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Updated on May 8, 2014


The epistle to Philemon was written during Paul's imprisonment, probably in Rome (Philemon 9). The date of the letter was the late 50's or early 60's.

Philemon was a resident of Colossae and a convert of Paul (v.19). His house served as the meeting place for the church (v.2). Philemon was charitable, compassionate kind to other believers (vv.5-7), and his son,Archippus held a position of leadership in the church (v.2). Philemon might have other slaves besides Onesimus.



Paul did not demand that Philemon call an end to slavery but Paul did try to appeal to Philemon's good nature by every way of treating slaves more kindly as brothers rather than as slaves or property instead of persons. Paul was diplomatic in his behaviour towards Philemon for he did his plea in three definite steps.


Prayer of Thanksgiving for Philemon (vv. 1-7)

The first step was a prayer of thanksgiving commenting on Philemon's life. This is reflected in verses 1-7. Paul wrote as a "prisoner of Christ Jesus," addressing Philemon personally, his family and the church that meets in Philemon's house with a prayer for his faith and love.

Philemon 5-7

  • Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
  • That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
  • For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

Philemon and Onesimus
Philemon and Onesimus


Paul's Petition for Onesimus (vv. 8-16)

Paul did not command Philemon to pardon and receive Onesimus. Instead, Paul sought to appeal to his friend, Philemon's responsibility as a Christian to forgive as he was forgiven by Jesus Christ. He urged Philemon to receive him as a beloved brother rather than a slave (16).

  • Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?


Onesimus was a slave before in Philemon's household. He ran away and later became a Christian in Rome where Paul was imprisoned. Paul later wrote to Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him as a brother.


  • So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

1 Corinthians 12:13

  • For by one Spirit are we all baptized into ONE BODY, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:25

  • That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.


  • For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.


  • And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
  • Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.


There is no racial differences in the body of Christ. We are ALL created in the image of God and ALL worship the same God:

  • Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:”

We are One Body -

by Dana Scallon

Jesus at the door
Jesus at the door



  • For through him (Jesus Christ) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit unto the Father.


  • And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
  • And put no difference between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith.


Gentiles who are saved become a part of Israel. Apostle Paul, a Jew, wrote to Gentile believers at Ephesus, saying,

  • Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
  • That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
  • But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.


There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, for both are under sin and have fallen short of the glory of God:

Romans 3:9, 22, 23

  • What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
  • Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
  • For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Ephesians 2:16

Christ died to reconcile both to God:

  • And that he might reconcile both (Jew and Gentile} unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.

Acts 15:9

  • Both are saved by faith: “And put no difference between us (Jew) and them (Gentile), purifying their hearts by faith.”

Acts 4:12

  • Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.


Paul's Promise to Philemon (vv. 17-25)

Onesimus's debt to Philemon was placed on Paul who guaranteed it. However, He reminded Philemon of the greater spiritual debt which Philemon owed as a convert to Christ (vv. 17-19).

  • If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
  • If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account:
  • I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it; aleit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thing ownself besides.

Paul closed this discreet epistle with a direct and hopeful request (v.22), greetings from his companions (vv. 23,24), and a farewell benediction (v. 25).

Paul ended the epistle with a benediction on verse 25.

  • The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.


A benediction (Latin) bene, well + dicere, to speak) is a short invocation for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at the end of worship service.


Paul had an effective way of reaching out to mediate between two people. He approached Philemon whom he baptized earlier to forgive his runaway slave.

In a non combative but humble way, which is the art of Christian relationship, he was speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). It was Philemon's legal right to punish or even to kill a runaway slave. Paul had hope (v. 19) that Philemon would receive Onesimus back as a brother in the Lord, not as a slave (v.16).

Christians can learn from Paul's effective approach to help two different men to reconcile, a master and a slave. It was a brilliant piece of reconciliation by Paul, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.


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© 2010 einron


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