Summary: A plea for forgiveness as found in the great book of Philemon

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A young man – who will remain nameless

Grew up in a household where he was well taken care of.

All of his needs were met

The primary source of his support was not a father, mother

It was his master – our young man was a slave – and born into slavery

Slavery was very different in our story

Living conditions were about the same as a son

Food and clothing were provided

Earned close to the same amount of money

They had legal rights (slaves accused of crimes to be tried like free men)

Could be doctors, musicians, teachers, artists…

Our young man had 5 years left (the average was 7-20) of service to his master

The Heist

Cleaning the room – nock over a box of jewels

Debating in his mind over the precious stones

The next day, the master’s wife finds out and the search was on

Panicking for fear of being caught – he flees – therefore complicating his problem

Now, not only was a thief, he was also a fugitive (a runaway slave)

He makes a hasty decision to head to the biggest city in the area

Our young man hides during the day and travels at night

Dodging the ever vigilant slave catchers

These people do cruel things to runaways

Upon arrival in the city he encounters an evangelist who shares with him the Gospel

The young man is curious to the message as the weight of his sin so heavily hung upon him

The young man and evangelist talk

But the young man is careful to hide his true identity from the evangelist

“There is someone I would like you to meet” says the evangelist

He is lead to a location (as he approaches a sinking feeling fills the bottom of his stomach

He is coming up on a prison.

‘I have been caught’ he thinks.

‘They have found me out’.

Yet – something makes him continue on

The Evangelist leads the young man to a prison cell.

As the doors open, expecting to find it empty and himself as the future resident.

He sees a man in the later years of his life.

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father of My Lord Jesus Christ”

The young man immediately realizes that he is safe as the 2 men talk through the night

By morning, the young man had given his life to Jesus Christ

The young man returns daily to visit the prisoner and to be discipled by him

The prisoner writes a lot

A lot of letters to different people and different churches.

But he is never too busy for our young man

The young man is dear to the prisoner and he asks him to do various errand for him

The young man is glad to do so

Then one day, the young man decides to let the cat out of the bag.

He tells him of his former life…

You must return and be reconciled to your master

“DO you know what he could do?”

He could have me killed

I do know the cost of being obedient to the will of God

Who is your master?

Who is your Master now?


You will return tonight, a friend and this letter will accompany you.

Philemon’s theme is “A plea for forgiveness”

Does Christian brotherly love really work even in situations of extraordinary tension and difficulty?

Will it work, for example, between a prominent slave owner and one of his runaway slaves?

Paul has no doubt

He writes a “postcard” to Philemon

His beloved brother and fellow worker

On behalf of Onesimus

A deserter, a thief, and formerly worthless slave

But now Philemon’s brother in Christ

This is a private, personal letter to a friend

But it is also for this friend’s family and church


Paul wrote this letter from Rome in about A.D. 60 when he was under house arrest

Onesimus was a domestic slave who belonged to Philemon

A wealthy landowner in Colosse

And also a member of the Colossian church

This church was meeting in Philemon’s home

Onesimus had run away from Philemon

And had made his way to Rome where he met Paul

Paul convinced Onesimus that running from his problems wouldn’t solve them

And he persuaded him to return to his master

Paul wrote this letter to Philemon to ask him to be reconciled to his runaway slave

Ultimately this letter is about forgiveness

And can be broken down into 4 parts

The Greeting

The Character of One Who Forgives

The Actions of One Who Forgives

The Motives of One Who Forgives

I. The Greeting (1-3)

It is interesting that Paul introduced himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ”

He was imprisoned for the sake of and by the sovereign will of Christ

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