- Paul wrote letter to Philemon while he was in jail.
- Philemon’s house may be where the Colossian church met (v. 2).
- Philemon had a slave Onesimus (v. 16).
- Onesimus means “useful” or “beneficial.”
- Onesimus was useless to Philemon – slave who stole money and ran away.
- Paul converted Onesimus.
- Onesimus is now useful to Philemon and Paul. (v. 11).
- Though Onesimus was helping Paul while he was imprisoned, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter to appeal for forgiveness for Onesimus. Roman law required this to happen.
- Philemon owes Paul his life – his very soul— salvation in Christ (v. 19)
- Paul asks Philemon to charge all that is owed by Onesimus to his (Paul’s) account (v. 18). He offered to pay for Onesimus’ sins against Philemon.
Friendship – Forgiveness – Reconciliation
Ephesians 4:32 – Forgive as you have been forgiven
Forgiveness comes through Jesus. Through Christ alone we have forgiveness and reconciliation to God. Reconciliation means “coexist in harmony” or “restore friendly relations.” We only have the ability to forgive others because of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness has a cost. Paul offered to pay the cost. Onesimus could have been punished – even with death. Our cost for forgiveness was paid by Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness is always necessary. Paul asks Philemon to do the right thing. He could have punished Onesimus or he could forgive him and receive him as a partner. The word used means “fellowship.”
Forgiveness from God lasts forever. When we are transformed, becoming a “new creature” in Christ, the Spirit changes us from the inside out – just like Onesimus. This is forgiveness and transformation that lasts forever. The board is wiped clean.
Bible Study Questions:
1) Paul mentions in verse 14 that he preferred to do nothing without consent in order that Philemon’s (fih-LEE-muhn) goodness be of his “own accord.” What does this mean?
2) Paul wrote in verse 21 that he was confident of Philemon’s obedience. How could he be so confident that Philemon would forgive and do even more than asked?
3) Forgiveness, Paul notes, will take Onesimus (o-NEH-sih-muhs) from position of bondservant to beloved brother. Was he asking for Philemon to free his slave Onesimus or does this beloved brother mean something else?
4) Read Colossians 4:7-9. Onesimus was sent along with Tychicus (TIH-kih-kuhs).
How was he described?
Why do you think Paul had Onesimus go along with Tychicus to deliver the Letter to the Colossians as well as the Letter to Philemon?