Philemon (& Thessalonians )- fellow, brother, prisoner


Last week

    Faith ( Hebrew James ) + Timothy & Titus


      (1&2 Thessalonians)






(A)Paul, a 

prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved

brother and

fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our

fellow soldier, and to (I)the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon’s Love and Faith

I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the

fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for the sake of Christ. For I have had great joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the [g]saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, an old man, and now also a

prisoner of Christ Jesus—

The Plea…

10 I appeal to you for my son

Onesimus, whom I fathered in my imprisonment, 11 who previously was

useless to you, but now is

useful both to you and to me. 12 I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, 13 whom I wanted to keep with me, so that in your behalf he might be at my service in my

imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion, but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps it was for this reason that he was separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved

brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 If then you regard me as a (AE)partner, accept him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; 19 I, Paul, have written this with my own hand, I will repay it(not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well). 20 Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.

22 At the same time also prepare me a guest room, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you.

23 Epaphras, my 

fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my

fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.



1st Century Runaways…

Based on the extant evidence we can suppose that slaves did expect to encounter a degree of maltreatment. However, if this transgressed acceptable limits many slaves may have felt they had no option but to resist. John Chrysostom ( died A.D407 ) unmistakably equates the fear of violence with a slave’s decision to escape, asking his congregation “if you have a slave…when is he most in fear, when most inclined to run away? Is it not when you threaten him?”58 In light of this, it seems fair to assume that for a great many slaves the risks associated with flight were outweighed by the imminent threat of a beating or whipping.59

Ph 16

Besides the deeply personal reasons for running away, it appears that some slaves were opportunist. In times of political upheaval, or in the confusion following the death of their master, slaves are known to have made their escape. Most famously, the slave revolt led by Spartacus (died 71 b.c.) in the first century BC attracted thousands of runaways from across Italy.

Pg19 Virtually all the runaways discussed above appear to have been, as far as we can tell, domestic household slaves or slaves whose job necessitated a degree of autonomy (i.e. shepherds). I would wager that this is no coincidence. Needless to say, those bondspeople who were not constantly under their master’s watch would have had greater opportunity to hatch and execute an escape plan. Equally, it is imaginable that slaves who were permitted to move freely over their master’s property would have had more scope to steal provisions or money for a life on the run

i. Paul’s friendship with Philemon is shown by something significantly missing in his greeting. Of the 13 letters Paul wrote to churches or individuals, in 9 of them he called himself an apostle in the opening verse. In this letter (along with Philippians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians), Paul appealed to his reader more as a friend and less an apostle.

In this letter Paul will appeal to Philemon regarding a runaway slave who has met Jesus and found refuge with Paul. In the customs of that day, Philemon’s wife Apphia was the supervisor of the slaves in the household, so the letter concerned her also.


Up to the third century we have no certain evidence of the existence of church buildings for the purpose of worship; all references point to private houses for this. In Rome several of the oldest churches appear to have been built on the sites of houses used for Christian worship.” (Oesterley)

Who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me:

In some way, Onesimus became profitable to Paul. Perhaps he served as an assistant to Paul during his house arrest. So, Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus was now unprofitable to Philemon since he had escaped. But he had become profitable to Paul – and by extension, also to Philemon (profitable to you and me). Since Philemon loved Paul, if Onesimus helped Paul he was helping Philemon also.

i. When Paul spoke of Onesimus being unprofitable and profitable, he made a play on a word. The name Onesimus means profitable. Now that he was a Christian, Onesimus could live up to his name

ii. “It is significant to note that Paul claims that in Christ the useless person has been made useful.” (Barclay)