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Onesimus
        

("profitable".) Philemon's runaway slave, of Colosse (Colossians 4:9, "one of you"), in whose behalf Paul wrote the epistle to Philemon: Philemon 1:10-16. Slaves were numerous in Phrygia, from whence Paul dwells on the relative duties of masters and slaves (Colossians 3:22; Colossians 4:1). Paul's "son in the faith," begotten spiritually while Paul was a prisoner at Rome, where Onesimus hoped to escape detection amidst its vast population. Onesimus doubtless had heard the gospel before going to Rome, in Philemon's household, for at Paul's third missionary tour (Acts 18:23) there were in Phrygia believers. Once unprofitable, by conversion Onesimus became really what his name implies, "profitable" to his master, to Paul, and to the church of God; "the faithful and beloved brother" of the apostle and of his master; godliness is profitable for both worlds, and makes men so (1 Timothy 4:8). Sent with Tychicus his safeguard, and put under the spiritual protection of the whole Colossian church and of Philemon. He probably had defrauded his master, as well as run away (1 Timothy 18); Paul offered to make good the loss.
        The Apostolic Canons (73) make him to have been emancipated by Philemon. The Apostolic Constitutions (7:46) make him to have been consecrated bishop of Berea by Paul, and martyred at Rome. Ignatius (Ep. ad Ephes. i.) makes an Onesimus the Bishop of the Ephesians. Instead of violently convulsing society by stirring up slaves against their masters, Christianity introduces love, a principle sure to undermine slavery at last; "by christianizing the master, Christianity enfranchises the slave" (Wordsworth). Onesimus so endeared himself to Paul by Christian sympathy and by personal services that he calls him "mine own bowels," i.e. vitals: he bore for him a parent's intense affection for a child. Paul would gladly have kept him to minister to him, but delicate regard to Philemon's rights, and self denying love, made him waive his claims on Philemon and Onesimus (Philemon 1:13-14; Philemon 1:19). Onesimus "was parted" from his master "for a season" to become his "forever" in Christian bonds. In Philemon 1:20 he plays again on the name, "let me have 'profit' (Greek onaimen) of thee in the Lord," "refresh my bowels," i.e. gratify my feelings by granting this.


Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'onesimus' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".
bible-history.com - Fausset's; 1878.

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