Philemon, Lesson 4

Lesson 4


Heavenly Father, we commit this time to You and pray for You to speak to each one of us according to our unique circumstances. We pray for opened ears, opened eyes, hungry hearts, and obedient spirits, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Philemon: 8-16, Paul appealed for Onesimus

VV 8-10, 8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you, being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ, 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains,

Paul considered himself an elderly prisoner of Jesus Christ. Although Paul had the apostolic authority to command Philemon to free Onesimus, yet for love’s sake he preferred to appeal to Philemon instead. Paul considered Onesimus as his spiritual son in the faith. Paul met Onesimus in the Roman prison, evangelized, converted, discipled, mentored, and adopted him as his spiritual godson in the faith.

VV 11-13, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. You, therefore, receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.

Onesimus is a Greek name that means useful. Here is a wordplay. Greek for unprofitable is “achreston” which means useless. Greek for profitable is “euchreston” which means useful. Onesimus was once useless to Philemon but now he was useful to him. He was transformed, regenerated, born-again, undergone spiritual transformation, or spiritual heart transplant if you like. Paul was sending Onesimus back to his master Philemon. He appealed to Philemon to extend his right hand of fellowship to Onesimus just as he would to Paul.

VV 14-16, 14 But without your consent, I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. 15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him 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.

Although Paul wanted to retain Onesimus as his helper in Rome, he would not do this without Philemon’s consent. Paul appealed to Philemon to receive Onesimus back into his household not as a slave but as a brother in Christ. Paul appealed to Philemon to free Onesimus from slavery. In those days, the punishment for a runaway slave when caught was the death penalty. Paul took a risk when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon. If Philemon did not agree to Paul’s appeal, he could have sentenced Onesimus to death.


Onesimus ran away from his master and Paul had to send him back. Perhaps we may be running away from our master Jesus Christ by not walking with Him. We need to come back to Christ in obedience, in surrender, in faith and be useful to Him again. We can claim the promise of 1 John 1:9, “if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness”.


Heavenly Father, thank You for the promise of 1 John 1:9. We acknowledged that You are Almighty God and we are sinners saved by Your grace. Please enable us to return to You and be useful to You in the kingdom, in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Meet Dr. Andrew C S Koh—a multi-talented individual with a diverse range of roles and achievements. He excels as an author, publisher, blogger, podcaster, Bible teacher, cardiologist, and medical director. With an impressive repertoire of 40 published books to his name, he has proven his prowess as a prolific writer. Additionally, he pursued theology studies at Laidlaw College in Auckland, New Zealand, further enriching his knowledge and expertise.

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