This Preaching in Shorts Bible study is on Philemon. Each chapter is read verse by verse with the major points highlighted and discussed.
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Philemon 1:1-25 (NIV)
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. 8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,
9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul–an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus– 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him–who is my very heart–back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good– 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back–not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. 22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon was a wealthy Greek landowner who lived in Colosse. He had come to Christ under Paul’s ministry and the church in Closse met in his home. It was common for the early church to meet in homes.
It is thought that Apphia is Philemon’s wife and Archippus is His son and that they are being included as recipients of the letter so that they will hopefully also receive Paul’s advice regarding Onesimus.
I think that what Paul writes about Philemon should be something we all take a good look at as far as our relationships with one another in the church. Look again at verse 7:
7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Paul makes a compassionate plea on behalf of Onesimus. Paul could have tried to assert his spiritual authority as an apostle to get Philemon to deal kindly with Onesimus. Instead, Paul bases his request on Philemon’s relationship to Christ and hoping he will do the next right thing.
I also like that Paul uses an interesting play on words with Onesimus name. Onesimus means useful. Paul says that Onesimus had not been much use to Philemon in the past but now had become very useful to both Philemon and Paul. Although Paul wanted to keep Onesimus with him, he was sending Onesimus back, requesting that Philemon accept him not only as a forgiven runaway servant but also as a brother in Christ.
When God finds runaways, he often sends them back to the very places and people from which they ran in the first place. Are there still situations from your past that need to be resolved?
At the time of the early church, slavery was widespread throughout all of the Roman Empire. It was and is a repugnant evil in the world. Paul gets at the heart of how we are most effective at dealing with evil in the world. We are to introduce the light of Jesus into the darkness of the world. The Good news changes the world as is changes the hearts of the people.
We see a couple of the people we know from our earlier studies in the New Testament. Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey and also wrote the Gospel of Mark. Luke had accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey and was the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.