Lesson 1: Appeal for Forgiveness and Acceptance (Phm 1-25)
Thanksgiving and Praise for
Appeal on Behalf of Onesimus (8-16)
Restating the Appeal and Making A Personal Request (17-22)
Beloved, love, refresh, appeal,
profitable, heart, slave, brother, in the Lord, owes, repay.
appeal to Philemon in 8-16 makes up the central part of the epistle.
1a. Prisoner of Christ Jesus (1, cf. 9).
1b. Beloved friend and fellow laborer (1). Beloved… fellow soldier (2).
Paul addresses more than one person in his salutation, he uses the singular
“you” through the remaining of the letter except in 22 and 25. He also
addresses the reader as “brother” at the end of verse 7. Thus, Paul’s
commendation and appeal were meant for Philemon.
has heard of Philemon’s love and faith (5).
prays for Philemon so that the sharing of Philemon’s faith may become effective
5a. We must show our love toward all the saints (5). Our love
for the saints will refresh their hearts (7).
5b. Our faith is toward the Lord Jesus Christ (5). We ought to
share our faith (6). The sharing of our faith is effective by the
acknowledgment of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus (6). Prayer
is an important factor in effective witnessing (4,6).
when we have come to know God and his goodness, through understanding of God’s
word and experiencing God’s grace, can we effectively share this understanding
and experience with others.
asks Philemon to receive Onesimus (12,17).
makes an appeal “for love’s sake.” Because of Paul’s love for Philemon and vice
versa, a command would not be necessary nor
appropriate. Paul just needs to make a personal request and he trusts that
Philemon will do what he asks. Furthermore, because Philemon is an exemplary
believer who loves all the saints, Paul does not need to command him to show
the same love to Onesimus. Instead of making Philemon
act out of compulsion, Paul wants him to accept Onesimus out of freewill.
8c. While a command may temporarily force someone to act
superficially and grudgingly, an appeal can touch the heart of a person so that
he would gladly do what is right out of his heart. Such approach is most
effective when we know that the person has always acted with love and faith and
only needs a simple reminder from us to continue to do what is right.
fellow servants of Christ, we sometimes argue about who is right and who should
have the final say. We may insist on our views and expect others to obey. But
this approach usually results in disunity, and even when others comply to our demands, they are only doing so out of compulsion. We
should rather choose the way of love and gently share our views with others,
knowing that they will have the wisdom and the heart to do what is best after
listening to our appeal.
must be the motivating force behind all our actions. Like Paul, we ought to
encourage others out of love. Like Philemon, we must also do our duty of of love, not by compulsion.
making his appeal to Philemon, Paul relinquishes his apostolic authority and
humbles himself with such lowly identities as “aged” and “prisoner.”
12a. “My son” (10) and “my own heart”
Paul considers Onesimus his very
own, he hopes that Philemon would receive Onesimus
the same way he would receive Paul.
Bible teaches us that the life of a true Christian is like a fruitful tree and
is characterized by godly conduct that brings benefit to others and glory to
God (Jn 15:8,16; Rom 6:21,22; Gal 5:22,23; Php 1:9-11; Heb 6:7-8; 2Pet 1:5-8). In this sense, we ought
to be productive through the bearing of spiritual fruit. If we possess
Christian qualities, we will naturally also be productive members of society
and make positive contributions to the world.
Philemon might receive Onesimus forever.
Onesimus was away, he became a believer in the Lord.
Thus, when he returns to Philemon, he will become “more than a slave—a beloved
brother.” This new relationship will be the basis for receiving Onesimus forever.
Onesimus was valuable to Philemon for economic
reasons. But now, he is valuable to him in a spiritual sense, having become a
dear brother. Paul asks Philemon to look beyond Onesimus’
social status and regard his spiritual status as of greater worth. Now, not
only has Philemon gained a profitable employee, he has gained a beloved brother
in the Lord.
15b. Let us not valuate or judge our brethren by their social or
economic status. Instead, we should regard them all as our beloved brothers and
sisters in the Lord and love them simply because they are members of Christ’s
family. As the Bible states, “for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ
Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave
nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ
Jesus.” (Gal 3:26-28).
Lord Jesus Christ also identified Himself with us (Heb -18; ).
He took our sins upon Himself and paid for them with His own life (Isa 53:4-6; 1Cor 15:3; 2Cor ;
Gal 1:3,4; 1Jn 2:2).
points out that Philemon owes him even his own self. By this Paul probably
means that Philemon was also Paul’s convert.
Paul has just volunteered to pay any
debt owed to Philemon. But he reminds Philemon that, if Paul does not expect
repayment from Philemon although he owes Paul his very self, Philemon should
likewise forgive Onesimus of the much smaller debt.
Paul’s words brings to mind the parable of our Lord in
appeals to Philemon’s love. He urges Philemon to refresh his heart by receiving
Onesimus with love just as Philemon’s love has always
refreshed the hearts of the saints.
is confident that Philemon would obey and do even more than he is asked.
is essential in motivating our fellow believers. Oftentimes, we may be too
quick to correct and admonish others without giving them the benefit of the
doubt that they are also willing to do the right thing. But if we learn to have
more confidence in others, in many cases we will only need to gently encourage
rather than immediately resort to sharp rebuke.
we act out of love and willingness, we tend to do more than we are asked
because we are doing things out of our hearts. If we serve the Lord out of our
love for Him and out of willingness, we will be motivated, not having to be
constantly reminded and prompted by others. We will also gladly carry out the
Lord’s work without complaint.
21a. The prayers of Philemon and other believers in the church
trusts that when he meets Philemon, Philemon will have done what Paul has asked
and even more.
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have received God’s generous provision
of salvation and heavenly blessings. Through this grace, we are also able to
carry out His will in our lives (1Cor ;
Eph ; Php
2Tim 2:1). In the same way, it is by the grace of the Lord that Philemon will
be able to continue his deeds of love and do even more than what Paul has
asked. Just as Paul usually ends his exhortations with a benediction in his
other epistles, the benediction in Philemon is a proper conclusion to Paul’s