Philemon: Introduction – Even though this letter is a brief, personal note to a friend, it shows up in the early canon lists (Marcion’s [Cannon of 144 A.D.] and the Muratorian [Cannon 170-200 A.D.]) – Further, the ancient church never doubted its authenticity
Epistle - Place of Origin: The traditional view that this letter was written while Paul was in a Roman prison has been assailed from two corners: some claim Ephesus is a better starting point, others suggest Caesarea. Before deciding on this issue, it must first be recognized that, on the assumption of authenticity, where Paul was when he wrote Ephesians is where he was when he wrote Colossians and Philemon. This can be seen by several pieces of evidence: the commendation of Tychicus, as the bearer of the letter, found in exactly the same form in both Eph 6:21-22 and Col 4:7-8, surely indicates that he was sent with both epistles at the same time; the strong verbal overlap between Colossians and Ephesians must, if authentic, indicate that the two were written at the same time; Colossians is inseparable from Philemon3-that is, they must both have been sent at the same time. Hence, all three letters were written and sent at the same time. Consequently, if there is anything in either Colossians or Philemon which helps to narrow down where Paul was imprisoned at the time of writing, such would equally apply to Ephesians. ... Occasion and Purpose: As we have discussed at length in our introductions to Ephesians and Colossians, Onesimus apparently ran away from Philemon, his pockets lined with his owner's money, and headed for Rome. He may have stumbled across Epaphroditus, who was also en route to Rome; if so, Epaphroditus may have urged him to seek out Paul in order to gain advice. While with Paul, Onesimus became a Christian (v. 10), and proved himself "useful" (a word-play on his name) to Paul. The apostle wrote this letter to Philemon, asking Philemon to reinstate Onesimus-this time as a "dear brother" (v. 16), rather than as a slave. Although Paul could command Philemon to do so, he urges him instead, hoping that Philemon will be willing without coercion. Further, to show his sincerity, Paul vows to pay back whatever Onesimus owes (vv. 18-19). [link]
PHILEMON Background: Onesimus who was probably a domestic slave of Philemon’s and had run away, stole some money from Philemon (vs. 18) to afford the getaway – We need to remember that slavery was an accepted institution in the Roman Empire – Romans and Greeks brought multitudes of slaves (old and young) home from their wars, and the buying and selling of slaves was a part of their daily life
Apparently Onesimus fled across Asia, across the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea to Rome. At Rome he was under the influence of Paul, was saved, and later returned to Colosse [Colossians 4:9 - note: Paul never visited Colosse himself]. Onesimus quickly grew in grace and endeared himself to Paul (vs. 11, 12) proving so serviceable to Paul that he would have gladly detained him in Rome (vs. 13) but Paul realized he belonged to Philemon so the Apostle took the opportunity to send him back with Tychicus, bearing the Colossian epistle and the private note to Philemon. -- The Letter: Paul's letter to Philemon was written to be the mediation between Onesimus and his outraged master. Terrible punishment was sanctioned by Roman law for such offenses; even the death penalty. A slave was absolutely at his master's mercy; for the smallest offense he might be scourged, mutilated, crucified, thrown to wild beasts, etc. But Philemon was a Christian, and therefore, when Paul writes this letter he appeals to his Christian character. [link]
Philemon – Thru the Bible Radio with Dr. J. Vernon McGee – Christianity does not do away our duties to others, but directs [us] to the right doing of them (Mp3)
Christianity does not do away our duties to others, but directs to the right doing of them. True penitents will be open in owning their faults, as doubtless Onesimus had been to Paul, upon his being awakened and brought to repentance; especially in cases of injury done to others. The communion of saints does not destroy distinction of property. This passage is an instance of that being imputed to one, which is contracted by another; and of one becoming answerable for another, by a voluntary engagement, that he might be freed from the punishment due to his crimes, according to the doctrine that Christ of his own will bore the punishment of our sins, that we might receive the reward of his righteousness. Philemon was Paul's son in the faith, yet he entreated him as a brother. Onesimus was a poor slave, yet Paul besought for him as if seeking some great thing for himself. Christians should do what may give joy to the hearts of one another. From the world they expect trouble; they should find comfort and joy in one another. When any of our mercies are taken away, our trust and hope must be in God. We must diligently use the means, and if no other should be at hand, abound in prayer. Yet, though prayer prevails, it does not merit the things obtained. And if Christians do not meet on earth, still the grace of the Lord Jesus will be with their spirits, and they will soon meet before the throne to join forever in admiring the riches of redeeming love. The example of Onesimus may encourage the vilest sinners to return to God, but it is shamefully prevented, if any are made bold thereby to persist in evil courses. Are not many taken away in their sins, while others become more hardened? Resist not present convictions, lest they return no more. [link]
Philemon 1 – Philemon – The Apostle Paul’s personal letter to a friend a successful businessman [from Colossae] whom Paul had met probably in Ephesus [Paul never made it to Colossae] – Philemon had a slave that ran away [and probably stole something] from Philemon and Paul asked Philemon to receive the slave Onesimus back, not as a runaway slave as he had been but now as a free brother in Jesus Christ to both Paul and Philemon – It’s not recorded but Church tradition is that Philemon did receive Onesimus back and did grant him his freedom — ‘Philemon 1:15-16 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever; 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?’
The Bible's book of Philemon concludes: Philemon 1:17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. *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: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you. There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus [Mark], Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas [Luke], my fellow laborers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.