OceanSide church of Christ

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Notes on Philemon

Wayne Rodgers


*      Philemon, the letter.

·       From Colosse

§  Col 4:8-9  Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; (9)  With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.

·       His servant was Onesimus who had run away from him and had likely taken something from him (v. 18)

·       Philemon was well off if he had servants

·       Probable that he was converted by Paul while Paul was preaching at Ephesus

·       Paul loved him and appreciated him (v. 5, 7)

·       The church met in the house of Philemon (v. 2)

*      Probably written during his first imprisonment (A.D. 61-62)

·       Letters also written and carried at this time: Col. & Eph.

*      Philemon

·       A worker (v. 1)

§  We need folks who will work

·       He was a cooperative worker (v. 1)

§  Some people can work by themselves

§  He could work with others

·       He was a family man (v. 2)

§  Wife and son mentioned

§  Son is a fellow soldier

§  His family was busy serving the Lord

§  He was leading his household right

§  The church met in house (v. 2)

§  Wealthy person would have a courtyard inside

§  This could be possible

·       He was a man of love (v. 5)

·       He was a man of faith

§  One thing to express compassion for others

§  Another thing to express compassion for the Lord

§  His love was directed by faith

·       He was a friend of preachers (v. 13)

§  He had helped Paul in the past

§  Paul understood that

§  Here is Onesimus who can help him now

·       He was a great encourager (v. 7, 20)

§  It takes encouragement to keep us going

§  We need brethren who will encourage us

§  Satan’s most effective tool may be discouragement

·       He was a trustworthy man (v. 21)

§  It is good to be able to trust people

§  Many times those who don’t trust others are not trustworthy themselves

§  Liars expect other people to lie

·       He was hospitable (v. 22)

·       He was prayerful (v. 22)

§  Philemon was walking the walk

§  Sometimes people say that they will pray for you but sometimes they do not

·       He was a worshipful man (v. 2)

§  He was there when the church met in his house

§  He was not out somewhere else

·       He was a man who was in company with good men (v. 23-24)

§  Sometimes we are known by the company that we keep

§  Do not line up with nuts, radicals, and extremists

§  If you run with them, you may become like them

·       He was an abundant producer (v. 21)

§  God has blessed us abundantly

§  He doesn’t want to see us do the bare minimum

*      Outline

·       Family (v. 1-3)

·       Fellowship (v. 4-7)

·       Favor (v. 8-20)

·       Farewell (v. 21-25)

*      Things to Note

·       The Gospel is for everybody

§  Onesimus was a servant

§  Paul did not overlook him

§  God’s forgiveness will extend to all men if they will obey Him

§  Our job is to take it to every creature

·       God’s providence could have worked in this

§  How did Onesimus get to be with Paul?

§  If I pray for opportunities to teach people, does that mean I am praying for a miracle?

§  We should pray for God to give us the things that we need

§  We do not know how He will answer our prayers

*      This letter to Philemon is an appeal by Paul...

·       To receive Onesimus back, now as a brother in Christ

·       To forgive him if he had done any wrong

·       Two people who are estranged should be reconciled; forgiveness must be practiced; and just do what is right!


*      This letter contains the overall theme of the Bible, the reconciliation of man with God.



§  Philemon opening his house for the church to meet - Phm 1-2; cf. also Rom 16:3-5; 1Cor 16:19
§  His love for all the saints - Phm 5; cf. also Col 1:4; 2 Thes 1:3
§  How he refreshed the hearts of the saints - Phm 7; cf. also 1Cor 16:15-18
§  How Paul could depend upon on him for a place to stay - Phm 22
·   Certainly an example worthy of imitation!
§  Paul could have "commanded" Philemon, but instead he "appealed" to him - Phm 8-9
§  He introduced the subject of his appeal "gradually" - Phm 10 (in the Greek, the name of Onesimus is the last word in the sentence)
§  He refused to compel Philemon to let him retain Onesimus in Rome, but sent him back - Phm 12-14
§  He offers to pay Philemon for any wrong incurred by Onesimus - Phm 18-19
§  He believes in the basic goodness of Philemon, not suspicious of how he will react - Phm 21


(Philemon 1)

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,

*      Paul was in prison and Timothy was with him

·       Paul does not indicate that he was an apostle

·       Philemon did not question this apostleship


(Philemon 2)

And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

*      Philemon was busy working for the Lord

·       Apphia = likely Philemon’s wife

·       Archippus = maybe Philemon’s son (possibly a preacher)

*      This is a personal letter, but also to the church in his house.


(Philemon 3)

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

*      A common salutation

·       Grace means unmerited favor


(Philemon 4)

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

*      When the apostle Paul said he was praying for someone, he took the time out to pray for his brethren.

*      Paul was grateful for Philemon

·       It was not for flattering, but that those who will listen.


(Philemon 5)

Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;

*      John 13:34-35  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  (35)  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

·       There were good reports being made of Philemon

§  Col 1:7  As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

§  Col 4:12  Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

·       Heb 13:1  Let brotherly love continue.


(Philemon 6)

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

*      Philemon was wealthy, yet a very generous and liberal giver

*      Communication = fellowship

·       Κοινωνία / koinōnia

*      Paul wanted to see his faith in action; here was an opportunity


(Philemon 7)

For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

*      Bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee

*      The inner man (the emotion or heart-mind) not the intestinal tract

·       Philemon brought joy and uplifted others

§  1John 3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.


(Philemon 8)

Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,

*      He could have chosen a different way


(Philemon 9)

Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.

*      He said this is what you ought to do (by asking), not commanding

*      Paul the aged ~ Paul was probably around 60 yrs. of age (a lot for the time)


(Philemon 10)

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

*      Onesimus was his son spiritually like Timothy was.

·       He was converted by Paul.

·       Onesimus was the servant of Philemon

·       1 Cor 4:15  For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.


(Philemon 11)

Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

*      Onesimus means profitable, useful

·       When one hears the Gospel and obeys it changes that person.

*      He became profitable because he was now a Christian (a changed man)


(Philemon 12)

Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

*      Philemon will have the opportunity to help Onesimus grow in Christ (hopefully set him free of his servitude, to whatever extent it was)

·       Verse 2 tells of the “church in thy house” – now Onesimus would be a part of that congregation as well


(Philemon 13)

Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

*      Onesimus could have stayed and helped Paul in the work


(Philemon 14)

But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly

*      He would not do it without approval from Philemon

·       Paul did not want to keep Onesimus there in Rome without his making things right (reconciling himself) to Philemon.

·       Sometimes people assume too much

§  He was gone for a while, but then returned

§  He was just to walk in the back door and expect all was to be okay, he had to make things right with Philemon


(Philemon 15)

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;

*      He was gone for a while, but then returned

·       Departed for a season, but through providence obeyed the gospel after finding Paul and now to return as a brother in Christ

·       That thou might receive him forever…that eternal relationship that remains in Christ


(Philemon 16)

Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

*      Would Onesimus still be a servant when he returned?  Yes ~ this is an elliptical statement

·       But there is certainly a new relationship between these two men (master & servant) as well


(Philemon 17)

If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

*      Partner = means fellowship, joint participation, or partnership

·       2Co 8:23  Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.



(Philemon 18)

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

*      has Christ done that for us?

·       Paid a debt that we owed?

*      Paul allows the possibility that Onesimus had "wronged" Philemon, or "owed" him something.

·       The "if" construction (in the Greek New Testament) indicates the reality of the situation. The extent of the wrong would probably depend in the great measure upon Philemon's attitude and reckoning—the loss and the cost which the "run away" and absence had occasioned.

§  Paul says: "If this is the case, charge it to me."


(Philemon 19)

I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

*      Philemon actually owed Paul much more in preaching the Gospel to them, now his family is saved, has the church meeting in his house

*      I will pay what Onesimus owes, but you owe something also.

·       Paul gives a gentle (yet pointed) reminder that Philemon himself owed himself to Paul.

§  Likely, it is the case that Philemon was converted to Christ by Paul.

*      Rom. 1:14 - I am debtor (because I heard the Gospel, and need to teach it to others)


(Philemon 20)

Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

*      Paul is hoping and trusting that Philemon will receive this with the right attitude, so that Paul may be able to rejoice

*      Heb. 13:17 - the elders watch for you souls

·       Paul again pleads that Philemon will do what he (Paul) beseeches him to do.

·       To see Philemon and Onesimus fully reconciled, as brethren in the Lord, would be an occasion of joy to Paul. To this end, Philemon would have to receive and forgive. Paul pleads: "Let me have joy of thee in the Lord."

·       Observation: Christians must be anxious and glad "to receive and to forgive."

*      To again, see that “restored fellowship” of souls to Christ and to one another.


(Philemon 21)                               

Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.

*      He was confident in Philemon that he would do the right thing in this situation

·       He showed his confidence in Philemon (probably to set him free from his servitude)

·       It is always a good thing to show our confidence in one another

·       He knew he would do much more than requested of Paul


(Philemon 22)

But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

*      Paul trusted to be released soon

·       And he planned to come and stay with Philemon


(Philemon 23)

There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;

*      Philemon kept company with good men

·       Col 4:12  Epaphras, who is [one] of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

·       Col 4:13  For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them [that are] in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.

·       Col 4:14  Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.

§  Colossians written about same time as Philemon


(Philemon 24)

Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.

*      A good company of fellow-workers in Christ


(Philemon 25)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

*      The Grace of God is the greatest blessing in Christ Jesus

*      What a fit ending to a letter to a dear friend!