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The Book of Philemon from bondage to brotherhood

Updated on October 30, 2017
Steve Ho Ong profile image

Steve is an article writer for so many years and he has a wide experience in Bible History even if he is not a Theology major degree.

Philemon shows a journey to forgiveness

This photo deals with the book of Philemon shows a journey to forgiveness .
This photo deals with the book of Philemon shows a journey to forgiveness . | Source

Background about the book of Philemon

This portion is to give a background for the viewers about the book of Philemon that talks about forgiveness and bondage to brotherhood .

Philemon is the only book in New Testament that has only one (1) chapter and 25 verses plus 445 words. It is the eighteenth book of the New Testament which is already proven 100% sure and not only that, it is the 57th book in the Bible. It is the shortest of the letters Paul wrote while he was a prisoner in Rome. He sent it to Philemon, one of his followers. Philemon was a rich man of Colossae, at whose house the Christians held their meetings. Paul was sending a runaway Christian slave back to his owner, and his friend to receive the slave kindly. For me, this is the only Epistle that is considered one of the most beatiful letters that is ever written.

This is one of the people Paul chose to deliver the letters we know as Colossians and Ephesians was a man named Onesimus. To give you a background, Onesimus was originally from Colossae, and would have been known to the people there. Although Paul was compelled to write a separate letter for him This was because Onesimus had been the slave of a wealthy Colossian named Philemon, in whose home the church met. Onesimus had run away, probably robbing Philemon in the process. In Rome, he had become a follower of Jesus. He had been helping Paul in prison, although at present Paul needed him to return to Colossae. Paul's hope was that Philemon would not only forgive Onesimus, although he would like to welcome him as a brother and no longer as a slave and that is his main point.

Paul's brief letter to Philemon stresses the change in Onesimus's life. His name means useful in Greek, and Paul tells Philemon that while he had formerly been useless as a servant, Philemon could not count on because at present, he could be useful to both of them. Paul does not put Philemon under any obligation. His appeal is on the basis of love, and he promises to honor the demands of justice by making restitution himself if necessary.

Most likely, Paul's appeal was successful, or this letter would not have been preserved. In the life of Onesimus, we have a clear example of the kind of transformation that occurred in thousands of lives as the gospel message spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Philemon was one of those people saved by that gospel, in the church at Colossae. Paul reminded Philemon of that, as he urged him to accept the newly converted Onesimus back, not as a lawbreaker or his slave, although as a fellow brother in Christ.

Vital Statistics of Philemon

Here are the vital statistics in the book of Philemon:

Author: Paul the Apostle

To whom written: Philemon, who was probably a wealthy Christian member of the Colossian Church at Colossae, and all future readers which is the belivers of the Bible.
Purposes of writing or Theme: These are the purposes of writing in this book and it is based on my proven biblical analysis. The primary purpose is to convince or urges Philemon to forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to accept him as a brother in the faith. The other purposes or 2nd is based on my analysis are The letter to Philemon is the shortest of all Paul's writings and deals with the practice of slavery in which, it is partly similar to the first purpose because the difference is the word "run-away slave" compare to the practice of being a slave. My 3rd purpose is the letter suggest that Paul the Apostle was in prison at the time of the writing in Rome. 4th purpose is Philemon was a slave-owner who also hosted a church in his home. During the time of Paul's ministry in Ephesus, Philemon had likely journeyed to the city, heard Paul's preaching and became a Christian. The slave Onesimus robbed his master, Philemon, and ran away, made his way to Rome and to Paul. Onesimus was still the property of Philemon and Paul wrote to smooth the way for his return to his master. Onesimus had become a Christian and Paul wanted Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ and not merely as a slave.


Date written: it was in 60 A.D. during Paul's imprisonment in Rome, at about the same time Ephesians and Colossians were written. Other biblical scholars discovered that it was written in 55 A..D up to 63 A.D

Setting: Slavery was very common in the Roman Empire, and evidently some Christians has slaves. Paul does not condemn the institution of slavery in his writings, although, he makes a radical statement by calling this slave Philemon's brother in Christ.

Key verses: There are 3 key verses based on my actual observation in the book of Philemon

1. Philemon 1 verse 6 (NIV) and the verse says "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."

2. Philemon 1:15-16 (NIV) and the verse says "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." Of all the three, this is the main key verse of the book of Philemon that I like.

3. Philemon 1 verse 18 (NIV) and the verse says "If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me."

The outline of the book of Philemon
Paul commends Philemon for his faithfulness as a Christian = (Philemon 1 v.1-7).
Paul appeals to Philemon to forgive Onesimus and receive him as a brother = (Philemon 1 v.8-25).

Key places: Colosse, Rome
Special Feature: This is a private personal letter to a friend.
Audience: Philemon and the members of the Church at Colossae

Important Themes in the book of Philemon

Here are the important themes in the book of Philemon:

1st theme: Forgiveness is a key theme. Just as God forgives us, he expects us to forgive others, as we find in the Lord's Prayer. Paul even offered to pay Philemon for anything Onesimus had stolen. This is my primary theme based on my actual observation.

2nd theme: Equality exists among believers. Although Onesimus was a slave, Paul asked Philemon to consider him the same as him, a brother in Christ.

Paul was an apostle, an exalted position, although, he appealed to Philemon as a fellow Christian instead of a church authority figure.

3rd theme: Grace is a gift from God, and out of gratitude, they can show grace to others. Jesus constantly commanded his disciples to love one another, and that the difference between them and pagans would be how they showed love. This is the last theme that I have ever analyzed.

Paul's Letter to Philemon

This photo is about Paul's letter to Philemon in envelope design
This photo is about Paul's letter to Philemon in envelope design | Source

Photo guide in reading the book of Philemon

This photo is a guide in reading Philemon from verse 1 up to 25
This photo is a guide in reading Philemon from verse 1 up to 25 | Source

Philemon talks forgiveness that leads to reconciliation

This photo is about book of Philemon about forgiveness design
This photo is about book of Philemon about forgiveness design | Source

A video about One Hour and One Book of Philemon by Dr. Randall Smith

A video of Philemon Chapter 1 verses 1 up to 25

A video about the Paul Letter to Philemon Summary

A video story of Philemon in a cartoon approach

A video on how to study the book of Philemon

Related verses in the book of Philemon

Here are the related verses in the Book of Philemon:

In Philemon 1:4, this is related to Romans 1:8-9 and the verse says "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you." In this two (2) verses, it tells us that because Paul was an elder and an Apostle,he could have used his authority with Philemon,commanding him to deal kindly with his runaway slave. Paul the Apostle gives us a good example of how to deal with a possible conflict with Christian friends.

Then on Philemon 1:25, this is related and connected to Galatians 6:18 and the verse says "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen." In this verse, Paul urged Philemon to be reconciled to his slave, receiving him as a brother and fellow member of God's family.

When we talk about reconcile, it deals with reconciliation.

Reconciliation means re-establishing relationship.

There are so many barriers that come between people such as race, social status, sex, personality differences although, Christ can break down barriers.

Jesus Christ changed Onesimus relationship to Philemon from slave to brother.

Jesus Christ can transform our most hopeless relationships into deep and loving friendships.

My Sources of Philemon

Here are the sources in the book of Philemon:

1. Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV)

2. Holy Bible: New King James Version (NKJV)

3. Geneva Bible

4. New Living Translation (NLT)

© 2017 Steve Ho Ong

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      Steve Ho Ong 7 months ago from Dumaguete City

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