Paul recognized and was thankful to God for Philemon’s faith and great accomplishments among the church in that area.
Even though as an apostle, Paul had the authority to command, he chose to appeal to Philemon’s love and sympathy to grant his request for Onesimus. Deserting his master was a serious offence. He had possibly stolen from him also. Paul stated that he had been unprofitable, but as a Christian was now profitable for both himself and Philemon.
Paul would have gladly allowed Onesimus to stay with him in Rome, but he would not do so without Philemon’s consent. He did, however, give Philemon an opportunity to return Onesimus to him as a contribution to Paul’s mission.
According to Paul, it may have been through God’s providence that Onesimus had left his master. That allowed him to meet Paul, be converted to Christ and then return for greater service to Philemon and to the church.
Paul had a close relationship with Philemon and urged that he receive Onesimus as he would receive Paul. He also had the love for Onesimus that he accepted responsibility for any debt that he owed his master. However, he pointed out that Philemon owed him a debt for his own spiritual life.
The apostle had faith that Philemon would heed his requests and even exceed his desires. He expected to be released from prison soon and asked that a room be prepared for him so he could visit after his release.
After having concluded his requests, Paul passed on greetings from several of his fellow workers in Rome. He closed with a prayer for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to be with Philemon’s spirit and with those who were of his household and the church.