This is a letter written by Paul the Apostle to Philemon, the former master to the deliverer of the letter Onesimus. I love this letter, short as it may be it is beautiful as Paul puts himself, from the first words of the letter in the same situation as Onesimus. He calls himself “a prisoner” and talks to Philemon as a brother and “co-laborer”. He is obviously fond of, or at least holds Philemon in high regard.
Paul writes this from Rome, towards the end of his imprisonment. In Acts 23-24 we learn of how Paul was imprisoned, sent to Rome under the expense and command of Rome and was held, not of Jewish or Roman law, but Paul regarded these chains as precious as if they were made of solid gold. He was in prison due to his unashamed nature of the Gospel.
We know Paul is fond of the recipient as he does not feel the need to write and establish his credentials as an apostle, he writes as if the person is fully aware of who he is and why he would be a prisoner. He also mentions people of Philemon’s household, which alludes that he knew the domestic situation well.
Philemon was a host of a church in Colossae, this is probably due to the persecuted nature of the church at that time meant that it would not have a fixed abode or building.
Onesimus was a believer where Paul was, he was a runaway and he had escaped from his master Philemon. He met with Paul (we do not know if it was intentionally or not) and was converted to become a Christian. This letter sent to Philemon told him that Onesimus was a changed man; it also stated something that went above and beyond for Onesimus.
Paul urged Philemon to have him back, not as a slave but as a brother in Christ. Paul wanted Onesimus to stay, but as he was in his former state a slave, he sought out the permission of Philemon. He left the decision up to Philemon.
The letter to Philemon is a great account of redemption, it talks of someone who ran away, who was worth nothing returning to his master as a redeemed man.
Below is a list of articles on Philemon
Line by line studies
Philemon 1:1-25 (ESV) – Redeemed like Onesimus – March 20 2014
Philemon (whole book) – Agape Bible Study Notes 05/31/2015 – Philemon – June 1st 2015
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