Charge it to me.
Philemon (Pastor Brian)
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul–an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus– 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him–who is my very heart–back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.
14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good– 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.
19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back–not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. 22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
27 million slaves in the world today.
During the time of Paul’s life, 60 million.
Abe Lincoln, Amazing Grace (written by John Newton – a slaver), William Wilberforce – these all had a hand and influence in abolishing slavery.
Christianity is NOT in favor of slavery, however, had Paul militated against slavery at that time, he would have been unsuccessful in preaching the gospel.
When the time was right, Christians led the way (and are still leading the way) to abolish slavery.
Here, now, Paul is making a plee on the behalf of Onesimus – a runaway slave of Philemon. Here, now, is Paul’s letter that expresses his desire to help Onesimus.
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, …”
- Paul was under house-arrest in Rome, yet he didn’t consider himself a Roman prisoner, nor a prisoner of the Jews, nor a government prisoner. He was able to receive visitors and talk with them and share the gospel with them.
- Paul here considers himself a prisoner of Christ, he knew he was – in all circumstances – in God’s will. He addresses the letter to Philemon, “my friend”. This is the only place in the NT he’s mentioned by name.
- Paul had won him to Christ, he was a wealthy man, and they had a good relationship.
- Paul uses a familiar phrase “Kairane” – which means “greeting” – he changed it to “Karass” – which means “grace.”
We have received grace from God – we have acceptance from God and have peace with God.
He mentions Apphia – probably the wife of Philemon – as she had charge of the slaves in the household. Archippus was likely the son – he is also mentioned in Colossians “tell Archippus to fulfill the calling God has on his life.”
The church in the home of Philemon is greeted. Up to the 3rd century, most churches were house churches – there were no buildings specifically for churches there. When buildings were built, they were often built on the spot of house churches.
This shows that each house should also be a church: worshiping, teaching, a heart of ministry – everybody’s home should be a church. Cell groups are a good example.
Paul makes mention of Philemon in his prayers – this statement is also used in different contexts – to the various churches he’s written to in his epistles. He doesn’t forget Philemon in his prayers – he mentions him and the churches in prayer.
“Hearing of your love and faith…to all the saints” – to all the Christians – we’re becoming saints and already saints.
Also, remember James, the practice of practical Christianity and sharing/living out your faith. Philemon ministered to the poor, and those in need. John also says the same in his epistles. “Don’t just say to your brother, ‘God bless you’ and go about your own business if you can do something to help.”
The hearts of the saints have been refreshed by Philemon.
v. 8-11 – Paul now pleads for Onesimus – the slave who’s fled from Philemon.
Paul, though he’s an apostle, doesn’t use his authority to COMMAND what he wants Philemon to do. Even here, in the greeting, he DOESN’T say “I’m an apostle of Christ.” (In 9 of 13 of Paul’s letters he wrote this) It’s as if he doesn’t want to force Philemon to do this.
“Isn’t he being a bit manipulative…?”
Well, this is “heavenly” manipulation for the benefit of someone else.
He says, “I’m old, I’m a prisoner, but I’m in chains for Christ… now listen, my ‘son’ (of the faith – one of his converts) is returning home.”
When Onesimus ran away, it’s very likely that he would go to Rome – large crowds, easy to get lost and not found.
But in God’s providence, he met Paul.
Roman customs allowed slaves sanctuary at an altar – even an altar in the home. He was required to provide protection for the slave and try to convince him to return to the master. If the slave refused, he was to sell the slave and send the money back to the master. Here, he’s trying to work on the problem.
Actually, “Onesimus” name = “profitable/useful”. Paul writes, he once was “useless” but now is “useful” (Onesimus).
It’s significant that Paul claims that IN CHRIST the useless person has been made useful. He pleads with Philemon to accept him back on his behalf. Paul says, “Onesimus ran away but is ministering to me, so you are in a sense ministering to me as well.”
Crystal glasses – a slave was carrying them, and dropped one. The master said, “Throw him to the piranhas.” Onesimus surely could have been sentenced to death if caught. The Romans thought that this kind of harsh punishment was necessary to avoid a revolt of the slaves (which eventually did happen under the leadership of Spartacus).
A runaway slave may have been killed or branded with a red F on his forehead (”fugitive”).
When we think about what Paul is doing here, he’s reflecting Christ. Paul himself was converted and brought to realize the grace of God and though he’d done his best to stamp out Christianity, when Christ saved him, his entire life was reversed and changed. Now, he’s interceding on the behalf of a slave.
Perhaps we also are now slaves of one kind or another – and we WERE slaves of this world before we believed. As we prepare for the Lord’s Supper – we can acknowledge our past, slavery to different vices – and we can thank the Lord for buying us by his death and sufferings, and by his resurrection life has changed us.
He has redeemed us, Jesus paid it all.
So let’s be thankful for his setting us free from sin and death and the enemy and bringing us into the kingdom of his Son.