Summary: Paul’s Epistle to Philemon is an example of how Christians should love one another.
1. One of the best examples of a Christian’s love in action is in Paul’s epistle to Philemon. With only 25 verses, it is more accurately described as a note. Having written 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul the Apostle only wrote four to individuals: two to Timothy, one to Titus, and one to Philemon.
2. The epistle was written around 64 A.D. to Philemon, Apphia (possibly Philemon’s wife), and Archippus (a minister and friend to Philemon). Philemon’s servant, Onesimus, fled his house in Colosse, and went to Rome. Paul witnessed to him while in prison, and Onesimus accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Paul realized he couldn’t keep another man’s servant, so he returns Onesimus with a letter.
B. Read Verses 1-7.
1. Paul acknowledged the love and faithfulness of Philemon. If we read it again, we can hear Paul’s love for Philemon.
2. Paul is also coming to Philemon with a request, so he wants be respectful to Philemon.
C. Read Verses 8-21.
1. Paul pleads for mercy and forgiveness on Onesimus’ behalf. In verse 10, he call Onesimus “my son, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” In verse 14, Paul asks Philemon to receive him “willingly.”
2. Paul offers to pay Onesimus’ debts, and asks that Philemon “receive him as myself.”
D. Read Verses 22-25.
1. Compare Paul’s love for Philemon and Onesimus to Christ’s love for the church.
Paul recognized Philemon’s faithfulness - Christ recognizes the faithfulness in the churches. (Revelations)
Paul accepts Onesimus as a brother - Christ accepts us as brothers and sisters.
Paul paid Onesimus’ debts - Christ paid our debt of sin with His blood.
Paul interceded on Onesimus’ behalf - Christ intercedes on our behalf with the Father.
*Although the Bible never records the rest of the story, It seems, Philemon not only pardoned, but gave him his liberty; seeing Ignatius makes mention of him, as succeeding Timotheus at Ephesus.