The Book of Philemon is one of the best kept secrets of the Christian Church. This wonderful scripture, written by Paul the Apostle to his friend and fellow minister Philemon encourages him to embrace and receive Onesimus, Philemon’s run away slave, back into his household. Onesimus is now converted to Christianity through the ministry of Paul, and desires to return to his former master not as a slave, but as a free man in Christ.
Within my own experience, the ‘Book of Philemon’ is seldom used as sermon material. I am frequently astonished to learn that few Christians have delved into the beauty of this book about accepting others in Christ as changed individuals under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. Paul uses his servanthood gift of persuasion to pave the way for Onesimus to become an asset to his master’s household, not a burden. How we should seek to emulate Onesimus; to turn the other cheek on this world and it’s temptations, and to become a blessing to our Master, Jesus Christ. To seek to hear Jesus tell us that we have done well in Him.
Philemon 1 (NIV)
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
3 Grace and peace to you[a] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 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. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 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— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[b] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 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. 14 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.
15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 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.
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon 1:3 The Greek is plural; also in verses 22 and 25; elsewhere in this letter “you” is singular.
Philemon 1:10 Onesimus means useful.
New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.