Plea For Forgiveness

Two little brothers, Harry and James, had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow, Harry hit James with a stick, and tears and bitter words followed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as their mother prepared them for bed. She said, “Now boys ... More

Plea

Paul makes a strong plea for Philemon to forgive Onesimus for running away and stealing from him and to welcome him back (vv. 8-9). Paul’s mentions that he is aged and also a prisoner was probably made to gain Philemon’s approval. Paul must have been nearly sixty years old at that time and certainly he was a missionary statesman by anyone’s statutes, and by anyone’s standard.

Paul refers to Onesimus as a son in the faith to Paul (v. 10) and a brother to Philemon (v. 16). He says that before this, he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me and sending him back to you makes me very sad (vv. 11-12). I would like to keep him here helping me while I am in prison for preaching the good news but I won’t do anything unless you agree to it first as I want your act of kindness to come from your heart, and not be something you feel forced to do (vv. 13-14). Perhaps Onesimus was taken from you for a little while so that you could have him back for good, but not as a slave (v. 15). Paul’s deep affection and admiration for Onesimus must have been evident to Philemon as he even exhorts Philemon to receive him as he would Paul  himself (v. 17). Though Onesimus was still Philemon’s slave, and as far as we know remained such, in Christ he was a brother and a joint-heir with Paul and Philemon. Christian bonds transcend human barriers and exceed more earthly relationships.

Paul asked Philemon to charge any financial obligation Onesimus might have to his account, but don’t forget that you owe me your life. (vv. 18-19). It appears that, as Philemon’s spiritual father, he was hoping that Philemon would feel a debt of gratitude and would want to repay by acccepting Onesimus with a spirit of forgiveness. His ability to pay it back may have come from the gifts sent to him from Philippi (Philippians 4:14-19). He pleads with Philemon, his dear friend and follower of Christ to please cheer him up by doing this for him and goes on to say he is sure he will do all he has asked, and even more (vv. 20-21).

With the plea for Onesimus ended, Paul expresses his desire of visiting Philemon once his case in Rome is decided (v. 22). Paul was released from prison soon after writing this letter, but the Bible doesn’t say whether he returned to Colosee. Epaphras is also in jail with Paul for being a follower of Christ Jesus and  he sends his greetings, along with Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, who work together with him (vv. 23-24). He then reminds Philemon that he prays that the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to him (v. 25)! Paul urges Philemon to be reconciled to his slave, receiving him as a brother and fellow member of God’s family. Reconciliation means reestablishing his relationship. Jesus Christ changed Onesimus relationship to Philemon from being a slave to being a brother. 

Application

Just as Paul plead with Philemon to forgive Onesimus for stealing from him and running away the Lord wants me to forgive those who may do things that hurt me. Ask - What do you think you would have done in response to Paul’s letter if you had been in Philemon’s shoes? Is there anyone you can think of who has done something to you that you need to forgive and restore fellowship with?

Philemon 1:8-25 (English Standard Version)


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More Philemon commentaries

Philemon 1:1-7
Paul Writes to Philemon From Prison

Philemon 1:8-25
Plea For Forgiveness