Philemon 1:1-25 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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On the Basis of Love
Comments for Study 1

Philemon 1:1-25
Memory Verse: 20


* The letter to the Colossians is a companion letter to Philemon. The two should be studied together as well as Ephesians and Philippians. The four are considered Paul's Prison Letters, written while under house arrest in Rome. See the introduction for more information.

I. Thanksgiving and Prayer (1-7)

The Bema Seat at Corinth

* See a picture of the Bema Seat at Corinth to the right.

>1. Who is the sender of this letter? (1a)

* Philemon 1:1a "Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother"

* "Paul" -Paul persecuted the church until Jesus called him to service for God. Paul is not recorded to ever visit Colosse. He wanted to travel through Asia Minor, the region Colesse is in on his second missionary trip; but the Holy Spirit kept him from going through the area. (Acts 15:40-18:23). During his third missionary trip he traveled through the area and may have stopped in a neighboring town, Laodicia. (Acts 19:1) During the third trip Paul stayed a long time in Ephesus, the capital of the area Colesse is located in. At that time Colesse was pioneered by a man, it is believed, converted by Paul. (Acts 18:23-21:17) At the end of his third missionary journey Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and taken as prisoner to Rome (Acts 23:23-26:32). During the time Paul was in house arrest and wrote this letter himself. (1:19) See the Introduction for the time frame and more background information.

>How did Paul identify himself? (1a,9b)

* "a prisoner of Christ Jesus" -Paul was arrested not because of what the Jews wanted to do, not because of what the commander wanted when he was arrested, not because Paul pleaded to have Caesar hear his case, but because of his service to Christ. A believer should see what happens to them from God's point of view too.

* Philemon 1:9b "I then, as Paul--an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus"

* "an old man" -Paul was born between 6 and 10 A.D., but probably around 5 A.D. (based on the terms "young man" in Acts 7:58 and "old man" here.) Paul wrote this letter in 60 A.D. Thus, Paul was around 55 years old when he wrote this, an old age in those days especially considering all his traveling, persecutions even to the point of death, and shipwrecks. Paul revealed his life with these simple words written less than five years before this letter, "Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?" (2 Cor. 11:23-29)

* Paul wrote this short personal letter while still under house arrest after being arrested in Jerusalem. He was in Rome awaiting trial in Ceasar's court. Paul wrote four letters while waiting. It is now 61 or 62 AD.

Onesimus met Paul while in Rome. He was a runaway slave who had stolen some things from his master, Philemon, who lived in Colosse. He may have been a fellow prisoner in Rome. How they met is not clear. That Onesimus had come to faith in Jesus at Paul's message is clear. Paul was pleading to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.

Paul was a peacemaker. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Mt 5:9) James 2:19 says, "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." Yeah, I want to be called a son of God and raise a harvest of righteousness, even though I don't exactly know what that means.

Do I know two people or groups of people that have differences and hostilities? No two come to mind. However, though it's not the same as what is meant, my younger brother and I have differences that I would like to be resolved.

More than that, though I get along with my remaining sister and older brother quite well, and all four of us live far apart, I pray that we may get together in Christ's name before another of us pass. So there, I can be a peacemaker like Paul, and like my Father above.

After praying and while praying I need to find ways to act. I have reached out to my younger sibling in the past. I can continue to try to, perhaps someday we may build up a report.

>Who was with him? (1, 23-24)

* Philemon 1:23-24 "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers."

* "Timothy" -Timothy had joined Paul on his second missionary journey. He may have been to Colosse while Paul was in neighboring towns especially on Paul's third missionary trip. Timothy was with Paul when he was arrested in Jerusalem, though he was not arrested. Timothy followed Paul to Rome.

* "our brother" -All believers in Jesus are brothers not matter age, gender, race, nationality, occupation, and social status.

* "Epaphras" - Epaphras is believed to be the pastor (shepherd) of the congregation in Colosse and perhaps the surrounding towns. Colossians 1:7-8 states, "You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. And Colossians 4:12 states, "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." Since, Philemon was written at the same time as Collosians, while Paul was in prison (house arrest), the two probably are the same person. However, some believe Epaphras of each letter to be two people.

* Epaphras either heard the gospel from Paul or from someone who heard it from Paul. The former is the most likely. He probably heard it during Paul's over two year ministry in Ephesus. Acts 19:9b-10 states, "(Paul) took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."

* "Mark" -Acts 2:12 states after Jesus' ascension the disciples had stayed in an upper room, the same on the Last Supper was in. (Luke 22:9-12) Most scholars believe that this was the home of Mark John's mother as mentioned in Acts 12:12 & 25. Mark 14:51-52 mentions a young man in the Mount of Olives when Jesus was arrested, unique to Mark's gospel. This seems to have little to do with the account except that this young man was a witness. Colossians 4:10 states that Mark was the cousin of Barnabas. (See Acts 15:36-41 for more.) Mark was what we would call a "momma boy" and a "home boy" because in youth he had run away when life got ruff (Mount of Olives, first mission trip). Yet, God and Paul used him greatly. Mark wrote the gospel by his name.

* "Aristarchus" -Aristarcus was Paul's traveling companion and was beaten for the gospel in Ephesus. (Acts 19:29) He was a Macedonian from Thessalonica. (Acts 20:4) He traveled with Paul from Jerusalem to Rome. (Acts 27:2) He is mentioned in the letter to the Colossians. (Col. 4:10)

* "Demas" -Demas started good and was with Paul a long time. He is also mentioned in Col. 4:14. Yet, during Paul's second Roman prison stay, during Nero's great persecution against Christians Demas left Paul and Rome. (2 Tim. 4:10)

* "Luke" -Luke wrote Acts probably at this time (Acts 1:1) and the gospel that bears his name (Luke 1:3). He is called a historian because of these two books. Luke the physician was with Paul's ministry for a long time. (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11). In Acts he uses the word "we" when describing events he was at.

* Philemon knew all the men mentioned.

>Why do you think he only mentions Timothy in the opening of the letter?

* Timothy was the one who was closes to Paul. He considered him a true and dear son. (1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2, 2:1) Philemon knew Timothy well too.

* Paul was probably grooming Timothy to be his replacement when he died.

>2. Who are the recipients? (1b-2)

* Philemon 1:1b "To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:"

* "Philemon" -Philemon was a believer in Colosse who, along with others, was a slave owner (Col. 4:1; for slavery in the New Testament see Eph. 6:5). Philemon is a Greek name. So he must have moved from Greece to Colosse in territory of Phrygian. One of his slaves, Onesimus, had apparently stolen from him and ran away, which under Roman law was punishable by death. (See introduction for more.)

* "our dear friend" -Paul knew him personally and considered him a friend. Paul is not recorded to visit Colosse but probably stopped by Laodicia, a neighboring town, on his way to Ephasus on his third missionary journey. Paul stayed in Ephesus for over two years. Philemon may have traveled to Ephesus on business trips since it was the area sea port and capital. He could have visited Paul then too.

* "fellow worker" -When Jesus calls us he forgives our sins. We become his servants, working for his kingdom. Together all believers work for the kingdom of God.

* "Apphia our sister" -She is not recorded elsewhere. Her name is a Phygian, a native to the territory. She is believed to be the wife of Philemon, or a relative since she was living in his household. The former is most likely since his name was Greek and hers was Phyrgian.

* "Archippus our fellow soldier" -Archippus is mentioned in Colossians 4:17 where Paul said, "Tell Archippus: 'See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.'" Most believe he is the son of Philemon and Apphia.

>How did they hear the gospel? (19b)

* Philemon 1:19b "not to mention that you owe me your very self."

* As mentioned here and in the introduction they came to hear the gospel either through Paul directly or indirectly.

>What were they doing in their house? (2b)

* "the church that meets in your home" -Pilemon, Apphila, and Archippus lived in the same house either a family, relatives, servants, or slaves. The first is the most likely. They used their house as a place where the congregation of the town could meet in. Congregations meeting together is someone's house was very common. Other religions had temples and synagogues. The early churches had each other.

* "church" -"Church" is "ekklesia" in Greek also translated as congregation and assembly.

* From Jesus' ministry to the present Jesus' people have been meeting together as a local congregation. At first they meet in the Jewish synagogues since most of the first believers were Jews or Jewish converts. Paul especially made it a point to preach in the Jewish synagogues when he first arrived in a new city. However, while a few Jews and Jewish converts believed eventually most rejected and forced the believers in Jesus out of the Jewish synagogue. In this sence new synagogues were created. At first believers in Jesus were called "Christians" (Acts. 11:26) and their faith and lifestyle was called "The Way". (Acts 9:2, 18:25-26, 19:9,23; 22:4,14,22) They often just meet in people's homes. Eventually they build buildings. The buildings eventually were mislabeled as churches. Now most call building churches when in fact the people are the church of Jesus Christ. When I was a young lad in elementary school we went to the only local church in town, a large Catholic one, once a week since almost everyone of its less than one thousand residents were Catholic. For a few years when I was ten or eleven years old, a family from a neighboring town came to our school during this time offering a Bible study. I went a few times because a classmate said they gave candy. I remember that they said they belonged to the Way. I don't remember anything about them and later I learned that they are a cult who does not believe inthe Trinity, that Jesus is not God, and other non-Biblical teachings. I learn that candy leads to the Wrong Way.

* Modern Christians place to much of an emphasis on the building they meet it. They take pride in it; spending lots of money, time, and sweet in building and upkeeping it. There's nothing wrong in having a well kept building for we don't want the neighbors to think ill of us. Yet, let's not become like the the disciples whom said to Jesus about the temple, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" "Do you see all these great buildings?" Jesus may reply, "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Mark 13:1-2) The money used on church buildings should be used on gospel workers and world mission support.

>3. What does verse 3 mean? (He starts most of his letters this way.)

* Philemon 1:3 "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

* "Grace" -Grace means unmerited divine assistance. Jesus called us, forgave our sins, and promises eternal life in his kingdom not because of who we are or what we did or will do, but because of his grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." We were chosen not because of anything we did, will do, any good or admirable quality in us, or our wisdom strength or some ability. It has nothing to do with anything about us and everything to do with his sovereign grace.

* "peace from God" -We are no longer at war with God. Before we repented we were at war with God in the members of our body. Now a peace of heart that surpasses understanding is available to us if we remain united with Jesus. God restores us to friendly relations with him so that we coexist in harmony and complete compatibility with him.

* "God our Father" -Jesus taught his disciples to call God our Father, especially when we pray. God the Father is the loving and powerful head of the spiritual family.

* "the Lord Jesus Christ" -This is a very common title for Jesus in the New Testament. Lord shows his authority. Christ is Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah, both meaning the Anointed One of God. Jesus was the name given to him from God the Father through an angle to Joseph. It means the Lord saves and Savior.

>4. What was Paul thankful for? (4)

* Philemon 1:4 "I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,"

* "I... my"- Though Paul started the letter stating it was from him and Timothy at this point the letter is person to person.

* "always thank my God" -Paul found a way to be thankful for everyone he prayed for.

* "remember you in my prayers" -Paul prayed for a lot of people by name. Praying for others, especially those we minister to is very important. Jesus prayed for his disciples. Shouldn't we follow his example.

>Why? (5)

* Philemon 1:5 "because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints."

* Colossians 1:4 states, "because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints"

* The NIV (which I use here) translates these verses these ways as an example of the literary device called "chiasm" in which the thought is structured like the Greek letter "chi" (x). Paul is being very careful and crafty in his Greek when writing this letter do to the nature of the intended outcome.

* "faith in Christ Jesus" -Our faith is all about Jesus.

* "love for all the saints" -Jesus commanded us to love one another. How? After Jesus washed his disciples feet he said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

>5. What did Paul pray for? (6a)

* Philemon 1:6a "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith"

* "may be active" -We are to always share what we believe in. All Christians are to bear fruit. Jesus said, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:8) And, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other." (John 15:16-17)

>What is our faith?

* Romans 1:17 states, "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

* Romans 3:28 states, " For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law."

* Romans 4:16 states, "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all."

* Romans 5:1-2 states, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."

* Hebrews 10:37-39 states, "For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved."

* Hebrews 11:3 states, "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible."

* Hebrews 11:13 states, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth."

* Galatians 2:16 states, "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified."

>Why is this so important? (Acts 1:7-8)

* Acts 1:7-8 "He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

* Jesus has chosen us to be witnesses to him. We must therefore live by faith in his promises. If we do not have faith in him and yet testify about him we would be fools for the life of being a witness to Jesus is not at all easy. It is the hardest life to live. Yet he is with us to the end.

>What happens when we share our faith? (6b)

* Philemon 1:6b "so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."

* In this life there are benefits to sharing our faith. One is stated here.

* "full understanding" -When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord of our life and Savior of our soul the life of faith just begins. As we begin to share our faith, living as Jesus did, we grow to understand. As our relationship with Jesus matures we understand and learn from him more and more.

* "of every good thing we have in Christ" -Jesus brings so many good things in our lives. Galatians 5:22-25 states, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

* Philippians 2:12-13 states, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

>What should our love do?

* Philemon 1:7 "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints."

* "Your love" -earlier he said this was love for all the saints.

* "given me joy and encouragement" -When we love those in Christ, even those who hear about it are encouraged. Love is a blessing that keeps on given. The enemy and his people see true love as a weakness. Jesus showed us on the cross that love is the most powerful act of God.

* "refreshed the hearts" -Love is refreshing. Psalms 23:1-3 tells us of the Lord Jesus refreshing waters. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

* "hearts" -Hearts in other translations is bowels. The Greek word implies the entire psychological nature; the inner life of the believers.

* "all the saints" -Saint means "holy", set apart by God. A saint is someone who has been sanctified, made holy, purified by the Jesus' blood, not because of good conduct. Israelites were called holy, separated, and consecrated. (Ex. 19:6; Deut. 7:6, 14:2,21; Dan. 7:8,22) The Christian church has inherited the title and the priviledges of the Isralites nation. So are you a saint or a ain't? If the latter, what are you waiting for? Admit your sin and helpless state, turn to God in humble repentance and ask for his forgiveness and for him to become the Lord of your life giving him complete control.

II. Paul's Plea for Onesimus (8-25)

>6. What problem seems to have happened that Paul addresses? (12a, 16a)

* Philemon 1:12 "I am sending him--who is my very heart--back to you."

* Philemon 1:16 "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."

* Onesimus, a slave of Philemon who lived in Colosse, had stolen some of his master's goods and fled to Rome. (18-19) Somehow he came into contact with Paul who was under house arrest. During that time Paul preached the gospel to him and Onesimus accepted the gospel. (10) It is also possible that Paul, a Roman citizen legally adopted him. Onesimus remained with Paul after accepting the gospel, helping him in some way perhaps as a chef. (11, 13) Now Paul was sending him back to his owner.

* Paul did not directly say that Onesimus stole in this letter. He implied it in a gracious way.

>What could Paul do in Christ but did not do? (8)

* Philemon 1:8 "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,"

* "Therefore" -The doctrinal facts Paul just stated is now made practical. This is typical writing technique for Paul.

* "in Christ I could be bold and order you" -As spiritual elder and the person who brought the gospel to Philemon, Paul could order him to release Onesimus from slavery and allow him to stay with Paul as a fellow servant.

* "I could" -Paul reserved the right, but did not use it.

* "to do what you ought to do" -Ordering someone to do the right thing will not allow them the chance to do it by faith and love. Although there is a reward for obeying, there is a greater reward for doing because it is the right thing to do.

* The heretics in Colosse said that slaves should be treated as a fellow man. Paul is saying that Philemon should treat Onesimus as his brother.

* 1 Timothy 6:2 states, "Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them."


* Philemon 1:9-10 "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-- I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains."

* "on the behalf of love" -Paul hoped that the love Philemon had for Christ and the church (5) would spill over to Onesimus.

>What can the spiritual mature learn from Paul?

* The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, "Whether the apostle is distinguishing between apostolic authority and the kind of authority exercisable by other Christian leaders is uncertain. In any case, he does illustrate the most effective way true Christian leadership can function."

>7. How might Onesimus be Paul's son?

* "who became my son while I was in chains" (10)-while in Rome under house arrest.

* In Galatians 4:19 Paul wrote "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you."

* In 1 Corinthians 4:15 Paul wrote, "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel."

* However, be warned not to use this in the wrong way. Jesus taught, "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt. 23:8-12)

* "Who is my very heart" (12) and "as you would welcome me" (17) -I have suggested in the introduction and earlier that Paul may have adapted Onesimus. However, I have no proof of this other than the fact that he stresses the point that Onesimus is his son. Adoption in Roman law was very common. A sum of money was exchanged between the parties and the boy assumed the adoptive father's name, plus a cognomen that indicated his original family. Adoption was not secretive or considered shameful, nor was the adopted boy expected to cut ties to his original family. Like a marriage contract, adoption was a way to reinforce inter-family ties and political alliances. The adopted child was often in a privileged situation, enjoying both original and adoptive family connections. Almost every politically famous Roman family used it. Auguststus and Clodius Caesar were two of the many Caesars to be adapted.

>What does verse 11 mean in light of new life in Christ?

* Philemon 1:11 "Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me."

* "useless... useful" -Paul is playing on the meaning of Onesimus' name. The name means, profitable.

* Isaiah 64:6-9 states, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people."

>8. Why was Paul sending him back? (12, 17)

* Philemon 1:12 "I am sending him--who is my very heart--back to you."

* Philemon 1:17 "So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me."

* Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)

* Luther said, "Even as Christ did for us with God the Father, thus Paul also does for Onesimus with Philemon."

* J. Vernon McGee wrote in Thru the Bible Commentary Series, "The primary purpose of this epistle is to reveal Christ's love for us in what He did for us in pleading our case before God. This is one of the finest illustrations of substitution. "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on min account" (18) We can hear Christ agreeing to take our place and to have all our sins imputed to Him. He took our place in death, but He gives us His place in life. "If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself" (17). We have the standing of Christ before God, or we have no standing at all. Onesimus, the unprofitable runaway slave, was to be received as Paul, the great apostle, would have been received in the home of Philemon."

>What personal desire did he resist?

* Philemon 1:13 "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."

* "I would have liked" -Paul was under house arrest for several years. (Acts. 28:30) Conditions must have been hard for Paul. Add to that he was old and his body was well warn.

* "take your place" -Paul was saying that Philemon, use to and still had an obligation to help him.

* "while I am in chains" -some have suggested Paul said this figuratively. We have every reason to believe the chains were real, though not all the time.

* "for the gospel" -As noted above Paul knew he was in chains for the work of God. He knew God had a purpose in this just as God had a purpose in Joseph's, Daniel's, and Jeremiah's prison times.


* Philemon 1:14 "But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced."

* "without your consent" -Paul gave Philemon the chance to release Onesimus from slavery and send him back to Paul.

* "favor" -Of no benefit to Philemon.

* "spontaneous and not forced" -We should act in love without thought. At times this is hard. Corrie ten Boom was once approached by a man after one of her inspiring speaches. The man said, "I was a guard at the camp you and your family were in. I have recently accepted the Lord. Can you forgive me?" The man reached out his arm for her to shake. She said she remembered how her parents and siblings died at the Nazi concentration camp. She remembered the horrible conditions there. Then she remembered how the Lord forgave her. She said it was the hardest thing to do, to reach out her hand and said to the man, "I forgive you." She displayed the forgiving spirit Paul was asking Philemon to show to Onesimus. How does your forgiving spirit compare?

>9. What did Paul speculate and what does this tell us about the life of faith?

* Philemon 1:15-16 "Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good-- 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."

* "back for good" -He would not run away again.

* "better than a slave" -Onesimus was not a good slave. He stole and ran away. Neither were we good slaves for that is what we were before Jesus paid for our freedom.

* "as a dear brother" -A brother in Christ. Paul, Philemon and Onesimus were all brothers in Christ. We are all brother in Christ.

* "dear" -love.

>10. What personal sacrifice was Paul going to make for both men?

* Philemon 1:18-19 "If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back--not to mention that you owe me your very self."

* Imagine the day you stand before Christ's bema seat. Satan says, "He is a guilty slave." Jesus said, "I paid for his freedom." Satan says, "He owes me." Jesus says, "I will pay it back in full. He is now my brother. I have cleaned him up and he is welcomed in our large family mansion. He is my dear brother." And God the Father says, "He is my son whom I am well pleased with." This of course is speculation to set up the question, "Are your sins paid for? Is the debt paid? Jesus is willing to pay it if you repent and believe.

>How did Paul ask that Philemon respond?

* Philemon 1:20-21 "I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask."

* "I... my" -Both pronouns are emphatic, making an obvious allusion to verse 7.

* "benefit" -The Greek word is another play on the name of Onesimus.

* "do even more than I ask" -Release him from slavery, cancel the debts, let him stay in the guest house, then send him back to Paul as a permanent gospel worker.

>What can we learn about how to deal with practical personal problems?

* All that we do should be evaluated against what God has done for us. All we do should be related to the word and work of God.

>11. Why do you think Paul mentioned that he was coming?

* Philemon 1:22 "And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers."

* "hope to be restored to you" -Philemon had been praying for Paul unknowing where Onesimus had gone or what he had been doing. The letter and his appearance must have been a shock to Philemon at first. Now he hears that his prayers were gong to be answered and in a way he had not expected. Added to that Paul said he was going to go to Colosse or at least Ephesus where the two could meet up again.

>How does he close the letter? (25) What does this mean?

* Philemon 1:25 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."

* "spirit" -Man is made with a body, soul, and spirit. The spirit is reborn by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is purely God's sovereign grace that stays with us if we allow it.


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