Written from Rome to Philemon, by Onesimus a servant.

Philemon was a slave owner. Onesimus was a thief, and a slave of Philemon.

Slaves in the OT were indentured servants until a debt was worked off.

Some slaves were of the spoils of war.

In the Greco-Roman world a slave could be for life. Some could buy their freedom. Some preferred being a servant. Some could own property and even other slaves.


Paul's letter to Philemon is the only strictly private letter which has been preserved. It is true that he wrote other letters to individuals (Timothy and Titus), but they were concerned with assembly matters. This letter is occupied with a personal domestic incident.


Philemon lived at Colossae and was apparently a man of property and position, who owed his conversion to Paul. The occasion of the letter was the return to Colossae of one of Philemon's servants who had robbed him and escaped to Rome, where he came under the influence of Paul.

Three individuals are concerned in this personal and social problem, but three individuals who shared a faith and were prepared to follow the Christian way of life.


The original Greek will be referred to often.


Philemon 1:1  Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,

 1:2  And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church (assembly)  in thy house:

 1:3  Grace (favor) to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Prince Yahshua Christ.

 1:4  I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers,

 1:5  Hearing of your love and faith (allegiance) which you hast toward the Prince Jesus, and toward all saints;

The “churches” teach that anyone who “believes” is a saint.

The scriptures teach that a saint is 'called out', holy, separated and consecrated. Only Isaac's seed can claim this description. Only Isaac was dedicated to Yahweh. Only his seed was chosen.

 1:6  That the communication (partnership) of your faith (allegiance) may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

 1:7  For we have great joy and consolation (encouragement) in your love, because the bowels (hearts) of the saints are refreshed by you, brother.

 1:8  Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin you that which is convenient,

'Christ' does not always refer to the man. It often refers to the group, the saints, the called out body of the children of Israel, the Anointed people.

The Greek clarifies:

8  On which account having great liberty among the Anointed to enjoin to you that which is fitting,

 1:9  Yet for love's sake I rather beseech you, being such an one as Paul the aged (elder), and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote Philemon from prison in Rome.

 1:10  I beseech you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

 1:11  Which in time past was to you unprofitable (useless), but now profitable (useful) to you and to me:

 1:12  Whom I have sent again: you therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

12  Whom I have sent back to you, he that is my own affections,

 1:13  Whom I would have retained with me, that in your stead (your behalf) he might have ministered  

       unto (for) me in the bonds of the gospel:

Onesimus was apparently a convert, and a useful one, and Paul was telling him to do what was right and return and pay off his debt.

 1:14  But without your mind would I do nothing; that your benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

14  But without your accord I desire to do nothing, in order that your good would not be as if by force, but voluntarily.

Paul wasn't going to keep him without Philemon agreeing.

 1:15  For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that you shouldest receive him for ever;

 1:16  Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto you, both in the flesh, and in the Prince?  (Matt 23:8, 1 Tim 6:2)

He was a success story and was vouching for him.

 1:17  If you count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

 1:18  If he hath wronged you, or oweth you ought, put that on mine account;

 1:19  I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to you how you owest unto me even thine own self besides.

19  I Paul have written in my own hand, I will make atonement, in order that I do not say to you that you also owe yourself to me.

Paul is basically telling Philemon that he is indebted to Paul because he brought him to the  knowledge of the word.

In verse 8 Paul is saying he does have the authority to request.

In verse 14 Paul can tell him to let him go, but won't.

 1:20  Yea, brother, let me have joy of you in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

20  Yes, brother, I could profit from you by authority; you among the Anointed must refresh my heart.

The translators destroyed this verse. They added 'Lord' twice, which is not in the manuscripts.

In other words Paul is telling Philemon but not demanding. He is leaving it up to Philemon to do the right thing.

 1:21  Having confidence in your obedience I wrote unto you, knowing that you wilt also do more than I say.

 1:22  But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given (released from prison) unto you.

Philippians 1:25  And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

 1:23  There salute you Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;

 1:24  Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

 1:25  The grace (favor) of our Prince Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.





Below are 3 sources of what the modern churches preach today about the book of Philemon.

The purpose is to expose the apostasy and perversion of the scriptures, and to educate our people about the truth of our heritage. That we, the anglo-saxon race who are the descendants of ancient Israel, are the people of Abraham's seed and therefore the heirs of the promises of Yahweh. Not the Jews who distort and pervert the scriptures and teach the 'traditions of men'.

The book of Philemon is a Prison Epistle (letter written while in prison), which Paul wrote circa 61 A.D. The key personalities of Philemon are Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. It was written to Philemon as a plea to request forgiveness for his runaway servant Onesimus, who was a new believer (awakened saint) in Jesus Christ. The book of Philemon consists of only one chapter.

•    In verses 1-7, Paul gives his greetings to Philemon and presents his appreciation and gratitude for Him as a brother and worker in Jesus Christ. Philemon was most likely a wealthy member of the church (assembly) in Colosse. It seems Paul begins by softening up Philemon, as to prepare him initially, before mentioning Onesimus his runaway slave. Philemon was apparently angry with his absent slave. “I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake” (vs. 6).

•    Verses 8-25, consist of Paul’s appeal for Onesimus, “I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me” (vs. 10). Onesimus had run away and traveled to Rome where he met Paul. While there, Onesimus surrendered his life to Christ. Philemon, under Roman law, could execute his slave for fleeing however, Paul pleas with Philemon to accept his servant. Paul goes one-step further and asks Philemon not only to accept his slave, but also to accept him as a brother in Christ and to overlook his faults and errors. “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (15-16). Onesimus would carry this letter back and give it to Philemon. Onesimus is later mentioned at the end of the book of Colossians as a faithful and beloved brother.

Summary of the Book of Philemon

Paul wrote this short letter probably at the same time as Colossians  

Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, a believer (saint) in Colosse who, along with others, was a slave owner. One of his slaves, Onesimus, had apparently stolen from him (v. 18) and then run away, which under Roman law was punishable by death. But Onesimus met Paul and through his ministry became a Christian (10). Now he was willing to return to his master, and Paul writes this personal appeal to ask that he be accepted as a Christian brother (16).

To win Philemon's willing acceptance of Onesimus, Paul writes very tactfully and in a lighthearted tone, which he creates with a wordplay. The appeal (4-21) is organized in a way prescribed by ancient Greek and Roman teachers: to build rapport (4-10), to persuade the mind (11-19) and to move the emotions (20-21). The name Onesimus is not mentioned until the rapport has been built (10), and the appeal itself is stated only near the end of the section to persuade the mind (17).


Who wrote the book?

For more than two years during his third missionary journey, Paul ministered in Asia Minor among the people of Ephesus. This was a successful period for the apostle to the Gentiles (dispersed Nations of Israel), who saw many converts among both residents of Ephesus and visitors to the city. One of the visitors converted under Paul’s teaching was a man named Philemon, a slaveowner from the nearby city of Colossae (Philemon 1:19). In the Bible book that bears Philemon’s name, Paul addressed his “beloved brother” as a “fellow worker,” a title given to those who served for a time alongside Paul. Clearly, a kinship existed between Paul and Philemon, one that would serve a significant purpose in light of the circumstance that brought about the letter.

Where are we?

A slave named Onesimus had escaped from his owner, Philemon, and had run away from Colossae to Rome in the hope that he could disappear into that populous, urban environment. Once in Rome, Onesimus, either by accident or by his own design, came in contact with Paul, who promptly led the runaway slave to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul had already been planning to send a letter to the Colossian church (assembly) by the hand of Tychicus. So in AD 60 or 61 from a prison cell in Rome, Paul wrote a personal letter to Philemon and sent Onesimus the slave back to Colossae.

Why is Philemon so important?

The letter to Philemon reminds us that God’s revelation to humanity is intensely personal. In more formal biblical works such as the Gospels or the epistle to the Romans or even Paul’s letters to churches (assemblies)at Philippi or Colossae, it might be easy to get the impression that God does not care or have time for the trials and tribulations in a single household. Philemon stands as one piece of strong evidence to the contrary, revealing that lofty doctrines such as the love of God, forgiveness in Christ, or the inherent dignity of humanity have real and pertinent impact in everyday life. The book of Philemon illustrates that principles like these can and should profoundly affect the lives of believers.

What's the big idea?

Paul’s message to Philemon was a simple one: based on the work of love and forgiveness that had been wrought in Philemon’s heart by God, show the same to the escaped and now-believing slave Onesimus. The apostle’s message would have had extra force behind it because he knew Philemon personally. Paul had explained the gospel to Philemon and had witnessed the profound result: new life blossoming in a once-dead heart (Philemon 1:19). Paul knew that conversion is nothing to trifle with, but that it should be honored and fostered.

So Paul made a request. He wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus, to accept the slave as a brother in Christ, and to consider sending Onesimus back to Paul, as the apostle found him useful in God’s service (1:11–14). Paul did not minimize Onesimus’s sin. This was not some kind of cheap grace that Paul asked Philemon to offer. No, there was sacrifice required in this request, and because of that, Paul approached the topic with gentleness and care (1:21). His letter to Philemon presents in full color the beautiful and majestic transition from slavery to kinship that comes as a result of Christian love and forgiveness.

How do I apply this?

Live long enough, and you will understand the difficulty of offering forgiveness when you have been wronged. It does not come easy, yet as believers, we have to recognize that our ability and willingness to offer it are the result of Christ’s saving work on the cross. Because of that fact, forgiveness serves as a determining factor in who we say we are and how we hope to live our lives. When we do not forgive, bitterness takes root in our hearts and chokes the vitality out of us.

In what ways has forgiveness been a struggle for you since you accepted Christ’s forgiveness? Allow Paul’s letter to Philemon to encourage forgiveness in your own life, and trust God to foster renewed life in your heart and your relationships.


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