Philemon 1

Wise and good ministers of Jesus Christ will have great and tender care of young converts to encourage and hearten them, and get them received into the fellowship of the saints. There is a spiritual brotherhood between all true believers, however distinguished as to their station of life, and we should therefore seek to strengthen and help those who have been newly united to the Christian family.

1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,

2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;

6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,

9 Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;

16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;

24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

¶ Written from Rome to Philemon, by Onesimus, a servant.

   The Epistle of Paul to Philemon is unique in that it is addressed to a personal friend regarding a private matter. No doubt Paul wrote many such personal letters but this one alone has been preserved.
   Philemon seems to have been a wealthy citizen of Colosse. He was a personal convert of the Apostle’s and there were strong bonds of friendship between them.
   Paul writes on behalf of a thief and a runaway. Philemon had suffered serious loss through the irregular conduct of his servant Onesimus, and might well be hesitant about trusting him again. Paul sees that it is the duty of the slave to return and of his master to receive him. By personal persuasion he had won over Onesimus to return, and by this letter he seeks to insure for him a welcome in his master’s house. Onesimus goes back, not merely as a penitent but as a Christian. Paul pleads that he be received as a brother.
   The Epistle was written from Rome, the natural center of attraction for all fugitives, and is associated with the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians. – Through the Bible Day by Day

A Plea for a Runaway Slave

Salutation, Philemon 1-3

1. Paul’s Prayer for His Friend, Philemon 4-7
2. The Return of Onesimus, Philemon 8-14
3. The Significance of His Absence, Philemon 15-16
4. Paul’s Offer of Security, Philemon 17-20

Conclusion, Philemon 21-25 – Through the Bible Day by Day

Philemon 1:1-14 – ​A Plea for the Returning Slave.

   Onesimus had known the Apostle well in the old days when Paul visited at the house of his master Philemon, who seems to have been a man of importance. His house was large enough to admit of a church assembling in it, and to accommodate the Apostle and his traveling companions when they came to the city. Apphia, his wife, was also a Christian, and Archippus, their son, was engaged in some kind of Christian work in connection with the infant Christian community which they were nursing (compare vs. 1-2 with Colossians 4:17). It is beautiful to observe the Apostle’s humility in associating these obscure people with himself as fellow-workers.
   Onesimus had been a runaway slave, and fleeing to Rome, had been converted by the ministry of Paul –whom I have begotten in my bonds. The converted slave had become very dear and useful to his benefactor (vs. 12-13). The Apostle now sends him back to his former owner with this letter, pleading that he be once more received into the household of Philemon. (Meyer)

Philemon 1:12—Mine own bowels.

​   This fragment of ancient letter-writing gives us a model of the way in which our commonest or most prosaic dealings, and our letters, even on business matters, may breathe the spirit of Christ. It also illustrates the relation in which we stand to Jesus Christ. What Onesimus was to Paul and Philemon combined, that we are to our Lord.
   What was Onesimus to Paul? — His child, whom he had begotten in his bonds. He had probably been discovered by some of his companions in the purlieus of Rome, where criminals concealed themselves from justice, and abandoned characters gave vent to the wildest passions. Or, having heard that the apostle, whom he had so often met in his master’s house, was residing in his own hired house in Rome, the runaway slave had found him out, when in the extremity of hunger. In either case he had now become dear as the apostle’s heart; had learnt to minister to him in his bonds; had proved more than a servant — a brother beloved. O Thou who hast redeemed us from our sins, may we be all this to Thee!
   What was Onesimus to Philemon? — He had been unprofitable; and we have been. He was sent back; and we have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. He had been a servant, henceforth he should be a beloved brother; and we are no longer servants, but friends. He had grievously wronged his master; but his sin had been forgiven, and so covered by over-abounding grace, that it would bring him into a position of greater privilege and blessing than ever before. In this man’s sin and restoration we see ourselves. Where our sin abounded, grace has much more abounded, through the tender pity of Him who had put our defalcations to his own account. (Meyer)

Philemon 1:15-25 – ​To Be Received as a Brother.

   The Apostle’s pleas for the restoration of Onesimus to his old trusted position in the household of Philemon are very touching. He suggests, first, that there may have been a divine purpose in it all, and that the former’s flight had been permitted as a step in the entire renovation of the slave’s nature. And, thererfore, because Philemon and Onesimus were two Christians, their relationship had been transformed. “In the flesh, Philemon has the brother for his slave; in the Lord, Philemon has the slave for his brother.” Then in v. 17Paul identifies himself with Onesimus; and we are taught to think of our Lord identifying himself with us, because, as Luther says, “we are all Onesimuses.” Further, in v. 18 Paul offers to assume all the losses which Onesimus had brought on Philemon, and signs the bond with his autograph, as our Lord paid the great ransom price for us all. Finally, Paul delicately reminds his friend, in v. 19, that Philemon owed him a great deal more than a trifle of money, namely, his spiritual life. Does not our Lord address us in similar terms? We surely owe ourselves to him! (Meyer)