Summary: This message deals with the relationship between Paul, Onesimus, and Philemon.
Philemon Vs. 1-25
INTRODUCTION: Most people never READ the book of Philemon … can’t FIND it. It’s a little book … 1 chapter … 25 verses.
BACKGROUND: Philemon was a Christian who lived in Colossae. Paul had led him to the Lord when Philemon was in Ephesus. The church at Colossae met in his home. Paul also wrote the book of Colossians to the Christians at the church that met in Philemon’s house.
Philemon was a wealthy man … he owned slaves … of whom Onesimus was one. 1 day, Onesimus ran away (not told why). Apparently, he stole from Philemon, to finance his trip. Onesimus went to Rome, probably to get lost in this large city.
The Apostle Paul was also in Rome. Somehow they got together (nothing happens by accident, but by Divine incident) … although Paul was in prison. Onesimus had probably heard of Paul, since Timothy pastored in Colossae, and I’m sure, spoke of him often.
Paul leads Onesimus to the Lord … THEN … sends Onesimus back to Philemon, with this letter. You can imagine the SHOCK … when Philemon sees Onesimus, whom he never expected to see again.
NOW … let’s examine this letter, which has become a part of the Scriptures. I don’t think Paul ever thought that his personal letter to Philemon would become a part of Scripture.
Vs. 1-3 – Paul greets Philemon & those in his household. “Apphia” is probably his wife … “Archippus” is probably their son.
Paul is in prison in Rome. NOTICE … he doesn’t call himself a “prisoner of Rome”. He calls himself “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”. He’s in prison … right where Jesus wants him to be. Paul knows that God is in charge. If Jesus had wanted him out of prison, that’s where he would be.
Vs. 4 – Philemon was on Paul’s prayer list! I don’t think Paul was the type of person to say “I’ll be praying for you!” … AND THEN … forget all about it.
Vs. 5-7 – Read in NLT - Philemon has demonstrated his love for the Lord, by ministering to others – Vs. 5
Vs. 8 – NLT – Paul could have been very BOLD, and demand that Philemon do his DUTY as a Christian … show love, grace, forgiveness & mercy. As an APOSTLE, Paul carried a lot of weight. That’s not how Paul wanted to do it. Paul wanted Philemon to take Onesimus back out of LOVE … not DUTY.
Vs. 9 – Paul is saying, “Don’t take him back for MY SAKE … but, for LOVE’S SAKE.” In other words, “Philemon, if you love me, and love the Lord Jesus, take Onesimus back.”
Vs. 10 – Onesimus was born-again under the ministry of Paul … “my son”. Paul also called Timothy & Titus, his “sons”. I’m sure Paul had LOTS of “spiritual children”. Who did God use to bring you to Himself? A Pastor … S.S. Teacher … Parent … VBS Worker? I don’t think we’ll know how many “spiritual children” we have, until we get to Heaven.
Vs. 11 – “Onesimus” means ‘profitable’. Paul is using a PLAY-ON-WORDS here. He’s saying “Profitable wasn’t profitable, but now Profitable is profitable to both of us!” “Profitable” is living up to his name!”
Before we were saved, we weren’t “profitable” for God. We didn’t contribute ANYTHING to His kingdom. BUT … now that we’re saved, we’re to be “profitable”. Like Onesimus, we’re to live up to our name … Christian … “Christ-like one”.
Vs. 12-13 – See NLT – “receive him”. Actually, Philemon had several choices. One of those was to have Onesimus put to death. Paul is telling Philemon that Onesimus was a big help to Paul, who is in prison. Paul wanted to keep Onesimus with him … which would be like Philemon ministering to Paul through Onesimus.
Jesus isn’t here … He’s in Heaven. HOWEVER … He has called us to minister here for Him. When we serve others in the name of Christ … we are serving Christ.
Vs. 14 – See NLT – Paul knew it would be wrong to keep Onesimus for himself … without Philemon’s permission. If Philemon wanted to let Onesimus minister to Paul, Paul wanted Philemon to do it because he really wanted to (“willingly”) … NOT … because he thought he HAD to (“necessity”).
WHY do we do what we do for the Lord? Is it out of “necessity” … OR … out of LOVE (“willingly”)? “I’ll do it if no one else will!” How many times have I heard that one! Paul is telling Philemon that if he has to do it grudgingly … DON’T DO IT!
Vs. 15 – See NLT – MAYBE … there was a REASON why Onesimus left. MAYBE … this was no ACCIDENT. MAYBE … there’s some GOOD that will come out of this. MAYBE … Romans 8:28 is true after all!