Series: Paul’s Individual Letters
Philemon 1:1-3 ESV
Philemon 1:4-7 ESV
Philemon 1:8-16 ESV
Philemon 1:17-22 ESV
Philemon 1:23-25 ESV
Philemon was a wealthy homeowner who held house church for others in his home. Experts believe that Philemon met the Apostle Paul in Ephesus in 52-55 A.D. and he accepted Christ and opened his home for others to come hear the word.
Philemon assumed a leadership position in the church in Colossae. He had slaves, and Onesimus (mentioned in the letter) was one of his slaves.
The greeting to Philemon was from Paul and Timothy. In Philemon 1:1-3 we are told, “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is believed the letter to Philemon was written around 62 A.D.
In the letter to Philemon, Paul and Timothy speak of Philemon’s love and faith when they wrote in Philemon 1:4-7, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”
The main focus of the letter was a plea that Paul made on behalf of the slave Onesimus. In Philemon 1:8-16 we are told, “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”
Paul’s plea for the slave Onesimus made it clear that while he was in prison Onesimus served Paul well. The tone of the letter made it clear that Paul relied on and loved Onesimus who helped him. He referred to the slave as his child who had captured his heart. Paul noted that he was sending the slave back to Philemon, but it was not because he wanted to send him back.
Rather, Paul was sending Onesimus back because he was Philemon’s slave. At the same time Paul was hoping Philemon would release Onesimus and free him to return to Paul forever.
We do not have any indication if the slave was returned to Paul as a free man.
In the letter, Paul makes a strong case in Philemon 1;17-22, “So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.”
In the letter, Paul makes a strong persuasive case for Onesimus who was once a prisoner to sin and has been set free.
Paul goes so far as to tell Philemon that he will personally repay anything due because of Onesimus.
Paul’s closing argument states his intention to return to Philemon.
Instead, according to the Menaia 22 November, “in company with Apphia, Archippus, and Onesimus” (Philemon) “was martyred at Colossae during the first general persecution in the reign of Nero.” (hhttps://akroasis.org/2018/11/22/science-of-the-saints-22-november/)
There is no indication that Paul saw Philemon or Onesimus again.
Paul’s final words tell us in Philemon 1:23-25, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
According to the timeline, it’s quite possible that Philemon and Onesimus (with others) were martyred around 62 A.D.
It is believed that Paul was martyred in 64 A.D. what strikes me is how Paul would have suffered when he heard his dear beloved friends were martyred.
Irregardless of the timing, the beloved friends were united in Christ in their heavenly home.
Spiritual Practice: Know
Know that You will be reunited with believers who have gone over before…
In God, Deborah