The Story of Paul, Philemon & Onesimus | Scriptural Teachings
the tender and intimate relationships which grace had formed, on the one hand between Paul and Onesimus, and on the other between Paul and Philemon. The Bible is full of friendships−between God and people and between people themselves. We can learn a lot about our own relationships by looking at theirs. Paul writes his short letter to Philemon and asks him to accept. Saint Onesimus also called Onesimus of Byzantium and The Holy Apostle Onesimus in some The Epistle to Philemon was written by Paul the Apostle to Philemon concerning a person believed to be a runaway slave named Onesimus .
Now that I understand that God operates in relational ways, it makes sense that his story is told within the rough-and-tumble of relationships in history. We can learn a lot about our own relationships by looking at theirs. Philemon is a book that must shake us to our core if and change our relationships and social life if we take it seriously. It centres, appropriately enough, around Philemon, a wealthy man of good social standing, who becomes a Christian possibly through Paul's ministry, and his rebellious, runaway slave, Onesimus.
In those days, masters owned slaves. It was not an equal relationship by any means. In ordinary circumstances, Philemon and Onesimus were certainly not relating to each other as people, peers or equals. They would not have been friends. Onesimus stole money from Philemon and ran away. We're not told more than that except that in some extraordinary way, he ended up with Paul in Rome and became a Christian.
He could have stayed there and begun a new life, but Paul was keen to see Philemon and Onesimus reconciled — and in a bigger way than just a master and slave. Not as a slave, but as a child of God like himself; in fact, a friend. Accepting Onesimus back as a slave would be a scandal, even if he was given a suitable punishment. But to welcome him into his house as an equal and friend and valued human being would really turn things upside down.
Philemon would probably find himself on the outside amongst his peers. We learn from it that even the individual interests of the people of God are of necessity connected with the assembly; that we are so intimately bound up with one another that we cannot isolate ourselves from the general state and welfare. This may be illustrated from the case before us.
Paul and Philemon
If Philemon, for example, had entertained hard thoughts of his fugitive servant, he would have affected for evil the church in his house. Including, therefore, the assembly in his salutation, he omits the word "mercy" which he employs in the personal epistles 1 Tim.
He tells him that he always made mention of him in his prayers, and thanked God as he heard of his love and faith which he had toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints. What a privilege to be thus laid on the heart of the apostle! And what a testimony is thus borne - divinely borne - to Philemon! Paul's desire for Philemon was we give another translation to make it simpler "that thy participation in the faith should become operative in the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in us towards Christ Jesus"; and he then states the ground on which he was encouraged to make this request, in the affecting words, "For we have great joy or, as some read, thankfulness and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
Christ, in other words, was both his motive and object - this was the "good thing" in him which he hoped Philemon would acknowledge. He wrote from the heart to the heart, in the power of the Holy Ghost, and the foundations of his appeal, thus laid, could not but secure the desired response. It was a mighty outflow of the affections of Christ, which it would be impossible to resist. After such a preface, the apostle proceeds to the matter in hand.
Having a title to enjoin what was "fitting," he would not use it; "for love's sake" he would rather beseech, "being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. And what a preparation for what was to follow! It is not only an exquisite picture of spiritual affections - of the indestructible ties which exist between Christians, and especially between the servant and the converts who have been vouchsafed to his ministry; but it is also a striking presentation of the heart of Christ for His own.
Paul and Philemon
It is true that it is Paul's feelings, Paul's tender love, and Paul's pleadings; but in all these he was but the vessel of Christ. We should not therefore read these words aright unless we discerned the heart of Paul's Lord expressing itself in these affecting beseechings.
A few special points may be indicated in the apostle's appeal to Philemon. The meaning of the name Onesimus is "profitable," and Paul alludes to this in v. Notice, moreover, how fully Paul identifies himself with his convert - "receive him," he says, "that is, mine own bowels.
Yet once more, "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it. Christ has "repaid" and how much more! How blessed the correspondence between the servant and his Master!
May we all follow in this, the example of the apostle. Nor should we omit to remark upon the delicacy with which the apostle, while recognizing Philemon's claims over his servant, commends Onesimus to his master's care and affection. Paul would fain have retained him for needed service in the bonds of the gospel; "but," he says, "without thy mind would I do nothing. Paul, therefore, sent Onesimus back - not only as a slave, but as "a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord.