10 Oct. Philemon 1:7-25

10 Oct. Paul asks Philemon to welcome back his Christian slave

"I have great joy and comfort, my brother, because the love you have shown to God’s people has refreshed them. So, in Christ, I could be bold and order you to do what is right. But because I love you, I am pleading with you instead."

"I, Paul, an old man now and also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, am pleading with you for my child Onesimus, who became my child while I was in prison [i.e. imprisoned under house arrest]. In the past he was useless to you, but now he has become useful for both you and me."

"I am sending him back to you, and with him I am sending my own heart. I wanted to keep him with me so that in your place he might help me while I am in prison [imprisoned under house arrest] for the Good News. But I did not want to do anything without asking you first so that any good you do for me will be because you want to do it, not because I forced you."

"Maybe Onesimus was separated from you for a short time so you could have him back for ever - no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a loved brother. I love him very much, but you will love him even more, both as a person and as a believer in the Lord."

"So if you consider me your partner, welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. If he has done anything wrong to you or if he owes you anything, charge that to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back, and I will say nothing about what you owe me for your own life."

"So, my brother, I ask that you do this for me in the Lord: refresh my heart in Christ. I write this letter, knowing that you will do what I ask you and even more."

"One more thing - prepare a room for me in which to stay, because I hope God will answer your prayers and I will be able to come to you."

"Epaphras, a prisoner [under house arrest] with me for Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you. And also Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, workers together with me, send greetings."

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

          (Philemon 1:7-25)

 

 

Paul wrote this note in c.61AD while he was under house arrest in Rome awaiting his trial before Emperor Nero. Paul pleads as "an old man now" (Philemon 1:9) to his younger co-worker Philemon in Colossae. As Paul was born in c.5AD, he would have been about 56 years old when he wrote this letter.

As a fellow-worker, Paul asks Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as a Christian brother rather than as a slave. (The implication is that Philemon might grant Onesimus his freedom from slavery.) Onesimus has matured as a Christian while he has been in Rome with Paul, and Paul now regards him as “my child” (Philemon 1:10).

Paul would like to keep Onesimus in Rome – to help him while he is under house arrest – but he is sending him back to Philemon, not just as a slave, but as a “loved brother” and “a believer in the Lord” (Philemon 1:16).

Paul says, “If he has done anything wrong to you or if he owes you anything, charge that to me” (Philemon 1:18). And he adds, in his own handwriting, “I will pay it back.” (Philemon 1:19).

Onesimus may have admitted to Paul that he'd had a poor relationship with his master previously, and he'd stolen something from Philemon before he became a Christian. Although the name ‘Onesimus’ means ‘useful’, Paul’s letter suggests that Philemon had previously regarded Onesimus as ‘useless’. He is sometimes referred to as ‘the runaway slave’, but there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that he had run away from Philemon.

Paul then asks Philemon to get a room ready for him as he hopes to visit Colossae shortly if he is set free after his forthcoming trial before Emperor Nero. We know from circumstantial evidence in Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus that Paul was, indeed, set free after his trial in 62AD, and it's quite possible that Paul did indeed visit Philemon in Colossae as part of a "Fourth Missionary Journey" between 62 and 67AD. (You can read the evidence for this @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/pauls-4th-missionary-jou…/)

Paul sends greetings from Epaphras (the founder of the Colossian church who had been put under house arrest in Rome – see Colossians 1:7 & 4:12-13), John Mark (the author of Mark’s Gospel – see Acts 12:12, 25, 13:5,13), Aristarchus (who was also imprisoned in Rome – see Colossians 4:10), Demas (see Colossians 4:14) and Luke (the doctor who accompanied Paul during the later stages of his third missionary journey and on his voyage to Rome, and who wrote the Gospel of Luke – see Acts 20:6 & 27:1). This is the second time that Paul mentions that the authors of both Mark's and Luke's gospels were together with him in Rome (see Colossians 4:10-14).

Paul finishes his letter with his usual benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 1:25).

The map shows the route of Paul's "fourth missionary journey" in 62-67AD that may well have included a visit to stay with Philemon in Colossae (see Philemon 1:22).

You can read the whole of Paul's Letter to Philemon @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/pauls-letter-to-philemon…/


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