This verse by verse study of Paul’s letter to Philemon was taught by Pastor Barry Forder on the 31st July 2016 as part of our Sunday morning family services.
In around 64 A.D. the Apostle Paul was in a Roman prison, chained to a Roman guard, yet as he begins to write his letter to his friend Philemon he seems almost oblivious to his surroundings, and doesn’t see himself as chained to Rome – if anything Rome was chained to Paul! – but rather begins be declaring himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ! There can be no greater freedom!
Not only was Paul writing a letter to his friend, he was also writing two other letters; to the Church at Ephesus and to the Church at Colossae, which actually met in Philemon’s home. His faithful friend Tychicus was tasked with delivering these letters in person. However Paul gave Tychicus another task, that of returning a young man by the name of Onesimus to Philemon.
Onesimus was a servant of Philemon’s, but he had stolen from him and ran away to Rome. Whilst there he at met Paul and had become a Christian. Paul and Onesimus had developed a close bond as Onesimus sought to serve Paul in predicament. However, Paul knew that he could not keep Onesimus with him, he had to be returned to his master. But what was to become of him?
At that time there were an estimated 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire, and a high price on the head of any who dared to flee! Onesimus could have been put to death for his crime.
Yet Paul knew Philemon personally, and so writes an impassioned plea to him to not only forgive Onesimus, but also to now receive him as a brother in Christ.
Paul recognises that even if Philemon were to forgive Onesimus, it still wouldn’t atone for what he had done, so Paul – in Christ-like manor – says to Philemon “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account – I will repay it”.
This is what Christ has done for each of us; we were like Onesimus, and were running away from the One we belonged to. Just as Paul met and saved Onesimus so Christ met us – when we were dead in trespasses and sins – and paid the price for our sin, making a way for us to be forgiven and welcomed back into God’s family.
Although this letter is just 25 verses long, it is a powerful summary of the Gospel, showing that the way is open for all who will to come!
May this study encourage you and deepen your love for God and His Word!
To aid your personal study, the PowerPoint slides used in this teaching are available for download here.