The Epistle to Philemon
Lessons from Onesimus
The writer acknowledges himself to be Paul the Apostle. 1,9,19
II. Date and Place of writing
Paul wrote this letter about 60 A.D. from prison in Rome. The letter was written at the same time that he wrote to the church in Colosse.
Philemon was a believer in Colosse who opened his house for the meeting of the church. Verse 2. It is possible that Archippus was his son and also was the pastor of this church, Colossians 4:17. Philemon had come to know Jesus Christ as his Saviour through the ministry of Paul, verse 19. Paul noted that he was writing not only as an Apostle, but a friend, “I Paul have written it with mine own hand…”.
IV. Occasion and circumstances
Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, had run away to Rome with, possibly, some stolen items. In Rome, Onesimus came into contact with Paul in the prison. No details are given about the circumstances of the meeting, but Paul did lead Onesimus to the Lord for salvation, verse 10.
Paul convinced Onesimus that he must return and reconcile with his master. Philemon is requested to receive him as a brother in Christ and forgive him.
Paul also expected to be released from prison and requested lodging for his anticipated visit.
The outline –
I. Salutation. 1-3
II. Appreciation for Philemon’s faithful service unto the Lord 4-7
III. Application for mercy toward Onesimus 8-21
Paul was older, he is in prison, and yet he is witnessing and seeing people saved! A challenge to all of us.
A. Introduction, possibly in prison because of Onesimus’ criminal character
B. Instruction in the truth of the Gospel. “…whom I have begotten in my bonds.”
Onesimus had become a servant of the Lord and was a blessing in the ministry in Rome –
Philemon 13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
But he needed to get things right before moving on –
Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
He needed to lay the foundation of truth and confidence in his life. Paul made –
C. Intercession for a changed man.
Onesimus had someone intercede for him in prayer to the Lord, now he had that same one to intercede for him to the men. Remember that Paul had someone to speak on his behalf – that others would give him a chance to live out his salvation and prove his new life in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Philemon 16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
D. Invested in his future.
Onesimus became a trusted brother in Christ and Paul invested himself in his life. He gave of his own personal property to help Onesimus accomplish God’s will for his life –
Philemon 17-18 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;