One of three personal letters in the Bible, the letter to Philemon is Paul’s personal plea for a slave. Onesimus “belonged” to Philemon, a member of the Colossian church and Paul’s friend. But Onesimus, the slave, had stolen from his master and run way. He ran to Rome where he met Paul, and there he responded to the Good News and came to faith in Christ. So Paul writes to Philemon and reintroduces Onesimus to him, explaining that he is sending him back, not just as a slave but as a brother.
Paul pleads on behalf of Onesimus, a runaway slave; Paul’s intercession for him illustrates what Christ has done for us. As Paul interceded for a slave, so Christ intercedes for us, slaves to sin. As Onesimus was reconciled to Philemon, so we are reconciled to God through Christ. As Paul offered to pay the debts of a slave, so Christ paid our debts of sin. Like Onesimus, we must return to god our Master and serve him.
This small letter is a masterpiece of grace and tact and a profound demonstration of the power of Christ and of true Christian fellowship in action. What barriers are in your home, neighborhood, and church? What separates you from fellow believers – race? status? wealth? education? personality? As with Philemon, God calls you to seek unity, breaking down those walls and embracing your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Written by Paul, “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1), in the company of Timothy having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book (personal letter).
During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house (A. D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom pf God (Acts 28:31). Paul wrote Philemon at about the same time he wrote Colossians.
To Whom Written:
To “Philemon our dearly loved beloved, and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archipus our fellow soldier, and to the ekklesia in thy house” (Philemon 1-2). Written from Rome.
The purpose of this book was to exemplify dealing with other in grace, just as God deals with us in this dispensation. To convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in faith.
To download a PDF outline of Philemon click here.
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