Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

Category Archives: Philemon

BIAY – Bible in a year – December 16th 2015

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This article is part of a series called Bible in a year, for the full year please check out our BIAY home page, or for December check out our December page.

Thank you for checking out “bible in a year” post for December sixteenth.

Today’s scripture is as follows:

Philemon 1
Titus 1-3.

Please share, comment or like below as the LORD leads
TGBTG
TTE

Agape Bible Study Notes 05/31/2015 – Philemon

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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
SDG
TGBTG
TTE

Redeemed like Onesimus?

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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. 4 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. 8 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. 13 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. 17 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. 21 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. 23 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.

Benediction

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.

We learn from this passage that Paul wrote around the time of Acts 28, whilst he was in jail. I find it great that he lists himself not as a “Prisoner of Rome” or an “Apostle in Christ Jesus” this verbiage tells me a few things about Paul. It tells me firstly that he was happy to be in prison for Christ’s sake. In the passages of Colossians 3:23 and 1 Corinthians 10:31 we see the heart of how we are to serve, regardless of our circumstances.

It is a fantastic insight into Paul’s commitment also, Paul was beaten, imprisoned, threatened, bullied, despised wherever he went and eventually killed for the name of Jesus, how much more committed can you get! On the TTE Facebook page I shared the expression that Chinese believers had and the way they treated their first ever Bible. It was eye opening to me as I have at least 7-8 copies of that book in my house and to my shame I have never treated it in the precious fashion that these believers had. Like Paul, these guys are persecuted for their faith, in the 20th Century! Many of them had only single pages to read, so getting a whole bible was akin to winning the lottery for these people.

Paul has his companion Timothy with him also, Timothy is mentioned as I am sure that he would be familiar to the church in Colossae, Timothy at that time had been travelling for some time, which explains the co-laborer status. We read that this letter is addressed to three people.

 

Philemon – Who hosted a home church and was previously Onesimus master
Apphia – Philemons wife
Archippus – Philemons son

 

Now what I am unsure of is who dealt with the day to day running of folks like Onesimus. It may have been dealt with by any of the three. Unlike Paul’s other letters, whilst they had a recipient, they were meant to be shared, this letter has a familiar tone to it and reads like a letter to a man and his family concerning the contents of the letter. We also read that Philemon had his church in his house. He appears to have been wealthy, having slaves. Matthew 18 tells us that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

This speaks to me, because as Christians we have to have our church like a home, a place of worship for our LORD. Unity in doctrine and the bible being the centerpiece of the home as opposed to being open for special occasions, filling ourselves and then going out on mission to where God has placed us to spread the love of Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. At present my wife and I are going through a reading plan to enable this and our marriage has never been stronger.

Blessings to you my brother

…3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 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…

Paul gives a typical Pauline greeting, Paul advises that he prays regularly for the recipient. As Christians this is very important that we pray for one another (whether we are in each others favor or not) In 1 Thessalonians 5, we are told to “Pray without ceasing” it is really that simple. If you feel far away from God, get in prayer and talk to him. Spend quiet time listening as well as talking; if you want to be more Christ like, you have to spend time with him. Paul is thankful that he knows Philemon and it is for the reasons listed in verse 5. Philemon has a good report. Philemon shows the characteristics in Titus 2:8-10 when we are looking at the qualities of a “Bishop” (or overseer) in the church as regards to his tongue and his doctrine. Jesus himself intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25) how much more should be interceding for each other, prayer isn’t barred by distance.

Philemon has love and faith, first for Jesus and them for the people that he had been trusted to lead. When you become a leader in the church of Jesus Christ, you are in a position of trust. Many things you do will be unseen, but any mistakes you make will be magnified. Philemon has a good report, which tells me that he led well. Paul’s prayers were that Philemon would see “every good thing that is in us” and that is something we could all do with, realizing where we came from and the work that has been done in us already by Christ. (As well as things we need to work on) No two people will have the same story and we have to learn which parts of our stories glorify God.

Appeal for Onesimus

…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. 8 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. 13 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. 17 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. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say…

I started Onesimus appeal here as Paul speaks of the “refreshing of the saints hearts” and I get that where I am in my life at present. I have recently found a new love for “koinonia”, time spent with people of similar doctrines for the purpose of edification and fellowship, some may say sharing also. As any good leader does, Philemon was proactive in meeting the needs of the folks he was leading. Many leaders cause themselves unnecessary issues by being reactive leaders and only spring into action when they need to put out fires or diffuse anger. This is destructive as it invites problems.

Paul states he is bold enough to command, however he gives Philemon the opportunity to make good choices. Paul has a real Pastoral father’s heart here. Paul gets to the “meat and bones” of the letter by stating he is asking a favor, however he is asking in love rather than being an overbearing commander, how awesome is that! Paul appeals to him in his present status, he is in jail and he is an old man. Perhaps he was stirring up sympathy or loyalty from Philemon; however it is clear that he is asking in love as opposed to “pulling rank”.

He appeals for a man who was previously in servitude to Philemon and had offended his master by escaping. Based on when the letter was written it would be logical to assume that Onesimus escaped to Rome, where he met Paul in the later days of his imprisonment and became over time of use to Paul. Paul taught him in his present state, led him to conversion, disciples him in the word of the LORD and as a keen student, Onesimus grew to be useful. Onesimus served Paul as if he was serving his master and was fulfilling the role that Philemon would also have gladly assumed. I have no idea whether Onesimus sought out Paul or whether the LORD engineered their meeting, Onesimus escaping was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

Paul alludes to this is verse 15, supposing that this might have been the reason he was allowed to come as far to meet Paul (in a straight line the distance is 858 miles, but the actual journey is probably much further) So for this man Onesimus to go to such lengths to get away tells us he was not there voluntarily. Also with the way that he left you can imagine that the very name of Onesimus would invoke a strong reaction in Philemon’s heart, let alone having him in front of him delivering a letter. I doubt he was received well before the letter was presented.

Paul asks him to not just be restored to Philemon’s good graces, but restored as a fellow equal and brother in Christ and not a slave (v16) Paul alludes that there may have been an issue of Onesimus owing Philemon something, whether by debt or theft (v18-19) Whatever his crime, Paul advises that he knows what he did and was requesting forgiveness, Paul lastly asks that he be received as if he was Paul himself. Wow! He is really asking a favor huh? You have to remember, Onesimus left in disgrace as a slave that had went away, and he had no rights of ownership prior to this letter.

Paul returns Onesimus to Philemon (v12) a man in chains returns a former man in chains to the man he was in servitude towards so that he maybe forgiven. What a picture of what Christ has done for us. Regardless of the wrong, regardless of the amount of debt, Jesus paid it all! Paul was very confident that Philemon would do as he said.

Closing remarks

…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. 23 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.

Paul is confident that he will see Philemon again, so has requested that he have a place prepared for him. This also verifies the closeness between the two that having Paul staying would be like having one of the family over. Philemon was very hospitable. He then goes to mention many of the same folks that are mentioned in Colossians 4:10-17, which confirms that the letter was sent to the same place.

Why is Onesimus important?

I honestly don’t know! Some commentators have Onesimus being the same Onesimus as a future Bishop of Ephesus, whilst that may not be true that would be an awesome end to the story and the Bishop of Ephesus was still within a conceivable lifespan of the Onesimus in Philemon.

Personally, I think it’s the account of redemption, the story that a guy who had done wrong by his master could not only be redeemed, but redeemed both in social status as well as redeemed as a brother in Christ. For me that is a true story of hope and a reason I love this Epistle so much.

I pray that this Bible study was a blessing to you and I welcome comments below.
TGBTG
TTE