Paul’s letter to Philemon was a personal one, but it was also one that he intended to be read to the entire church, as they met in his home (verse 2). Philemon was a wealthy Christian in Colossae, and Paul probably befriended him during his three years in Ephesus, which was about 161 kilometers away. One of his bondservants, Onesimus, had run away, possibly even stealing some money from him (verses 18-19).
In a fortuitous coincidence, or more probably God’s providence, Onesimus had ended up in Rome while he was hiding, and had come into contact with Paul while he was in prison there. Presumably, it was during his first imprisonment there, and the letter was probably written about 62 A.D. – about the time that he wrote to Ephesus. After meeting Paul, Onesimus had become a Christian. Now Paul was sending him back to Philemon with the request that he receive his bondservant as he would receive Paul, and that he now should consider him a beloved brother.
Paul would have liked for Onesimus to stay and continue to help him while he was in prison, but he needed things to be made right between the two of them. Paul’s confidence that Philemon would respect his wishes and go beyond even what Paul was asking of him comes though loud and clear in this letter. Secular tradition has it that this same Onesimus became an important leader in the church. Whether that is true, we do not know for sure. But it seems that it was God’s will for Philemon’s forgiveness, the growth of brotherly love, and the service of Onesimus to make a difference in their lives, and in the lives of those in the church there. It was a great lesson in the providence and power of God in the lives of all those Christians.
Bible Reading Schedule for this month
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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.