Short introduction to Philemon

A Shakespearean drama couldn’t have better highlighted the tension of slavery, or proffered a more noble solution to it. The main characters in the Divine “play” are Paul (the apostle), Philemon (the slaveowner) and Onesimus (the slave).

Act I. (Unkempt and weary from a long journey, the slave Onesimus is now standing again at the door of his owner, Philemon’s house. He holds a letter in his hand). Having fled from Philemon some time earlier, Onesimus had serendipitously crossed paths with Paul. He was taught the truth of Christ, and became a disciple. Presently, he hands the letter to Philemon. It is from Paul, an apostle—and a beloved friend of Philemon (v.1).

Act II. (A few months earlier) Though useful to him, Paul had decided it better to send Onesimus back to his Master (v. 11). Ah, but how? In this letter—breathed out by the Spirit of God—is a personal appeal to Philemon, to receive Onesimus back on two grounds: (1) that Onesimus was now a “brother in Christ,” and should be so received and treated (v. 16); and (2) that Philemon “owed Paul his life besides,” having escaped slavery to sin through Paul’s efforts (v. 19). Continue reading

#golden-rule, #nt-introduction, #philemon

Christians From Colossae

Every one of us, whether a Christian or not are examples to someone. This could be a good or a bad example. This evident in the Word of God. We are given accounts of the good and the bad example. The Word of God promotes godly examples for us to emulate.

Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, we are presented with many character studies. They come from all walks of life just as the writers of the Word. They come from large and small cities; they come from familiar and obscure places. I want to enter our thoughts today on a city in the New Testament that was not as prominent as some. It is mentioned in just 2 books; that being Paul’s letter to Colossians and his epistle to Philemon. I want to write about two men: Epaphras and Archippus.

They are mentioned in Colossians and in Philemon. More is said about about Epaphras. Colossae was located in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. It appears that Paul did not visit this city but that some from there came in contact with his teachings and took them back to their home city. One of the 7 Churches of Revelation, Laodicia, is mentioned in Colossians, along with Hieropolis as being nearby.

Paul is very faithful in commending his co-workers. In writing to the Colossian Church in Col. 1:7-8 and Col. 4:12-14 he mentions Epaphras. It appears that he was one of the men who brought the Gospel to Colossae. Both he and Philemon may have came in contact with Paul when he preached “nearby.”

Even a casual reading of the text will give the reader an insight into the character of Epaphras. Paul uses terminology that we all would like to be described by. Paul calls him a dear fellow servant and a faithful minister in Col. 1:7-8. He is mentioned as one who loved his fellow believers. He is called a servant.

Paul uses a term in Col. 4:12 that should describe all Christians, that of a bond servant. This describes one who serves his master willingly and faithfully. We see Epaphras described as a man of prayer. He is genuinely concerned with the spiritual well being of his fellow believers and is described as laboring fervently for them. His motivation is that they would be made complete in the Lord and stand for Him. He puts into practice the admonition of Paul in 2 Tim. 3:16-18 where faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God will lead believers to be equipped for service to the Lord Jesus. Col. 4:13 shows that he didn’t just center his efforts in his hometown but was willing to share the Word with those in Laodicea and in Hieropolis. May we ever be thankful for this faithful brother.

The other one mentioned in Colossians and in Philemon was a man named Archippus. He is mentioned in Col. 4:17 as well as in Philemon 2. It appears he was the son of Philemon and was faithful in preaching and teaching in the church that met in Philemon’s home. Paul reminds him that he received his ministry from the Lord Jesus. He is called a fellow soldier in Philemon 2. All Christians are in the Lord’s Army. We must take up the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20) if we are going to be equipped for battle. Let’s look back the example of Archippus as we strive to serve together under the authority of the Lord Jesus and help reach the lost and lead them out of the kingdom of darkness in the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:14-16).

-Larry Miles, Nov. 16, 2011

#archippus, #colossians, #epaphras, #philemon

Paul’s Farewell Words To Philemon

In verses 23-24, Paul mentions some of his co-workers there in Rome. These are also mentioned in Col. 4:12:  “Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always contending for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills.

Mark is mentioned, back in the good graces of Paul (cf. 2 Tim. 4:11).

Demas: mentioned 3 times in Scripture, this passage is the highlight of his life in Christ. In Col. 4:14 he is just called “Demas,” and then in 2 Tim. 4:9—he has deserted the faith.

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

Onesimus Needed Someone To Pay His Debt

It seems likely that Onesimus had stolen from Philemon to fund his journey to Rome (1:18). At least, he had stolen himself. Onesimus had no way to pay the debt he owed to Philemon  Paul was willing to put Onesimus’ debt on his account. He was willing to put his money where his mouth was.

Likely, Paul knew that the debt might stand in the way of reconciliation. This letter was a legally binding note to remove the wall of separation (Phile. 18-19). Paul here is giving a promissory note, a signed statement of indebtedness (Gk cheirographon in Col. 2:14. “certificate of debt.”

Verses 17-18: Chuck Smith writes, “An Example of Intercession. Paul’s intercession to Philemon, for the benefit of Onesimus, is a beautiful example of intercession, and a glorious picture of the intercession of Jesus before the Father on our behalf. Paul said, ‘Receive him as you would me’, in other words, ‘I will stand in his place.’ Then he said, ‘If he has wronged you or owes you anything, put it on my account.’”

Like Onesimus, we needed someone to pay our debt. We were without strength to do so (Rom. 5:6). Christ had to put our debt on his account (1 Pet. 1:18-20; Isa. 53:6; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Verse 19: Paul usually used a secretary to write his letters for him; he signed them though. It appears at least in this verse that Paul wrote this with his own hand. This makes it even more private and personal.

This verse seems to imply that Philemon was a convert of Paul, probably in Ephesus, because it is believed that had never been to Colossae. John McArthur writes, “Philemon owed Paul something far greater than the material debt Paul was offering to repay, since Paul had led him to a saving faith, a debt Philemon could never pay.”

Verse 20: Paul is telling Philemon that it would bring great joy to him if he would forgive Onesimus.

Verse 21: “Even more than I say…” John McArthur writes, “The more than forgiveness that Paul was urging upon Philemon was either:

  1. To welcome Onesimus back enthusiastically (Luke 15:22-24) (Story of the Prodigal Son)
  2. To permit Onesimus, in addition to his menial tasks, to minister spiritually with Philemon or
  3. To forgive any others who may have wronged Philemon.

Verse 22: Paul expected to be released from prison (1st imprisonment) Acts 28.

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

Onesimus Needed Someone To Intercede On His Behalf

Roman law allowed for a freeman to intercede on behalf of a slave.

While a fugitive in Rome, Onesimus met Paul and was converted by him (Phile. 10). It is possible that Paul had also converted Philemon (Phile. 19).

Since Paul knew Philemon, he could intercede on Onesimus’ behalf. Having seen the change wrought in Onesimus, Paul was willing to do so. (One had to be a Roman Citizen to do this). Did Paul “flaunt” his Roman citizenship? Example: Acts 16:37, 38; 22:25-29

Application For Us

Like Onesimus, we needed someone to intercede on our behalf (1 John 2:1; 1 Tim. 2:5). We needed someone who knows our Master and is in good standing with Him (Mt. 17:5). We needed someone sympathetic to our plight (Heb. 4:15).

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

Onesimus Faced A Harsh Judgment If Found

Runaway slaves could face branding, scourging, and even crucifixion if caught. An F for fugitive was often branded on the forehead of runaway slaves. They were marked for life.

They were sometimes fitted with a metal collar, complete with name and address. Sometimes they were sometimes sold. In extreme cases the skin on the bottom of their feet was burned off by glowing iron plates. The only thing that tempered judgment was the value of the slave.

Slave owners were fearful of a slave uprising. There were approximately 60 million slaves in the Roman empire. Conservative estimates suggest that as much as 1/3 of the empire was made up of slaves. Some estimates range as high as ½.

If Philemon forgave Onesimus, what would the other slave owners have thought?

Verse 16: John McArthur writes, “Paul did not call for Onesimus’ freedom (cf. I Cor. 7:20-22), but that Philemon would receive his slave now as a fellow-believer in Christ (cf. Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1: I Tim. 6:2)

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

Onesimus Was At One Time Unprofitable

V. 11“Which in time past was to thee unprofitable but now is profitable to you and me. ”

This verse contains a word play that is lost in English. The name “Onesimus” means “useful.” Therefore, in word play, Paul tells Philemon that Onesimus (“useful”) had become useless to you, but has been found useful to him. Notice that Paul does not say that he is simply useful to Paul, but to Philemon also.

Onesimus’ name means “profitable” or “useful.” It was a common name for a slave. It expressed the master’s expectations for the slave. Philemon likely gave Onesimus this name.

In verse 15ff, Paul tells us a little about Onesimus’ journey to Rome and how he met Paul. I want to study a little bit right now about what led to that trip—we will mention it again briefly later in the study.

John McArthur writes, “Better translated “Useless–Useful.” Paul’s point was that Onesimus had been radically changed by God’s Grace.”

Verse 12: I am sending him back to you! By the time of the writing of this letter, Onesimus was profitable. He was finally living up to his name or potential. The fact that he was standing before Philemon demonstrated he was a different man

Verse 13: Paul did right – he sent Onesimus back. Onesimus did right – he went back. Within this book, Philemon is urged to do right – take Onesimus back . Paul wanted to keep Onesimus to stay and minister along with him on the behalf of Philemon.

Verse 14: But he wanted it to be voluntary on Philemon’s part. But there was a big problem. Onesimus was a slave who belonged to Philemon and Paul did want to do anything without his approval.

Verses 15-18 tell us a little bit about the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus.  Paul suggests that God’s providence was in the whole episode. What dangers did Onesimus face by going back?

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

Paul’s Plea For Onesimus (Intro)

Introductory Remarks

The Apostle Paul has gone all the way to this part of the letter before he writes about the runaway slave, Onesimus (v. 10). One can imagine what Philemon and family and the church that met in his house thought when they heard that word.

What kind of emotions would be going through their minds when he arrives with Tychicus.

Verse 8: John McArthur writes, “Because of his apostolic authority, Paul could have ordered Philemon to accept Onesimus.”

In a very eloquent way, Paul is telling Philemon that Onesimus submitted to Jesus Christ and is now a Christian.

Chuck Smith further writes, “Paul could have given a bold command to Philemon, appealing to his apostolic authority. But he did not do that.”

Verse 9: Smith continues his thoughts, “But he did not do that. Instead he appealed for love’s sake,begging him to do the right thing. It is tragic when church leaders appeal to their positions to exercise authority and wiled power over people. The old maxim that ‘power corrupts’ can sadly be demonstrated in the church, as well as in human secular government and in the business world. Paul demonstrated, on the other hand, the servant leadership taught by Jesus. He did not throw his weight around, but appealed to love. Godly leaders will always do that. Leaders who flex their muscles and intimidate people only show their lack of Christlikeness.”

Verse 10: This is the first mention of Onesimus. Paul calls him “my child (son) whom I fathered while in Chains.”

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

The Character of Philemon (vv 4-7)

V. 4 This verse stresses the importance of prayer in Paul’s ministry. Paul says the same thing in Eph. 1:15ff and Phil. 1: 3ff and in Col. 1:3ff.

v. 5 “hearing of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.”

Philemon’s genuine love and faith in and towards the Lord Jesus resulted in his love for others. (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:6; 1 John 3:14)

Other instances of hearing about the love and service of believers in the NT –2nd John 4; 3rd John 3-4

v 6 – As a result of Philemon’s love and faith in and towards Jesus, he shares that faith. He becomes a doer as well as a hearer of God’s Word. (James 1:22) He puts his Christianity into practice.

Because he is “in Christ,” his faith has become effective, thus seeking to obey the admonition of Jesus, “If you love Me, you will (keep on keeping) My commandments.” (John 14:15)

This results in a life where one’s faith rubs off on those around him. Folks see you serving God and knowing that it is real for you can motivate others to seek to serve Jesus more and more.

It can result in striving to reach the lost and strengthen the saved. It will motivate us to help the lost out of the “kingdom of darkness and be conveyed to the kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Col. 1:12ff)

V. 7 – Can a Christian have joy in their lives because of the love another Christian shows in their live towards you?

He refreshed people (Phile. 7). “Refreshed” is a military term that speaks of an army resting from a march.

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

Paul’s Intro To Philemon (Verses 1-4)

Introduction: Paul’s Greeting (vv 1-4)

There are basically 3 characters featured in the Book of Philemon:

  • Paul
  • Philemon
  • Onesimus.

There are 2 other mentioned in these verses, Apphia and Archippus (mentioned in Col. 4:17), probably wife and son of Philemon.

Verse 1 — The Apostle Paul is a prisoner in Rome; the writing is about 60 A.D. This is during his first imprisonment, recorded in Acts 28. This is one of the 4 “Prison Epistles.” Timothy is with Paul in Rome and sends his greetings.

Paul identifies himself differently in this letter to Philemon than all the other letters he wrote. In the other letters, Paul calls himself either an apostle or a servant. In this letter he calls himself a prisoner.

Paul wanted this letter read for at least 2 reasons:

  • it would hold Philemon accountable
  • and instruct the church on the matter of forgiveness.

H. A. Ironside observed that Philemon is “the finest specimen of early, personal, Christian correspondence.” Philemon affords us the opportunity to read the mail of a first-century Christian.

Wendell Winkler noted that there are eleven references to Christ in the twenty-five verses of this epistle (1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 16, 20, 23). Clearly, Paul wanted us to see Jesus in this story

Verse 2 — This verse mentions the wife and son of Philemon. ESV says “Our sister Apphia.” Col. 4:17 “And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

Col. 4:17 note about Archippus. Paul’s message to him to fulfill his ministry is similar to the exhortation to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:5. “…do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Every Christian is to proclaim the gospel. Timothy and Archippus are called to do the work of an evangelist.

Chuck Smith wrote on this passage, “Fulfill Your Ministry. ‘Paul’s exhortation to Archippus is a good one for all of us. …God has given you a ministry. He has a place of service for each of us in the body, and it is important that we fulfill those ministries. We fulfill our ministries when we accept what it is God has called us to and then go for it with everything we’ve got, just full-on serving Him.’”

The Church there in Colossae apparently met in Philemon’s home. These verse tell us a Christian family that is dedicated to serving the Lord Jesus.

V. 3 – “Grace to you.” The standard greeting that appears in all of Paul’s 13 NT letters. It highlighted salvation’s means (grace) c.f. Titus 2:11ff. and its results (peace) and linked the Father & the Son, thus affirming the Deity of Christ.

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon

Introduction To Philemon

Introduction of the Book of Philemon

Philemon is the most private, personal, and petite of Paul’s epistles. It is almost hidden in the New Testament, at near the end of Paul’s writings, between Titus and Hebrews.

Date Written: c A.D. 60 (One of the 4 Prison Epistles)

Author: The Apostle Paul (vs. 1, 9, 19)

Theme: “Love Exemplified.”

Mark Copeland writes: “Like the epistle to the Colossians, the epistle to Philemon was written when Paul was in chains (1, 10, 13, 23) Timothy is mentioned in both Philemon 1 and in Col. 1:1. Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke joined in the salutation of both ) 23, 24; Col. 4:10-14). Onesimus, the subject of this epistle, was one of the messengers by whom the epistle to the Colossians was sent (Col. 4:7-9) Archippus, to who this epistle is partially addressed (2) is also addressed in the epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4:17).”

The Epistle of Philemon, was written to Philemon, a well to do citizen of Colossae. It was probably delivered by Tychicus, who delivered both the Ephesian and Colossian letters. His companion was Onesimus, one of the main characters of this narrative.

Philemon touched on a very sensitive issue in the first century – slavery. No doubt, some would have suggested that Paul had stopped preaching and gone to meddling.

Philippians and Philemon allow us to see his heart. In those books, we see how loving he was.

Martin Luther noted, “We are all God’s Onesimi.”  For sure, there is some of us in Onesimus.

 

#new-testament-postcards, #philemon, #prison-epistles

The Character of Philemon

We have, in Philemon 4-7, an example of how a Christian should live out his faith. Philemon’s genuine love and faith, in and towards the Lord Jesus resulted in his love for others.

Paul wrote in Philemon 4: “hearing of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.” We need to live out our faith as Philemon did. He did not keep his faith to himself. Paul had hears of this brothers faith. Some other instances of Christians being faithful and word getting back to fellow believers are found in 2 John 4 and 3 John 3-4.

As a result of Philemon’s love and faith towards Jesus, he shares that faith. He became a doer as well as a hearer of God’s Word. (James 1:22) He puts his Christianity into practice.

Because he is “in Christ,” his faith has become effective, thus seeking to obey the admonition of Jesus, “If you love Me, you will (keep on keeping) My commandments.” (John 14:15)

This results in a life where one’s faith rubs off on those around him. Folks see you serving God and knowing that it is real for you can motivate others to seek to serve Jesus more and more.

It can result in striving to reach the lost and strengthen the saved. It will motivate us to help the lost out of the “the kingdom of darkness and be conveyed to the kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Col. 1:12-14)

Philemon 7 says that he refreshed people. “Refreshed” is a military term that speaks of an army resting from a march.

Only good is said about Philemon. Paul thanked God for him and expected hi. To do more than he was asked. Philemon was a second-mile Christian. He abounded in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). May we strive to imitate Philemon as he sought to be conformed to the image of the Son of God.

-Larry Miles

#philemon

Love In Action

There are countless instances in God’s Word where the words on our title have application. Many of God’s servants in the past and many today fit the bill. Christianity is a religion of action. Since we have “been raised with Christ,” we are to live our lives daily for Him!

We read about such an individual in Paul’s Epistle to Philemon. In Philemon 1:5 we have these words: “hearing of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints.” Paul is commending Philemon for living out his faith.

As is the case, Philemon’s genuine love and faith in and towards the Lord Jesus resulted in his love for others. (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:6 and 1 John 3:14). Some other instances of hearing about the love and service of believers in the New Testament is found in 2 John 1:4 and 3 John 1:3-4

In Philemon 6, as a result of his love and faith in and for Jesus, Philemon shares his faith. He becomes a “doer as well as a hearer” of God’s Word (James 1:22). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep on (keep on keeping) My commandments.” (John 14:15).

This results in a life where one’s faith rubs off on those around him. Folks see you serving God and knowing that it is real for you can motivate others to seek to serve Jesus more and more.

It can result in striving to reach the lost and strengthening  the saved. It will motivate us to help the lost find their way out of the “kingdom of darkness and be conveyed to the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

You can, like Philemon, have a joy in your life because of the love you show, first of all to Christ, and then to others.

-Larry Miles May 18, 2011

#action, #christian-living, #love, #philemon