Today we are looking at the entire chapter of Philemon, which is a 25-verse letter from Paul to Philemon. This small book is packed full with lessons of Christ’s kindness, forgiveness, redemption, favor, grace, and love. It does not matter which person you look at within this situation, you can see Jesus through their faithful and changing hearts.
So, Paul wrote this letter to his beloved friend, Philemon, while he was still imprisoned in Rome. We see how much Paul loves his friend and brother in Christ, through the prayer of thanksgiving that he offers to the Lord for him. It’s believed that Paul had led Philemon to faith in Christ during one of his visits to Asia Minor and he stayed at his home. Paul knows that Philemon and his family pray for his ministry, as well as they have their own ministry by hosting a church in their home.
Paul is with Onesimus, who was a runaway slave of Philemon, and he has Onesimus deliver this letter to Philemon. All of us today can agree that slavery is absolutely horrific. Now Philemon, who was a slave owner, is being asked by Paul to accept Onesimus, his fugitive slave, back but now as a partner in Christ (or as he would accept Paul) because his heart has been changed through salvation in Christ.
Friends, Paul is helping us to see that we need to forgive, and not just on the surface and hold onto a grudge, but sacrificial forgiveness like Christ did and does for us. We also need to let go of the past, because we are no longer a slave to it, we are fully redeemed and free by our salvation in Christ. Finally, we need to be praying for our growing and changing hearts and praying for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. If there is a brother or sister that bother, you…great…pray for your heart to grow and change and pray for that brother or sister. Paul is very clear in this letter that Philemon and Onesimus are equal in Christ. We need to stop thinking that we are better than one another, that is sinful, as we are all one body in Christ.
Greetings from Paul
1 This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, 2 and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.
3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer
4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. 6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.
Paul’s Appeal for Onesimus
8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. 9 But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.
10 I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. 11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.
13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. 15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. 16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!
20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! 22 One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.
Paul’s Final Greetings
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. 24 So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.
25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Prayer: Jesus, I cannot thank You enough for saving me. Lord, please quicken my heart with forgiveness. I want to be forgiven and thus I need to forgive. If there is someone I need to forgive, please help me to do it. I am no longer a salve, I am free in You, and You offered me forgiveness and I want to completely forgive others. I ask all of this in Your Name, Jesus. Amen.