Philemon 1: Plea for Onesimus

What was the extent of Timothy’s involvement in writing to Philemon?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Philemon 1:1–3 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and our brother Timothy are writing this letter to Philemon, our dear friend and coworker for Christ, to our beloved sister Apphia and fellow soldier Archippus, and the assembly of believers meeting in your house. May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you favor and peace.
King James
Philemon 1:1–3 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why did Paul involve others in his personal plea to Philemon?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Philemon 1:1–3 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and our brother Timothy are writing this letter to Philemon, our dear friend and coworker for Christ, to our beloved sister Apphia and fellow soldier Archippus, and the assembly of believers meeting in your house. May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you favor and peace.
King James
Philemon 1:1–3 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where was Philemon’s house? What kind of house do you think he had?

Author’s Thoughts
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Colossians 4:9 My faithful brother Onesimus is originally from Colosse. He and Tychicus can tell you all about our ministry here.
Philemon 1:1–4 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and our brother Timothy are writing this letter to Philemon, our dear friend and coworker for Christ, to our beloved sister Apphia and fellow soldier Archippus, and the assembly of believers meeting in your house. May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you favor and peace. I continually give thanks for you, keeping you in my prayers.
King James
Colossians 4:9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
Philemon 1:1–4 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

How might Paul have received knowledge of what was happening in Philemon’s city?

Author’s Thoughts
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Philemon 1:5–7 I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all believers. May the sharing of your faith be effective as you tell all that Christ Jesus has done in your life. My friend, your expressions of love bring me great joy, for you have comforted so many of God’s people.
King James
Philemon 1:5–7 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

Slavery was common in Paul’s day, and he encourages slaves to serve their masters well. Why did Paul have a different desire for Onesimus?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
1 Corinthians 7:21 Were you a slave when you came to know the Lord? Then be content to remain a slave until such time that you can be made free.
Ephesians 6:5 If you are a slave or employee, obey your masters, supervisors, or bosses with great respect for their positions, serving them wholeheartedly as you would serve Christ.
Colossians 3:22 Slaves, do more for your masters than the bare minimum to get by. Seek to please those who have authority over you as part of your service to God.
1 Timothy 6:1 Employees should honor their bosses with their best work effort so their behavior does not discredit the name of God and Christian teaching.
Titus 2:9 Encourage servants to obey those in authority, without argument seeking to please them in every way,
Philemon 1:8–9 That’s why I can boldly ask of you what is most pleasing to the Lord. As a wise old man and prisoner of Jesus Christ, I appeal to your willingness to be loving.
King James
1 Corinthians 7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
Colossians 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
Titus 2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
Philemon 1:8–9 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, 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.

How might Onesimus have served Paul in prison?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Philemon 1:10 beg you to show kindness to Onesimus, who has been like a son to me in prison.
King James
Philemon 1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

What changed the slave’s value?

Author’s Thoughts
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Philemon 1:11 He used to be worthless, but now he’s a treasure, both for you and for me.
King James
Philemon 1:11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

How did Onesimus gain a special place in Paul’s heart?

Author’s Thoughts
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Philemon 1:12–13 In sending him to you, I’m giving up part of my own being. While in prison for preaching the good news of Christ, I would love to have Onesimus remain here to help me, just as you would.
King James
Philemon 1:12–13 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

What is the difference between cheerful obedience and a choice out of obligation?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
2 Corinthians 9:7 People should decide for themselves what is right, not giving grudgingly because of obligation or social pressure. God respects those who give cheerfully—not just willingly—but eagerly taking advantage of the opportunity.
Philemon 1:14 Without your consent, I can do nothing but encourage your kindness if it’s what you really want, not because you feel obligated.
King James
2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
Philemon 1:14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

If Onesimus were to be with Philemon for every day after delivering Paul’s letter, what difference would his freedom from slavery make?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Philemon 1:15–17 Perhaps Onesimus left for a while so he can be with you from now on, not as a servant but as a faithful friend in the Lord, for he has been that for me and will be even more for you, both physically and spiritually. If you consider me a close friend and coworker, welcome Onesimus as you would me.
King James
Philemon 1:15–17 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; 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? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

What reasons might Onesimus have had for leaving the house of Philemon?

Author’s Thoughts
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Philemon 1:18 If he owes you anything or has wronged you in any way, put that debt on my account.
King James
Philemon 1:18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

What did Paul think Onesimus owed his master?

Author’s Thoughts
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Philemon 1:18–19 If he owes you anything or has wronged you in any way, put that debt on my account. With my personal signature, I confirm my obligation and will pay you, and I won’t mention that you owe your life to me.
King James
Philemon 1:18–19 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.

How far did Paul think Philemon would go in responding the plea for Onesimus’s freedom?

Author’s Thoughts
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Philemon 1:20–21 For sure, my dear brother, my heart will overflow with joy if you do this favor for the Lord and for me. Knowing your desire to please the Lord, I write with confidence that you will do more than I ask.
King James
Philemon 1:20–21 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.

Why did Paul ask for Philemon’s prayers?

Author’s Thoughts
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Philemon 1:22 Prepare a guest room and pray that I may soon come to see you.
King James
Philemon 1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

Why might Epaphras’s greeting have been of any importance to the household of Philemon? Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke?

Author’s Thoughts
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Colossians 1:7 Christ’s faithful servant Epaphras, who shared the good news with you, is now working with us.
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who came from your fellowship, is fervently serving the Lord here. He is praying that you find God’s perfect will in all that you do.
Philemon 1:23–24 Epaphras, a prisoner with me for the cause of Christ, sends his greeting, and so do my coworkers, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.
King James
Colossians 1:7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
Colossians 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.
Philemon 1:23–24 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.