The American Wisdom Series
Caution to students of God's Word - Please remember two things when using our studies: #1. Our commentary is not God's Word. It is only our interpretation or understanding of "His Word" and even though we try our best to be accurate we may or may not be correct. #2. The King James translation, or any other translation, of the original Hebrew text has some words which were given different translations at different places probably because of the interpreters preconceived ideas of what they think God meant to say. For example: According to the notes in the "Drake's Annotated Reference Bible" the Hebrew word hayah in the KJV is Trans. (became) 67 times, (becamest or came to pass) 505 times, (become) 66 times, and (come to pass) 131 times, but for some reason in Genesis 1:2 it is translated (was)! That sure changes the way a person perceives the original creation of the earth, doesn't it? Gen. 1:2 And the earth was (became) without form, ... Having said that, let us continue with our "Key Knowledge" lessons. These are pamphlets containing knowledge, we believe, you must have to fully and accurately unlock and understand the Word of God.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
This Bible Study was originally written by Roger
published at http://www.theseason.org/
Without the leading by the Holy Spirit, there is no understanding of the truths, for all the truth of the Scriptures are revealed to us by God's Spirit.
Now here is our revised study of:
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO
"The Acceptance of a Fellow Brother or Sister in Christ."
The only thing that we know about this man called Philemon is what the Apostle Paul wrote in this letter to him. Philemon was a believer that lived at Colosse, for the the reference to certain others in the church at Colosse. Philemon must have been a man of some great wealth considering that fact that he owned slaves, and by this letter to Philemon, it is obvious that Paul held Philemon in very high esteem.
Onesimus is the Latin-ized for of the Greek name Onesimos, which means "useful", or "profitable". Onesimus was a slave that was fleeing from his master, and ended up in Rome where he in time fell under the teaching of Paul. There He became one of the Lord's freeman, which is called "being a servant (slave of the Lord)". Though Onesimus did not desire to return to his old position as a slave under Philemon, for the Lord's sake, he was willing to return and take what ever punishment and duties that were given him for his past deeds.
Though Onesimos was willing to return to his old Masters service, it didn't matter to him how Philemon would treat him now that he has become a Christian; as a slave or as a brother in Christ. Paul urged Philemon to consider Onesimos as one that he loved and trusted now, after his conversion, and Paul asked Philemon to consider the time when he owed Paul a great debt also, and it was forgiven of him.
Though we are talking about slaves and the ownership of one person owning another, and there is nothing racial in this letter. At the time of the Roman empire the ownership of slaves was very common, like one man coming under the legal bondage by his own debts to a banker today. Though today the though of slaves might become a racial thing, back then bondage could happen to any race or person that found himself deep in debt, of a prisoner of the government.
So to be freeborn was more the exception rather than the rule. If a family became in trouble financially to another, they would sell a son or daughter for monetary reason. There were all sorts of people that were bound in slavery. So this letter is about the return of a slave to his master, whereby both the Master and the slave are now Christians, and under the teaching of Paul.
Philemon 1 "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,"
The word "Philemon" means "affectionate" in the Greek. Paul is trying to arrange for this slaves freedom, and he is going to try to remind Philemon of the position that all of have as servants to our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is using psychology at it's best. As a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a complete servant of the Lord, and as such you become obligated to follow all the instruction that are given by God regarding the brethren. Paul is reminding Philemon that he considers Philemon one of us in the battle for our Lord.
Philemon 2 "And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:"
Apphia was Philemon's wife, and Archippus was their son, as recorded in Colossians 4:17, was in the ministry. "And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." " It is obvious that the church at Colosse was in the home of this family, and Paul knew that Onesimos would be well received.
Philemon 3 "Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
This is a standard salutation between Christians, reminding each of them of the love and unmerited favor that we have with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Philemon 4 "I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,"
Paul is confiding in them that Philemon and his family are always mentioned in his prayers.
Philemon 5 "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus , and toward all saints;"
You can see that Paul is preparing Philemon for the real message that is coming later in the letter. Paul is going to paint this fellow Christian in such a good light that there will be no way that Philemon could refuse to grant Paul's request of him.
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."
Paul is reminding Philemon that the rest of the community is watching to see what Philemon does with this slave Onesimus, for this will show them if what Philemon and their ministry is true and of faith, of just a bunch of words. Paul is telling Philemon that by receiving Onesimus back as a fellow Christian it acknowledges the good thing that we have in Jesus Christ. This is another way of telling Philemon of the trust that he has in him, and again we see that Paul is making the way for the main request of this letter.
Philemon 7 "For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother."
Paul is telling Philemon that it is just a good pleasure to be around you, my good brother. Paul was well trained as a lawyer, and deep in the law, and Paul is using the training that he had prior to his conversion for the sake of the advancement of the gospel of Christ.
Philemon 8 "Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,"
Paul is saying, you may think of me as being a little bold in Christ, but I must present this to you as I am.
Philemon 9 "Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such as one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ."
Paul is saying, I am going to ask a favor of you, but don't forget who I am, before you respond to my request. I'm Paul, I'm the one that converted you and the rest of the Christians of your family. I'm the one that established the church in your town. There was a time that Philemon even owed his life to Paul.
Philemon 10 "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds;"
Now we get into the subject of this entire letter. Paul is expressing to Philemon how he holds Onesimus in such close esteem, that he is calling Onesimus his son. Later when Paul sends another letter to the church at Colosse, we read [Colossians 4:9] that Paul regards Onesimus tenderly, and "as a faithful and beloved brother".
Paul is telling Philemon that even while I was held in prison here in Rome, I brought about the conversion of Onesimus. Remember that Paul know that Onesimus was a slave and that Philemon owned him. At that moment of reading this letter Onesimus was not too popular with Philemon, but after reading of this letter his attitude would change. Paul is reminding Philemon that in Onesimus' conversion, he would bring profit back to him, even as a fellow brother in Christ.
So stop and think for a moment: Why would God allow this very small book or letter be entered into the Holy Word of God? The subject of the entire book is about one sad slave that had run away, only to be converted and returned to his master. This slave broke his covenant and contract that he had with his master, and now after the conversion of this slave comes back to his master a new man. As we saw from Paul's own hand, Philemon had to be a pretty good person, and the one doing the damage was Onesimus when he ran away. So what is God trying to tell us through this story in the New Testament about this runaway slave?
It is a lesson that we all can be a slave to this flesh body, and the world that we live in. Yet at conversion and being brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, there is a change in each of us, and Christ makes that change in our lives. Paul is a type, who also brought about the conversion of that slave called Philemon, and now Onesimus is in the position that Philemon use to be in, and this becomes a real test as to the ministry of Paul. Philemon was a convert of Paul, just as Onesimus was; and now the one who once was a slave becomes the master to pass judgment on another slave [Onesimus], and just like Philemon also became a Christian.
That is what conversion does to you; it brings love in your life and takes away the slavery to the things of this world. It also allows one to free his own flesh to rule over his inner man. In the act of conversion, the inner man or soul that used to be a slave to the flesh is changed by the power of God and the bounds of slavery are broken. That freedom was not purchased with money, but with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our freedom was bought with the love of Christ for us. Within Paul's love for this slave, we see the love that Christ had for us when we also were in the bonds of slavery to sin. With the freedom comes all the blessings that God has for us when we love him and seek to do His will.
So now that Paul is bringing up the name of Onesimus, he is bringing up a very touchy subject for the name Onesimus means "profit", and to Philemon at the reading of this letter was just the opposite, a slave that was worthless. Paul is now going to get to the subject of accepting Onesimus back in love, and now as a fellow Christian brother. Paul is probably the only one that could be bold and approach Philemon on this subject for Philemon had been in that same position in times past.
Philemon 11 "Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:"
Paul is agreeing with Philemon that in time past, Onesimus was unprofitable, but now after his conversion, he became very profitable to me in my ministry, and he will be to you. .
Philemon 12 "Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:"
Paul is begging Philemon to receive this one that is part of my very heart. Paul is giving Onesimus some very high credentials to this slave. Philemon knows that Paul is the one that brought him to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he owes Paul for the knowledge of his eternal life, in that sense. Paul is calling the debt to his remembrance, and we will see that Philemon was willing to receive Onesimus back as a brother in Christ. We know this from the high position Onesimus later held in the church that was at Colosse and in the house of Philemon. So Paul is telling Philemon that I am sending Onesimus back to you now, and he is going to profit you greatly in many ways.
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:"
Paul is saying that without your approval I can no longer be using him in my ministry, and that is why I am sending him back to you. Paul is saying that he hopes that the benefit that Philemon receives from this slave is not only from the necessity. In other words he's not ordering him to do this act, but he's making a request as one to another under the bonds of the Gospel of Christ. You can see the love that Paul has for both Philemon and Onesimus, and Paul is being the mediator between these two Christian men. Paul is letting Philemon know that he would rather keep Onesimus with him in Rome, than send him back, but the only right thing to do is to return what was rightfully yours under the law.
Philemon 14 "But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly."
Onesimus ran away for a short season, so that he could return to you to be a benefit to you forever. Now, when you take him back into your heart and service, you have a faithful and willing worker. Paul is reminding Philemon that this one that was a slave to him, will not be with him for the eternity, for his is a new man in Christ, under the shed blood of Christ and part of the kinship of the body of Christ. You lost him as a worker, but you get him back as not only a better worker, but a fellow brother in Christ.
Philemon 15 "For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever;"
Yes, now that Onesimus has returned to you, it is for an eternal commitment to the same cause as we all have, to give forth the gospel of Christ. It is important to make people see that it takes more than just loving, but you must declare your love to those loved ones to make that love binding to each other. This goes for family members, as well as the others that we have in Christ. Once you state your love to another, you have that binding chain that only love can have. Love has it's commands on your whether you are together with the other one, or apart from them. Christian Love is the most powerful thing here on earth.
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"
Paul is telling Philemon that Onesimus is coming back not in the status of a slave but he is above a servant. You talk about profitable, Onesimus now has value not only to the family business, but he is a leader in the church, taught under Paul the best of his day, and now willing and able to be a spiritual leader in the Church at Colosse. Paul is putting his own recommendations here on the abilities of Onesimus. Onesimus now has the love and understanding of the nearness of God in his life, and this effects both his flesh and spiritual life.
Philemon 17 "If thou count me therefoe a partner, receive him as myself."
Paul was one of the most highly thought of men of that day in the Christian church, and he is telling Philemon that if you count on me as your partner in Christ, than receive Onesimus as you would myself. Everybody loved Paul, and Paul was the spiritual leader in many churches that were established by him, and now Paul is laying his entire relationship at Colosse on the line, seeking the acceptance of this runaway slave. Paul is asking Philemon to look at Onesimus as though I myself am there standing before you, and asking you to take me in.
Philemon 18 "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;"
Certainly Onesimus did owe Philemon very much. Paul is saying that you take that amount and put in on the amount that you consider I owe you. Philemon owned Paul far more than than he could ever repay him, and this is the point that Paul is bringing to the attention of Philemon.
Philemon 19 "I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it; albiet I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides."
Paul is now committing himself to the actual damages in a written contract to Philemon, but at the same time he is reminding Philemon that what he owes Paul is far more than this debt that Onesimus has caused you damage. It is really not unfair for Paul to say these things for if you have the debt and obligation owed to you, and you can use that obligation for the glory of God and a fellow brother in Christ, than do it.
Philemon 20 "Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refreshed my bowels in the Lord."
The translation into the English loses much in this verse. It should read as such; "Let me have profit from thee, seeing I am sending back Onesimus (profitable) to you." this word for Joy in the Greek is to show profit. Paul is saying let me find profit in this action also, in your taking back our spiritual brother in the Lord.
Philemon 21 "Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say."
Paul knows that after reading this letter and seeing brother Onesimus, Philemon will accept Onesimus as a fellow brother in Christ.
Philemon 22 "but withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you."
Paul is looking forward to the time when he can return to Colosse and be the brethren there.
Philemon 23 "There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus;"
Philemon 24 "Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers."
Philemon 25 "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."
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