Archive for the ‘Philemon’ Category


Study of God’s Word (walk through the Bible) – Philemon

In the letter to Philemon, Paul and Timothy write a brief letter to this Christian brother who lived in Colosse.  It is also addressed to Apphia who was probably the wife of Philemon, and Archippus who was probably his son.  This is different than most of the letters Paul wrote, but makes sense given the topic of the letter which was an appeal to Philemon regarding a runaway slave who has met Jesus and found refuge with Paul.  In the custom of that day, Philemon’s wife Apphia would have been in charge of supervision of the slaves of the household, so the content would concern her as well.

Philemon was a church leader at Colosse as the church must have met in his home.  Paul addressed that group as well through the letter when he writes “and the church in your house”.  Paul begins with a prayer for Philemon and his family.  “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”.  Paul continually demonstrates the importance and power of prayer.

Paul prayed for Philemon, desiring that the sharing of his faith would become effective as Philemon understood the work God did in him.  God does the work in us and then through us for His Kingdom.  This is the foundation for all effective evangelism: the impact of a life touched and changed by God. God had done every good thing in the life of Philemon. Now, it was a matter of it being acknowledged by both Philemon and those he shared his faith with. When these good things are understood, others come to Jesus.  That is exactly what God wants to see happen in every Christ Follower.  We allow God to work in us and change us, and then allow Him to work through us to impact others.  It is what sharing our faith is all about.  Not what we are or do, but who God is in us and through us.

Paul then intercedes for Onesimus, a slave from Philemon’s house.  He had escaped from his master Philemon and fled to Rome where he met with Paul.  Now after Onesimus has been with Paul and served him well, Paul is sending him back to his master pleading for consideration of who Onesimus had become – a Christ Follower under Paul’s influence.  Paul offers “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account”.  Paul not only intercedes through a request, but is willing to settle the account if there is anything owed.  That’s the power of true intercession.  That’s a picture of true love.


Philemon is a short letter from Paul and Timothy to their fellow workers and the church meeting in his house.  Paul tells us he has heard “of your love…and of the faith you have”.  Paul is writing to encourage the brethren to keep on “because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you”.  Paul is giving the folks some pretty strong direction regarding Onesimus who is being sent back to Philemon and the church there.  His life has been changed and now Paul is sending him back, not as a slave, but as a brother.

Here are Paul’s words: “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment”.  Paul has taken this young man under his wing and has led him to faith in Christ.  He has discipled him and made him a child or student of his.  Who are you investing your life into?  Who are you discipling?  Who is your Onesimus?  Onesimus was Philemon’s runaway slave who became Paul’s “son in the faith,” begotten spiritually while Paul was a prisoner at Rome, where Onesimus hoped to escape detection amidst its vast population. Onesimus doubtless had heard the gospel before going to Rome, in Philemon’s household, for at Paul’s third missionary tour there were in Phrygia believers. Once unprofitable, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me”, by conversion Onesimus became really what his name implies, “profitable” to his master, to Paul, and to the church of God.

Paul now is “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 free will”.  Paul is taking a bit of a risk here with his disciple Onesimus.  The penalty for running away as a slave is severe, but Paul makes it clear that he is willing to pay whatever the price may be when he writes “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account…. I will repay it – to say nothing of your owing me even your own self”.  That is a pretty strong promise – to take care of any debt or wrong at all.  Paul is laying his own reputation and life on the line here.  That is the way we need to invest in others – giving our all freely to make a difference for them.  Paul has taken a slave and set him free twice – free from his slavery – free from his sin.  Who are you investing your life into to set them free?  Are you interceding for anyone like Paul did here?

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