Philemon Study

B1 Setting (verses 1-3)

C1 Paul is in prison for being a Christian and preaching the Gospel. Most understand this to be his first imprisonment. This after his 3rd missionary journey and his 2-year imprisonment at Caesarea on the coast. The current imprisonment was the house arrest mentioned in Acts 28 and was his first Roman imprisonment. It lasted about 2 years in the early 60’s AD. Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians were also written during this time. If you want, there is a timeline and some more about Paul here (I don’t know anything more about that website).

C2 Paul doesn’t address himself as apostle because this letter is a personal letter.

C3 Philemon is a wealthy man probably living in Colosse. He was a convert to Jesus Christ.

C4 Onesimus is a slave. He ran away from his master, Philemon. Two articles about Roman slavery—here and here. Onesimus had run away to Rome where he heard the gospel and was converted.

C5 The church/fellowship met in the house of Apphia our sister and Archippus.

B2 Philemon’s faith (verses 4-7)

C1 Philemon’s life of love. This is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is not the general condition of humanity. Paul specifically mentions Philemon’s love for fellow believers and his faith.

C2 Paul prayed that Philemon’s Christian faith and life would increase. We are called to do good works which glorify God. See Romans 15:6-9, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Peter 2:12, etc.

C3 Philemon’s life was a ministry to Paul and the others. Paul mentions joy, encouragement, and refreshing of the others. Compare 1 Timothy 1:5 and 1 John 3:17-18.

B3 Paul pleas for Onesimus (verses 8-22)

C1 Paul makes an appeal not give an order. A principle was needed to learn when dealing with others.

C2 Barclay (use caution) writes on this verse: ​​ 

It is significant to note that Paul claims that in Christ the useless person has been made useful. The last thing Christianity is designed to produce is vague, inefficient people; it produces people who are of use and can do a job better than they ever could if they did not know Christ. It was said of someone that "he was so heavenly-minded that he was no earthly use." True Christianity makes a man heavenly-minded and useful upon earth at one and the same time.

C3 God gives us and desires us to have an efficient faith. See 2 Peter 1:5-8 and James 2:14-26 (this passage does not deal with saving faith; it deals with efficient faith. This is a working faith. One can be saved but not have an efficient faith in this life instead has a neglected faith).

C4 Paul is making an appeal to not punish Onesimus, which is legal under Roman law, but rather show mercy as God has shown Philemon.

C5 Paul states that he will reimburse Philemon monetarily anything that was lost, stolen, damaged, etc. by Onesimus.

C6 Paul also makes an appeal for a place to sleep for a time.

B4 Paul’s closing words (verse 23-25)

C1 Some fellow believers send their greetings.

C2 Paul prays that God’s grace would be on Philemon’s life.

B5 We learn

C1 Making an appeal is better than an order. This is the appeal of a lesser to a greater.

C2 Faith must be practiced and lived, not just a onetime experience.

C3 There are many blessings in believing and living God’s will. Society will improve; families will improve, and individuals improve and have a better and greater peace in their lives.

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