The Books of the New Testament
The Book of Philemon
Brief Summary. The Apostle Paul was in Rome
preaching in "his own hired house." Onesimus was a runaway slave from Colossae
in Asia Minor, and he met Paul who led him to Jesus Christ. There is a chance he
could have known Paul previously for his master Philemon was a disciple of
Christ. the crime of a slave running away from his master was punishable by
death. The epistle to Philemon is a plea from the apostle Paul to receive his
slave as a brother, as Christ had received Philemon.
Author: Paul (Saul)
Philemon, his family, and the church in his house at Colosse
Classification: Personal Note
Forgiveness and brotherhood in Christ
of a Runaway Slave. A letter to the owner of a runaway slave. Paul appeals to
Philemon to forgive Onesimus.
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Philemon. "THIS epistle to Philemon is placed the last of those with
the name of Paul to them, perhaps because the shortest, and of an argument
peculiar and different from all the others; yet such as the Spirit of God, who
indited it, saw would, in its kind, be very instructive and useful in the
churches. The occasion of it was this:--Philemon, one of note and probably a
minister in the church of Colosse, a city of Phrygia, had a servant named
Onesimus, who, having purloined his goods, ran away from him, and in his rambles
came to Rome, where Paul was then a prisoner for the gospel, and, providentially
coming under his preaching there, was, by the blessing of God, converted by him,
after which he ministered awhile to the apostle in bonds, and might have been
further useful to him, but, understanding him to be another man's servant, Paul
would not, without his consent, detain him, but sends him back with this
letter-commendatory, wherein he earnestly sues for his pardon and kind
reception. Before we enter on the exposition, such general things as follow may
be taken notice of from the epistle and what relates to it; namely, I. The
goodness and mercy of God to a poor wandering sinner, bringing him by his
gracious providence under the means, and making them effectual to his
conversion. Thus came he to be sought of him that asked not for him, and to be
found of him that sought him not, Isaiah 65:1. II. The great and endeared
affection between a true convert and him whom God used to be the instrument of
his conversion. Paul regards this poor fugitive now as his son in the faith, and
terms him his own bowels; and Onesimus readily serves Paul in prison, and would
gladly have continued to do so, would duty have permitted; but, being another's
servant, he must return and submit himself to his master, and be at his
disposal. III. The tender and good spirit of this blessed apostle Paul. With
what earnestness does he concern himself for the poor slave! Being now, through
his preaching, reconciled to God, he labours for reconciliation between him and
his master. How pathetic a letter does he here write in his behalf! Scarcely any
argument is forgotten that could possible be used in the case; and all are
pressed with such force that, had it been the greatest favour to himself that he
was asking, he could not have used more. IV. The remarkable providence of God in
preserving such a short writing as this, that might be thought of little concern
to the church, being not only a letter to a particular person (as those to
Timothy, and Titus, and Gaius, and the elect lady, likewise were), but of a
private personal matter, namely, the receiving of a poor fugitive servant into
the favour and family of his injured master. What in this is there that concerns
the common salvation? And yet over this has there been a special divine care, it
being given (as the other scriptures were) by inspiration of God, and in some
sort, as they are, profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for
instruction in righteousness. God would have extant a proof and instance of his
rich and free grace for the encouragement and comfort of the meanest and vilest
of sinners, looking to him for mercy and forgiveness; and for instruction to
ministers and others not to despise any, much less to judge them as to their
final state, as if they were utter cast-aways, but rather to attempt their
conversion, hoping they may be saved; likewise how to behave towards them. Joy
must be on earth, as well as there is in heaven, over one sinner who repenteth.
Such must now be loved, and helped, and confirmed in good, and furthered in it;
and, in their outward concerns, their comfort and welfare must be consulted and
promoted as much as possible. And, on their part, they must be humble and
grateful, acknowledging God and his instruments in what good they have received,
ready to all suitable returns, making what reparation they can in case of
injuries, and living a life of thankfulness and obedience. To such purposes may
this epistle have been written and preserved. And perhaps, V. There may be
something further in all this; at least, by way of allusion, it is applicable to
the mediation and intercession of Christ for poor sinners. We, like Onesimus,
were revolters from God's service, and had injured him in his rights. Jesus
Christ finds us, and by his grace works a change in us, and then intercedes for
us with the Father, that we may be received into his favour and family again,
and past offences may be forgiven; and we are sure that the Father heareth him
always. There is no reason to doubt but Paul prevailed with Philemon to forgive
and receive Onesimus: and more reason have we to be confident that the
intercession of Christ with the Father is prevalent for the acceptance of all
whose case he takes in hand and recommends to him. From these general
observations we come to the epistle itself." - Matthew Henry (Read
Outline of the Book of Philemon (Scriptures and Topics Covered)
Paul Commends Philemon - Chapter 1:1-7
Paul Intercedes for Onesimus - Chapter 1:8-21
Final Words - Chapter 1:22-25
Questions for further study.
Who was Philemon?
Why was Philemon written?
Where was Paul Preaching from?
Who was Onesimus?
Where was Onesimus from?
Who led Onesimus to Christ?
What advice was Paul giving to Philemon about a slave of Christ?
Who was the author of the book of Philemon?
When was the book of Philemon written?
Where was the book of Philemon written?
What language was the book of Philemon written in?
What is the main theme in the book of Philemon?
What was Paul's Plea in the Book of Philemon?
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