This is a very personal epistle from Paul to Philemon with regard to a man called Onesimus. Onesimus was a runaway slave and became a helper to the apostle; however Paul insisted that he return to his rightful master, and in so doing asks Philemon to forgive and restore Onesimus.
Author & Date
Written by Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome.
Jesus our refuge
A. Paul’s Greeting to Philemon vv1-3
- Philemon hosted a church in his house
B. Philemon Commended vv4-7
- Paul’s joy at Philemon’s testimony
C. Paul Pleads with Philemon vv8-21
- Paul’s appeal for Onesimus
- Paul’s confidence in Philemon
D. Paul’s farewell vv.22-25
- Paul requested a guest room.
a. Key Word
Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: v12.
For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; v15.
If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. v17.
This is a very personal epistle from Paul to Philemon with regard to a man called Onesimus.
Onesimus was a runaway slave and became a helper to the apostle; however Paul insisted that he return to his rightful master, and in so doing asks Philemon to forgive and restore Onesimus.
It must be remembered that in Roman law a runaway slave could only expect scourging and execution, either by crucifixion or in the arena.
This epistle is one beseeching forgiveness from a Christian master to a Christian slave. Paul sent Onesimus back with Tychicus, whom he calls a faithful and beloved brother; Col.4:7.
c. The church at Colossae / Laodecia
By comparing Colossians and Philemon we have a number of people mentioned with connections at Colosse and/or Laodecia.
(i) Epaphras, a faithful minister of the Colossians from Colosse Col.1:7-8; 4:12; Phil.v23.
(ii) Philemon, Apphia ( feminine) & Archippus ( Philemon’s family?) Phil. v1-2.
(iii) Philemon had a church in his house Phil.v 2; so did Nymphas, but this appears to have been in Laodecia Col.4:15.
c. An analogy
This incident serves as an illustration of our redemption in Christ. Onesimus represents the sinner and Philemon The Father.
As Onesimus runs away from Philemon for wrongdoing, so the sinner runs away from God and is worthy of punishment.
The runaway slave finds refuge in the apostle Paul, representing Christ, and is begotten in the gospel v10; he intercedes on his behalf and repays the debt owing v18-19. The sinner returns to God and is received as Christ Himself.