Revolutionary Action Asked of Philemon
Summary/story of the letter then summary video 6 minutes 39 seconds long .
1-3 A prisoner of Christ Jesus … seven references to Jesus throughout this short letter. No mention of being an apostle of Jesus. He knows Philemon personally. He led him to Christ on one of missionary trips – probably to Ephesus. While Paul was a prisoner in Rome under house arrest he preached there as we learn in Acts 28:30-31.
4-6 Philemon’s love for believers and his partnership with Paul and others. Partnership or fellowship from the Greek koinōnia. Vines dictionary defines as “a having in common (koinos), partnership, fellowship” and here it is in the faith. As the verse continues may be taken as “the fellowship of faith or partnership in the faith, in which Philemon stands with his fellow-believers.” Paul is saying Philemon cares for other, really cares.
Before Paul’s plea for Onesimus turn to Deuteronomy 23:15-16
8-11 Paul’s appeal to Philemon is not from a position of authority, but from one of love as partners in the faith. Especially love for the children of Christ as John puts in 1 John 5:1.
12-14 Not mentioned here, but this is a great faith walk by Onesimus as over 1,000 miles separates Rome and Colossae (see slide/map) and a runaway slave could be branded or even be put to death. Plus it is a great call on Philemon to acknowledge Onesimus is as Paul’s very heart. Philemon, do you care, really care? Can Philemon acknowledge Onesimus now as a brother, as an equal?
15-16 Paul believes it is a God thing or at least believes it is possible there was a reason for Onesimus running away and meeting up with Paul, then returning to Philemon. Ignatius of Antioch shows this was probably correct. Receive him as your brother! Revolutionary in the Roman Empire. Slaves had not rights, but Christian brothers – that was another story. In services, slave and free would sit together with no designated areas for one or the other.
17-19 Paul reminds Philemon they are partners as mentioned earlier. Here we see Paul putting the example Jesus set before us into action. Paul is willing to assume any debts that Onesimus has towards Philemon and pay them. He makes sure Philemon understands he is emphatic about this by stating he is writing this in his own hand! Paul was showing he understood what Christ asked His disciples when He washed their feet in John 13:12-15.
20-22 Paul asks Philemon to refresh his heart as he has others as mentioned in verse seven … and do it by sending Onesimus back to me. Prepare a bed for me. Paul hoped to visit one day, but it never happened as he was arrested again in 66 AD and beheaded a year later.
23-24 Paul prepares to close this personal letter by sending greetings from common friends in Rome.
25 Paul concludes his letter.
Note 1 from Guzik
Paul never called for an overthrow of the system of slavery, yet the principles in the letter to Philemon destroy slavery. The greatest social changes come when people are changed, one heart at a time. In our society, racism and our low regard for the unborn cannot be eliminated by laws; a change of heart must occur.
Note 2 from Guzik
No part of the New Testament more clearly demonstrates integrated Christian thinking and living.