Daily Devotion in Philemon
The letter (epistle) to Philemon is an unusual book compared to the other New Testament inclusions. Paul’s personal letter to Philemon, a wealthy man and a laborer for Christ, had church in his own house (Philemon 2). In it, Paul shares his concern to do right and his spirit to reconcile those that have parted ways.
Apparently, Onesimus was a runaway slave of Philemon’s. Onesimus ran to Rome, perhaps to hide his identity among the large population. There, the runaway met Paul, who was in prison. How they met in prison is not told. It could be possible that Onesimus was jailed for his running away, and that is how he met Paul.
Paul led the man to the Lord (Philemon 10). It was not long until the two became good friends. Onesimus was a blessing to the now elderly, cold, imprisoned preacher. Paul had a great need for Onesimus, but something was more important than the prisoner's comfort; it was doing the right thing.
For this reason, Paul wrote the letter to Philemon. Apparently, they also were well acquainted, as Paul had led the wealthy man to the Lord (Philemon 19). Although Paul did not want to lose his new friend, under Roman law the servant still belonged to Philemon. Paul was returning Onesimus (Philemon 12) to Philemon as a saved man.
Now that both the slave and master were saved, Paul encouraged them to have a different relationship. First, although Onesimus’ name meant “profitable,” he was not very profitable (Philemon 11) to his owner in the past. Now that he was a new creature in Christ, he was already a blessing to Paul and would be to his owner. He would now be a profitable asset to his master.
Secondly, Onesimus left as a slave and was now returning as a “brother” to Philemon in Christ. Instead of treating Philemon as slaves were treated, Paul implored him to treat the man as Paul would have been treated (Philemon 17) — well!
The whole story pictures a sinner running away from the Saviour. No matter how we behaved before salvation, we will be different after we are saved. After salvation, we can have a relationship with the Saviour. Before salvation, we were unprofitable, but now we can be profitable for the cause of Christ. Christ is no longer a “tyrant” that we do not want to obey. After salvation, He should be our master, that we want to be with and serve.
“Do right until the stars fall.” — Bob Jones, Sr.
Words to Understand:
Consolation: the act of being comforted or encouraged
1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
8 ¶ Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,
9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
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?
17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.
20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.