26 October 2019

Philemon 1-25

Paul’s letter to Philemon is a personal letter. While Paul acknowledges the that s in Philemon’s home, this letter is not to them. Just the greeting is political and relational: Philemon, slave and property owner; Apphia, Philemon’s wife; Archippus, a “coworker” of Paul’s from Colossae, and possibly filling the role of pastor. Archippus could possibly be not addressed, but it’s likely that Paul sought to draw Archippus into the conversation, and it’s not wise to disregard someone that appears to have been ificant to the .

In this letter, Paul s Philemon to pardon his (Philemon’s) runaway slave Onesimus. Who knows why Onesimus ran away from Philemon and went to Paul. By law, Paul had to s Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul sent an advance letter to Philemon to, it seems, make for a smooth for Onesimus. Paul knew that legally Philemon could do whatever he wished with Onesimus (include having him crucified). Paul also knew that Apphia would have some sway in this, as she would have had household authority over the slaves. This all plays into Paul’s letter as he seeks to persuade Philemon to be gentle to (maybe even free?) Onesimus.

Paul starts by identifying himself as a prisoner, placing himself socially beneath Philemon. He then puts himself as a coworker to Philemon. In this, he is saying that this letter is not coming from a superior. Paul notes that he could command, but instead chooses to appeal.

What becomes interesting is humor that Paul puts into play. Onesimus means useful and was a common slave . Paul states that Onesimus used to be useless, but now that he is a fellow Christian he is useful. In other s, only now that Onesimus is a Christian does he actually live up to his . Its intent is to en what is a weighty letter.

1) Have you ever had a person in authority a favor that really wasn’t a favor? What was that like?

2) What do you think the was like between Philemon and Paul? Why?

3) If a fri ed for a favor that wasn’t to your immediate advantage, would you do it? Why or why not?

Pastor Ian

By Pastor Ian

Ian is an ordained Elder in The Church of the Nazarene, and is currently serving as the Online Campus Pastor at Generations Community Church in Marysville, WA, USA.