Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus.
I haven’t studied Greek, but I do know that Greek prepositions can be reasonably translated various ways. Even between Japanese and English, propositions can be very “slippery,” shifting nuance and even meaning at times. (Actually, Japanese is very limited in prepositions, which is one of many reasons English is difficult for native Japanese speakers.) That said, there are various implications to this expression Paul used fairly frequently. Even in this letter he repeats it in verse nine. Paul was manifestly a prisoner of the Romans. He was in their jail, guarded by Roman soldiers. Even so, he doesn’t label himself that way, but rather as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I’m sure that distinction had a massive impact on how he dealt with his imprisonment. This brings to mind his statement to slaves that it was actually Christ they were serving, rather than their human owners. (Ephesians 6:7) For that matter, the Japanese preposition used here could reasonably be rendered as “belonging to.” Paul indeed belonged to Christ Jesus, just as we do, by virtue not only of creation but redemption. The better we grasp that, as Paul did, the better we will be able to handle everything in life, knowing that it’s His business even more than it is ours. Paul submitted himself fully to Christ Jesus his Lord. The more we do that, the more our results will resemble Paul’s.
This is of particular interest to me because my father’s doctoral dissertation was on the uses of in Christ and similar constructions in the New Testament. I’m not sure at the moment, but I think this was included among those. The thing is, he told me many years later that despite his academic study he didn’t really grasp what it was to be in Christ until later, after he was already a missionary, when he had a profound encounter with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself used the expression freely in the Upper Room Discourse, talking about how we were to be in Him and in the Father as He and the Father were in each other. (John 17:21) I cannot abide in Christ (John 15:4) simply by decision, though that is involved; I’ve got to be committed to Him and allow Him to be Lord in every area. I’ve not been called on to go to prison for Him yet, much less be physically martyred, but I’m not to hold back even from that sort of thing. People are being faced with that all over the world, from Finnish politicians to Canadian truckers, and I am no better than they are. Right now I am a pastor belonging to Christ and a school teacher belonging to Christ. Everything about my life is to be submitted to and in agreement with Him. Only then will I fulfill the purposes He has for me, for my ultimate fulfillment and His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all You are doing in and even through me. Help me indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, as an accurate representation of Your Son, drawing many to repentance and faith for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!