Dr. Andrew C S Koh
Philemon is a story on providence. Onesimus escaped to Rome and met the great apostle Paul. Paul saved his soul and gave him a new life, a new faith, a new hope, and a new beginning. Reconciled to his old master Philemon and freed from slavery, he served his new master Jesus Christ.
10 I beg you for my child, whom I have become the father of in my chains, Onesimus,11 who once was useless to you, but now is useful to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. Therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I desired to keep with me, that on your behalf he might serve me in my chains for the Good News. 14 But I was willing to do nothing without your consent, that your goodness would not be as of necessity, but of free will. 15 For perhaps he was therefore separated from you for a while, that you would have him forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much rather to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 If then you count me a partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 But if he has wronged you at all or owes you anything, put that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self besides).20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even beyond what I say. 22 Also, prepare a guest room for me, for I hope that through your prayers I will be restored to you.23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.Philemon:10-25
Paul converted, mentored, and adopted Onesimus as his spiritual godson. Onesimus in Greek means useful. Note the wordplay. The Greek word for useless is “achreston”. The Greek word for useful is “euchreston”. Onesimus, (useful), who was once useless (achreston) to Philemon was now useful (euchestron) to him.
When he knew that Onesimus ran away from Philemon, he quickly sent Onesimus back to him. He urged Philemon to extend his right hand of fellowship to Onesimus.
Paul wanted to keep Onesimus but not without Philemon’s blessing. Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ and set him free. In the first-century world, a runaway slave had committed a capital crime. Paul took a risk by sending Onesimus back. Onesimus could face capital punishment.
Paul told Philemon to charge all of Onesimus’s crimes into his (Paul’s) account reminding him (Philemon) that he owed him (Paul) his soul. Paul emphasised that he hand-wrote this letter.
Paul urged Philemon to forgive and release Onesimus. Paul requested Philemon to pray for his own release and prepare a guest room for him
Paul was a team player with a personal touch. He sent greetings from Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. Epaphras was also a prisoner in Rome. He pronounced a blessing of grace to Philemon.
Onesimus ran away from his master. Have you run away from your master Jesus Christ? If you have, you must come back to Him and be useful to Him again, 1 John 1:9.
No matter what circumstances you may be facing today it will eventually work for good in your favour. You may not see it now but you will see it in the future, Romans 8:28.
You and I are sinners before a Holy God. We owed a debt of sin to God that we could never repay. Jesus Christ paid for our sin debt 2000 years ago, when He died on the cross. Jesus charged our debt of sin into His account.
According to tradition, Philemon forgave and freed Onesimus and he became a bishop of Ephesus. Onesimus was arrested, tortured, and martyred for his faith.
Jesus Christ forgave us. He restored us to fellowship when we come back to him in repentance.
Romans 6: 23, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord’’.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”.
Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the epistle of Philemon. Thank You for the promise of Romans 8:28. Thank You for the forgiveness of sins, salvation by grace, justification by faith in Christ, sanctification, and the gift of eternal life. We pray for those who have run away from You to return back to You and be useful to You in the kingdom again, in Jesus’ name, Amen.