresses what he desires for him from the Lord. These words are connected with those in which he says that he remembered him in his prayers. What, therefore, did he desire for Philemon? That his faith, expressing itself by good fruits, might be shown to be true and not vain. For he calls that the communication of his faith when it does not remain inoperative within, but bears itself forth to benefit men by its proper effects. For although faith has its proper seat in the heart, yet it communicates itself to men by good works." The meaning is, that he desired that Philemon would so make common the proper fruits of faith by his good deeds toward others, that all might acknowledge it to be genuine and efficacious.
May become effectual - Greek, "May be energetic" (ἐνεργὴς energēs); may become operative, active, effective.
By the acknowledging - That is, so as to secure from others the proper recognition of the existence of faith in your heart. In other words, so that others may see that you are truly pious, and understand to what extent you have faith.
Of every good thing which is in you - Of every good principle, and of every benevolent trait, which is in your character. That is, the proper outward expression of his faith in Christ, by doing good to others, would be a development of the benevolence which existed in his heart.
In Christ Jesus - Or "toward (εἰς eis) Christ Jesus." The goodness in his heart had respect to the Lord Jesus as its proper object, but would be made manifest by his kindness to men. The truth which is taught in this passage, therefore, is, that when faith exists in the heart, it is very desirable that it should impart its proper fruits toward others in such a way that all may see that it is operative, and may recognize its power; or in other words, it is desirable that when true religion exists it should be fairly developed, that its possessor may be acknowledged to be under its influence. We should wish that he may have all the credit and honor which the goodness of his heart is entitled to. Paul supposed that a case had now occurred in which an opportunity was furnished to Philemon to show the world how much he was governed by the faith of the gospel.
on Philemon 1 :6
1:6 I pray that the communication of thy faith may become effectual - That is, that thy faith may be effectually communicated to others, who see and acknowledge thy piety and charity.