Epistle to Philemon - Wikipedia
With that as a foundation, I'd like to spell out ten principles for godly relationships as seen in how Paul relates to Philemon. This is not a. Paul writes his letter to Philemon asking him to receive Onesimus, to welcome him back. We don't know exactly what has happened, but there. We can also see the strength of their relationship in Philemon 's prayers for Paul ' s release from prison, and in Paul 's plan to lodge with Philemon after being.
You have to obey me! Paul calls Philemon his brother, and he tells him: What empowered those transformed relationships was the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that is the same gospel and the same power that will transform the relationships we have in our lives. How we treat one another in the body of Christ, in the family of God, the church—our lives will be different because we are Christians.
It happened in the lives of Paul, Onesimus, and Philemon. And it will happen in our lives, as well. Love, mercy, grace, forgiveness—these are not just words on a page.
Paul and Philemon
These are realities in our lives. These are the ways in which we treat our brothers and sisters in the church. We are a family. We live in close relationship. But we are not without sin. We do hurt one another from time to time.
But we also know the reality of forgiveness. We ourselves have received forgiveness, from God. And this is how we learn to forgive one another. We know the importance of restored relationships. For God has restored us back to himself through our Savior Jesus Christ.
And so you can see in the way that Paul writes to Philemon the love and grace that Paul had learned from Christ. He intercedes for Onesimus, just as Christ ever lives to make intercession for us. Jesus is our advocate before the Father, like Paul was an advocate for Onesimus. Paul is simply putting into practice the love he learned from Christ. Likewise, Paul demonstrates a sacrificial love for Onesimus, even offering to cover any debts that Onesimus may owe Philemon. Yes, Jesus did indeed pay the price we owe, all our debts before God, when he shed his holy precious blood for you and me on the cross.
As well as addressing the letter to Philemon, Paul sends greetings to Apphia, Archippus and the church that meets in Philemon's house. Apphia is often presumed to be Philemon's wife and Archippus, a "fellow labourer", is sometimes suggested to be their son. Paul concludes his salutation with a prayerful wish for grace and peace. This serves to prepare the ground for Paul's central request. He gives thanks to God for Philemon's love and faith and prays for his faith to be effective.
He concludes this paragraph by describing the joy and comfort he has received from knowing how Philemon has shown love towards the Christians in Colossae.
Although he has the boldness to command Philemon to do what would be right in the circumstances, he prefers to base his appeal on his knowledge of Philemon's love and generosity. He also describes the affection he has for Onesimus and the transformation that has taken place with Onesimus's conversion to the Christian faith.
Where Onesimus was "useless", now he is "useful" — a wordplay, as Onesimus means "useful". Paul indicates that he would have been glad to keep Onesimus with him, but recognised that it was right to send him back. Paul's specific request is for Philemon to welcome Onesimus as he would welcome Paul, namely as a Christian brother. He offers to pay for any debt created by Onesimus' departure and expresses his desire that Philemon might refresh his heart in Christ. He also mentions his wish to visit and asks Philemon to prepare a guest room.
Paul sends greetings from five of his co-workers and concludes the letter with a benediction. Slavery was most commonly found in households. This letter, seemingly, provided alleviation of suffering of some slaves due to the fact that Paul placed pastoral focus on the issue.
Some scholars see it as unthinkable in the times to even question ending slavery. Paul may have envisioned slavery as a fixed institution. Paul did however view slavery as a human institution, and believed that all human institutions were about to fade away.
Paul viewed his present world as something that was swiftly passing away. But whether he was in Rome or Caesarea Maritima, he was quite a long way from Colosse where Philemon lived.
According to some scholars, this distance was too great for Onesimus to have sought out Paul as an advocate or mediator.
As a result, they conclude that Onesimus was seeking to start a new life far from Philemon, and encountered Paul only accidentally. Now, we should admit that Scripture does not tell us what Onesimus was thinking when he fled from Philemon, nor does it tell us how he came to meet Paul in prison. Nevertheless, it does provide some details suggesting that Onesimus sought out Paul as his advocate.
For one thing, Onesimus went to the city where Paul was imprisoned. And he should have known full well that Paul resided there, because the church at Colosse had sponsored Epaphras ' mission to care for Paul in prison. We read about this in Colossians chapter 4 verses 12 and 13, where Paul wrote these words: Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.
He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. And with this knowledge, Onesimus chose that same city as his destination. Besides this, once in the city, Onesimus pursued a meeting with Paul. Paul was imprisoned under house arrest, so that he could not move about freely.
It 's hard to imagine, then, that Onesimus could have run into him accidentally.
It 's most likely that Onesimus went to Paul on purpose. Finally, Paul wrote to Philemon only after Onesimus had endeared himself to Paul. In Paul 's letter to Philemon, he indicated that he had converted Onesimus to Christianity, and that Onesimus had ministered to Paul in prison. In other words, Paul defended Onesimus only after Onesimus had proven himself to Paul. Since Onesimus stayed with Paul long enough to secure his advocacy, it suggests he had fully intended to seek Paul 's help in his situation.
Having considered Onesimus ' petition that Paul become his advocate, we are now ready to look at Paul 's agreement to defend Onesimus before his master Philemon. Paul 's Agreement Paul did not immediately agree to mediate between Onesimus and Philemon. After all, Onesimus was both an unbeliever and an unprofitable slave, and Philemon was a good, loving man.
Philemon had a right to be angry and to discipline Onesimus, and there was no indication that he planned to do this unfairly or unjustly. Philemon would have been within his rights to punish Onesimus. So, if Paul were to defend Onesimus, it would have to be on the basis of mercy. And before he would ask for mercy for Onesimus, he would first have to be persuaded that Onesimus was genuinely repentant.
Paul 's initial reluctance in this matter is admirable. After all, it would be foolish to pardon wrongdoers simply because they are afraid of being punished. Consider, in this regard, Paul 's words in Romans chapter 13 verse 4, where he spoke of civil rulers in this manner: He is God 's servant to do you good.
But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God 's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Godly authority figures carry out appropriate punishments because it is the right thing to do.
And so, it was appropriate, and probably typical, that when a slave or servant appealed to his master 's friend for help, that friend did not impose upon the master without being sufficiently persuaded that it was the right thing to do.
For the sake of comparison, let 's consider a historical example where another Roman slave appealed to his master 's friend for help. A little before A. Listen to this excerpt from Pliny 's letter: The freedman of yours with whom you said you were angry has been to me, flung himself at my feet, and clung to me as if I were you.
He begged my help with many tears I believe he has reformed, because he realizes he did wrong Make some concession to his youth, his tears, and your own kind heart, and do not torment him or yourself any longer.
Just like Onesimus, this freedman of Sabinianus turned to his master 's friend for help. And just like Paul, Pliny did not agree to mediate until the freedman had proven his repentance and good intent. So, it is safe to assume that Onesimus initially stayed with Paul to convince the apostle of his good intent.
And during this time, Paul preached the gospel to Onesimus, and the Holy Spirit brought him to faith in Christ. And since genuine conversion is always accompanied by repentance of sins, it is safe to conclude that Onesimus repented of all his sins that had so angered Philemon.
And with his newfound life in Christ, Onesimus became a new man, and dedicated himself to ministering to the apostle in prison. And Paul, in turn, cared deeply for this new child of God, and grew to love him as a son.
Once Onesimus had gained Paul 's favor, it was appropriate that he return to Philemon. So, Onesimus left for Colosse bearing Paul 's letter of advocacy. According to Paul 's letter to Philemon, legally, Onesimus might have remained with Paul without becoming a fugitive. But morally, this would not have been the best solution.
Rather, the Christian values of charity and reconciliation demanded his return to Philemon. The reason for this can be found in Philemon verses 12 through 16, where Paul wrote these words: I am sending him who is my very heart back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
Philemon Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon because he wanted any gift from Philemon to be voluntary rather than compulsory, and because he wanted Philemon and Onesimus to be reconciled as brothers in Christ. Presumably, their reconciliation would best be accomplished through a face-to-face meeting in which Onesimus repented and asked for Philemon 's forgiveness, and in which Philemon graciously forgave and accepted Onesimus.
And given Paul 's high praise of Philemon as a deeply loving Christian, as well as Paul 's strong advocacy for Onesimus, it appears that Paul expected this to be the outcome. Paul 's letter to Philemon is unique in many ways. For one thing, it is Paul 's only canonical letter that does not focus on teaching. In Philemon, Paul wrote as an advocate rather than as a teacher.
For another thing, in nearly every other letter, Paul directly appealed to his apostolic authority, commanding that things be done as he ordered. But in Philemon, he explicitly chose not to command his friend, but to approach him as a co-worker for the gospel, and to ask him for a favor. And besides this, Philemon is Paul 's most personal letter, expressing his deep concern both for Onesimus and Philemon, and making requests based on their friendship.
In short, in Philemon, we see a humble man of God in action, taking responsibility, holding others accountable, and expressing Christ 's love. And so, as we survey the details of this letter, we will pay attention to Paul 's Christian attitudes and actions, looking at the way he practiced the very ideals he communicated in his other prison epistles. Our discussion of the structure and content of Paul 's epistle to Philemon will follow the outline of the letter itself, beginning with the salutation in verses 1 through 3, then continuing with Paul 's thanksgiving for Philemon in verses 4 through 7, and Paul 's petition on behalf of Onesimus in verses 8 through 21, and finally concluding with final greetings in verses 22 through Let 's begin by looking at the salutation in verses 1 through 3.
Paul's Prison Epistles: Paul and Philemon
Salutation The salutation, which appears in verses 1 through 3, identifies Paul as the primary author of the letter, and states that the letter also came from Timothy. It includes an address that names Philemon as the letter 's primary recipient, and mentions several others who were to bear witness to the letter: Apphia, Archippus, and the local church congregation of which Philemon was a member.
Paul knew that he was making a big request of Philemon and that it might have been difficult for Philemon to do him this favor. So, rather than allowing the matter between Philemon and Onesimus to remain private, Paul invited Philemon 's household and church to witness his advocacy for Onesimus. No doubt he hoped that the watchful eyes of so many fellow believers would encourage Philemon all the more to be gracious to Onesimus.
The salutation ends with a standard greeting in the form of a brief blessing. Thanksgiving Following the salutation, we find Paul 's thanksgiving for Philemon in verses 4 through 7. Paul commonly included a section on thanksgiving at this point in his letters. Paul spoke mainly of Philemon 's love for the church, thanking the Lord for the ways Philemon had blessed his fellow believers in Colosse. Paul praised Philemon with these words in Philemon verses 5 through 7: Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Philemon Paul did not say what Philemon had done, but he did mention that it had been refreshing for the saints. Perhaps Philemon had come to their financial relief, or had performed works of service for them, or had done them some other benefit. Whatever it had been, Philemon had done it well and with a good heart.
And since Onesimus had become part of the church, Paul expected Philemon to show him the same love. Consider the situation between Philemon and Onesimus in light of Paul 's teaching in Colossians chapter 3 verses 12 through 14, where Paul wrote these words: Therefore, as God 's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. And he had encouraged them to reflect the same love toward one another, patiently bearing with one another when wronged, and forgiving grievances rather than demanding recompense. The application to Philemon and Onesimus is not hard to see.
Onesimus had wronged Philemon Paul affirmed that this was true. Yet, he asked Philemon to love consistently, to show Onesimus the same love that he showed to other believers. He asked Philemon to bear up patiently under the wrong he had suffered, and to forgive Onesimus rather than punish him.
By affirming Philemon 's love, Paul encouraged him to be consistent in his character, and not to let his anger overrule his love when it came to Onesimus. Petition After the section on thanksgiving, Paul presented his petition to Philemon in verses 8 through The petition represents the main purpose of the letter, namely advocating on behalf of Onesimus before Philemon. We will explore the petition in some depth, breaking it down into the following six elements: An explanation of Paul 's role as advocate, in verses 8 through 10; An explanation of Onesimus ' role as petitioner, in verses 11 through 13; An explanation of Philemon 's role as master, in verse 14; An explanation of God 's role as providential ruler of the universe, in verses 15 and 16; Paul 's petition itself in verses 17 through 20; And a Paul 's statement of confidence that the petition would be granted, in verse Let 's start by turning to Paul 's explanation of his role as advocate.
Paul as Advocate Listen to Paul 's words in Philemon verses 8 through Although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.
Philemon Because Paul was an apostle of Christ, he had the authority to order Philemon to do the right thing. But instead, he wrote to Philemon in ways that elicited Philemon 's sympathy and concern. In this passage, Paul spoke as a weak, elderly man in need of help. And to those who are familiar with his strong writing style in other letters, this may seem more than a little unusual. After all, Paul commonly demanded that people respect his authority and submit to his teaching.
Was he merely trying to manipulate soft-hearted Philemon? This was simply another side of the real Paul that we do not see often in his other letters. Listen to the way Paul 's critics in Corinth spoke of this other side of Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.
Philemon & Onesimus: What’s Their Relationship? – Faith Improvised
In person, Paul could be quite meek. And this should not surprise us. After all, Paul constantly strove to be like Christ, who also knew when to be forceful and when to be humble.
Consider Paul 's teaching in Philippians chapter 2 verses 5 through 8: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: But he also humbled himself so far as to let mere creatures subject him to an ignoble criminal 's execution.
It was only fitting, then, that his apostle should emulate him in similar ways, having a strong presence at some times, and being needy and mild at others.
Paul didn 't need to trick or manipulate Philemon he was an apostle. If he had wanted to, he could have demanded Philemon 's obedience. And had he done so, Philemon probably would have complied.
But Paul wanted Philemon to respond to this situation with genuine Christian love. So, he appealed to Philemon 's heart, asking him to have compassion on an elderly man in prison, and on the newly converted brother in Christ who ministered to him.
And it was from this perspective that Paul introduced his advocacy for Onesimus. After introducing himself as Onesimus ' advocate, Paul spoke about Onesimus himself in verses 11 through He also explained in more detail the relationship between Onesimus and Paul that led the apostle to bring Onesimus ' petition before Philemon. Onesimus as Petitioner In Philemon verses 11 through 13, Paul wrote these words: Formerly [Onesimus] was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.
Philemon The Onesimus that Paul described here was a very different man from the one who had come to him asking for a mediator. Onesimus had been a worthless slave. But he had been converted to Christ; he had repented of his sin, and mended his ways, showing his good faith by putting forth earnest effort to care for Paul in prison.
And because Paul knew that Philemon was a loving Christian, he expected Philemon to rejoice at the news that Onesimus had come to Christ, and to forgive his transgressions as he would any other Christian who sinned against him.
Paul included a wordplay in Philemon verses 11 through 13 that emphasized this change in Onesimus. Specifically, chrestos was remarkably similar to the word Christos, meaning "Christ. Onesimus was achrestos or "useless" when he was achristos or "without Christ. Paul also pointed to ways in which Onesimus had already begun to make reparations for his transgressions. As Paul wrote, Onesimus was taking Philemon 's place in service to Paul.
In the ancient world, it was not unusual for a master to loan a slave to another person. This action was rightly considered a gift of sorts, as the master lost any work the slave might have done during the time of the loan, and the friend to whom the slave was loaned benefited. In this sense, through Onesimus, Philemon really was ministering to Paul. This is why Paul said that Onesimus had become useful not only to him, but also to Philemon. So, Philemon had yet more reasons to be merciful to Onesimus.
Finally, in this section Paul also mentioned that he had sent Onesimus back to Philemon, presumably carrying Paul 's letter to Philemon, and probably traveling in the company of Tychicus.
Paul mentioned this in Philemon verse 12, writing: I am sending him Philemon 12 Onesimus was returning to Colosse to petition Philemon for mercy, in the hopes of being reconciled to him, and perhaps even of being released.
Onesimus was not a fugitive, and was returning to face his master 's judgment. Philemon as Master After describing his own role as advocate, and Onesimus ' role as petitioner, Paul went on to speak of Philemon 's role as master in verse Here, Paul acknowledged Philemon 's authority over Onesimus, and revealed his own motivation for making an appeal to Philemon instead of commanding him.
Paul wrote these words in Philemon verse I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.
Philemon 14 Paul wanted Philemon himself to choose to do the right thing. And so, he made it clear that his petition came as a request rather than as an apostolic command. It may be that he wanted his friend to gain heavenly rewards by doing the right thing for the right reason. And perhaps he also thought that a voluntary reconciliation between the two men would make their brotherly relationship in Christ all the stronger.
Additionally, it appears that Paul wanted to show Philemon respect, and to give his benevolence the benefit of the doubt. Then, if Philemon treated Onesimus well, it would provide greater encouragement both to Paul and to the church. This was Paul 's reasoning in Philemon verses 7 through 9, where he wrote in this way: Philemon Essentially, Philemon 's past love and faithfulness to the church encouraged Paul to think that Philemon would be loving and faithful to Onesimus, as well.
In all likelihood, Paul chose this route for a variety of reasons, leaving Philemon in the traditional Roman role of a master who had to sit in judgment over his slave.