Philemon is about reconciliation and relationships between Christians. Onesimus (which means “useful”) was a slave of a believer named Philemon in Colossae. Apparently Onesimus had stolen from Philemon and fled. At some time while Paul was under arrest, Onesimus met him and became a Christian. Paul apparently wrote this letter at the same time as Colossians and gave it to Onesimus to carry back to Philemon (see Col. 4:9). Paul appealed to Philemon to accept Onesimus back into his household, but as a brother in the Lord rather than a slave. In Paul’s estimation, Onesimus was far more “useful” (v. 11) now that he was a Christian. Paul even promised to pay whatever debt Onesimus might owe Philemon.
Greeting1 Paul a a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and b Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and c Archippus our d fellow soldier, and e the church in your house: 3 f Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philemon’s Love and Faith4 g I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I h hear of your love and i of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full j knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. ▼
▼ Or for Christ’s service7 For I have derived much joy and l comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints m have been refreshed through you.
Paul’s Plea for Onesimus8 Accordingly n though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do o what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now p a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for q my child, r Onesimus, ▼
▼ Onesimus means useful (see verse 11) or beneficial (see verse 20)t whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me u on your behalf v during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be w by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why x he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 y no longer as a bondservant ▼
▼ Or slave; twice in this verse (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)but more than a bondservant, as aa a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you ab both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me ac your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 ad I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. ae Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 af Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for ag I am hoping that ah through your prayers ai I will be graciously given to you.
Final Greetings23 aj Epaphras, my ak fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do al Mark, am Aristarchus, an Demas, and ao Luke, my fellow workers. 25 ap The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
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