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{An Epistle Study} Philemon

Hello There

I said in the Monthly post I wanted to do a one-post-study on an Epistle. I chose Philemon. It is very short, (one page!), but that doesn’t make it less important. I will be doing this about once a month. (Not scheduled).

Philemon (An Epistle).png

Paul was an amazing, intelligent, God-fearing man. And we see that through his many epistles. One of them, Philemon, is to one man-a slave owner, in fact. This man’s name is Philemon. His {Philemon’s} slave ran away, and found Paul, or Paul found him (this is a blurry part of the story) while the slave ran away, he stole some things from his master. Paul uses his intellect to try and convince Philemon to have mercy on the slave. Onesimus, the slave, is now saved and Paul says to accept him back.

I want to go through this book verse by verse. Let’s see what we can find.

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” ~Philemon 1:1-3. 

This is Paul’s introduction to the letter. We see it is to Philemon “our dear friend” and Apphia “our sister” and Archippus “our fellow soldier.” And also the church itself. I believe this book is mainly to Philemon (subject, title, etc.) but we can learn something very important from it; hence “and to the church…” as well as it is in the Bible. If it is in the Bible, it is meant to teach.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” ~2 Timothy 3:17.

Therefore, my statement stands. Philemon has lessons!

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” ~Philemon 1:4-7.

Philemon is very personal to Paul.

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—  that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” ~Philemon 1:8-11.

Paul, before he begins, is realizing his position. But “prefer[s] to appeal to you on the basis of love” and that’s exactly what he does.

Philemon is his friend.

This is him speaking and no one else. He is putting himself out there. He is old. Weary. This is one of his last letters. “Also a prisoner of Christ Jesus-”

I want to take a moment and realize what Paul is saying. A lot of people get stuck on this one line while others glance over it.

Paul-an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus-” What does it mean to be a prisoner of Christ Jesus? Many people, I know and others I don’t, are confused by prisoner. Prisoner is often confused with servant. And one could make the argument that Paul knew exactly what he was saying, (which is true, he did), but you have to remember two things:

  1. It was written in Greek. There are many  Greek/English words that get mixed up and can be said for the same/almost alike meaning.
  2. He is saying he is “bound” (like a prisoner is in his chains) to the truth because now he knows it. He knows love, truth, and faith.

What’s You Perspective On This? 🙂

And now more onto the rest of the passage. Let’s see it:

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—  that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” ~Philemon 1:8-11.

We are focusing on the last two verses now. (10, 11 starting at “that I appeal…”)

We learn something about Paul’s mission. He is appealing for Onesimus, this runaway slave. Again, we see something personal here: “to you for my son” and “became my son while I was in chains.” Onesimus is his son in a figurative way-a son of the faith. Paul taught him faith and truth. Cool, right?

Paul talked to an ignorant and sinful slave.

Why? 

Why? Well, Paul knew that Onesimus was a slave who was ignorant, which is why he talked to him, not why he didn’t talk to him. Paul tried to help anyone who needed God in their lives. His preaching, his letters, his faithfulness to God was not just for Him and his Father in Heaven, but for them:

“I have deep sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my own flesh and blood,” ~Romans 9:2-3. 

Paul would give up his own salvation for his people to know the truth he now holds. The Israelites, Paul’s people (confirmation early in v. 4 if you don’t know that), did not know the truth. The truth of many things. This included laws the Pharisees had put in place that were not God’s that the people followed, Jesus’ teachings, and more.

If Paul Loved His People That Much, He Would Very Much Love To Help One Poor Slave Who Needed His Help.

Definitely. And that’s what he did. It’s the whole post of Philemon.

Now, to verse 11:

“Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” ~Philemon 1:11. 

Useful? Paul means he is now a believer and can be taught and thus learn. Plus, Paul already stated Onesimus as his “son” in a figurative sense.

And to the next passage:

I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no 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.” ~Philemon 1:12-16.

“Who is my very heart…” that is true rhetoric from Paul. Paul is giving him back to Philemon, even though he wants him to stay. And then he goes on to state the reason Onesimus might have left-to come back as a “dear bother” [in Christ]. “He is very dear to me…” is also amazing.

Paul knows that Philemon won’t hurt Onesimus if he is dear to Paul and loved by him, and his son in the Lord.

Paul is loyal to Philemon while still loyal to his newer friend, Onesimus. Yet, this rhetoric and persuasion continues:

So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.” ~Philemon 1:17-21. 

“…welcome him as you would welcome me.” And so it continues. It’s beautiful. Paul is defending Onesimus by words, wonderful words. And to balance it all-to be fair to Philemon-he can charge everything Onesimus owes to Paul. And Paul also say “Confident of your obedience,” he knows Philemon will obey these wishes.

And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

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

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” ~Philemon 1:22-25.

And that is it. That is the end. After a beautiful persuasion and love to both Onesimus and Philemon, the twenty-five verse letter is over. Paul hopes to be “restored” to them. And then says that his fellow prisoners say hello (send greetings) and “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

How beautiful. Am I the only one that absolutely loves this letter?

What do you think of any part of it? Tell me in the comments!

_Ariana

 

 

18 thoughts on “{An Epistle Study} Philemon”

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