THE LETTER OF PAUL TO PHILEMON
St Paul's letter of Philemon is little more than a
note in length, consisting of only 335 words in Greek, and hardly more
than a memo in nature. The letter contains no theological arguments. It
was written from the prison room in Rome, where Paul was waiting for his
trial, and given to Onesimus to carry to his master Philemon.
Philemon was an active Christian in the Church of Colossae. He had been
baptized by Paul, and Onesimus was his servant (called here "your
slave"; in those days servants were considered property of the master).
Paul was not the founder of the Church in Colossae. Some lay people (outstanding
among them Epaphras) had started the work of Evangelization. At this news,
Paul was very glad and kept a close relationship with them.
Onesimus must have stolen some money from his master Philemon. We find
him in Rome serving Paul, and probably hoping that Paul would help him
out of the situation. While in Rome, Onesimus is baptized by Paul in prison.
Paul then sends him back to Colossae to his former "master"
Philemon, with this short note.
In very touching words, Paul reiterates his strong belief: in Christ,
there is no longer slave nor free (Gal 3:28). Paul had earlier written
to the Corinthian believers that whoever was called in the Lord as a slave
is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when
called is a slave of Christ (1 Cor 7:22).
1. "This letter is from Paul, in prison for preaching
the Good News about Christ
Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
It is written to Philemon, our much loved co-worker, and to the church
that meets in his house."( Philemon: 1-2)
2. "I always thank God when I pray for you, Philemon,
because I keep hearing of your trust in the Lord Jesus and your love for
all of God's people.
That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you.
My plea is that you show kindness to Onesimus. I think of him as my own
son because he became a believer as a result of my ministry here in prison."
3. "Philemon, I am sending Onesimus back to you,
and with him comes my own heart. I really wanted to keep him here with
me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would
have helped me on your behalf. But I didn't want to do anything without
your consent" (Philemon:12-14)
4. "Philemon, perhaps you could think of it this
way: Onesimus ran away for a little while so you could have him back forever.
He is no longer just a slave; he is a beloved brother, especially to me.
Now he will mean much more to you, both as a slave and as a brother in
the Lord." (Philemon: 15-16)
5. "Philemon, if you consider me your partner, give him the same
welcome you would give me if I were coming. If he has harmed you in any
way or stolen anything from you, charge me for it. I, Paul, write this
in my own handwriting: 'I will repay it.' And I won't mention that you
owe me your very soul!" (Philemon:17-19)
6. "Yes, dear brother Philemon, please do me this favor for the Lord's
sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ. I am confident as I write
this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!
Please keep a guest room ready for me, for I am hoping that God will answer
your prayers and let me return to you soon." (Philemon: 20-22)