STUDIES IN PHILEMON

Which points in this short epistle seem to stand out the most for you?

I have appreciated the book of Philemon for the kindness and love shown in it. It could well be a model for any letter or email message to any other brother or sister in the church. If a letter is worth writing, it is worth planning and considering the possible impact it may have on the reader.

Paul began with these few sections:

  • Greeting and Encouragement–vss. 1-3
  • Philemon’s love and faith–vss. 4-7
  • Paul’s plea for Onisimus – vss. 8-22
  • Final greetings–vss. 23-25

Although there are many ideas to discuss, three things stand out for me.

1    Paul clearly shows his love for Philemon and his admiration for all his good works.

2    Then, still honoring Philemon as a beloved brother, he tells him how much Onisimus means to him.  I cannot imagine how much Onisimus has changed from being a runaway slave to being a new Christian, who is willing to go back to his master to serve in that same capacity, no matter what happens as a consequence of his flight.  This is truly the “new man” (2 Cor. 5:17).

3    Finally, Paul is counting on Philemon to accept Onisimus back because he believes that Philemon also is a “new man.” He encourages him to accept Onisimus as a brother in Christ and not do to him what the law would allow him to do.

If we dealt with each other in such a way, the church would be so much better. Do we really love each other like Christ loves us? See: John 13:34John 13:35John  15:12John 15:17Rom. 12:10Rom. 13:8Gal. 5:13Eph. 4:21Thess. 3:121Thess. 4:9Heb. 10:241 Pet. 1:221 Pet. 3:81 John 3:111 John 3:231 John 4:71 John 4:111 John 4:122 John 1:5.

One strong point comes from Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 7:21-221 Cor. 9:19; and Gal. 1:10. New Christians in the first century often found themselves in this situation.  What was the right thing to do?  How were they to treat each other now that they had “freedom” in Christ?

Let me share the audio with five of my nineteen grandchildren singing a Bible verse that illustrates this point so well (We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 Jn. 3:16-18)). This should be a hot link to listen to the song.

–Beth Johnson

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