Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

Agape Bible Study Notes 05/31/2015 – Philemon



Here are the Bible study notes from the Agape Bible Study on 05/31/2015, Please feel free to share like comment as God leads you to. For more information on our Agape Bible study please see our “Agape” page, also for more studies in Philemon please check out our Philemon page. 

I) Greetings and addressees

Philemon 1:1 (ESV) Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Paul describes himself a prisoner of Christ – word used is desmios which literally means one who is bound – one in chains
  2. Paul was with Timothy (who he later wrote Epistles too)
  3. Despite letter called Philemon, it is addressed to 3 people, Philemon, Apphia and Archippus
  4. The descriptions of the people are important, Timothy (brother) Apphia (sister) tells us on the Christian family that even although they are not blood relations they are family to Paul
  5. The description of Archippus as a soldier, it is important that you realize we are in a battle, a heavenly war and we must act like soldiers, we must have one anothers back, we must be willing to fight for one another.
  6. The description of Philemon as a fellow worker (or laborer) brings a few interesting points, in order to have a fellow laborer we must look at our own lives and see if we are being a laborer. How are you laboring for God?

II) Philemon’s Love and Faith

Philemon 1:4 (ESV) I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 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. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

  1. Paul gives thanks for Philemon
  2. Paul advised that he remembered Philemon in his prayers (we have to do likewise and pray often for our fellow laborers.
  3. Philemon had a good reputation, we read here that he had love for the saints and we read also of his faith and he was a follower of Jesus Christ.
  4. Paul prays for the effectiveness of the ministry Philemon was involved in, we must do likewise, even if we are not called to a particular ministry, we must always make reference to them in our prayers, they are our Christian brothers and sisters and we are all trying to achieve the same goal in advancing the kingdom of God.
  5. Paul talks of how the saints have been refreshed by his example, do we refresh the saints?

III) Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

Philemon 1:8 (ESV) Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.

  1. Paul could have commanded Philemon, but as a friend, fellow laborer and brother chose to ask him to do this task from his own free will to glorify God.
  2. Paul explains his appeal, he is sending the servant Onesimus back to his former master
  3. Paul explains that Onesimus is no longer useless but indeed is a changed man and as such he is sending someone who is now a part of him

IV) Paul wants to keep him

Philemon 1:13 (ESV) 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, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 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.

  1. Paul would have preferred to keep him due to how much he was valued and was an integral part of Paul’s team
  2. Paul knew that Onesimus ran away from Philemon and legally was still his property so he wished to fulfill the law of the land and show due honor to his friend
  3. Paul wanted him to show kindness and forgiveness but his own free will in order to show the glory of God.
  4. Paul explains that this was Gods will, that Onesimus may come back to Philemon
  5. Paul drops the bomb on Philemon, he expects him to not just be taken into the home in his former place as a servant, he wants him to be accepted as a brother, both in the flesh and the Lord.

V) Receive Onesimus as me

Philemon 1:17 (ESV) So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

  1. Paul continues that he expected that he be received as if he was receiving Paul.
  2. Paul explains that if he is out of pocket then Paul will pick up his debt on his behalf
  3. Paul is wise to not debate the rights and wrongs of the original offence and only seek the Godly path to reconciliation, how often have you judged someone based either on first impressions or based on past hurts, if we dwell on such things then it is a barrier to effective reconciliation.
  4. This would refresh Paul’s heart to see this reconciliation.

VI) Paul’s confidence in Philemon

Philemon 1:21 (ESV) Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 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.

  1. Paul has confidence that Philemon will do as Paul asks, how well do we come under obedience to authority?
  2. Paul believes that Philemon will not do the bare basics in his letter but embrace Onesimus above and beyond what is asked of him, have you had a situation where you have had to go above and beyond with someone who it took all of Gods strength to complete the task?
  3. Paul asks for a place to be prepared for him as he hoped to see him in the flesh soon.

VII) Final Greetings

Philemon 1:23 (ESV) Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

  1. Paul closes with greetings from a fellow prisoner and friend that they both knew
  2. Paul also gives greetings from other fellow workers who had been asking about him
  3. Paul leaves a closing greeting of “grace” and how apt it is considering the contents and how Philemon was being asked to give grace to one who had wronged him in the past

Thank you so much for reading this article, I pray that it has blessed you


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