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 (Philemon & Hebrews)
Lesson 1: Appeal for Forgiveness and Acceptance (Phm 1-25)
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Lesson 1: Appeal for Forgiveness and Acceptance (Phm 1-25)



Salutation (1-3)

Thanksgiving and Praise for Philemon (4-7)

Appeal on Behalf of Onesimus (8-16)

Restating the Appeal and Making A Personal Request (17-22)

Greetings (21-25)

Key Words/Phrases

Beloved, love, refresh, appeal, profitable, heart, slave, brother, in the Lord, owes, repay.

General Analysis

1.   The appeal to Philemon in 8-16 makes up the central part of the epistle.

Segment Analysis

1a.  Prisoner of Christ Jesus (1, cf. 9).

1b.  Beloved friend and fellow laborer (1). Beloved… fellow soldier (2).

2.   Although 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.

3.   He has heard of Philemon’s love and faith (5).

4.   Paul prays for Philemon so that the sharing of Philemon’s faith may become effective (6).

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).

7.   Only 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.

8a.  Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus (12,17).

8b.  He 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.

9.   As 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.

10.  Love 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.

11.  In 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” (12).

12b.            Since Paul considers Onesimus his very own, he hopes that Philemon would receive Onesimus the same way he would receive Paul.

13.  The 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.

14a.            That Philemon might receive Onesimus forever.

14b.            While 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.

15a.            Formerly, 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).

16a.            Our 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).

17.  Paul 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 Mt 18:21-35.

18.  Paul 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.

19a.            He is confident that Philemon would obey and do even more than he is asked.

19b.            Trust 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.

20.  When 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 (22).

21b.            Paul trusts that when he meets Philemon, Philemon will have done what Paul has asked and even more.

22.  Through 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 appeal.


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