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Who Is Philemon In The Bible

We Should Advocate For Freedom

Philemon 1-25, Forgiveness For A Friend

Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back foreverno longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord .

We cannot gloss over or ignore what Paul wrote about Onesimus status as a slave. He wrote that Onesimus was a man and a brother, and this was how he should be viewed and valued. Elsewhere in the Bible , Paul directly wrote that slaves should gain their freedom. Real and lasting freedom ultimately comes through knowing Christ, and it is in becoming free in Christ that we are no longer slaves to the world. This lesson in the book of Philemon reminds us that all are equal in the eyes of God and believers should strongly promote equality and freedom in Christ.

The People And Their Need

Paul looked across the room of his Roman prison at the young man, Onesimus. How dear he was to Paul! The young slave had stolen some money from his master in Colossae and run away. Somehow, he ended up in Rome and met Paul. Though Paul was chained to a Roman guard, people could come and visit him, even stay with him.

Somehow Onesimus found his way to Paul, Paul told the runaway slave about Jesus, and Onesimus trusted Christ to take away his sins. Paul became his spiritual father, teaching him and loving him as a Christian son. Onesimus learned to love Christ Jesus and received a renewed heart.

As much as Paul wanted this young man to stay near him, he knew that Onesimus should return to Philemon, his owner, and seek forgiveness for stealing the money and for running away. Philemon was a fairly rich man who owned slaves. It was common for people to have slaves. One of every two persons in the Roman Empire was a slave. Every large Roman household had them. Slaves were not free to do whatever they wanted but had to do whatever their owner said. And, any slave who ran away could be killed. Paul certainly didnt want that to happen to his son Onesimus. Paul had to trust Jesus with Onesimus safety.

We dont know if Paul ever met Philemon though Paul seemed to know of him well enough to appreciate him as a Christian brother and a leader of the church in Colossae. Christ had renewed Philemons heart from being a sinner separated from God to being completely forgiven.

V Philemon And The Question Of Slavery

A. Household Tables: The question of slavery is perhaps more specifically addressed in what are known as the household tables in Colossians 3:18–4:1 Ephesians 6:5-9 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 1 Timothy 6:1-2 Titus 2:9-10 1 Peter 2:18-21 which emphasize the following:20

1. Owners have a master in heaven

2. Slaves are involved in serving Christ

3. God deals impartially with master and slave

4. Both slaves and masters are bond-servants of Christ

5. One may still continue in a functional relationship of master and slave after conversion, but must relate to one another on a higher level of unity

B. Slavery Not Addressed: In the letter to Philemon Paul does not directly take up the issue of slavery

C. Brotherly Love: Paul does deal with the issue of brotherly love in Philemon , and its significance is as follows:

1. Paul does not insist that Philemon free Onesimus21

2. If a master and slave are brothers one has the foundation for the collapse of slavery with its intimated hierarchy22

3. The terms of slave and master are transcended through their joint participation in the body of Christ

4. No one truly owns anyone all believers are equal in Christ23

2 The authenticity of Philemon was disputed by the Tübingen school under Baur due to its correlation with Colossians, and by the W. C. van Manen of the Dutch school who rejected the authenticity of all thirteen of the Pauline corpus, but such reasoning is consigned to the eccentricities of NT scholarship .

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A Note Before You Begin This Book

Before we tell you about the book of Philemon, we need to save you from a potential misunderstanding. All of us have limited experience in this world, shaped by our upbringing, society, and education. Naturally, we understand what we read by drawing from our experience or knowledge.

In the book of Philemon, youre going to read about a slave named Onesimus, and his master, Philemon. Immediately, youre likely to start drawing from your knowledge of the recent and atrocious slave trade by British colonials to try and understand this relationship. Thats the danger we want to guard you from.

Slavery in Roman society, as described in Philemon, was vastly different than what we understand slavery to mean today. In the world of Philemon, slave referred to a contracted employee. The slaves work was voluntary, not forced. He had signed up for his work, just like you might accept a job offer. The slave and master would make a contract, that they both signed. The slave would offer some service to his master, being fully compensated for his work.

Remember that the Bible was written first to a specific audience, and we must enter its world, letting it inform our experience, rather than imposing our experiences on the Bible.


Themes In The Book Of Philemon

Read Scripture: Philemon
  • Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a key theme. Just as God forgives us, he expects us to forgive others, as we find in the Lord’s Prayer. Paul even offered to pay Philemon for anything Onesimus had stolen if the man would grant forgiveness.
  • Equality: Equality exists among believers. Although Onesimus was a slave, Paul asked Philemon to consider him as an equal brother in Christ. Paul was an apostle, an exalted position, but he appealed to Philemon as a fellow Christian instead of a church authority figure.
  • Grace:Grace is a gift from God, and out of gratitude, we can show grace to others. Jesus constantly commanded his disciples to love one another, and taught that the difference between them and pagans would be how they showed love. Paul requested that same kind of love from Philemon even though it went against Philemon’s more baser instincts.

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Why Is Philemon In The Bible

This is the start of a series of lessons on the book of Philemon. Today, Im going to talk about why. Why is Philemon in the Bible? Im going to divide this into two parts or two questions.

The first question is why did Paul write this letter? In other words, about 2,000 years ago there was a point in time when Paul sat down and wrote this letter we call Philemon. Why did he do that? What issue was he addressing? What main idea was he trying to communicate?

The second question is why is this letter in the Bible? After Paul wrote this letter, it was included in the Bible. It was included within the body of documents that were recognized as having been inspired by Yahweh the Creator and intended for you and I to have, read, study, learn, and follow. Why? What is the main idea Yahweh wants you and I to glean from the book of Philemon?

Watch the video below or scroll down to read a transcript.


Hi, welcome to Bible Mountain. My name is Roger Dombach. I am your host.

This is the start of a series of lessons on the book of Philemon. Today, Im going to talk about why. Why is Philemon in the Bible? Im going to divide this into two parts or two questions.

The first question is why did Paul write this letter? In other words, about 2,000 years ago there was a point in time when Paul sat down and wrote this letter we call Philemon. Why did he do that? What issue was he addressing? What main idea was he trying to communicate?

We see this in verses 15 and 16.

Be Part Of A Community Of Believers

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers .

Paul wrote about many brothers and sisters in Christ who he did ministry with. Paul shared the Gospel with many unbelievers and shared his testimony with anyone who would listen, but he also was part of a community of believers. This is a valuable lesson that all Christians should take heed to follow. Though we need to be out in the world sharing the message of hope found in Jesus, it is essential that we maintain a deep connection to other Christians and live in community with other believers.

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B Pauls Plea On Behalf Of Onesimus

1. Paul speaks to Philemon regarding Onesimus

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for loves sake I rather appeal to youbeing such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus ChristI appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.

a. Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for loves sake I rather appeal: It is clear that Paul will ask a favor of Philemon. Before he asked, he appealed for loves sake instead of making a command. Of course, under the surface Paul made it clear that he had the right to command you what is fitting yet he appealed in love.

i. A loving appeal is often better than an authoritative command. Paul wasnt hesitant to command when the situation demanded it , but in wisdom he knew when to use the loving appeal.

b. Being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ: It was clear Paul would ask a favor of Philemon. Before he asked, he appealed to Philemons sympathies by the way he described himself and his circumstances .

i. Since Paul will make his appeal based on love, he does what he can to stir up the loving sympathy of Philemon. Philemon, before I tell you what I need from you, remember that Im an old man, and a prisoner at that.

3. Paul explains the providential hand of God at work in Onesimus escape.

We Can Use Our Home For Gods Glory

Philemon (Philemon 1:1-25)

To the church that meets in your home .

The early church met in the homes of believers, which was the case for Philemons church, as well. This serves as a reminder to us that our homes can be used to further the kingdom of God. We can open our homes for small groups, Bible studies, to break bread and share a meal with others, and for prayer gatherings. The church has always utilized the homes of Christians and this is a lesson that we can continue putting into practice.

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Etymology Of The Name Philemon

The name Philemon comes from the noun , which is normally translated with “kiss” but which probably reflected the whole gamut of affection showing :

The verb means to love, and the adjective means beloved or friend. To be more exact: these words describe a deliberately pursued synchronicity mostly between specific persons. This pursued synchronicity has not so much to do with feelings but with a state of alignment, co-existence, or even symbiosis.

The noun may mean kiss or hug or any such expression of affection.

Who Was Philemon In The New Testament

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The apostle Paul, while imprisoned at Rome, wrote a personal letter to a believer by the name Philemon living in Colossae. Tychicus, Pauls friend, posted this epistle at the same time as the epistle to the Colossians.

The story of Onesimus

Paul wrote this epistle due to a predicament in the life of Onesimus, one of his converts. This person was a servant of the Christian Philemon of Colossae. Onesimus was displeased with his condition working for his master. So he ran away, carrying with him some of his masters stolen money or possessions. With time, he went to Rome and there met Paul probably hoping for Christian assistance.

Onesimus conscience convinced him to atone for his past wrong actions by returning to his previous master. Therefore, Paul wrote the epistle to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. Later, Onesimus returned with Pauls messenger, Tychicus to his master.

The theme of the epistle to Philemon

This short epistle of Christian love and thoughtfulness is part of the canon of Scripture because it is a virtuously personal letter dealing with a domestic problem of that day. This was the relationship between a Christian master and a fugitive and repentant servant.

Servants in Rome

Rights of servants

In His service,

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Who Are Philemon And Onesimus In The Bible

Paul spent more than two years in Asia Minor in Ephesus during his third missionary trip. During this time Paul ministered to a man named Philemon, who was a slave owner from the city of Colossae. Paul and Philemon became close. We know this because Paul addressed Philemon as his beloved brother. One of Philemons slaves named Onesimus had escaped and ran away from Colossae to Rome. He was hoping he would be harder to be found while residing in a more crowded city. Onesimus came in contact with Paul and Paul shared the gospel with him. After this encounter in AD 60 or 61, Paul writes a letter to Philemon from his prison cell in Rome. He also sends Onesimus back to Colossae.

Attitude Of St Paul Towards Slavery

Introduction to the Book of Philemon

For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

These fundamental Christian principles were the leaven which slowly and steadily spread throughout the whole empire. They curtailed the abuses of slavery and finally destroyed it .

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The Gospel Changes Us

The central gospel themes in Pauls shortest letter are surprisingly substantial. Philemon teaches us simply yet profoundly that the gospel transforms us from the inside out. Gods grace in the gospel therefore has the power to reconcile people and transform relationships. When a wealthy slave owner and his fugitive slave both encounter the gospel of grace, they are forever changed. Though they were both formerly slaves to sin, they have become prisoners of grace, each learning how to move from being self-centered to becoming other-oriented.

The Answer: Christ Is The Renewer Of Hearts

Philemon has only 1 chapter so we just use verse numbers. Since it is so short, well read most of it to get the whole story.

1. Read Philemon 1-2. What information is given about Philemon?

2. Read Philemon 4-7. In Verses 4-5: What kind of Christian was Philemon?

3. In verse 7: Referring to what Philemon has done for Gods people, Paul says that he has renewed their hearts. What do you think that means to renew or refresh their hearts?

4. Read Philemon 8-11. What did Paul do instead of ordering Philemon to forgive Onesimus?

Paul calls Philemon a dear friend who was working for the gospel. A church met in his home. Apphia and Archippus are probably his wife and son who are fellow believers. Philemon was faithful and loving as he took care of the needs of the church there in Colossae, encouraging the people and giving them hope. Notice how Paul says he was in prison and that Onesimus was his spiritual son and a fellow believer. By not ordering Philemon to forgive Onesimus, Paul made him think about it and appealed to him on the basis of love.

5. What would be the advantage to both of them if Philemon forgave Onesimus out of love and respect for Christ and Paul rather than doing so just because he felt forced to do it?

6. Read Philemon 12-16. In verses 12-14, how does Paul show respect for Philemons authority as a slave owner?

7. According to verses 15-16, how has the slave-master relationship changed?

8. Read Philemon 17-22.

9. What does it mean to renew something?

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Lessons From The Short Book Of Philemon

Philemon is one of the shortest books found in the Bible. Though it is made up of only 25 verses, it contains many principles that remain applicable for believers today. In this brief letter, the apostle Paul was making an urgent appeal to Philemon to welcome back Onesimus, who was likely a runaway slave, with love, forgiveness, and as a newly converted brother in Christ.

The canonization of the book of Philemon attests to the early churchs recognition of its God-breathed wisdom, truth, guidance, and relevance. Paul wrote a personal request to Philemon, however, this letter touches on a variety of areas such as slavery, Christian love, and forgiveness. Although it is such a brief book, it truly has no less impact and influence than any other Scripture. Below are ten lessons from Philemon we can apply to our lives.

Date And Place Of Writing

Bible Study on Philemon | Mike Mazzalongo |

It is one of the four Captivity Epistles composed by St. Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome . Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians are closely connected, so that the general opinion is that they were written and despatched at the same time, between A.D. 61-63. Some scholars assign the composition to Caesarea , but both tradition and internal evidence are in favour of Rome.

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